Sydney Taylor Book Award Blog Tour – Welcome Jago!

Welcome to the Sydney Taylor Book Awards Blog Tour! I have the pleasure of introducing Jago, the illustrator of silver medal winner Nachshon Who Was Afraid to Swim, written by Deborah Bodin Cohen (Kar-Ben)

Nachshon was the first person to event the Red Sea before it parted. In the book, he is a brave boy who longs for freedom from slavery. His only fear is water. Jago’s beautifully textured illustrations create the perfect backdrop for the story. I was delighted to learn more about the techniques Jago used.

What were your thoughts when you first read the manuscript for Nachshon, Who Was Afraid to Swim ?

I was excited at the thought of illustrating a book set in Egypt and the possibilities for creating landscapes filled with pyramids and trying to get a sense of the intense heat.

Did you need to do research before creating your illustrations?

Yes! I did quite a lot of research into Egyptian architecture, clothing and ceremonial costumes.

What techniques did you use for your illustrations?

I work entirely digitally using a Wacom Cintiq graphics tablet to draw my illustrations directly on my iMac. I use Photoshop to build up my illustrations in layers; I start with a “painting” at the bottom in fairly flat colours and then overlay various photographic layers (things like close up photos of concrete and hand made paper) to build up textures, it’s a secret recipe known only to me so I can’t divulge the exact ingredients….. Then I add lighting effects, shadows and highlights and generally try to make things seem less flat and more solid. Then at the end I’ll usually adjust all the colours a bit until they’re right

What was the greatest challenge in working on this book?

The challenge with all pictures I find, is to try to tell the story in the pictures as much as it is told in the words, and to try to add details and elements to the illustrations that will enhance the story.

What was the most interesting thing you learned in the process of working on Nachshon, Who Was Afraid to Swim ?

That I quite like illustrating horses! I’ve always avoided them before as they’re complicated to get right, but with the Pharaoh’s army riding chariots there was no getting away from them. Once I’d figured them out I quite enjoyed drawing them and now I don’t avoid them any more!

Jago, thanks for joining the blog tour!

To learn more about Jago, please visit his web site at

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