Hello all!

If any of you follow my facebook or instagram accounts, you may know that I was at the Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators annual winter conference in NYC. Let me just say, wow. If any of you have ever considered being a children’s book writer or illustrator, this is a must go to event. Also a must is being a part of SCBWI. The amount of resources available through this group and the fantastic people you meet through it is priceless.

So this weekend, I packed my bag and headed to NYC. My friend was very gracious to let me stay at her apartment for the weekend. Last year I commuted every day, and while it is feasible, I didn’t get much sleep. Little did I know that I would be so excited that I would get very little sleep anyway! I’m not going to go into too much detail as we will never get to the end of my gushing about this conference that way. Rather, I will just make a list of the things I took away from the conference in a series of blog posts. Today, I will tell you a little bit about the Illustrator Intensive.

On Friday, I went to the Illustrator Intensive. This was my first year doing this, and it was definitely worth it. The speakers included William Joyce, Sophie Blackall, James Ransome, and Mike Curato. Then there was a panel of art directors, editors, agents, and illustrator Paul Zelinsky. Here is what I took away from each speaker:

William Joyce – Keep working outside your comfort zone; People like to hear the story behind the story; study the artist’s work whom you admire, and ask Why do I like this person’s work so much? William Joyce has illustrated and written many books, worked on many films, and then started his own company to produce children’s books, short films, apps, etc. He won an Oscar for his short film The Fantastic Flying Books of Morris Lessmore.

Sophie Blackall – Keep busy doing what you love; Take risks and leaps; Do personal projects because they are almost always your best work. Sophie Blackall won the Caldecott this year for Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World’s Most Famous BearNot only does she write and illustrate children’s books, she also does work with the Measles & Rubella Initiative and a reading program in Rwanda.

James Ransome – Important things to think about when illustrating: Drawing, Design, and Color; find a lot of different kinds of reference for books not just the internet. James Ransome is a children’s book illustrator. He talked a lot about his process, and showed it to us through some of his past projects.

Mike Curato – Mike Curato talked about his journey with illustration and the hard work he did to get his work published. He won the Portfolio Showcase in 2012, and has since published several books: some that he has written and illustrated and others illustrated. His talk was very humorous with stick figure diagrams, and very inspiring.

Panel about planning and collaboration in your career: Persistence and adaptability are important; study other picture books; draw characters with every facial expression you can think of; be on time and don’t take short cuts; to be an illustrator, rule out the possibility that you would want to do anything else; be open and listen; get outside your comfort zone; be curious; be yourself; pay attention to the publishing world; be consistent and ask all the questions you have; people will care about your work because you care about it; it’s not about you, it’s about the book; illustrators bring amazing emotions to the lives of children and adults.

In conclusion we had a Q&A where we really thought about where we were in our careers, what we wanted out of them as illustrators, etc. My take away from this and the entire day was this: Everyone of us brings something to the table that someone else doesn’t. We have to figure out what that is.

The illustrator intensive was so inspiring, Everyone who spoke had a different journey into and through their careers, and yet they were very similar in their passion for illustration. I don’t remember who said it, but in the wrap up of the day, someone said, “You’re the only one who can stop yourself.” It really made me stop and think, what am I doing to help myself become an illustrator? What am I doing that is hurting that goal?

The takeaway from the intensive (and really much of the conference) was this: Draw what you love and are passionate about. It’s made me really consider where I am going to go from here, and what I want to do next. I can’t wait to start creating more work!

To wrap it up, here is a picture of me and my friend at the end of the illustrator intensive. We had a great time! Tomorrow I will tell you more about the conference!

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