Category Archives: Real life stories about illustrators

Stop the Presses…and START HERE!

This may be the first book cover that actually teaches how to letterspell "A B C"  in American Sign Language!

This may be the first book cover that actually teaches how to letterspell “A B C” in American Sign Language! (click to enlarge)

Let’s start with unveiling the cover itself. It features a lenticular!

And it’s going on press this month! I’m so excited!

Why? Because it all began as a list of words on a spread sheet almost five years ago.

The dictionary began as a Word doc, which grew into an Excel spreadsheet. (right-click to enlarge)

Gallaudet University Press lined up a team of illustrators for their upcoming definitive American Sign Language reference (think Merriam-Webster, but for signing), aimed at the pre-school through grade 3 level. It had to be usable for hearing families as well as the deaf and hearing-impaired.

Page 1 from the Dictionary

Page 1 from the Dictionary (click on any image to enlarge)

One of the illustrators already on board was Debbie Tilley. When agent Richard Salzman discovered it was (a) Gallaudet first foray into children’s books and general trade; and (b) they expected Debbie to produce the layouts too, he recommended they contact me to pull it all together for them. It was a dream project for all of us!

Dictionary_p-105_Page_011   Dictionary_p-105_Page_008 Dictionary_p-105_Page_007

 392 pages of full color! It looks like a graphic comic, with over 1,000 word entries, fully illustrated. Plus it includes a DVD featuring a rainbow of children signing. There’s also a special feature on forming sentences.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll guide you on the process. It will be like a diary on the making of a children’s reference classic. . .

Spread from pages 238-239

Spread from pages 238-239 (click to enlarge)

You will witness exclusive behind-the-scenes book making. Stay tuned. That’s why I’ve been away for so long. Been dictionary-ing…

You can pre-order the Dictionary through these links:
Barnes & Noble
Shop Indie Bookstores

Countdown to Highlights!

So excited. I’m taking part in the Ultimate Walden Pond Experience at the Advanced Illustrators Workshop at the Highlights Foundation, August 28-September 2nd.


Been brainstorming with the amazing Cindy Smith on the illustration exercises (I call them Guerrilla Work-outs) I will lead on-site. I sent my proposal to Cindy, and within minutes, she shoots back “WONDERFUL.” She’s my soul sister.

I’m blessed. Look at the illustrators I’m accompanying: E.B. Lewis and Matt Tavares. . .


Here’s Matt …

and E.B. in action…

and here I am.


But before the immersion begins, conferees are treated to an insider peek at the inner workings of Highlights Magazine and Boyds Mills Press. Here’s editor Linda Rose, specifying what gets published in Highlights. She’s looking for full color visual ideas via their picture puzzler feature. Hey you editorial illustrators, here’s an opportunity! Every submission to this feature will be considered. Think visual witticism. Tell Linda you heard it here…

More tomorrow.


On Inspirations and My Upcoming Class…


Greetings! If you live, work, or are vacationing this summer in the San Diego area, consider creating stories with pictures at my class, on the beautiful campus of UCSD in La Jolla!

Illustrating Books for Children
Instructor:  Joy Chu
June 26-August 21
Wednesday evenings, 6:30pm-9:30pm
Register before June 25!
A section of UCSD campus at night

Inspiration is Everywhere!

During last winter’s 2013 class at UCSD Extension, I asked my students to locate the CIP book summary from any picture book, and use it as the inspiration for an eight-panel wordless picture story.

CIP (pronouncedsip”) is book publishing jargon for the Library of Congress Publishing Cataloging-in-Publication Data. This is found within the copyright page text of every book. It features a well-constructed one-phrase synopsis of the book’s theme.


Here is an example. One student, Aijung Kim, selected the following CIP summary from Chalk by Bill Thompson. While she didn’t read the book, she knew from its cover that it featured a dinosaur. She transported her setting to a beach…

Book Summary:  A wordless picture book about three children who go to a park on a rainy day, find some chalk, and draw pictures that come to life.

Here’s what she came up with:

Aijung Kim’s 8-panel wordless story, created during Joy Chu’s class, Illustrating Books for Children, at UCSD Extension (right-click image to enlarge)

Another student, Fnu Anisi, enchanted by Kevin HenkesKitten’s First Full Moon, wanted to explore an eight page wordless re-telling.

Book summary:  When Kitten mistakes the full moon for a bowl of milk, she ends up tired, wet, and hungry trying to reach it.

Here are Anisi’s results:

(Right-click to enlarge)

Fnu Anisi’s 8-page wordless story, created at Joy Chu’s UCSD Extension class (Right-click to enlarge)

At my upcoming summer 2013 UCSD Extension class (June 26-August 21), Illustrating Books for Children (ART 40011) we might look into creating an advent-styled calendar as a possible inspiration for creating a picture story.

Example: Look at the one Zachariah OHora created from his own story. Fun, yes?

Many thanks to Zachariah OHora and Julie Danielson for sharing the above image.

Creating a 3D model for your story setting can also serve as an invaluable reference in plotting out your narrative, as well as a guide in drawing scenes from a variety of perspectives. Note how illustrator Sophie Blackall created a diorama for her work-in-progress. She can view her characters from above!

(photo © PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved)

Author/illustrator Barbara McClintock builds cut-paper replicas of her illustrations, in composing her scenes. The following sequence is from her studies for an upcoming book, Adèle and Simon in China (all 3 photos below © Barbara McClintock)

"What do those little flat boats in photos of Tongli really look like? I have to find out by building one."—Barbara McClintock

“What do those little flat boats in photos of Tongli really look like? I have to find out by building one.”—Barbara McClintock

"...Now I can draw the boats in the picture and feel some sense of confidence in what I'm doing/seeing..."

“…Now I can draw the boats in the picture and feel some sense of confidence in what I’m doing/seeing…”

Tongli, China, circa 1908, as drawn by Barbara McClintock

Tongli, China, circa 1908, as drawn by Barbara McClintock

Here’s Tove Jansson, creating reference models for her fabulous Moomin stories.



Illustrating Books for Children / Art 40011
Instructor:  Joy Chu
June 26-August 21
Wednesdays, 6:30pm-9:30pm

Register before June 25!

illustration by Debbie Tilley


When you write, and someone else draws…

It’s a unique opportunity when an illustrator can also write stories that other artists can render. This happened to Don Tate when he wrote It Jes’ Happened, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie.

Check out this excellent discussion between Anne Rockwell and Don Tate, at Anne’s site.

“…While I could have illustrated the story, my illustration styles weren’t the perfect match for the text. My editor wanted the art to be edgy, gritty. I wanted to go with an illustrator who had broader name recognition than myself. Greg Christie became one of our top choices.”—Don Tate


Original art by Bill Traylor

Remember this if you encounter a book editor who loves your story, but suggests that another illustrator provide the art. Don’t insist on all (doing both story and pictures) or nothing.

If a publisher is seriously interested in acquiring one component, make sure to ask why. Decisions like these are made for the good of the project.

Art from

From “It Jes’ Happened” by Greg Christie right-click to enlarge

Editors want your book to sell as many copies as possible. One practical consideration is name recognition. Newcomers tend to forget that buyers invariably prefer to request a familiar name or brand, even in bookstores or libraries. Or just the books with the medals on their jackets. Publishers also need to see how your name fares out there initially, in the mutual interest of nurturing a new career for the long term.

The Next Big Thing

. . . comes in threes !

[1]  Blog hop* time!

It’s been awhile since my last post.  I’ve been deeply immersed in the world of online learning & teaching, at UCSD Extension. What an adrenaline rush!

illustration by Debbie TilleyI will share highlights (my students were awesome) next week. Alumni & friends will be invited to comment. In the meantime…

[2] I was tagged …

Slithery Snakes by Roxie Munroby the amazeing Roxie Munro , who shares links on creating apps for books at my public Got Story? Facebook page.  Her books are a maze of dazzling fact-filled wonders. Besides creating e-books, she takes you inside and outside of cities, events, and creatures (eggs, bugs, and snakes, oh my), and much more. Do check out Roxie’s blog-hop responses here.

* What is a blog-hop? An author is tagged to answer a set of questions at their own blog. They then tag two other authors with blogs, to keep the blog-hop going.


I think I’m the first blogger/art director/book designer/teacher who’s ever blog-hopped this event! Here goes:

1. What is the title of your work-in-progress? The Gallaudet American Sign Language Dictionary for Children  [as art director/designer, and production artist, that is].

2. Where did the idea come from?  *Gallaudet University Press editor Ivey Wallace.

[* Note: Based in Washington DC, Gallaudet University is the only institution of higher learning whose programs and services are customized to accommodate deaf and hearing-impaired students. Thomas Gallaudet (1787–1851) was a pioneering figure in the advancement of deaf education.]
Illustration for ASL word entry, T.V.
[ASL sign for TV, by Debbie Tilley (l) and Peggy Lott (r)]

Debbie Tilley was selected because her witty illustrations communicate well to children and adults. Debbie’s agent Richard Salzman recommended my services as a free-lance designer who’s fluent working with artists and editors; and in the prep of layouts and electronic files for print and other media.

ASL entry for twins

ASL entry for twins

3. What genre does your book come under? Children’s illustrated /Ages 3-11 / reference / American Sign Language / parenting / instructional / school / general trade

4. Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie?  A wide spectrum of fluent multicultural ASL signing children, ages 4 through 11, will be in the accompanying DVD. A joyous group!

5. One sentence synopsis for your book? A kid-friendly definitive children’s American Sign Language dictionary with companion DVD, of over 1,000 entries, humorously illustrated by Debbie (Hey Little Ant!) Tilley alongside easy-to-follow signing diagrams by an unparalleled team of ASL experts.


6. Is your book self-published, published by an independent publisher, or represented by an agency?
Due out Fall 2014, from Gallaudet University Press.

7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript? Debbie, the signing illustration team, and I were supplied with the final word list in December 2010. We’ve all bAaeen collaborating steadily since then. That’s over 1,000 illustrations from Debbie; and 1,000+ diagrams from the signing team. Sketches, approval process, revisions, final art, organizing, scanning, etc. Sentences are composed as layouts are formed.

8. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre? There’s none like it. Anywhere.

9. Who or what inspired you to write this book? The Gallaudet University Board of Directors made this project part of their mandate. The jewel of the crown.

10.What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest? In addition to instructors, students, and users, parents will want to teach ASL to their babies, who are often able to sign before they can talk! Imagine that. Real-life ASL, and it’s from Gallaudet, the go-to source!


And now, I’m blog-tagging three friends. Visit their blogs for…


[3] Tag 1, 2, 3…

My colleague Andrea Zimmerman [1] teaches the writing aspect of picture book creation at UCSD Extension  [Writing Children’s Picture Books (WCWP-40261)] with Sara Tomp. Check out her fabulous blog, Picture Book Party here. She is both an author and author/illustrator. Among her many titles are Train Man (with David Clemesha); Eliza’s Cherry Trees; and Trashy Town (illustrated by Dan Yaccarino).

Julian Hector [2] draws and writes stories in his inimitable way. Visit his blog here. Check out C.R. Curmudgeon (written by Leslie Muir); Monday is One Day (written by Arthur Levine); The Little Matador; and The Gentleman Bug. Here’s the trailer for his 10 Scary Animals: A Field Guide.

Kathleen Krull [3] roots out the most interesting aspects of a person’s life, and distills it into snappy delightful prose. Let’s peek at her über-awesome output:


I knew her back in the days of Harcourt, San Diego (she was Senior Editor, I was Art Director), where she edited luminaries like Tomie dePaola, Eve Bunting, Patricia Hermes, Anne Lindbergh, Jane Yolen, and Amy Schwartz, before she left to launch her own writing career.

She also collaborates with husband Paul Brewer on projects — including The Beatles Were Fab (and They Were Funny), and Lincoln Tells a Joke: How Laughter Saved the President (and the Country). In 2011, she won the Children’s Book Guild Nonfiction Award for her body of work.

NOTE: Since Kathy uses her Facebook page in lieu of a blog as of this writing, her Q & As (and tagging) will happen here at the Got Story Countdown. Watch for announcements, and spread the word. . . 

One Artist’s Dummy Exercises

Illustrator Denise Hilton Campbell was among the participants at my UCSD Extension class, “Illustrating Books for Children” last Spring.

She has an extensive portfolio of published works for advertising and print.

While she and I had worked together (I as art director/designer at Harcourt; she as illustrator) on several book jackets, she had never tackled the children’s picture book genre.

While Denise’s preferred medium is watercolor . . .


. . . she also possesses superb drawing skills.

On her illustration blog, she chronicles her explorations into book dummying. Some highlights:

“… I didn’t give much thought about the fact that there was a process involved in writing and illustrating a good picture book. I thought you just drew 32 pretty illustrations and threw in some words! That all changed with the class and now I’m hooked. . . this is an example from [the] simple 8-page dummy. . .” — Denise Campbell


“. . . [on to] a 16-page dummy. . .”— DC

“. . . You get the idea…[the 8-page and 16-page dummies] were both wordless stories. An exercise in telling a story without using words as crutches. Finally we tackled the 32-page dummy (above). . . “— DC

You can follow Denise’s own picture story on her process in creating her class assignment sketches, here.

And check out the many finished pieces she produced post-class here. A sampling of her progressive experiments with one double-page spread from the above mentioned 32-page dummy follows, below . . .




Holiday Tip:  Gift your favorite creative person with an Art Class!

Course title:  Illustrating Books for Children (ART 40011)
Instructor:  Joy Chu
Dates: January 7th – March 9th, 2013 (nine weeks)
Fees: $275  [early bird special: $250 if enrolled by 10 Dec 2012]
To register: 858-964-1051;


More about my upcoming UCSD Extension Class!

Since I’ve been receiving numerous emails with questions about my upcoming online class at UCSD Extension (January 7-March 9, 2013), I thought it would be good to combine them here.

Q:  Can you give a little more info on how the class is structured?

Our goal will be to zero in on the book dummy itself, in terms of telling a story with utmost clarity.

We will explore the most effective ways of communicating story through images.

I must stress that this will not be a drawing class per se — in the sense that there will be no time to apply any drawing details, nor tight rendering.

In my experience, students (and many pros) have a tendency to focus lovingly on completing details and minutiae prematurely (before fully plotting the entire story), creating exquisite but static compositions at the expense of the whole. The story itself becomes incomplete.

By keeping our drawings simple, we will avoid becoming a stuck car tire, spinning mud.

From “Dies Kind Und Der Katze” by Bachér & Berner

Nailing key points like character creation; pacing, creating drama; graphic shapes and their importance; rhythm; making judicious use of white space. These are just some of the issues we will address.

Early study for Lydia, the protagonist in Matthew Cordell’s “hello! hello!”

We will be identifying art media (so many possibilities) used in today’s picture books, both traditional and digital. See a style you like? Ask about it!

And there will be plenty of sketching!

From “Bow-Wow Bugs a Bug” by Newgarden & Cash

The book dummy is the most important stage in the creation of picture books. Analogous to drawing architectural floor plans before building the house itself, this is the stage where all creative decisions on the picture book are made.

With your completed floor plan (the book dummy), you can move on to experimenting with the art media of your choice upon completion of this class.

This is why all drawings for our class must be done simply. We will complete three book dummies in nine weeks. In other words, stick figures are totally smart & OK!

All students are required to have an active library card. Everyone must borrow, read and share picture book selections, based upon a given theme for that week. Nowadays, any library book can be reserved online for later pick-up.

“Dancing figure” (above) © Christophe Niemann
“Librarian” (below) © Debbie Tilley

In addition, everyone will be required to have a  photo-sharing account, like Flickr , Picasa, or Photobucket to store images. This is where rough sketches would be uploaded. Students link images to display direct onto the class blog or discussion boards. This is to insure we do not over-tax UCSD Extension’s servers, as images take up far more memory than text.

All class participants will have access to:

(1) A Discussion Board, where everyone shares thoughts about the weekly theme, as well as technical tips (Example. Best ways to create low-resolution scans and PDFs; recommended links).

(2) A Group Blog, provided for this class only via UCSD’s Blackboard software. Students will be divided into critique groups. Each group will have its own Group Blog, to ensure ongoing feedback and support on works-in-progress.

(3) Class availability, 24/7. You can work on assignments anytime. Just remember that new lessons will be posted every  Monday morning!

Q:  Can you give a little more info on how the class is structured?

Every Monday, there will be a new Announcement summarizing the lesson plan plus assignments for the week. Assignments must be completed and uploaded every Sunday @ 11:59 pm. Each new class week begins on a Monday.

Q:  Will we get to share our work with other students?

Definitely! In fact, this is a must, and a major feature of this class! There will be critiques, discussions, and opportunities for feedback  throughout the course. Rules and guidelines for procedure and protocol will be distributed.

Q: Will you be giving feedback?

Yes!  I will be reading everyone’s comments —- with an eye towards encouraging everyone’s mutual support. And I will jump in as appropriate.

I will also list specific times when I will be online live to address immediate concerns.

Most importantly, students must have high speed internet to participate. To test your equipment, go here. To preview and sample our class’s online tools free, go here.

Questions? Post them below (‘Leave a reply’)! I look forward to meeting you, and building our Creative Online Community. Feel the buzz? Register here.

Think you can’t express anything with stick figures? You’d be wrong! Click here and enjoy!



Course title:  Illustrating Books for Children (ART 40011)
Dates: January 7th – March 9th, 2013 (nine weeks)
Fees: $275  (early bird special: $250 if enrolled by 10 Dec 2012)
To register: 858-964-1051;


Going Through Your Process: a, b, c…

Christian Robinson sent a delightful thank-you-note for sharing his work here at the Countdown last month on Harlem’s Little Blackbird (text by Renée Watson), along with answers to my nosy questions about his process. Hooray! — JC

An alphabet poster from artist Christian Robinson's Etsy page

Poster from Christian Robinson‘s Etsy page (right-click to enlarge)

Christian Robinson:  Oh my word! What a wonderful thing it was to wake up reading your lovely and very flattering post!
I’m really beside myself.  Thank you so much for the unbelievably kind words, and for shining a little more light on my work!

This whole children’s book illustrating world is still very new to me, so to think that someone might reference my art is still so unreal… it’s still so amazing to me to have folks interested in what I do.

Joy Chu:  The more I gazed at your art, the more involved [my examination] became.

Couple that with in-coming phone calls asking for portfolio consultations [for the upcoming SCBWI Conference].  Then it suddenly hit me:  I must share why your samples are so irresistible to my art director eyes!

Did you use cut paper for Harlem’s Little Blackbird? Or a combination of collage, ink drawing,  and scanning?

CR:  I used collage and acrylic paint for the original art;  then I would scan, and edit (color, lighting effects, composition) if needed.

JC:  Did you provide your own scans to the publisher?

CR:  Yes! I like being able to go in and correct colors myself — control freak here!

JC: Do you have any examples of your preliminary sketches, or thumbnails, or character studies of Florence Mills [the subject of Harlem’s Little Blackbird)?

CR: Here are images that shows the process I used:


Thumbnail sketches on post-its (a);


. . . color and shape exploration in Photoshop (b);


. . . then final art using collage plus acrylics (c).

More process examples:




JC: Did you draw many rough dummies?

CR:  Yes, I went through a lot of post-its  :O)

I had to make several edits so that the editor (Suzy Capozzi) and art director (Ellice Lee) felt confident with how the layouts were flowing and communicating. Read an interview about their collaboration here.

(a) sketch on post-its

(b) Photoshop rendering

(c) final art, using collage plus acrylic

Christian Robinson's studio

Christian’s studio

JC:  And did you apply pure pen-and-ink for your b/w illustrations?

CR:  You are referring to the Illustrations I did for the LGBT teen guide, Queer.  Those were digital rendering, drawn on my Wacom tablet into Photoshop.

JC:  Cheers, and many thanks again for sharing the fruits of your labor!


Check out editor Suzy Capozzi‘s commentary on the book’s genesis, plus an interview between art director Ellice Lee and Christian Robinson on their collaboration at the R.H. blog,  Random Acts of Reading


Read a starred review from Booklist


Christian Robinson’s blog


Christian Robinson’s portfolio

Thank you, Chris Demarest…

Click here to read our interview with
Chris Demarest [2/29/2012]
At a special ceremony, Chris was presented with a special Medal of Honor from the DAR for his recent portrait work at the Women's Memorial at Arlington. He's wearing his US Coast Guard Auxiliary uniform.

On March 10th, 2012, Chris was presented with a special Medal of Honor from the DAR for his portrait work at the Women's Memorial at Arlington. He's wearing his US Coast Guard Auxiliary uniform

. . . for allowing us a peek into your multi-faceted life as children’s book illustrator, editorial artist, dad, fire-fighter, hurricane hunter, coast guard artist, and eye-witness to the myriad duties of service men and women, both here and abroad. And for embodying how change can effect profound insights into life, and art.

Chris signing a copy of his book "Arlington" at the opening of The Greatest Generation exhibit, at the Women's Memorial, Arlington Cemetery

Chris signing his book, "Arlington" at the opening of The Greatest Generation exhibit, at the Women's Memorial, Arlington Cemetery

A Saudi-Arabian exchange student posts his appreciation

A Saudi-Arabian exchange student displays his note

What follows below is a Countdown Wall of Thanks to Chris Demarest, for sharing his artistic career with us.

Interspersed among these memorable images are a mix of photos; preliminary sketches; plus comments from Memorial visitors over the world. Enjoy.


selections from the exhibit
The Greatest Generation: A Tribute

by Chris L. Demarest

[click on any image to enlarge]


Marie Mitchell, WASP.  Stillwater, TX,  1944.  One of the few women pilots who lost her life while serving her country.


A WAVE,  spinning T-6 propeller, Texas 1943


Elizabeth Smith, WASP

Ada Neil, US Army WAC nurse. This is Bobbie Miller‘s mom.

I was put in touch with Mitch Zuchoff, the author of Lost In Shangri-La: A True Story of Survival, Adventure, and the Most Incredible Rescue Mission of World War 2.  WAC Margaret Hastings was the sole female of three survivors in the operation. This is from an amazing photograph of Margaret, sent by Mitch.

LTJG Jane Louise Kandeigh, navy nurse.  She was the first woman on Iwo Jima

General Benjamin O. Davis, one of the Tuskegee Airmen

Seaman First Class Thomas Allen Towles, USN

Griff Holland, P-47 fighter pilot pilot, Burma 1943.  This portrait started my Greatest Generation series. He (now age 88) stopped by the Women’s Memorial to view his painting on display.
A Japanese-American family were looking at it, honored to meet the pilot in the painting — the same pilot who fought the Japanese in WWII. In a touching gesture, the woman gave Griff a paper
origami heart.


US Army Corporal/MP Stephen S. Bendetto,  Egypt 1943


 This is Captain Helen Marlowe, USMC, an instructor in chemical warfare training at Camp Lejeune, 1943-45. She died of a "lung condition" at age 35 in 1947. She received the American Campaign and WWII Victory medals.

Captain Helen Marlowe, USMC, an instructor in chemical warfare training at Camp Lejeune, 1943-45.  She died of a “lung condition” at age 35 in 1947.  She received the American Campaign and WWII Victory medals. 

A young B-24 navigator who survived some harrowing missions over Germany.  His daughter viewed this portrait in person the other night. It was nice for the both of us.


A WAC communications specialist


Sgt. Max McClure, tail gunner and bomb loader

This WAC still lives!


An army nurse was always a welcome sight

The 6888 (“Six-Triple-Eight”) Battalion.
Such great faces. Every one has a story to tell.
GI Langland, in France


Henry Chu, machine gun and mortar instructor, US Army, Newfoundland, 1943. This is Joy Chu‘s dad.


This is NPR reporter Renee Montaigne‘s dad (right) with his buddy, in Long Beach. Note the USO sign in the background. The friend was killed two months later at Pearl Harbor.

Lorraine Rodgers WASP (now 91) at age 18, Stillwater TX, filling out her logbook, post-flight. Note the rolled up pant legs of her zoot suit, and penny loafers. Three cushions plus her chute allowed her to see over the instrument panel. What a pixie!


US Navy ensign Ray. His daughter poses with his portrait.
The young boy with whom I posed with a copy of my firefighting book now has a new perspective on his grandfather, Ensign Ray.


Charlie. For Merle and Marlis, my Canadian friends


I spent an hour talking with a Polish American couple, Antonia and Stanley, who fought separately in the Polish Army.  Stanley no longer had his WW2 photos. Here he is today, at 92.



In 1945, there was no serum for poisonous snakes.  The habu was one of the deadliest and responsible for killing 125 soldiers in Okinawa.


Capt Robert Wood, 11th Airborne, U.S. Army


Ensign Ludtke


Beauty knows no boundaries, even in war time Europe


Holding Bombing Run Camera

She is holding the bombing run camera. Say “cheese”!


“Somewhere in Europe”





There, in the darkness of the original photo, sits a puppy on the gas tank, previously unseen to my eyes before.
Chaplain Liteky, US Army


[Can you tell Chris likes dogs too? — JC]


Fast forward to the present:  Chris completed the following portrait of LCDR Regina Mills, whose memorial service was held at  Arlington on March 8, 2012:

LCDR_Mills, sharp-shooter

LCDR Regina Mills  [click to enlarge]

Paul Dussault:  I apologize for this huge post but I needed to do it. . . . This has been an UNBELIEVABLE week!

As some of you may or may not know, I flew off of CARL VINSON (currently deployed to the North Arabian Sea in support of OEF) this past Sunday (March 4th) via Bahrain, Kuwait, Washington DC and got back home to San Diego on Monday.

I then flew back to Washington DC with my lovely bride on Wednesday for the funeral of LCDR Regina Mills, which took place Thursday the 8th at Arlington National Cemetery.

For those who know me, you know how much she meant to me and how she will be sorely missed by so many.  I found out about her passing while I was deployed, so I’ve had plenty of time to dwell on that and many other things in my life.

Her funeral was appropriately a grand event and after it, many of her family and friends gathered at Sines Irish Pub and toasted many times to her memory. She would have approved I’m sure.

The following day I wanted to be able to take Suzie around DC a bit as she had never been there without it being buried in snow. During our journey that day we decided to go to the Women in Military Service for America Memorial in Regina’s honor.

When we walked in, there were many beautiful and fitting tributes to the many women who have sacrificed for our nation. As I looked around my breath was suddenly stolen from me as I locked in on a painting of Regina painted from a photo of her on deck taken during our time together on NIMITZ.

I asked the docent there how I could get a hold of the artist to which she replied “He’s here right now, I’ll get him”.

A few moments later he (Chris Demarest) appeared and I began to tell him of my friendship with Regina, and quickly recounted some of the times we shared on the two ships we had served together, and the deep respect I possess for her, and all she had accomplished in her short life.

I know I was emotional, and all of a sudden Chris told me “take the painting, it’s yours, it is my gift to you”.

Needless to say, I had a meltdown right there in front of him and Suzie. I still cannot get over his kindness and I’m comforted by knowing down deep that this entire encounter was NOT accidental.

I’ve never been big on God, although I consider myself a “quietly spiritual” person, but there is no doubt that I was being guided by an outside force. 

I like to think of it as Regina still watching out for me, just like she did while we served together.  I will miss her always,  but know I am better for having known her.

Thank you Chris, for your part in this story, and for the gift you so selflessly gave me without thought. I will never forget your kindness and generosity. As my wife so eloquently puts it: “You are healing wounds with your art.”

Keep doing what you do. For the rest of my friends, please check out his page “Military Portraits by Chris Demarest”  on Facebook. The attached photo was taken by Suzie at the memorial after he gave me the painting.


As this is an unfunded project, contributions of any size are welcome. For official recognition, mail to:

Chris Demarest
Women in Military Service For America Foundation
200 N. Glebe Rd  Suite 400
Arlington VA 22203

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

If you have an image of a friend or loved one from WW II, the Korean War, Vietnam, or the Middle East you’d like painted, feel free to contact Chris L. Demarest directly. His fee is $500 for an acrylic portrait (16×20); fee slightly higher for oils. 

Contact:   Chris L. Demarest


For additional perspective on the Greatest Generation, check out this video by the daughter of WWII veteran Arthur “Dutch” Schultz , a paratrooper during D-Day [special thanks to Anne Rockwell for finding this]:

Click here for our Got Story? interview with Chris.




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Real Lives, Real Artists

What’s it really like; that is, being a published children’s book author-illustrator?

Nonfiction titles by Chris L. Demarest

Is it like a real job — that is, a self-imposed 9-to-5 weekday at the studio? Or a 24/7 vortex of life-as-art?

A selection of fiction titles by Chris L. Demarest

Is there multi-layered moonlighting? What’s a typical day/month/year? Do they bask in their fame and fan mail?

Or is it a clockwork regimen of work, book tours, school visits, ramen, plus endless nights at the drawing board?

Author-illustrator Chris L. Demarest, at work (right), and with a fan of his book, FIREFIGHTERS A-ZAuthor-illustrator Chris L. Demarest at work (right); and with a fan of his book, FIREFIGHTERS A to Z


We’ll begin our exploration with Chris Demarest. He paints and draws wherever he goes, all over the map, while simultaneously experiencing adventures we can only dream of.

In 2007 he flew over twenty-five missions with DHART, the medical evacuation team out of Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, NH.  An exhibit chronicling their work followed at the hospital followed by an article he wrote on his experience appeared in their publication Dartmouth Medicine. ( 2007 he flew over twenty-five missions with DHART, the medical evacuation team out of Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, NH.  An exhibit chronicling their work followed at the hospital followed by an article he wrote on his experience appeared in their publication Dartmouth Medicine. (

Oh, the places he goes! Chris Demarest flew over 25 missions with DHART, the medical evacuation team of Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, NH.

Join us when he takes a breather to share some real life stories from his long art-filled career. We’ll garner new perspectives, plus surprises galore, right here at the Countdown.  Spread the word. . .