Friday, August 16, 2013

So an illustrator goes to a SCBWI Conference….

….And comes home inspired. I am not alone.

After finishing the whirlwind of energy, learning, camaraderie and parties that was my 4th consecutive SCBWI conference since 2010, things are finally sinking in. Every year, I find myself in a different place in my journey as an illustrator, and the conference experience has helped me on my way. The more I attend these conferences, the more humbled I become, being surrounded by a sea of talent. 

Illustrators at the 2013 SCBWI Luncheon, 8/4/13

Illustrators are solitary creatures that hole up in our studios, balancing deadlines and practicing our craft so we often don’t get out much. Then suddenly—in a span of four action packed days, we take part in a shared experience with hundreds of like-minded people. We get a chance to view other visual artists’ portfolios, share our process and concerns - and find out we are not alone. I find that I learn as much from my fellow SCBWI attendees as the award-winning authors and illustrators, top editors and agents that speak to us.

Linda Silvestri & Laura Hoffman, Illustrators, 2013 SCBWI Conference

Eliza Wheeler, Heather Soodak, Katy Betz, Linda Silvestri & Laura Hoffman, Illustrators at the Black & White Ball

Where else can we learn from the genius of the imaginative illustrators as David Wiesner, hilarious John Scieszka and Jarrett Krosocza, as well as many others? Where else can we illustrators get our portfolios in front of top agents, leading art directors and publishers? I became hooked on the conferences by my second year of attendance, when I was “discovered” by my publisher; we have since created three books together - now read by tens of thousands.

Laura Hoffman's sketches and paintings show up for Learning A-Z's presentation, 8/2/13, SCBWI Conference.

At this year’s illustrator intensive, we had the opportunity to see where selected illustrators’ work fits into the children’s book market. I never want to miss the intensives – here is a day devoted just to our concerns. I felt like we were getting the “insider’s view” of what editors, art directors and agents really look for in hiring us, where we fit in and it can be very specific. Still, we were exhorted to break through boundaries, not limit content and it’s “OK to be scary.” One art director, Giuseppe Castellano, gave us this entirely refreshing advice, “Don’t focus on genre…. be who you are.” Oh, and they still want us to send out those postcards to remind them we are out there. 

Scene from Illustrators Intensive, SCBWI Conference 8/5/13

This year I came away with far more focus. I must have an “original voice” in my work. Fundamental craft, such as drawing skills, trained use of form and composition, as well as thoughtful choices of color palette are expected from us as narrative artists. We are challenged now to know our market—our target audience—and make pictures for them. And it goes beyond that. In this age of the constant onslaught of stimulation from media, video games and other unceasing distractions, our artwork must grab attention by providing extraordinarily unusual points of view, story telling, unexpected perspective and originality. Illustrators that stand out have a “signature style” that defines us. And humor, emotion and heart go a long way.

Thank you for reading my account in 500 words or less—now I’m going to go off and draw.

Next, I'll post my favorite highlights and photos from the award winning illustrator David Wiesner keynote and break-out meeting. I draw my greatest inspiration from him. Look for fun photos from the big Black & White ball that happened on Saturday night.

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