Guest Post-Aja Wells recaps the SCBWI Portland Conference

In this guest post, Aja Wells returns 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.


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Guest Post – Aja Wells – How to Make Custom Magnets

We have a guest post today from Illustrator Aja Wells. A phenomenal artist and current MFA Candidate with the University of Hartford.

Aja drops by today to let us know how she creates one of her more popular promotional items, a magnet that features her artwork. So dig in and learn her technique and find ways to incorporate it into your own marketing plans for the future. To see more of Aja’s work follow the link to her newly redesigned website and blog.



When I prepared to attend my first SCBWI conference a few years back, I wanted to leave a take-away item that was more inspired than a postcard. While browsing my local craft store, I found some printable magnet paper. Excited, I bought a few pieces and made a print.

However, I quickly discovered that the actual paper quality was roughly equivalent to regular printer paper, and so the magnets looked dull and very home made. So, I returned to my local craft store and I found this:

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Once Upon A Sketch Genesis-Part One

Times are changing and something new and different is needed to break into the industry. Sometimes it’s better to work as a group rather than alone.

A. Pool your resources.
B. Cut your costs.
C. Use the collective wisdom of multiple people rather than go it alone.

After seeing other Illustrator Collaborative groups who promote themselves together in marketing plans, I thought it would be a great idea to do this as well. The problem was finding artists that I respected, admired and knew well enough to do this with. I also wanted artists whose styles were different enough that we didn’t step on each others toes when it came time to landing job opportunities.

The first person I asked to join was Aja Wells. Aja is a spunky young illustrator with amazingly warm and comforting characters. She is currently in the process of getting her Masters degree from the University of Hartford. I fell in love with her work and had to correspond with her to tell her so! Aja and I built our friendship after she wrote me a scathing e-mail tearing into me for not having my e-mail address prominently featured on my websites. She told me, “I was too good to miss employment opportunities over such a simple error and oversight.” She was frank, honest and a firecracker of a personality that I immediately took an appreciation of. She always speaks from her heart and is earnest and dedicated to her craft. Luckily when I asked her to join, she was interested!

The second person was Norman Grock. Norman and I met and corresponded through a group called, Zero 2 Illo. I was immediately impressed by his imagination, characters and skill level. Norman has the rare talent of not only being able to create characters but also being able to build worlds and universes from his imagination. His work explores the young male imaginative fantasy world in a beautiful and fanciful way. After the group was over we continued to speak with one another critiquing our respective work and new pieces. We shared childhood interests and inspirations that made us want to draw. Needless to say of the group we would be the ones to geek out over comic books, fantasy, video games, MegaMan or sci-fi movies! Norman is a hard working, witty,sarcastic and intelligent individual with a heart of gold. Again, the stars were aligned for me when he expressed interest in my project.

The third person to join our group was Edrian Thomidis. We’d met through a number of Illustration critique groups, SCBWI and forums. I was always impressed with her ability to infuse her work with raw emotion and personal experience. Her illustrations focus on the strength and love of family. You can tell the difference between someone who is drawing something they know nothing about and someone who has experienced something physically and emotionally and are able to translate that to paper. Edrian has that magic. Edrian is the multi-talented, intelligent and wisest member of our group. Little did I know how strong a personality and business sense she possessed. She has an amazing talent for looking at the bigger picture and making sure we stay on track with our goals and purpose. She is never without an idea or vision of how to make things better and expand on the technical or non-conventional obstacles we come across that we hadn’t expected. It was an honor to have her agree to be a part of this! The group wouldn’t be complete without her!

With the core group of artists formed we set forth and named ourselves, the Once Upon A Sketch group and started the process of creating our identity and figuring out how we would market ourselves and to whom.

Our group is unique in that we try to represent as many aspects of the Children’s Market as we can. Each of us has interests in various aspects of it and we wanted to use our group and our blog to investigate those aspects and gather resources that have helped us and will help others.

We plan on doing a lot more than just sending out postcards together. We plan on expanding our communities knowledge of the opportunities that exist in the Children’s Market beyond Children’s books. But I’ll talk more about that in part 2 of this article!!! Until then feel free to browse our website and give input! We’d love to hear from you!

-Wilson W, Jr.

Aja Wells first Book Review

Aja Wells‘  first Book Review is up for her newly published title, That’s Not Your Mommy Anymore: A Zombie Tale by Matt Mogk. The title is reviewed by Rondal Scott III.

Here’s an excerpt, “From author Matt Mogk and illustrator Aja Wells, That’s Not Your Mommy Anymore is a fun read that pokes fun at the horror genre’s most recognizable movie monster; the zombie. Deadpan as they may be, Mogk’s rhythmic pacing sets up a sort of twisted Dr. Suess-like narrative that is further brought to (un)life by Wells’ deceptively innocent illustrations.”

For the rest follow the link and be sure to click on the book cover to hop over to Amazon and pick up your own copy.