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Shirley Ng-Benitez recaps her experience at the 6th Annual SCBWI Illustrator Day in San Francisco

Children’s Book Illustrator Shirley Ng-Benitez  generated quite a following after she began showcasing her wonderful watercolors online.  We are so lucky and happy that she is sharing part of her journey and with us. Please join us as she recaps her experience at the 6th Annual SCBWI Ilustrator Day in San Francisco.
“Seeking Clarity”

It’s been six days since the event, and I have enjoyed pausing and reflecting upon all of the information shared from the panel of Martha Rago (Harper Collins Creative Director), Antoinette Portis (author/illustrator of “Not a Box”), Dan Yaccarino (author/illustrator/creator of Oswald, 50+ books), as well as from fellow illustrators Laura Zarrin, Tracy Bishop, Joy Steuerwald, Casey Girard, Sungyeon Joh, Felicia Hoshino, Chiaki Darski, and so many others.

Martha Rago‘s presentation described the typical process of a picture book from start to finish at Harper Collins. She started with the following text by Barbara Bader. I had to write this down as certain things resonate with me when I see them, and this is one…

“A picture book is text, illustrations, total design; an item of manufacture and a commercial product: a social, cultural, historical document, and, foremost, an experience for a child. 

As an art form it hinges on the interdependence of pictures and words or the simultaneous display of two facing pages and on the drama of the turning of the page.

On it’s own terms it’s possibilities are limitless.”~ Barbara Bader, children’s literature critic

Martha then described the process of a picture book project at Harper Collins. The project usually begins with the manuscript, next, along with Martha’s creative direction, her internal art department provides mood boards to help determine what type of artist or artwork would be paired with the text. Once the illustrator is determined, the package goes into a business realm where a profit and loss analysis is determined, marketing is brought in, and then I believe she said that is when they bring the project to acquisitions. Once the project is successfully passed through acquisitions and the illustrator is contacted, the illustrator develops thumbnails and then Martha and the illustrator go back and forth with edits/art direction/page layouts/typographic choice, etc. The illustrator then creates final artwork, the book goes to press, and she describes F&G’s and signatures, and completes with the final physical book. In regards to how she views children’s book illustration, she stated that she relies upon using her instincts; comparisons in the marketplace; with a business eye; and how the book fits into a certain market.

She touched on the path of a submission by Antoinette Portis…and the wonderful dummy that Antoinette sent which immediately caught her attention. Martha conveyed her love of the book tremendously. Every project is different from one another and Martha told us that she enjoys the entire process of creating a picture book. She is so very highly-regarded in the industry and it was great to hear her talk about illustration and what makes some very successful at telling a story.

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