The 2018 SCBWI Summer Conference

Now that it has been a full week, I finally have time to blog about what an amazing experience I had this past weekend!

Technology astounds me, sometimes.
The Atlanta airport had what appeared to be a crystal-covered fishing net. Very pretty!

I arrived in LA either very late or very early, depending on your frame of reference, and got to my hotel around 1:45am. My friend and roommate for the weekend, Cynara, was already in the room and was surprisingly still awake! So, naturally, we decided to stay up for 2 more hours talking and catching up.

The view from my hotel window!

Morning came soon, and we made it downstairs in time for coffee and registration. We went to the first workshop together, where we got to hear Brian Pinkney talk about his creative process. It involved a lot of naps. I wish my creative process involved naps.

I went to lunch with a group of people who were gathering from my region (and some people who came along because they like us). I got to meet my region’s illustrator coordinator for SCBWI and two of my Twitter #kidlitart chat friends!

The Illustrator’s social was Friday night, and I met many people and saw some beautiful portfolios. I was so caught up in everything, I missed dinner!

SCBWI Illustrator staff

So many business cards and postcards of talented people!

Author/illustrator Debbie Ridpath Ohi (on the left) and author and occasional illustrator Kathy Ellen Davis (on the right) were both super friendly and wonderful to meet.

Saturday was busy. I met lots more new people. Tried to find some familiar faces at each session. The portfolio showcase was beautiful, but we weren’t allowed to take pictures. My portfolio has a far way to go to be on par with some of those, but I am trying to not feel too down about it. It was my very first conference, after all. Baby steps!

The Artist and Writer’s Ball was Saturday night! What a blast. The theme was to dress up in homage to your favorite author or artist. I was inspired by Roy Lichtenstein’s pop art figures. It made me late to the party, but I felt pretty good about it! They had a variety of sliders, a taco bar, and free dessert trucks! The cupcakes were to die for. I can’t remember the name of the truck, but I do remember seeing something on it that said they had won some Food Network cupcake challenge thing, which won them points in my book! After eating, I proceeded to dance the night away with a new found friend. I hung out with another of my new friends, Guy Kopsombut of 4am Shower fame, and his regional buddies after the party was over. I managed to “catch” the mythical white stag (as seen in “King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table” and The Chronicles of Narnia). She granted several of us each a wish. I wished for diligence in improving my craft. She actually gave some very helpful advice!

My dancing buddy, Shawna.

White Stag!

Sunday came all too quickly. We got to have a “luncheon with Lois Lowry” (author of The Giver and so many many other things), and it was amazingly interesting! I added a few more books to my growing list of things I want to read. I am thinking of picking up audio books so I can “read” at work!

When it was all said and done, they had an autograph party where the faculty were set up to sign books they had for sale all weekend long. I spent more than I expected to on books, but I was so excited to bring them all home! My boys already love them all, and I’m loving the YA novel I bought as well! I caught up with a few friends as we were wrapping up and got to say goodbye. I even got to have one last dinner out with some friends before catching a Lyft to the airport,

Me with Guy Kopsombut, comic artist and aspiring illustrator
Chase Woolner, puppet artist extraordinaire and aspiring illustrator
Cynara, my friend and hopefully co-author before long! So excited for our project together!
Amy O’Hanlon, Sandra Salsbury, Rubin Pingk, and Guy at my last dinner in LA.

I wish I could have stayed for the illustration intensive course on Monday. Next time, I will. My main takeaway from this conference was KEEP WORKING, but don’t let it become work. If you don’t enjoy the process, your work will suffer for it. It has made me excited to get back to work!

This whole thing has been such a learning experience. I am already looking forward to the next time I can go!

Two days left!

The week has finally arrived! In just two days time, I will be westward bound for my very first Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators summer conference in Los Angeles! Things are coming together, and I can hardly wait to arrive! I must be excited, because every sentence prior to this has ended in an exclamation point.

I finally got my portfolio pieces printed. I am not overly pleased with how they turned out, but I am trying to cut myself some slack with this being my first time every assembling this kind of portfolio. I apparently need to find a better place to print, and learn to adjust my colors for printing. Some of my work turned out much darker than expected, and you lose the detail and hard work I put in. It will do for now, I guess, and I’ll make sure it’s better next time.

The Author and Illustrator’s Ball is Saturday night, and the theme is to dress in a way that pays homage to your favorite author or illustrator. I had several good contenders, but wasn’t happy with my costume options for most of them. I am quite pleased with my choice in the end. Pics to come later! I ordered my stuff I would need last night and it should arrive tomorrow.

I’m off to work! Work usually goes by fast, but this week is crawling due to my anticipation of Thursday.

Have a good week, everyone!

Almost time!

Wow! It has been quite some time since I updated, but I had to check in because I’m getting so excited for the SCBWI conference! It is just under two weeks away at this point, and things are getting very real.

Shortly after my last post, I shared a creation I made with my #kidlitart folks on Twitter.

Pie Cake Always

At some point each Thursday, our conversation always seems to come back to sweets. Everyone loved it! I ended up ordering a batch of pins with the design on them to take with me to the conference in L.A. The arrived in the mail a couple weeks ago!

piecakepins

I also managed to get my postcards ordered, and they arrived on this past Thursday! I’m pretty happy with my design, and so excited to have the cards in hand.

postcard_4x6_front

My portfolio is still not completely assembled. I have all 12 pieces prepped and ready for printing for my portfolio. Getting those printed and mounted is next on my to-do list. I’m hoping to have that done by the end of this week.


I’ve been in my new job for three full weeks now, and I’m very happy with it so far. The people have all been nice, but we stay so busy that we don’t get to socialize a whole lot. The plus side to that is I love being busy since it makes the day fly by. I did get to chat with some people at the company’s “Christmas in July” party this past Friday. Apparently December is such a busy time there that there is no time for parties then, so they celebrate during the summer. It was nice to get to know people a little better!

Speaking of getting to know people, my 10 year high school reunion was yesterday and it was great getting to get reacquainted with some of my old classmates. The best part of it all was that all three of my best friends from way back when came back into town for the reunion! My mother-in-law came and watched my kids so my husband and I could spend several hours with everyone. We went to the reunion and then out for dinner. It was wonderful!

I’m going into the coming week excited for my conference, happy with my work, and somewhat rested. It looks to be a good week!

Checking In

Hello, everyone!

It’s been quite some time since I last posted, I feel like. Things are slowly progressing in regards to my art. The SCBWI Summer Conference in L.A. is just over a month away at this point. I’m very excited, and just a bit nervous. A few of my friends from #kidlitart chat are going to be there, so I’m hoping I will get to meet some people in person!

I bought a portfolio for the portfolio showcase, but I still need to get my pieces printed and mounted so I can put them in the portfolio. I ended up going with an 11″ x 14″ black fixed-page portfolio with 12 sleeves. I will upgrade to the screw post version I was hoping for at some point, but with where I’m at right now, I went with something more affordable that is still very professional looking. Plus, the 12 sleeves are just the number I was shooting for when it came to filling my portfolio, so not being able to add or subtract pages isn’t a bad thing in this case.

This week is my last week at my current job! Next week, I start as a Prepress Specialist at a local label printing company. I’m looking forward to it for many reasons, with the foremost reason on my mind being the extreme cut my commute will take. Yay for less of my life spent in a car!

 

Speaking My Piece on Stolen Works

I have a love for webcomics. By the time I graduated college, I read anywhere from 20-30 different comic series each day. As I got older and my life filled with other responsibilities, I had to prioritize my time and I stopped checking many of them, but there are a few which I continue to follow. One of these is the comic Lackadaisy, by Tracy J. Butler. It follows the story of two rival speakeasies in St. Louis during Prohibition, but portrayed by cats. Don’t let that turn you away! It is so much more than anthropomorphized felines. Her story line is interesting and funny, her attention to historical detail is astounding, and her artwork is beautiful! Seriously, you should check it out.

HOWEVER, her wonderful web comic is not why I am writing my post. Earlier today, my sister (another avid reader of Lackadaisy) sent me a message saying that she saw one of Ms. Butler’s non-comic pieces for sale on Amazon as one of those newly-popular “diamond cross stitch” pieces. Both of us thought that it seemed suspect, and my sister reached out to the artist to notify her about the product and ask if it was legitimate.

It was not.

ivycat
Tracy J. Butler’s original illustration of her cat, Ivy.
Screen Shot 2018-06-12 at 10.35.49 PM
Product for sale on Amazon.

Seriously? Also, this image does not lend itself to a diamond cross stitch. Anyone who did buy it would be severely disappointed in the result.

While we were glad to be able to help notify her of what was going on, I couldn’t help but be depressed thinking about it. She could reach out and tell these sellers to cut it out or cut her a check, but pursuing these issues is usually fruitless and/or costly, once lawyers get involved.

Since I began following several children’s illustrators on Twitter, I have heard of two other cases of this sort of theft. Both involved stores selling ripoff products without the consent of the artists. The first was a case against Francescas regarding enamel pins ripped off of a variety of artists.

francesca

The second was against Old Navy for using Lili Chin’s adorable dog illustrations on pajamas.

lilichin

And Old Navy is denying that this is copied! Unbelievable.

So what can I do? I’m going to make this post. I’m going to post about it on every social media platform I use. I’m going to ask you to do the same. Talk about it. Spread the word! Personally, I will not be shopping at Francesca’s or Old Navy again. I don’t think they have handled these cases well, and it is a slap in the face to artists.  I want the world to hear that artists deserve credit and control over their works.

Please, support the artists you enjoy, and speak out when you see a case of art theft.

 

From “It’s Gonna Be May” to “Bye Bye Bye”

It seems like just yesterday when the unceasing slew of “It’s gonna be May” Justin Timberlake memes were flooding my Facebook feed, and here we are over halfway through the month! What happened?! Time is flying by, and I have realized that I need to get a plan put in place to make sure I have things done in time.

First on my to-do list is sourcing a physical portfolio to take with me to the SCBWI conference in Los Angeles. I paid money to be in the portfolio showcase there, and I’m going to be kicking myself if I don’t have something to put in it. I think I want something with a hard cover and a screwpost binding system so I can easily update it in the future.

I also need to work on deciding which pieces I want in my portfolio and getting them printed and mounted so they look professional. I’ll probably use a few from the portfolio I presented Giuseppe Castellano at my review with him, but I have done a few more things since then that I’ve been quite happy with.

On that note, I have not done as much work lately as I was doing back in March and April, and I need to kick it back into high gear! I feel like I need to be making more work to keep improving. I don’t want to slow down! I have been participating in Mermay 2018 to an extent, but I have not been able to maintain my one-a-day pace. I have been using prompts from artist Jane Davenport to help give me starting points for each drawing. Here is a sampling of what I have done:

With May being such a busy month for us, I have not been keeping up with my color collective posts quite as well. I intend to dive back into those in a week or two. For now, I am doing occasional mermay drawings and continuing work on my woodsy piece. I think it’s coming along quite nicely!

After a few weeks of taking a break from it, I am also back to chipping away at a piece Giuseppe described as “ambitious.” There will be a total of 22 people in the scene by the time it’s done! Whew. I started this back in March as a challenge piece for myself. I don’t usually have more than one figure in a drawing, and I wanted to create a group scene. Group indeed. It is taking me a very long time! I go through periods of getting a lot done on it and then not touching it for a while. Here is what that looks like so far:

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend!

Spring Weather Has Me Singing!

Happy Wednesday, friends!

Spring weather has finally graced Ohio with its presence, and life has been good lately. I think we may be on the verge of getting my baby boy to sleep more. As any parent can tell you, this is tremendously exciting news. However, we are also about to transition him to his own room, since his crazy mobility means the bassinet in the bedroom isn’t going to cut it very much longer. Those transitions are always rough, so I’m not expecting to really see more sleep for some time longer. Time will tell, I suppose.

I spent part of the weekend at my parents’ farm, which was nice. We hadn’t been down in months, and we couldn’t have picked a better weekend for it. Sunshine and farm activities drew us outdoors. We even got to meet a new baby goat from a nearby friend!


May is shaping up to be a busy month, but I am trying to stay on target with my illustrations! I have kept up with colour collective challenges so far, and am also making progress on a piece that I am excited to finish.

As a child, I always thought the woods seemed magical. Something about the speckled light filtering in through the green leaves overhead made me feel like I was in a story book. I loved a good forest, but the thing that really made me fall in love was finding a stream, creek, or river running through the woods. I could spend hours there taking in the sounds of the water, watching mini-waterfalls, making and breaking tiny dams made from leaves and twigs, and (on warm days) splashing my feet. There was a colour collective challenge a few weeks back that was green. I roughly sketched out this picture before deciding that the green from the challenge was not the right color for this image in my mind, but this drawing really spoke out to me, even in sketch form. I kept the sketch, knowing I’d come back to it eventually. I have now officially started work on it! Here is the work in progress:

The boy in the drawing is inspired by my kids, whom I hope will one day find the imagination-stirring wonder that I found in these kinds of places. I hope you find it too! In the midst of our busy lives this month, let’s try to take time to put ourselves in nature and take it in. It’s good for the body, and good for the soul. If you’re reading this, I would love to see the places you take yourself this month! I’ll post mine on Instagram with #natureplace.

Happy venturing!

Artist Postcards

Hello, friends! It’s been busy these past few weeks, and I finally have a moment to catch my breath. I just finished laying out a booklet celebrating the work of a Dayton, Ohio-area DJ who has now been in the radio business for 50 years! I volunteer design services for his current radio station on occasion, but this project was the most involved piece I have worked on for them. It is a relief to have it finished!

With my plate slightly more clear for the time being, I can turn my focus back to building my portfolio and preparing for the SCBWI Annual Summer Conference in August. My mini assignments from Guiseppe are coming along nicely. I have 6 art directors on my contact spreadsheet and I have begun to make more changes to the website, beginning with the actual web address. No longer am I encumbered by the WordPress branding! It feels more official this way.


I’ve been giving some thought to postcards lately. Illustrators generally send out postcards showcasing their work to publishers around May and September: the peak hiring times for the year. With the first big round of mailing coming up, my #kidlitart chat friends on Twitter spent last Thursday sharing postcard designs, postcards in process, and asking/answering questions about mailing them out.

I won’t be ready to send out cards in May, but I plan to design my postcards and have them printed by the end of July so I can take them with me to the SCBWI conference in Los Angeles this August. Having them there with me will allow me to hand them out to fellow illustrators with whom I want to keep in contact as well as potential agents, editors, and art directors. Also, since I will have them ready by then, I will plan to send my first mailing in September of this year!

A quick side note about #kidlitart chat: I am so glad to have found these people. The information I have gotten has been very helpful, and they really made me feel welcome from day one. I speak up more now than I did at first, but no one ever made me feel like an outsider. I’m looking forward to meeting some of them face-to-face at the SCBWI conference!

The Portfolio Review

If you’ve been here before, you may notice that I have made a few changes to the site since last time. This is part of an on-going project for myself to really flesh out the site, so expect to see a few changes here and there over the next few months. I actually wrote the bulk of this post a week ago, since my review was actually last Thursday, but here it is!

I finally got to do my portfolio review with Giuseppe Castellano last night! Quick shout out to my husband for getting my video chat area set up for me and taking over putting the kids to sleep so I could have my meeting in peace.

We started right on time with introductions, and I gave Giuseppe my background leading up to now. We discussed why I wanted to do illustration (combining my love of art with my love of entertainment and kids) and my long and short term goals. After he got a feel for where I was coming from, we dove into the actual review.

He had my work pulled up in Photoshop to screen share while we discussed it. The first part was the feel-good portion where he told me all of the positive things I had going on in my work. Overall, he said he was glad to see that it was apparent I was “tapped into” my own signature look in my work. That’s something many new artists struggle to find. I was glad to hear it was there, because I wasn’t sure if I had found it yet! Apparently it carried through, even though they were not all done in the same style. There were a few pieces he pointed out where he really loved my line work!

girlinreposeimg_4343

My frog from my Careless Magic piece was his favorite thing in my whole portfolio, he said. The lines that made him were “loose, but informative.” He also said I had really good shapes making up the frog. Another piece with good shape was my chubby mouse. I told him those two things were two of my favorites as well! We talked about how his pear-like shape was a “believable” one as opposed to “realistic.” Not all art needs to be realistic, but believability is important.

Chubby Mouse

There was a lot more to our conversation (we went 40 minutes over our scheduled hour), but my improvement areas came down to this:

  • Use reference more often (more like 60% of the time than 10%)
  • Draw instead of outline
  • Watch color value throughout a piece
  • Pay attention to texture

These are things that I know I can do, I just need to do them consistently.

Now what?

I want to go back into a few of my pieces and make the tweaks and changes we talked about to improve them, but he also gave me a couple of mini-assignments to help me reach my goals!

Mini assignment #1:

  • Make my portfolio site. This is going to involve making my landing page more portfolio based and fleshing out some more pages.
  • Continue working on portfolio.
  • Create postcard/physical card giveaway to have on hand at the SCBWI Summer Conference in LA. I told him I was attending. He encouraged me to put my portfolio in the portfolio showcase if I felt it was ready, saying it is really helpful because so many eyes see it!

DUE DATE: Before I leave for the conference at the beginning of August.

Mini assignment #2:

  • Create a spreadsheet of Art Directors and their information. Add 3 new Art Directors to the last every week for the rest of the year!
  • Have a fully functional, beautiful portfolio site that I keep updated with work.
  • Aim for one new illustration monthly. If I like it better than something on my site, switch it out. Keep site curated this way.
  • Send out postcards and emails to the AD’s on my list on a regular basis.

DUE DATE: End of the year.

I love having these tangible goals, and I am so grateful for Giuseppe and The Illustration Department for this opportunity!

Just One Week Away!

My portfolio review is one week away and I’m starting to feel stressed! Between being in and out of work for over a week as my son was (and still is) sick and volunteering my design skills to compile a celebratory anniversary booklet for my father-in-law’s coworker, time has gotten away from me and I feel underprepared.

I have been working on a larger piece for a little under a month now. I was hoping to have it done for this review, but it looks like it won’t be making it into my portfolio quite yet. The piece is really coming along nicely, so it’s a shame to leave it out. I’m even considering cropping in on a finished bit of it just to get Guiseppe Catellano’s thoughts on what I have! Not sure yet if I will or not. I am compiling all of my most “finished” illustration pieces into an email tonight to send to him so he will have time to review the pieces before we talk if he wants.

My biggest concern is just feeling like I don’t have many pieces to show, and I am not sure what to expect. Really, the worst that could happen is for him to tell me that none of my art is acceptable and that I have no future in illustration. If that is the case (and God, please let that not be the case), I will just need to continue to practice and refine my work until it is acceptable. This is going to be a great learning experience!