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.
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.
Norm and I met each other through a Zero2Illo Portfolio Project. It was an earlier form of the website that focused on creating relevant work for your portfolio. The site has evolved since then and now is offering their first conference in the UK for up and coming Illustrators looking to find work that’s not as easy to come by as it used to be.
Norm and I are both stateside, though on opposite sides of the country, so we won’t be partaking of the festivities. However, here is the information for all of you who may be interested in attending!
Congrats to Zero2Illo for this landmark achievement! If you are able to go, please take pictures and come back and share your experience with us here! There are a limited number of tickets so get yours ASAP!!!
zero2illo LIVE UK 2012
Saturday, 10 November 2012 from 10:00 to 17:00 (GMT)
Nottingham, United Kingdom
We are excited to be organizing and hosting the first zero2illo LIVE UK event on November 10th this year in Nottingham – and what we hope is the first of many!
The theme for this year is “Opportunities and Inspiration” – we want to explore just how many opportunities still exist for illustrators to earn a living, despite the erosion of and changes in the more traditional industries in which illustration has previously had a strong foothold. You can see the panels below – alongside some of the confirmed panelists and speakers.
We have deliberately chosen a venue outside of London – in the middle of the country – to make it as accessible and affordable to as many illustrators as possible around the country. Please do spread the word to your creative colleagues about this – it is going to be great.
For full details of the event including more information about our speakers, please visit the website.
CURRENT CONFIRMED SPEAKERS
Rod Hunt – Illustrator
Stanley Chow – Illustrator
Kate Slater – Illustrator
Katriona Chapman – Illustrator
Leigh Hodgkinson – Illustrator & Animator
Kate Hindley – Illustrator
Nicky Lander – Creative Manager of Igloo Books
Victoria Pearce – Senior Agent at Illustration Ltd
International Freelancers Day is a day of celebration and education! And the celebrations begin right here, with the largest FREE online conference exclusively for self-employed service professionals.
Actionable Ideas, Tips and Strategies
Join the sponsors on September 21, 2012 for a special online conference like no other. You’ll learn from 13 of the world’s most respected professionals and thought leaders in the areas of freelancing, marketing, social media and personal development. They’ll reveal proven and actionable business-building ideas, insights, tactics and strategies that will help take your “business of one” to the next level.
Before I jump into the conference details, I must first excitedly announce that my entry into the NESCBWI 2012 Poster Contest placed second in the Unpublished Category! Congratulations to all of my friends and fellow illustrators who placed within their respective categories, including Hazel Mitchell, Marcela Staudenmaier, Dan Moynihan, Milanka Reardon, and three time winner Russ Cox.
First and foremost, I must say what an amazing weekend I had! Not only was it great to see some familiar faces from SCBWI’s New York Winter Conference, but it was also nice meeting so many new, talented individuals. Just like the winter conference, NESCBWI 2012 was a three day event, beginning at the Eric Carle Museum on Friday and ending on Sunday with a closing speech from Jane Yolen. Without getting too long winded, I’ll just list some highlights from the weekend.
In this guest post, Aja Wellsreturns to give us her insights and review of the 2012 Portland SCBWI Conference that she recently attended. SCBWI is an organization that hosts conferences throughout the year across the country. The goal of these conferences are educating writers and Illustrators and giving them the tools and opportunities they need to break in to the Children’s Market. So let’s see what she thought!
This is a little bit late, but on May 18th I attended the “Inspiration Station” SCBWI Portland Oregon Conference. This was my second local SCBWI conference (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, for the uninitiated), and my fourth SCBWI conference overall. I have to admit, I was a little bit worried about attending this year. The previous year was a bit of a bust for illustrators in my opinion, with very little usable or interesting information given out that applied directly to illustrators. However, I am pleased to say that this years conference was a wonderful experience.
Attendees were invited to choose from four intensive tracks to follow through the conference. The choices were Picture Book, Middle Grade, Novel, and Illustration. I decided to follow the straight Illustration track, because the Picture Book track focused more heavily on writing (though many illustrators decided on Picture Book and enjoyed it).
The first session I participated in was a workshop focused on character design. A lecture led by Art Director Laurent Linn explored contemporary children’s books, and we took a look at raw sketches with art direction notes. It was wonderful to see how the characters evolved, and how a healthy relationship between an art director and illustrator can create a beautiful unified vision. When we first registered for the conference, were were invited to participate in an assignment to provide multiple character sketches of either Puss in Boots, Rapunzel, The Mad Hatter, or another character of our choosing. I decided to do Puss in Boots. Mr. Linn gave brief critiques and suggestions to create stronger characters. It was an excellent, engaging lecture and I think everyone got a lot out of it.
So often we hear about these conferences and classes for artists to continue their education. Many times with high admission prices and we wonder if they are worth it. We feel grateful that we can offer you insight from a trusted source who has attended an event we advertised and can give an informed review of his experience.
We posted a while ago about a wonderful opportunity for artists to take a Masterclass with veteran Pixar artists in Miami. (Post here) We were lucky to have a reader and on the rise Illustrator that was able to attend and give us some feedback on their experience.
Brian C. Krümm is a freelance Illustrator with a promising career in front of him and a portfolio full of imagination under his arm! He informed us of his intention to attend and graciously offered to provide a review for us of his experience. So without further adieu let’s see what he thought!
3 Reasons You MUST Attend the Pixar Artists’ Masterclass
Why should you go to the Pixar Artists’ Masterclass? Here are 3 reasons:
To kick off the recent 2-day Masterclass in Miami, instructor Matthew Luhn gave us the following warning: Ourtimetogetherisgoingtofly,andbytheendofthiscourse,youwillneverwatchamovieorreadabookthesamewayagain. He wasn’t joking! The cost of enhancing your story-telling is $499, and it’s more than worth the investment of your time and money.