Posted by: Kathy Temean | February 5, 2011

Illustrator Saturday – Nathan Clement

I met Nathan Clement at one of the “Life in the Spotlight” Highlights Foundation Workshops run by Peter Jacoby, where I talked about how to market yourself.  It was a nice way of into getting to know Nathan and his illustrations.  I am sure you will find him as interesting as I did. 

Here is Nathan:

I have always liked to draw and make up stories, but it’s been a challenge and a balancing act to advance in my skills and pursue books and publishing while trying to make a living in another market. I have not yet achieved that sought after, full-time, self-supporting book work yet. Therefore, I think my experience should more approximate anyone who hopes to one day write or illustrate picture books.
So Dear Reader, see yourself when you see me and my work. I am not famous nor highly accomplished in this field. I work a regular job, split time raising my kids with my wife who also works, while I pursue this dream. Both of my two books were hard won after many years and I am now pitching new ideas to my publisher, hoping for number three.

Several years ago, while looking for a style and process that fit well, I decided to create a story concept in a digital art format. I decided to work with a story idea about a truck. The graphic format fit well with a mechanical topic. So, I eked out six finished panels to sell the idea while learning and stretching my digital abilities all along the way. I work in Adobe Illustrator® and write my own stories.

During this process I thought to myself that it would be just my luck if this were the medium that sold. What a ton of work to create a picture! Soon, I met Stephen Roxburgh of Front Street at a dinner hosted by Kent Brown of Boyds Mills Press.

Stephen suggested I send my entire portfolio to him—every style I’d ever tried. And you guessed it, the only thing he picked up was the digital illustration work. 27 months later, DRIVE appeared in February, 2008. Since that success, the publisher wants more of that very thing. So now, part of my bio reads, “Nathan is carving out his niche with big shiny machines and the people who work with them.” In this style, people seem to act more like back drop imagery supporting the main characters: the machines.

I write in storyboard format. I must think about pictures while I write rather than putting them off until later. Really, the words just create a framework for the pictures. I think of myself as an illustrator first.

Here is a close up of a thumbnail.
My editor and art director read from something as rough as this to decide if they want to do the book. Then, once everything is agreed upon, I do tighter sketches based on photo research that I’ve done (see some of these for my second book near the end)
And, once this is approved, I scan these drawings as templates and draw on top of them in Adobe Illustrator, filling with color and gradients until things look realistic. There are thousands of clicks in each picture.

My next book will be released March 1: Job Site.

As I stated earlier, I work from my own photos, but I draw from those. I do not trace on top of these photos because drawing helps simplify the subject matter. My neighbor posed as “Boss” for this book.

 Pages 25-25

Cinematic perspectives have become a hallmark of this work. I like to ignite the imagination of the child who is in love with things that go by putting the reader right into the scene.

Below are a few commerical pieces Nathan created.

Here is Nathan’s first reveiw on his new book:

Kirkus Reviews
In his debut, Drive (2008), Clement profiled a single 18-wheeler and its driver; here he explores the ever-popular realm of construction trucks. Unlike many similarly themed books, which focus on humans, this one details the part each truck plays in a single job, with the final spread showing a completed park. Throughout, the pointed finger and other hand signs of the African-American “Boss” direct the trucks to their respective duties. “Boss says, ‘Pour a slab.’ / And the mixer swings its trough and pours cement.” About half the time children are given the opportunity to guess which truck will be needed for the job before a page turn reveals the answer. The highlighted trucks include a bulldozer, excavator, loader, dump truck, compactor, mixer and crane. While the text does not rhyme, it has a welcome simplicity that suits younger readers just as well, even as it uses real vocabulary for the trucks and their parts. The computer-rendered illustrations, while sometimes seeming flat in perspective, nonetheless have crisp, clean lines with bold, rich colors and textures appropriate to earth, gravel and cement. The large format of the book itself, as well as alternating views of long shots and close-ups of trucks makes this a good choice for group sharing. Pair this with Sally Sutton’s Roadwork (2008) for a similar treatment of a different job site. (Picture book. 2-6)
Hope you enjoyed visiting with Nathan Clement.  Please visit his website–to see more.

Talk tomorrow,



  1. These illustrations are absolutely gorgeous! The color, composition and feel of them is wonderful. The perspectives are great! Thanks for sharing, Nathan and Kathy 😀


  2. Nathan, your skills, perseverance and hard-earned success are very inspiring to someone who’s new to children’s book writing and illustrating. Your work is amazing!! Thanks!


  3. What a wonderful post! Good luck with number three! Barb


  4. Congratulations, Nathan! Thanks for sharing your story and illustrations, which are awesome. Isn’t this so much fun?


  5. Nathan & Kathy,
    Thank you for sharing Nathan’s thought process regarding his illustration and writing. I’m excited to see Jobsite!


  6. Hey, everybody: thanks for all your kind responses. I hope that any of you pursing children’s books will find the right editor or art director who will discover your greatness! Tip: go to conferences and attend workshops where there are Eds. and ADs willing to review your work or allowing for unsolicited submissions by conference attendees. This helps you bypass the “slush piles.” And, keep on truckin’!


  7. How fascinating, to see how an illustrator does their job. I do an amateur version of ‘the boss’ by using the cut-out filter in Photoshop. It loses the 3D, though. thanks for the insight.


  8. I missed this post back in February so am chiming in late. But anyway – am a big fan of your work Nathan. My grandchildren are too!

    Also loved seeing some of your other work here.


  9. I have tried many other services but yours appeared to be the best. Lots of thanks.


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