After an amazingly full day one at the Schoolism Live in San Francisco, day two began with me running behind. The BART, Bay Area Rapid Transit, doesn’t run on its normal schedule on Sundays so I was late arriving at the conference. Instead of being 10 rows from the front I ended up being three rows from the back. Besides being in the back of the auditorium it looked to be a great day at the conference with some great presenters. The agenda for the day went as follows;
DRAWING CHARACTERS with Wesley Burt
CHARACTER ILLUSTRATION with Karla Ortiz
TBA with Iain McCaig
Wesley Burt (9:00am – 12:00am)
Day two began with Wesley Burt and for this workshop he focused on Drawing Characters. He began his talk about drawing characters by walking us through some of the projects he had work on and the characters he had designed for feature films. He showed us some of his character designs for Cobra Commander for the new G.I. Joe movie. He also helped design some of the new Transformers in the fourth installment of the movie franchise as well as many other images (Thor, Batman Arkham origins, and The Sims 4). His demo also walked us through his illustrative process. It was amazing to watch him draw characters. He did it so effortlessly it seem to flow so freely out of his hand. He did several rough sketches and finally settled on a anthropomorphic cat creature.
He spent probably about half of his three hours getting the under drawing just right. He talked about using basic shapes to design his characters like circles, squares and triangles. Once he had his under drawing to a place that he liked, he quickly began coloring it by using the hue and saturation adjustment to swiftly color his drawing. While he was drawing, he also shared some of his process while working with clients. Normally the first round he sends the client is 4 to 6 rough sketches of the character followed by a round of revisions and his third round is normally a colored image. He continued to talk all the while finishing up his drawing. Check out the images below to see how it turned out.
For her live demonstration she began with a mad libs that went something like “the blank huntress of the blank tribe is out hunting for food for her pet blank“. These blanks were filled in with Morgana, Mushroom and Bear cub respectively. She, unlike the other presenters, already had her under drawing completed so that we could see her coloring process and how she renders her image. She also used a lot of reference images but unlike the other artists she uses models for her illustrations. In this case she had a friend model the position she had in mind for this drawing and took several photographs of her standing in this pose. While she was rendering, she talked about the brushes that she uses in Photoshop. She uses a standard round brush, a round brush with texture and a square brush. While she was drawing she also played with the brush angle and roundness quite a bit.
Another thing that she talked about was artist injuries. Apparently she had been working herself too hard and hurt her wrist. The injury she suffered was a Repetitive strain injury (RSI). As she was drawing she had several warnings pop up on her screen telling her to stop and take a break. She gave us the names of this software – for Mac it’s call RSI Guard. Although she told us the name of the Windows equivalent, I don’t have it written down in my notes.
Iain McCaig (4:30pm – 6:30pm)
The final presenter of the day and conference was none other than Iain McCaig. He had quite possibly the best name for his presentation out of everybody with – TBA. I’m not sure why he named his presentation this but I’m pretty sure it’s because he wanted to keep it top secret. His workshop was probably the most lively and interactive of the bunch. Iain began by talking about his career and all the projects he’s worked on. The most interesting of all of these was his recollections of the Star Wars prequel movies. He talked about how he came up with the design for Darth Maul. George Lucas had challenged him with coming up with a new character like Darth Vader but not Darth Vader. Mr McCaig began designing new versions of the Sith Lord. He showed these ideas to George Lucas and none them stuck (Image below on the left). So he went back to the drawing board and thought about the most evil thing he could think of, a clown. He put a picture of a clown up on the screen. Everyone laughed. But then he explained how he took the face paint from a clown and instead of making it white he made a black and took the red cheeks and place them all around the face. The final design of Darth Maul is the image on the right.
I really enjoyed this story because it set up everything he wanted to get across in his presentation. Take something that’s already established and turn it on its head. He gave several more instances where he had applied this in his own career. He was asked to redesign fairies for Peter Pan but didn’t want to use the insect like fairies that had already been established. So he used lionfish as an inspiration for his fairies in this version of the story. Which leads us into the interactive portion of his presentation. We were tasked with redesigning an established franchise. He gave us several options to choose from, the room voted on which one they wanted and the rest of the workshop was spent fleshing out this new idea. The old franchise we were tasked to redesign was Beauty and the Beast. The first thing we needed to do to reimagine this property was to change the genre it was in. The room voted again and we settled on a horror movie set at a high school. We would shout out ideas and he would quickly sketch them on an overhead projector. The final story went something like this; Beauty, a boy who was the lead singer in the high school band, goes passed a haunted house and hears beautiful singing. The boy goes in and the beast, a girl ghost, is sitting there singing. The young boy falls in love with the girl’s singing but she won’t let him leave unless she takes him to the prom. That’s all I can remember. It was quite funny. Iain McCaig didn’t grow up in the United States, so the crowd had to explain to him what prom was and most of the concept of high school. His talk went over it’s time by about 40 minutes but I don’t think anybody wanted to tell the guy who created Darth Maul to stop. His presentation ended in a rush with him selecting two people from the audience that best represented beauty and the beast and he quickly drew them.
Main takeaways from this conference. Every single one of the presenters made it very clear that the foundation of your drawing is the most important thing and where you should spend the majority of your time. With out a good foundation you can paint like crazy, but you’ll still end up with a flawed illustration. Another thing I noticed is that every single one of the presenters did their paintings in Photoshop. Not that this is that’s strange it’s just I expected there to be a little bit of variety in the software used.
Overall this was a very good conference. Very inspiring and a lot of good information. I tried to share most of the memorable tips but there was definitely a lot more information given. I will definitely be attending next year.
Having grown up on the shores of Maui, Hawaii, Norm has always had a love for drawing. Since leaving the Islands’ beautiful beaches and landing in Oregon he went to college and received a degree in graphic design. Now living in Beaverton, Oregon, Norm has been working as a full-time graphic designer and illustrator for the last 12 years. He has spent countless hours perfecting his craft as a freelance illustrator working on several children’s books, a few video games and creating numerous educational products. His ability to draw has given him the chance to do the thing he truly loves — Create.
Over the weekend of September 12-14, Nashville Tennessee hosted the Midsouth regional SCBWI conference. The faculty included editors, agents, and art directors from a variety of publishing houses plus writers and illustrators from the kid lit world. I always sound like a broken record but I really think joining and participating in SCBWI conferences are a must for illustrators trying to break into the kid lit biz. From all my pages of notes here are my top 5 from the sessions I attended:
1) Pay attention to all your characters and love your villain. Don’t relegate the secondary characters in your story to props. This was from keynote speech by Gennifer Choldenko, author of Al Capone Does My Shirts. From an illustrator perspective this means give the secondary characters just as much detail and expression as the main character.
2) Every tweet is in the Library of Congress. Whoa, what? This was from a session on social networking and building your brand with literary agent, Lauren MacLeod. What does it have to do with an illustration career? It means what you tweet could literally last longer than what you say or write anywhere else. Just something to keep in mind as we network online.
3) From Workman publishing director Daniel Nayeri’s session on “How To Make Interesting Art” I wrote down “nearly everything is art but not everything is interesting.” Nayeri urged artists to determine for themselves what the conversation of our age is (consumerism? sensationalism? meta-theism?) and have our art inform one side or the other of the conversation. This session was intense, almost like a college art and philosophy class. Now that I’ve had a week to mull over my notes I believe this goes back to the concept of ‘voice’ in art. Is for own voice shaped enough so that your art looks like no one else’s?
4) On Sunday I attended a panel with agent Rosemary Stimola, author illustrator Amanda Driscoll, and editor Kelly Delaney of Random House where they discussed the spark and creation of Driscoll’s debut picture book Duncan the Story Dragon. While little of the text changed from acquisition through edits, Delaney urged Driscoll to push Duncan’s character through some extreme changes. Duncan started as a more “traditional” looking dragon but evolved into a more childlike character, which resonated with the story better. In a study in editorial revision, almost every page of the original dummy was changed dramatically… but for the better. Another thing I noted from this panel was that one of reasons Stimola was initially drawn to the story in order to offer representation was that she appreciated the real world solution to the problem even though the characters were magical creatures.
5) My last session was with Simon and Schuster art director Lucy Cummins who discussed “How To Get Work, Agented Or Not.” The number one thing she looks for in illustration submissions are memorable characters. Postcards are still a great way to get the attention of an art director, and they don’t get as many as some illustrators might think. Cummins mentioned that she is always looking to add to her to go-to stable of artists who are excellent draftsmen – they can draw anything. And, it bears repeating, they never miss a deadline.
Mary Reaves Uhles has created award winning illustrations in books and magazines for clients such as Cricket Magazine Group, McGraw Hill, Magic Wagon, and Thomas Nelson. Before beginning her career as a freelance illustrator, Mary worked as an animator on projects for Warner Brothers and Fisher-Price Interactive. A PAL member of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, Mary calls Nashville home and spends her free time behind the wheel of the family mini van.
I recently attended my first Illustrator Intensive hosted by my regional chapter of SCBWI. For several years I’ve wondered whether these workshops were really worthwhile. And after some thought, I decided to feed my curiosity and see for myself…and what I found was a mix of both good and bad. I wanted to share my experience with everyone.
But before I go any further, I wanted to quickly go over the general setup of the intensive. Along with an option for a portfolio review, the main event of the intensive were the advanced exercises. Participants were given a choice between two exercises, one by each of the two speakers. Our speakers for our intensive were Loraine Joyner, Senior Art Director at Peachtree Publishers, and Ronnie Ann Herman, Artist Rep at Herman Agency. We were required to start on our exercises prior to the actual day of the intensive, and we would bring our work and get feedback and share with the group. Loraine’s exercise involved choosing a story from three selected manuscript and with that, we were tasked with creating character concepts, a 32-page storyboard, one tightly rendered sketch, and finally a finished color illustration. Ronnie’s exercise was slightly different, she had two basic scene ideas. For each scene, she wanted characters sketches, a rough sketch, and a finished illustration.
I ultimately went with Loraine’s exercise. I thought it was the more challenging of the two, and developing a storyboard was something I felt I could use more practice in. For this exercise, we had about two months to create the character concepts, storyboard, and tight sketch, with a two week deadline to complete each portion of the exercise. As we finished each part, we turned in our work via dropbox our regional adviser with SCBWI. Once we had everything submitted, the work was then forwarded to Loraine and she critiqued it. We would then take her comments as we worked on our final colored illustration. This was presented on the day of the workshop and shared with the group.
Below are my two character concepts for the story I selected. For my exercise, the main characters were a zebra and a lion;
And here is my finished illustration;
The main highlights of the intensive include;
– After meeting Loraine in person, I definitely felt I made the right choice in working with her, I thought her presentation was very informative and she had a lot of useful nuggets to share.
– Loraine gave my work a very thorough critique, and made some really good comments.
– The day reminded me of my time in art school, and I enjoyed the energy in the room. Everyone was engaged and eager to learn.
– The day long intensive allowed for time to catch up with some friends and fellow illustrators who also attended. It’s always nice to be able to “talk shop” with other people who know can relate.
On the flip side, here are some things I wish were better;
– Poor communication was a big source of frustration for myself as well as other attendees I spoke to. Some of this blame fell on the shoulders of the regional adviser that was collecting the work. To me, she gave the impression that she wasn’t receptive to any questions we might of have.
– For the better part of this venture, I personally didn’t feel like I had anyone I could go to for questions. And this almost ended up in disaster! It was unclear whether we were required to complete a finished illustration, and in the end, I had to rush at the last minute to get it done.
All in all, I’m glad I decided to do it at least once. Would I do it again…probably not. I really enjoyed being in the company of “my” people. It was reminiscent of my college days. And though it felt like this workshop catered more for novices and the inspiring, I still walked away feeling recharged and inspired. I recommend these workshops for those who might need that extra bit of motivation, or for someone looking to get a little taste of an art school class setting.
Congrats! You have been published! Your book is being carried in bookstores, and your local store has agreed to host a book signing event for you! Every author and illustrator has their unique way of presenting at events, but here are some tips, tricks and ideas to help make your next book signing a success for you and the kids…..so that hopefully the bookstores will want you back!
Publicize Your Event
Get the word out! Nothing feels worse than having a poor turn-out for your event. Make fliers to distribute to local schools’ a week or so in advance so that kids can bring the information home to their parents. It might help to provide schools a copy of your book along with that big stack of fliers. Contact your local newspaper at least a month ahead of time to see if they can do an article to feature your book and to promote your event. Make a Facebook sticker/image to promote your signing, post it on your timeline, and ask your family and friends to share it on their own pages. Make sure all of your friends and their kids know about the signing, and encourage them to come. Crowds draw crowds!
Is your book about pirates? Where a pirate hat! Does your book take place at the beach? Wear a Hawaiian shirt, sun hat and pass out cheap sunglasses to the first 20 kids! Creating a little atmosphere can generate excitement about your book. At a recent book signing for “The Summer Fairy”, the author Elizabeth Gillihan brought a vase of flowers (she let the kids be “helpers” and put the flowers in the vase), balloons and sat on a stool decorated like a toadstool while she read the story to the children. She also passed out pixie sticks to all of the children who attended the story-time portion of the signing.
Kristi Valiant, author and illustrator of “Penguin Cha Cha”, had these fun cardboard cut-outs made for her book signings.
Engage For Every Age
There will probably be a wide age range at your event, from parents to preschoolers. Remember, bored children are unhappy, restless, disruptive children. If you are doing an illustration demo, be aware that not ever child may be old enough or able to follow along, and not every kid likes to draw. Having coloring pages available can help those children be engaged even if they don’t feel up to drawing along with the group. An easy way to do this is to print out the sketches of pages from your book, pass them out and have a basket of crayons available. Also, encourage your audience to participate by asking them questions that you know will receive positive answers. If your book is about summer, ask the kids “Who going camping this summer?” or “Who likes swimming?!” Use questions as ways to help your audience connect to some aspect of your book.
A few weeks ago I was able to attend a wonderful SCBWI, which had some very enriching sessions for illustrators, leaving me feeling inspired and excited to create new pieces and to apply what I learned to clients’ work! If you are not involved with your local chapter of SCBWI or other professional organization, I encourage you to do so. Attending national conferences, while obviously very great opportunities, can be difficult to attend, depending on your financial, traveling and other personal needs/situations. Local conferences can be a great alternative, and can offer a more intimate experience for the attendees. For example, in addition to participating in the sessions for illustrators, I was also able to volunteer as a reader for a picture book manuscript critique session, which was a fun additional way to connect with the staff and members and be more involved with the weekend experience. Here are some highlights from my favorite sessions.
Keynote Speaker LeUyen Pham
LeUyen Pham is an award winning illustrator and author who works in many diverse styles. If you haven’t seen “Big Sister, Little Sister”, you should check it out. My own daughter loves this book, written an illustrated by Pham. In addition to talking with us about her history and journey into the publishing world, she spoke about strategies she has used to stay fresh and relevant in the constantly evolving world of children’s book publishing throughout her career. Pham style is constantly in a state of evolution, and she likes to very her technique and look, sometimes drastically, from book to book. She encouraged illustrators to take on projects with which they feel a connection, to create samples that reflect the types of projects they would like to work on that year, and to send those samples to a small targeted group of art directors. Most of all, Pham spoke about the importance of making personal connections with clients, and allowing clients to see you as a multidimensional person rather than just a work source. IN noe of her breakout sessions, Pham talked about how she goes about constructing a picture book. We looks at the development of visual hierarchy to facilitate storytelling in each individual scene, as well as how that hierarchy fits into the overall scope of the book, creating a natural flow between page turns. She was such an inspiring and engaging speaker, and this particular session on picture book construction was so enriching!
Maria Middleton, Associate Art Director
Two of my other favorite sessions were offered by ABRAMS Kids Books associate art director Maria Middleton. The first few illustrators who signed up for the conference had the opportunity to work with Middleton on a “homework project” in which we had to create character and place them in a situation where they will encounter conflict, great or small. We got to send her our sketches, which she reviewed ahead of time, and then created final art to be reviewed during a session at the conference. This was so much fun! I love seeing everyone’s interpretation of the theme, and the evolution for sketch to final. Here is my artwork that I created for the assignment.
In a separate session, Maria talked about the makings of great cover design. She encouraged us to think about the spine, which is often the only part of the book that is visible on bookshelves, and giving attention to typography. For those illustrators who feel comfortable doing so, she suggested hand-lettering the title text, so that the cover has that added touch of image-text unity and customization. She also walked us through the many stages of some of the book covers that she art-directed, explaining how the team arrived at the final cover design for each book. It was intriguing to see the thought process behind each revision, and to see how those changes drove the cover towards a stronger design.
If you’re age 13 to 24 and have a iOS, a android device, Mac or PC then you’re halfway to winning some fabulous prizes from Autodesk. Download the free Autodesk SketchBook Express app for your device of choice, then the only thing left to do is tell “My Story” using the SketchBook Express app. If this sounds like a good idea to you then join the “Live it. Sketch it. Share it.” design competition. Your story could be pretty much anything. A character you created. A moment in your life or something that symbolizes your culture. It sounds pretty wide-open to me.
If your image is selected by the judges Autodesk is offering some nice prizes. The prizes range from a Wacom drawing tablet, $2000 worth of art classes from Schoolism or have your work critiqued by Bobby Chiu. So who can enter? You must be 13 to 24 years of age and be a resident of one of the countries where the competition is available. For the rest of the official rules visit the contests page. The contest ends July 31. So you have around a hundred days left to get your Image submitted. Best of luck to you youngsters.
Schoolism is an online series of art courses taught by award winning professionals. They present a great opportunity for those who are seeking to advance their skill sets in the various arenas offered. All self-taught classes from schoolism.com are $100 off right now through April 15, 2014 bringing the cost of the class down to $370. Check out the Schoolism.com site and see what courses they have available! We have reviewed several of schoolism’s courses on OUaS and have found them very helpful. To read any of our thoughts on these courses you can find links to them below.
If you do intend to take a course at Schoolism and you follow this link OUaS will receive a small portion of the purchase price that we can use on attending other courses and reviewing them for you. http://schoolism.com/?share=i9yrf
Like many of us at the start of a year, I always take stock of the year before and the year to come. And like most professional artists part of that evaluation is examining how and where we presented our work. One of the best ways I’ve found to connect my work with potential clients is at conferences. As a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators I’ve attended SCBWI conferences for many years and can’t speak highly enough of them. However for a few years I’d been hearing about a conference called Rutgers One on One Plus. It’s put on by the Rutgers Council on Children’s Literature and it is what it says – one on one time with a professional from the publishing field.
Rutgers attendees wait to find out who their mentors are.
The conference is held on the Rutgers New Brunswick campus in New Jersey and attendees must apply with their work to be accepted. It’s only a day long but they pack a lot into that day. In the morning mentors and mentees are paired up and then grouped together into 5 on 5 sessions .
These are groups of 5 attendees and 5 mentors in a round table discussion. Mentees have the chance to ask questions of and present work to any of the editors or art directors at their table.
A group of 5 mentors and 5 mentees get to know each other
Equally important, the industry professionals are seated at the same tables for lunch and attendees are encouraged to find art directors or editors they are not paired with and network, network, network. After lunch each mentor/mentee pair is given 45 minutes together. During this time the mentor reviews the materials submitted and the attendee has a chance to ask questions and pitch other projects. Each attendee is given submission information about every mentor for after the conference.
An illustrator mentor reviewing submitted work
At less than $200 to attend, I found this conference to be a significant value. The submission process starts in the spring. There’s about 70 editors, agents, and art directors who agree to be mentors (with a handful of authors and illustrators agreeing as well) and only one attendee for each mentor. Visit the Rutgers Council On Children’s Literature to get submission information. I posted about my personal experience on my own blog here. Be aware that if your work is chosen it’s highly recommended to research every mentor prior to the conference. This is a hugely valuable but VERY time consuming process. It’s valuable because it makes it very easy to start up a conversation in the sandwich line. However having crammed it all into the 6 weeks between being accepted and attending the conference I highly recommend starting the research process soon after submission closes and Rutgers posts the list of mentors. Then you’ll want to recheck the list a few times as the names sometimes change. At the end of the day Rutgers is an easy train ride from Newark Airport or New York City. Taxis and hotels were very reasonable and you can usually hook up with other attendees before or after to share notes.
The new 2014 Edition will be released in September so be sure to pre-purchase it.
So, why should you pick this book up? Why is it “Essential”?
Every year this series of books does a fantastic job of listing and categorizing multiple publishers, magazines and agents that have some level of involvement in the Children’s Market.
They go through contact information, the markets that the publisher specializes in, their submission requirements, the number of projects, writer and illustrators that they work with on a yearly basis as well as their payment terms.
Also included are a number of articles from other professionals that give tips, tricks and experiences within the industry.
This book is a great and inexpensive starting place for anyone looking to break into the industry. This book is essential to creating your first mailing list and determining the proper way to approach each publisher you are considering. If you have a mailing list established, this book is a great way to update your mailing lists with new publishers and update contact info for older ones.
So don’t forget to hop onto Amazon and reserve your copy now! Or drop by your local library to check out older issues that may be available to get an idea of the series before purchasing!
This book will also be included in the prize offerings of our fan contest! Check here for info about the contest and to make sure you qualify for consideration!
Lee and Low Books sponsors a yearly contest for up and coming Children’s Book writers of color, The New Voices Award.
About the Award
LEE & LOW BOOKS, award-winning publisher of children’s books, is pleased to announce the thirteenth annual NEW VOICES AWARD. The Award will be given for a children’s picture book manuscript by a writer of color. The Award winner receives a cash grant of $1000 and our standard publication contract, including our basic advance and royalties for a first time author. An Honor Award winner will receive a cash grant of $500.
Established in 2000, the New Voices Award encourages writers of color to submit their work to a publisher that takes pride in nurturing new talent. Past New Voices Award submissions that we have published include The Blue Roses, winner of the Paterson Prize for Books for Young People; Sixteen Years in Sixteen Seconds: The Sammy Lee Story, a Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People and a Texas Bluebonnet Masterlist selection; and Bird, an ALA Notable Children’s Book and a Cooperative Children’s Book Center “Choices” selection.
Manuscripts will be accepted from May 1, 2013, through September 30, 2013, and must be postmarked within that period.
For more information and to find out about past winners follow thelink.