Category: Joe Hox Blog

A Chrismoose Mystery

Joe Hoksbergen (Joe Hox) and Lois Vermeer, A Chrismoose Mystery
Joe Hoksbergen (Joe Hox) and Lois Vermeer, A Chrismoose Mystery

The job I had this summer was a dream come true and an absolute delight.  Probably already in the 2nd grade I knew I wanted to be an artist.  By 8th grade I had narrowed it down to illustration, and in high school I even wrote a career paper on being an illustrator.  But then suddenly I was past 30, and I still hadn’t illustrated a children’s book.   There’s a good rationale as to   why  this hadn’t happened yet (which I won’t get into in this post), but there was still this tugging on my heart that I needed to illustrate.

Then last spring I was approached by a dear woman who has known me since I was a little boy. I remember her most from leading the children’s choir I was in, but she probably remembers me running in the fellowship hall of church, making a trail of cookie crumbs and dropping my doodled-on bulletin.   I’ve grown up a little bit since then, but  I still doodle on my bulletin.  I’ll never grow out of that.

Anyway, her name is Lois, and she now owns a flower shop in our town called Thistles.  She came to me with an idea for a story about a family of stuffed moose in her shop at Christmastime.  The moose hear about the “true treasure of Christmas” and want to know what it is.  The book follows them and the humans in the shop through a series of mishaps as they discover the true meaning of Christmas.

Joe Hoksbergen (Joe Hox) and Lois Vermeer, A Chrismoose Mystery
Joe Hoksbergen (Joe Hox) and Lois Vermeer, A Chrismoose Mystery

I knew pretty quickly that this was  project I was going to enjoy.  Lois was  fantastic to work with through the whole process.  I patterned the characters after the actual stuffed moose she had in the shop.  The biggest challenge was capturing a semblance  of some of the people Lois wrote into the story.   Lois herself is in the book, along with a co-worker and some of her grandchildren.  I even tried to sneak in her husband and her son as some of the shoppers.  Presenting a likeness, while still maintaining the style of the illustrations was difficult, but it was a challenge I enjoyed.  All the illustrations for this book were done in Photoshop using a Wacom Cintiq tablet.

Cover for the book A Chrimoose Mystery by Lois Vermeer, and illustrated by Joe Hoksbergen, Joe Hox.
A Chrismoose Mystery Cover

I hope this is the first of many children’s books I have the privilege of illustrating!

If you’d like to purchase a copy you can contact Thistles Flower Shop in Pella, Iowa at (641) 628-9360.

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Inspiration #1: Farm Life

It’s spring break (woot! woot!). That’s a good thing because it’s high time I got my website up and running! I’ve decided to start this blog by describing a major influence in my artwork. So here goes:

I was brought up on a farm. My dad is as tough as a pioneer. Even after age 60 he can outwork any young man who dares to help out on our farm. Dad’s also upright, kind, and one of the best storytellers in Southern Iowa. As far as artistic ability goes, however, it was my mom who passed along those genes. She won awards for intricate gingerbread houses; ran a business painting murals and furniture; and has worked for years as a graphic designer.

This is the gravel road right next to the old farmstead.
This is the gravel road right next to the old farmstead.

I despised many of the hassles of farm life but rural living is not without its advantages. My brother, sister and I participated in a brand of communion with nature that certainly leaves its mark on the soul. We learned to watch God’s sky. Our lives were woven into the patterns of the animals and plants around us. We witnessed the delicate grace and the brutality of the cycles of life and death. We savored the literal fruits of our labor and suffered the disappointment of fruitless labor. It was all so rich and honest. I want my art to reflect that.