From children’s book illustrator to painting women. How did I get here?

My Motivation

I’m married to my elementary school love of my life, Michelle, and living in Tomball, TX (Just outside of Houston). We have five children: Andre (26), Julia (20), Dustin (23), Garrett (20), Dru (13), and three grandchildren: Everett, Maisie, and Scarlett.

I started my career as a children’s book illustrator

oceans by anthony guerraIn 1994, I was hired straight out of college as a children’s book illustrator for a children’s educational company called Rock ’N Learn. Over a span of just over four years, I illustrated well over thirty books, everything from cartoon characters to realistic illustrations of spiders, insects, and dinosaurs.

In 1996, while I was still working for Rock ’N Learn, I began teaching airbrush illustration here in Houston and eventually all over the United States. By late 1997, my classes were occupying most of my time, and I began to see my hours at Rock ’N Learn start to fade. So, in 1998, I made arrangements to finish my final two books from home and begin my career as a freelance artist/photographer/entrepreneur/teacher.

Just before finishing up Rock ’N Learn’s last two books, a print shop owner in San Antonio, Texas, who happened to love nose art, contacted me to see if I would illustrate 15 pinup girls for a calendar he wanted to publish. I didn’t want to pass up a job that would pay me $1500 per illustration, so I gladly took the job, hence the beginning of my career painting women.

Unfortunately, this first freelance job didn’t work out as intended. About five paintings in, I gave them to the client to have them professionally scanned, and they mysteriously disappeared. I was not very happy about this, so I decided to dissolve the relationship and move on.

Keeping My Sanity

Pinky Bottoms by Anthony GuerraFrom the time I started creating the pinups for the calendar project, it has been my utmost priority to make sure that every part of the creative process is owned by me, from the reference photos I work from to the finished piece. This standard has been both motivational and, at times, demotivating. I started painting pinups but quickly grew tired of only having so many ways to pose a woman to get the reference shots I needed. I took endless shots of beautiful models only to find myself flipping through references and torturing myself to create something that sets me apart from other artists. Pinup girls are fun, but they’re void of the story, the aspect of women that makes them organic and beautiful – the concept.

I continued to paint pinups until late 2004, but my incessant need to tell a story took me away from smiling pretty faces to more risqué, non-traditional pinup paintings. Applying this change became much more motivational for me, mainly because the photoshoots allowed more room for creativity, but I still wasn’t satisfied with the pieces I was completing. I loved the direction I was going, but my paintings were so tight and methodical, they lacked an organic feel, the loose nature of free-flowing concepts. I’ve always veered toward realism, but I was going a bit overboard. I had to loosen up and evolve.

From 2004 to 2007, I continued to focus on loosely applying paint while still maintaining my realism happy place.

In 2007, NUDE Magazine interviewed me for an article in one of their issues and asked me if I would create some paintings for the article. Since the magazine focused exclusively on black and white photography and art, it allowed me to work rather quickly to produce paintings for the article. The most fulfilling part of the project was photographing the models and capturing them without asking them to hold the pose. They dressed up, and I just let models be themselves. The results are what is captured in my Sensual gallery.

Creative at Heart – An Entrepreneur in Spirit

Over the past seven years, I’ve created less to stabilize some businesses I’ve been working on with my son, Andre. Together, we own an Internet marketing agency, a commercial aggregate company, and a drumstick company (for drummers – not chicken. lol). While growing successful businesses have required lots of creativity, I’ve admittedly had to be less creative on painting surfaces and veer more toward photography. So after a few years of securing my obsessive spirit, I’m back to what I love most, painting, and my motivation has never been greater.

If you got this far, thank you for reading this. I have many more stories to tell, techniques to share, and new artwork weekly. Follow me on Instagram to get the most current news – @abguerraartist.