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My First SCBWI Illustrator Intensive

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;

zebra-characterlion-character

And here is my finished illustration;

pg12-13-sketchlrpg12-13color

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.

Donald