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Juana Martinez-Neal

Evolutions, Dissolutions and Resolutions

Evolutions, Dissolutions and Resolutions

This is the 2011-2012 recap post. I have divided it into 3 parts so it is easier to write and read because (reader be warned) it is long. Dissolutions and Evolutions go over what I have learned from the 365 days of 2011. Resolutions is a short list of what I hope to achieve during the 366 days of 2012. I hope you enjoy it!

1. Evolutions –

We are always learning and changing. What I got this past year may be too simple of steps for some people or maybe steps ahead for others. Either way, the most important thing is to learn something from the year that just ended. Here is my list of 2011 lessons:

      • Get Help – Next time I find myself trying to decipher the latest tax deductions and css codes, I will stop and get help from a professional. With all that freed up time I can focus on my craft, put the hours and improve the work. Plus, I will end up with websites, postcards, tax returns, press releases and contracts that are done right and completed in record time.I knew for a while that I needed help with the business side of Illustration. Someone else could be doing the work better than me. I needed an agent. Since late 2011, I am with Abigail Samoun from Red Fox Literary. It has been wonderful and now I can finally focus on what I really enjoy doing: illustrating.
        Red Fox Literary

        Get Help – My agency, Red Fox Literary.


      • Work Smarter – I was raised to believe that you must always work hard. Later I learned that it is also important to work efficiently. I am not saying I do the least amount of work. I just take a smarter approach to the technique and the project to make the work easier to get done.Last Summer, I was offered a picture book project with a tight deadline. I wanted to take it so I had to make it work. Needless to say, I learned that when I really focus I can get a project done considerably faster than I had ever thought. How did I save time? I made photoshop color studies for each spread, limited the amount of time spent per illustration (with the help of a timer), and used flat color backgrounds with flat color designs (leaves) to keep the pages interesting. If you are curious, you can read more about the project here.Pay close attention to what you are doing and how you are doing it. I assure you, you will think of a faster, more efficient approach to get the work done.
        Work Smarter by finding ways to get the work done faster.

        Work Smarter – Find a more efficient way to get the work done.


      • Expect Nothing And Be Surprised – This may sound like aiming low but let me explain. I accomplish very little and wander way too much when I have no goals. I make plans, have goals, work towards them and expect nothing. When I expect nothing, I am grateful for anything that comes my way – big or small.During SCBWI Los Angeles Conference in 2011, I was honored to receive an Illustrator Mentorship Award. I have to honestly tell you, in 2010 I wanted to get one and got none. This past 2011, I went expecting nothing and my name was called.I am pleased and grateful, extremely grateful to SCBWI and all the opportunities that the mentorship has opened up. If you are not a SCBWI member and are serious about your career as a children’s author or illustrator, you must get a membership now!
        Expect Nothing Be Surprised - SCBWI Los Angeles Conference - Illustrator Mentorship Award

        Expect Nothing And Be Surprised – 2011 SCBWI Illustrator Mentorship.


      • Meet in Person – Social networking is the compounded one word I probably have read the most in the last 5 years. Yes, it is necessary to know how to network and granted some people are extremely good and successful at it. Yes, it is necessary to have active accounts on Facebook and Twitter. Yes, having a presence helps getting your work noticed. But at the same time, I believe meeting in person and building relationships in real life can be a lot more satisfying and can still give you the benefits of a presence and getting your work noticed.With that in mind, I decided to travel to San Francisco and attend the SCBWI Annual Illustrator Day. There I got a chance to finally meet Tracy Bishop, Laura Zarrin, Joey Steuerwald and Shirley Ng-Benitez. A definite highlight of the year. I have “known” them from Twitter for a while but meeting them in person brought a new level to the tweeting and emailing. I also got to meet Abigail Samoun (see #1) and listen to a fantastic panel that included Joann Hill, Art Director at Disney-Hyperion Books, Linda Pratt from Wernick & Pratt Agency and the illustrator Andrew Glass. All and all a great, fun, fulfilling trip.On a more local level, I continued to try and find excuses to meet with our small illustrators group. Nothing like seeing them and sharing some art over salty Margaritas and Colorado Bulldogs!
        Travel - Get out and get inspired

        Meet in Person – Build relationships.


      • Travel – It is so easy to get comfortable in the studio. But I must drag myself out. It is always worth it. This past year we made a few trips. All trips were great but September’s trip to Mexico was fantastic and the picture sums it up pretty well.A trip to the zoo or out of the country. It doesn’t matter! Just get out, enjoy the rain, sun or snow while I keep my eyes open.
        Travel - Get out and get inspired

        Travel – Get out and get inspired.


      • Take Risks – Opportunities come to us and they not always look perfect from the very beginning. A couple of times this past year, I took projects that looked like a perfect match but the pay was less than I would normally take. I took the projects, and they led to better jobs. If I haven’t had taken the risk with the initial projects, my portfolio wouldn’t have had the pieces that led to the new clients. I think they were worth the gamble. So this year, if my heart says: “do it,” I will listen.


2. Dissolutions –

We change and modify things according to our experiences. This past year, I learned to keep myself away from certain things. This is what I learned in 2011:

      • Only Take Projects You Love – Much like I listen to my heart to know if I should take a risk, I now listen to know if I should say NO. If I don’t love the project immediately, I walk away. Something better will come along.
      • When In Uncertain Territories, Open Your Ears And Close Your Mouth – A couple of times I found myself sitting with people I didn’t really know who were sharing ideas I didn’t really agree with. From now on, I will listen, take mental notes and keep filling my mouth with snacks. Better forgotten than sorry… unless the conversation involves race misconceptions, of course. If that is the case, you will hear me.
      • When in Too Much Doubt, Say NO – It is not worth forcing yourself into a situation you won’t enjoy. This year when my heart says: “don’t go,” I will listen.


3. Resolutions –

There is always room for improvement and if the changes are ever so little, you are bound to succeed. I have decided to make and post my first resolutions list ever. Since I am publishing it, I will be accountable by December 31st. I will report on my attempts throughout the year. With all that said, this leap year I pledge to the sorted list below:

      • Listen more.
      • Say less.
      • Write short replies.
      • Breathe deeply at all times.
      • Sketch something not work related once a day every day.
      • Mail 1 promo postcard every 3 months.
      • Talk to one person I have never talked to every month.
      • Get back to reading and commenting on blog posts.
      • Take a short vacation with the family every 3 months.
      • Bake once a month.
      • Take mental pictures.
      • Make Wednesday mornings accounting days – starting February.
      • Sit out in the sun for 15 minutes every day.
      • Laugh more.
      • Worry less.
      • Keep my eyes open.
      • Be surprised.

I want to wish all of you an exciting, successful and happy 2012! I am leaving for New York for a week later this week. I have tickets to see “War Horse” in Broadway, hope to visit the Met and walk Central Park (weather provided). I will try and take lots of pictures so I have a short but colorful post to remember the big, great adventure. Off this Peruvian girl goes to the Big Apple. I am bringing my boots. Wish me luck!

Talk to you in a couple of weeks!


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Children's book author and illustrator, mami of three, wife, sun aficionado, amateur singer and Margarita lover born in Lima, Peru and living in sunny AZ.


  • January 24, 2012

    Juana this post is wonderful in many ways, I enjoy reading about fellow illustrators and believe you can learn a lot just by reading on someone elses experiences. And you shone the light on some areas in illustrating I never even thought about.(Like promo postcards-you can laugh but I’ve never done that!) There are some true nuggets of wisdom in here so thank you for sharing it with all :) As ur fan I can’t wait to see what projects you’ll be working on this yr with ur new agent! Congrats on that! xoxox Ant

  • January 24, 2012

    It all sounds SO exciting! Well done on all you’ve accomplished Juana and I hope you have a fabulous time in New York. ((big hug))

  • January 24, 2012

    Great advice and insights! I needed to read this today.

  • January 24, 2012

    Well written Juana!! I feel the same way, and looking on 2012 with the same attitude! Are you leaving to go to the SCBWI conference? I’ll be there too so if you are looking for someone to take a walk with you in Central Park, I could become your ”one person I have never talked to before” for this month!!

  • January 24, 2012

    Wonderful post, Juana! I agree with so much of what you said. Here’s to a fabulous 2012!

  • January 24, 2012

    Great post, Juana! Have a great trip to New York!

  • January 24, 2012

    I really enjoyed this post – your lessons from 2011, your goals… Listen to your heart/gut is a great one. And meeting people in person! And Work smarter (yes!) So much good stuff. And I see that you made one of your resolutions come true by participating in the 2012 Comment Challenge – hope that helped you read more blogs and comment more! Thanks for participating, and keep on commenting!

  • January 24, 2012

    Your lists are inspiration past present and future! Good luck this year!

  • January 24, 2012

    Your mentorship was completely deserved, Juana! Look at you go, girl!! I say, meeting you in person was a highlight of 2011 for me..your passion for illustration is infectious! Wishing you all good things with your new agent and I know 2012 will be huge for you! Have a wonderful trip to NY..can’t wait to hear all about it! : )

  • January 25, 2012

    Thanks for this great post. I’m so glad I found you through the comment challenge. I look forward to your posts now.

    Each time I hop over here I am struck by how similar our color palettes are. I am so drawn to the colors you use in your art. Those deep, rich tones are on the walls of my home and in my furniture.

  • January 26, 2012

    Great post and thanks for all your lessons. They are inspiring, as is your art and your journey! Have fun in the big apple :)

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