November 15, 2010

I went to the SCBWI ILLUSTRATOR’S DAY yesterday. The event was an all-day affair with numerous speakers, a portfolio contest and a portfolio review.

The Speakers:

Author/Illustrator Brian Floca discussed his career from childhood to award-winning picture book illustrator. He studied under David Macaulay at RISD and I asked him about the course he took. The cirriculum was very simple: The students would arrive to see a word written on a blackboard. They would have an hour to draw something that illustrated the word and then the class would talk about it for two hours, which sounded very interesting to me.

Art director Rich Deas discussed the trend of photographs on the covers of teen novels instead of illustrations. The fear is that teens will think that pictures are too juvenille for them and will be turned off unless it is a photograph. Everyone seemed to agree that it was a fairly depressing fad that we hope ends.

Jennifer Rofe from the Andrea Brown Agency discussed the importance of having an agent. What really hit the point home for me was her describing how horrible the deals were for writers and illustrators who came to her AFTER selling their first book. The contracts that the unagented writers and illustrators routinely signed did not include elements standard in the industry.

Abigail Samoun’s presentation was titled “Six Steps To Becoming a Picture Book Expert.” Step 1 involved studying 100 picture books and analyzing them. I think that this is such a wonderful idea, that I plan on completing this exercise on this blog. It should be a blast!

The last speaker of the day was Dan Santat. Like Brian Floca, he discussed his career from loving art as a child. Mr. Santat’s career was given a huge boost by becoming a SCBWI member, but he had a full time job at ACTIVISION while really taking off in children’s books. On top of that, he sold an animated TV series to Disney, THE REPLACEMENTS, which he worked on while not giving up his day job and pursuing freelance picture book projects. The theme for the day was “be inspired” and it’s tough not to when exposed to that level of work ethic.

I felt fortunate to have Dan Santat give me my portfolio review. Early into the review, we discussed color. For the project I’m working on most recently, BOY-BOT AND BOY, I decided to remove color from the equation completely and illustrate only using black line. Mr. Santat gave me suggestions to improve my color use, which I’m quite excited about. I look forward to the challenge of improving in areas where I need work. The great thing about coloring digitally, is that I can remove the laying containing the existing color from a file and re-color it with relative ease.

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