Showing posts with label inspiration. Show all posts
Showing posts with label inspiration. Show all posts

Thursday, November 21, 2013

On the Importance of Attending SCBWI Events

Becoming a member of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators might be the second most important thing I've done for my illustration career besides getting an art degree.  Last week I attended SCBWI Los Angeles’ Art Director’s Day (scroll down the linked page to see the details).  It was probably the sixth or so Illustrator’s Day I’ve attended. Yep, that’s a lot of events, but I can’t stress how important it is to try and attend local SCBWI events at least once a year if you can.

No matter which level you are in your illustration career, these local events are helpful, fun and so informative that they really shouldn’t be passed up if at all possible.

Last week, for example, I had the good fortune of being able to listen and speak to well-respected art director Lauren Rille of Simon and Schuster, Isabel Warren-Lynch of Random House, Kelly Sonnack of the Andrea Brown Literary Agency and Cliff Cramp, an awesome illustrator and instructor at California State University Fullerton.

They all shared really, really tangible information that is relevant to attendees at any level of their career. Lauren Rille, for example gave a very detailed presentation on the working relationship between the art director, the illustrator, and the editors. Isabel Warren-Lynch discussed the emotional connection between the art and the reader and Cliff Cramp gave a very inspirational talk on how the fundamental role of an illustrator is to tell stories. And Kelly Sonnack really broke a barrier and gave some straight-talk on the topic of money and the illustrator.

Here is a really bad (dark and far-away) picture of agent Kelly Sonnack showing an example of a great illustration website. Whattya know?! It's a page from our very own Renee Kurilla's website!


Not only do attendees get to hear invaluable information from the esteemed speakers, but they also get the chance to display their work for all to see. Yes, that sounds like a daunting task to some, but getting your work out into the world and in front of the right eyes is a necessary part of being an illustrator. Be brave! Having your work up there with everyone else’s gives you a chance to see how you can improve your craft and get ideas for portfolio presentation.

Yes, the informative aspects of an event take up most of the day, but the other HUGE plus is getting to connect with other illustrators. Sometimes (or most of the time), illustration is such a solitary activity and getting to hang out with other illustrators is so important! I’ve made so many friends over the years and we’re all at various stages of our career at this point. It’s great to be able to learn from my friends and share stories as well as help others out! I spent so much time chatting with friends such as Eliza Wheeler, Kimberly Gee, Ken Min, Mary Peterson and many others! It’s also super cool to meet online friends for the first time in 3-D. Hi Bob McMahon

So here's a few pointers to consider when planning to attend a local event:
  • Research all of the speakers in attendance
  • Be brave and show your work and enter any contests that might be held. These are the places where you can put a face to a name and the presenters can too. I met Lauren Rille at this year's big SCBWI summer conference and she remembered me this time around. It's so important to build and maintain relationships
  • Be brave and connect with as many fellow attendees as possible (this is the hardest for me, by far! I'm pretty shy)
  • Take photos so you can have them when you blog about your experience (I really need to work on this too...haha!)
  • Take copious notes. I have a journal that contains notes of the past three SCBWI events I've attended. They are great to refer back to
  • Try and introduce yourself to at least one presenter
  • Send a courteous thank you note to any presenter you thought made an impact on your experience
  •  Here is a calendar of all the local and regional events you can try to attend in your area

By the end of the event, exhaustion has usually set in, but it’s such a great type of exhaustion! A long day of learning, sharing and hanging out with friends will get you tired, but it’s so worth it in the long run! Leaving for the drive home with a mind and soul full of inspiration is worth so much more than the price of admission!!!

Just do it!

What are your tips or things you try to accomplish when attending local illustration events?


Friday, October 18, 2013

Picture Book Crush: Jane, the Fox & Me

Jane, the Fox & Me / written by Fanny Britt; illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault 

They say not to judge a book by it's cover, but there was just something about this one that warranted me picking it up. As soon as I flipped it open, my heart pounded: Isabelle Arsenault's illustrations are so thoughtful, sweet, and lively that they made my eyes pop open. 

And then, when I sat down to read the story, I discovered that, in marriage with the text they are even better. 

Without spoiling too much, the story is about a young girl, who you very quickly learn has had a recent falling out with some friends. She's sort of lost in her own world and seeks solace in stories. One of the stories she is obsessed with is Jane Austen.

I remember being a kid and feeling the sting of awkward social situations. . .friends who one day just–weren't. I have to imagine that lots of kids go through emotional stress and really struggle to figure out what will make them feel whole. Many of them choose to get lost in books. I remember that, in those moments, the story you're reading becomes your own just for a little while. 

That's why the moments when Hélène lets go of her internal stress voice are my favorite in this book. 

Hélène's mom stays up all night making her a dress...
(Insert Page Flip Here) ...and she's lost in it.

As an adult, I don't have that feeling as often as I used to. Time is short and all the worries of bills, work, maintaining relationships, remembering birthdays, etc. . . . they catch up with you. In this particular case, though, it's easy to get lost in Isabelle's artwork. Here are some close up shots of her scratchy textures and trees:




Full of life, confident. . . vibrant.


I won't describe who the fox is, because I believe he will be something different to everyone who reads this book. It's quite genius.

You'll find me carrying this book around under my arm for the next few weeks as I refuse to put it down. :)



I'd love to hear what your book crushes are, I know you've got one! Leave a comment below!

Cheers!
~Renee



Friday, September 13, 2013

SMA Interview Series: Illustrator, Jannie Ho

Hi, my name is Jannie Ho (pronounced Jane-nee) and I’m an illustrator specializing in children’s books and products. I’m also known as Chicken Girl.

I went to Parsons School of Design with a BFA in illustration. After graduating, I worked as a graphic designer and an art director at many fun places such as Nickelodeon, Scholastic, and TIME Magazine for Kids before going full time as a freelance illustrator.

I've illustrated more than 2 dozen books and my work has appeared in magazines, toys, crafts and digital media. I'm currently based out of Boston, MA.



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Q: Hi Jannie! Does your past as a graphic designer and art director influence the decisions you make in your illustrations? 

I think so, in many different ways. Illustrations can be part of an overall layout and I'm always thinking about that as I create. What can I do in my illustrations that would ultimately offer more for the art director to design around? Lately I've been thinking about how working at Scholastic book clubs had influenced my style and color decisions for quite a long time in my illustrations. I use to design the book club flyers and there was constant talk about making the book covers pop. Yellow as a background color was a very popular way to make things stand out, and for a long time, I had a hard time using other colors for a background. Also I was designing for a younger age group and the colors I ended up using all the time for my design ended up in my illustrations. And ultimately my illustrations geared more towards a younger age group too.



Q: Your characters are absolutely adorable. Where do you get inspiration for their clothes and colors?

Thank you! I use to often get feedback that the clothing style in my characters tend to be a little old fashion. But now that I have a child, I'm more aware as to how real kids dress, and what all the cute kids clothing stores are. Lately I've been into looking at Mini Boden (http://www.bodenusa.com/en-US/Mini-Boden-Clothing.html) for inspiration. Their color palettes are amazing too. I'm trying to keep a more edgier and sophisticated color palette but at the same time kid friendly and approachable. So keeping tabs on great colors I see on Pinterest, and using sites like colourlovers.com.


Q: Do you keep a sketchbook?

I don't really keep a sketchbook anymore. Only because the way my life is structured these days I have very little free time to do so. I do however, keep sketch files- little bits of file in Illustrator I play with. Sometimes when I'm working on a project and an idea sparks, I will start an illo on the side and eventually it gets cut and pasted to its own separate file.


Q: How important is it to market yourself? 

It is definitely very important part of being an illustrator. I'm always wondering if I can be doing more. My agent certainly helps me market and show my work to potential clients through illustration directory websites, catalogs, conferences, etc. But one thing I always like to mention is that I've never stopped marketing myself once I had an agent. Why not help myself? Why not double the efforts and hopefully cast a bigger net? It is my own career after all and I should take charge.

Some of Jannie's colorful, fun promotional materials!


Q:  How do you decide what work to show online? 

In my portfolio/website, I tend to show pieces that I enjoyed doing, hopefully attracting more of that type of work. And usually it ends up being a lot of personal or self promotional pieces. In my blog, I tend to like to keep an update of all my professional projects and what I've been busy with. I've been terrible with keeping up with my blog however. Facebook and Twitter really replaced my blog.




Q: What are your favorite tools?

I'm perfectly happy with a Wacom tablet and Adobe Illustrator! I always love hearing about new ways/tools to work, especially digitally. Keeping up with what is out there. But ultimately I do keep things very simple.


Q: Are there any exercises or experiments you do to keep your creative juices flowing? 

One great trick I've learned recently is a style analysis. Take a piece of art that you love, and write down all the elements that make up that piece of work. The way the lines are, the colors, etc. By doing this you can find out what you really love about the piece, and apply it to your work in your own way. Sometimes we see a piece that is amazing but can't really point out why we are attracted to it. This is a great way to get creative juices flowing. To get out of a rut, it seems to be a fine balance of knowing when to stick with it and when to walk away. Sometimes you just have to sit with the art till that eureka moment comes. Or sometimes I feel like I'm unbalanced in other areas in my life and I need to tend to that first before coming back to something creative. One thing I know is that everyone experiences it and its part of an artist's journey.






Q: Would you mind giving us a peek at your workspace? 

My workspace could use some more inspiration! I'm in a somewhat temporary situation so my space is currently not what I envision for myself in the long run. But I do have a lot of little toys and trinkets around that make me smile.



Q: What's the most fun thing about being an illustrator? 

I still can't believe I get to draw for a living! Getting to create my own worlds, having books out there to share my vision with others. That is pretty rewarding.


Q: Do you have any upcoming projects or news you're excited about and would like to share?

I have a wonderful Pop-up gift book coming out in the Fall published by Campbell Books in the UK. It is called Pop-up and Play Farm and I worked with the amazing paper engineer, Maggie Bateson. I'm also happy to share that the board book series I illustrated called Tiny Tabs are coming in the US! They are currently published by Nosy Crow in the UK and will be in the US February 2014 through Candlewick.







Thank you Renee and the rest of the Simply Messing About ladies! You are all very talented and I'm honored to have met ALL of you in person and be on your blog. :-)



Visit Jannie's website!
Follow her on Twitter and check out her Facebook Page!



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Thank you so much, Jannie! Your work is so bright and lovely and, I can say this having met you in person...it's just like you! D'aw. Congratulations on all of your new books, they're beautiful and fun and all the kiddos are going to love them!


It's been so great having some visitors on our blog the past few weeks. I, for one, have never been more enthralled by all the different answers we've gotten to similar questions- it just further goes to show that it's ok to make your own routine, do what works for you... 

But love what you do.

Some words of wisdom that have been consistent throughout our interviews: Never give up.

So...don't. :)

And that concludes the self help portion of this blog post. 
Thanks for following along with our SMA Interview Series, everyone! 

Cheers!
~Renee

Thursday, September 5, 2013

SMA Interview Series: Author / Illustrator Eric Barclay


Eric Barclay is an illustrator and designer, and the author and illustrator of I CAN SEE JUST FINE (Abrams Appleseed) and HIDING PHIL (Scholastic Press). 

Classic cartoons, modern art, mid-century design and everyday mishaps heavily influence his style. 

He has illustrated for American Greetings, Disneyland Paris, Hallmark, Papyrus, Peaceable Kingdom, Klutz, Toys R Us, and many others. 

Eric lives in Dallas, Texas with his wife, two beautiful young daughters, a dog and two cats. 







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Q: Hi Eric! How did you get started in illustration? 

Like most illustrators, I got started with a box of crayons. My parents encouraged my artistic abilities and paid for me to have oil painting instruction from the time I was 11 until the time I finished high school.

My first job out of college was with an advertising firm as an art director and copywriter. Many of my assignments required illustration and I found that I enjoyed those projects the most. After working in ad agencies and design firms for several years, I went freelance in 2002. Becoming an illustrator has been a very gradual process: illustration assignments slowly started becoming more and more common as clients would see my work. I started my illustration blog in 2008 and a lot of work came my way as a result of that.


Q: You make some really cool illustrations on found objects! How did you get started doing this? Do you have a special process?

I have always been interested in making my own sculptures and toys - my first sculptures were made out of wood. One day I noticed that the lid of a Coffee Mate container looked kind of like an English cap, and my initial thought was to use the cap on one my wood sculptures. And then it just hit me that the entire object had a great character shape, and that I could turn the entire container into whatever I wanted it to be. Once I realized that, I began to see the potential in all kinds of household objects.



Different objects require a different approach. Glass is easy to work with and can usually be primed and painted right away. Plastic requires a lot more work to get things smooth. Each piece requires a different solution so the process changes from object to object.

This gives a whole new meaning to recycling, doesn't it?!


Q: Do you keep a sketchbook? If so, how is it helpful for you? If not, is there a reason? 

I do keep a sketchbook, but it is nothing pretty. I use it to not only sketch ideas, but to work out ideas and layouts as well. If I draw something on a napkin at a cafe I'll often tape that into my sketchbook as well. Seriously, it's a mess, but it is very helpful. I keep my old sketchbooks in a drawer and I'll often go back and look at them to get new ideas.




Q: How do you decide what work to show online? Portfolio VS. blog...

I view my website, blog, Pinterest, Instagram and Facebook pages as part of my portfolio. Social media (especially Pinterest) makes it so easy for anyone to re-post an image, so I'm very careful about what I post online. Once something goes viral you can't take it back, so most of my posted work is pretty polished.  If I do post a sketch, I make sure it's tied to the final image so that it can't be taken out of context.


Q: What are your favorite tools?

I love retractable pencils, Prismacolors, and flat acrylic paint. Most of my personal work is done in pencil and acrylic, but my professional work is usually produced digitally. For digital work, I usually work with a scanned pencil drawing and then 'paint over' it in Photoshop or Illustrator.


Q: Are there any exercises or experiments you do to keep your creative juices flowing? How do you get out of a rut?

When I'm in a rut I like to just get out of the studio for bit. Long runs, and visits to bookstores, museums, and thrift shops often help get me unstuck. I tend to do my best work when there's a healthy balance between work, play, and time with family and friends. 


Q: Would you mind giving us a peek at your workspace? Is there anything special you keep around you while you're working for inspiration?

My workspace is a small, stand-alone studio in my back yard... just a 50 foot walk from my house. My brother, dad and I built it together. I have a bulletin board next to my desk where I post my kids drawings and anything else that inspires me. 









Q: What is an unexpected thing you've learned in your career?

I've really learned to appreciate brainstorm meetings. Art directors, editors, publishers, and project managers contribute so many great ideas that can be incorporated into the final artwork.


Q: What's the most fun thing about being an illustrator? 

I love the variety of projects that I get to work on: greeting cards, books, toys, puzzles... it's all so much fun.


Q: Do you have any upcoming projects or news you're excited about and would like to share?

I'm really excited about the recent releases of my first two books, I CAN SEE JUST FINE from Abrams Appleseed and HIDING PHIL from Scholastic Press. I CAN SEE JUST FINE is a funny book about young girl who needs glasses but is clearly in denial. HIDING PHIL is the story of three siblings who find an elephant named Phil at bus stop and take him home... and then try to hide him from their parents.


An adorable interior spread from HIDING PHIL.

A really fun interior page from I CAN SEE JUST FINE.


Thank you so much for taking the time to interview me, Renee. I'm a big fan of your art, and I also love Christina's, Laura's, and Tracy's work as well. 


Visit Eric's website and blog: http://ericbarclay.blogspot.com/ 
Follow Eric on Twitter: @ericbarclay
Like his Facebook page!



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Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with us, Eric! Your art is so colorful and alive, we are all huge fans of your work as well! (Clearly, I CAN SEE JUST FINE was written about my life in third grade... )

Most importantly, Eric, your sense of humor is totally "spot on"! 


"Missing, by Eric Barclay"

I'm sorry, I couldn't resist!

I hope this post inspires lots of people to think outside of the box and to not be afraid of bright colors. :) 

Friday, August 9, 2013

SMA Interview Series: Art Resource Coordinator, Anne Moore

Although I am the Art Resource Coordinator for Candlewick Press, I call myself a treasure hunter because I am always searching & discovering new talent or new art that illustrators who are already published or seasoned. The illustrators we publish are certainly treasures, and we love showcasing their work. 

I support the creative director along with the art directors and editors who are acquiring new texts that need visuals. That includes picture books, illustrated middle-grade novels, poetry collections, biographies and young adult novel covers. I keep a visual archive and also share incoming samples and submissions with the art and editorial departments.


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Q: How and when did you start working at Candlewick Press?

I came to Candlewick in 1995 from Little, Brown and Company where I was a senior book designer. Candlewick was "the new light in publishing" and was much smaller; there were only 3 of us in the art department at that time. We were just beginning to originate Candlewick titles. I designed picture books, young adult novels and poetry collections.


Q: What is your work day like?

My day consists of researching on the web, contacting agents and illustrators about their work or sending a new text and making an initial offer for the project. I also facilitate a weekly meeting with editors and art directors to suggest ideas for new projects needing illustrators.

 
Q: Besides having some of the most gorgeously designed books in publishing, the Candlewick office is a really fun and well-designed workspace! Can we maybe, just maybe have a tour?


Bigbear is always snuggling up to friends in the office.

Award winning books welcome visitor in our lobby.

We love to surround ourselves with art.

Jon Klassen's prints are proudly exhibited in our gallery.

Everyone loves printing at Candlewick.

Q: Do you have any career moments that you're particularly fond of? 

Meeting and working directly with the illustrators has been a joy. I've worked with some amazing ones including Marc Brown, Ed Emberley, Jane Dyer, Melissa Sweet, Scott Nash and Christine Davenier

One interesting moment I remember was when I visited Melissa Sweet's studio years ago in Maine, and as I walked through her kitchen I was stunned to see she had illustrated her kitchen cabinets ~ they were just enchanting. 


I think a highlight of my career was finding and sharing Jon Klassen's work when we were looking for an illustrator for House Held Up By Trees. That began quite a love affair for us all.



House Held Up by Trees: written by Ted Kooser, illustrated by Jon Klassen.
Always such a treat when original art is delivered for an entire picture book. 
These color saturated pieces are Timothy Ering's from The Almost Fearless Hamilton Squidlegger.



Q: There's a lot of talented folks out there! What's your favorite way to discover new talent? 

I find blogs are a gold mine. An illustrator not only shares process and things they love [or hate], but they usually share other artists' work whether it be on their links page or just in a post. That has been an amazing source of discovery.


Q: Do you write and illustrate as well? 

Over the years I've had ideas for picture books, but I only began to take time to write stories about 2 years ago. I met with a friend monthly to share and cheer each other on. I am excited to send my little babies out into the publishing world soon to see if they'll fly. I now am much more empathetic with people who have shared their work online or through submissions. It's certainly a vulnerable step into the unknown. It certainly is a step of faith.

Q: How do you get inspired? 

Nature is my first inspiration ~  I always look up! The sky is an ever amazing palette of shadow, light and color. I also look down too… especially on the ground. I love textures and earthy gritty, not-so-perfect things that are worn or cracked or faded. I collect textiles and vintage objects that are rusted or discarded. Color and music are also amazing avenues of inspiration that I pursue, whether I gaze at a beautiful watercolor or I get lost in a voluminous cavern of sounds. Taking walks or sitting by moving water tends to energize and inspire me most.


Q: Any tips for picture book illustrators or authors looking to work with Candlewick Press?

Follow what you love. Soak up and surround yourself with things that bring you life. The more we can see that someone loves what they're doing or is passionate about a certain subject, the more your work will be memorable and draw us in.

And, as a practical exercise, kids books need emotion, interaction with friends and the world, and the ability to carry a character through time and space from various perspectives and with varying degrees of emotion. So, just don't show one rhino, show a rhino dancing or pouting or singing. This gives the editor and art director the information they need to feel confident to hire you for a project.

They need to see that you can create a memorable character that connects with the reader and you're not just illustrating the words, but you are interpreting the story in such a way that you add to its meaning.


Follow Anne on Twitter: @childbookart

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Wow.

It's such a special job you have, Anne, and I think I speak for every illustrator when I say, "thank you." There are so many great reminders here that I'm sure will inspire illustrators and writers alike. 
I also hope that everybody who reads this never forgets to look up, down, and all around!

Thank you, as well, for the tour around your super fun office space!


I don't know about you guys, but I'm very much looking forward to seeing Anne's stories soaring around the kidlitosphere!!