Saturday, May 9, 2015

Attending NESCBWI Conference 2015



These are my thoughts about this years NESCBWI 2015 Conference held in Springfield, MA. There were many friends, colleagues and organizers who made this years conference a success.  When you attend a SCBWI conference there is barely enough time to catch  your breath. The conference organizers wanted to make sure you were busy and receive your moneys worth.

I started my workshops as early as 7:30 am and some probably didn't end until around 6pm. I selected workshops that would improve my picture book career. One of my favorite workshops was "Where Picture Book Illustration Is Today" organized by Laurent Linn. Mr. Linn emphasized that kids are important and storytelling requires using your emotions. Illustrating for children is important and we shouldn't take our responsibility lightly. Children are important and impressionable and require our best work.
 
I also enjoyed another workshop that used the theme for this year's illustration challenge, "Don't Worry-I Fixed It." Three art directors Matha Rago, Jim Hoover, and Laurent Linn gave a critique of illustrators who submitted their finished illustrations. The critique showed why some samples satisfied the theme or did not. I found the art directors comments inspired me for my next promotion card.

Emma Ledbetter had a workshop titled,"Lights, Camera, Picture Book!". It was fascinating to hear Ms Ledbetter's views about structuring a picture book. She introduced the idea of music flowing for picture books until it ends with a surprise.This flow should contain a beginning, middle and end. She used several movie stills from Pixar's movie,"Monsters Inc." to illustrate whether the picture book moves along or not.

I heard many speakers at this year's conference but found Dan Santat, Caldecott winner for this year's picture book, really amazing. I thought Mr Santat to be organized, and motivated creatives to be serious about their craft. He discussed his life growing up and how it influenced where he was today. Mr. Santat really knows how to tell a story and keeps you listening to the very end.

A couple of events that I didn't take part in and would encourage you to consider are the Illustrator's Challenge, Peer Critiques and The Portfolio Showcase. I didn't attend the Illustration Challenge because of commitments to client projects. I missed my peer critique because of an illustration meeting. Peer critiques are important because you receive comments about your work from another set of eyes. You need criticism in order to grow. Placing your portfolio in the Portfolio Showcase goes without saying. You never know who might see your work and want to contact you. I really enjoyed placing my book anywhere on available tables. I attended this past New York conference and they took my book and place it in a location I didn't feel was advantageous. Don't count on going to a SCBWI conference expecting to pickup a project. It does happen but not likely. Enjoy yourself and have fun.

Once the day activities, workshops and speeches are over it's time to wine and dine with your fellow colleagues. This can be a lot of fun and a great way to discuss the children's publishing industry and pickup inside information.

The bookstore is fabulous and you can purchase books from your favorite speakers at the conference. This is how I purchased Dan Santat's book "Beekle". I also picked up Marvin Terban's "checking Your Grammar" since I am in the process of writing my own picture book. This book will help me brush up on my sentence structure.

I found the NESCBWI conference not as expensive as traveling to the New York or Los Angeles SCBWI Conference. Save up your money and make an effort to attend the  NESCBWI conference. You won't regret it. I had a great time and was inspired returning to Boston. I look forward to my next NESCBWI conference.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Latest pencil and colored work.

This illustration started out as a pencil sketch and colored in Photoshop. I was curious how the pencil shading below on a separate layer would appear with coloring above it.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

My Experience Attending SCBWI Winter Conference 2015


This year's SCBWI Winter Conference 2015 in New York was an exciting event to experience. I have never attended a gathering with so many writers and illustrators under one roof who love the children's book industry. SCBWI members arrived not just from the United States but from all over the world. This was a three day event for members to network, meet old friends and discuss their latest projects.

I arrived on Friday and quickly walked to 42nd Street to the Grand Hyatt near Grand Central Station. I was late for registration but more concerned about dropping off my portfolio for the private viewing later that day. I checked that my portfolio contained my business cards, promotion cards and attached picture book dummy. All set, handed over my book to the SCBWI personnel. I didn't apply for any creative intensives and should have but was not exactly excited about drawing at seven forty-five am in the morning. When I attend the Springfield SCBWI conference in April, I plan on participating in one of the illustration intensives. I left the conference and made my way to my brother's apartment to rest and unload my luggage.

Friday evening I returned to the Grand Hyatt to socialize and view some illustratration portfolios. I labored many hours putting my book together for the private show. SCBWI had strict size restrictions but it seemed all that mattered was the letter of your last name for strategic placement on the tables for viewing. I continued looking at many portfolios in all shapes, sizes and colors. I wondered how illustrators chose their portfolio styles and was amazed by the quality of illustration work. Some of the illustrators whose work I really enjoyed were Kiri Ostergaard Leonard, Lori Keehner and Prescott Hill. After socializing with a few illustrators, I decided I was finished and picked up my book and went to rest at my brother's home.

The remainder of Friday evening I reminisced about those illustration portfolios I had viewed earlier. I reminisced about what my experience would be like attending my first SCBWI Conference. I really didn't sleep that night was to excited thinking about the possibilities for this weekend. Saturday arrived early for me as I rose early and had a quick breakfast. I left the apartment and made my way back to 42nd Street and the conference. I arrived upstairs and entered the Empire Ball State Ballroom for the Conference opening speaker's greetings and introductions. Anthony Horowitz was the first of several speakers who projected such excitement and enthusiasm for the books he wrote and all that it took to write them. I was impressed by his enthusiasm for his craft. I listened intently for about an hour before leaving to participate in my selected workshops. 

The first workshop was titled Working With An Agent, narrated by Heather Alexander, an agent for Pippin Properties. She came across as very informative and offered insight to creatives considering working with agents. She mentioned what she as an agent brings to the table in assisting creatives. She mentioned she receives 15% if she brings in work. I thought this was a bit low but maybe she is right. An agent is important if you want them to take care of the marketing and contact potential clients. Ms Alexander emphasized researching any agent you are considering representing you.

My second workshop was titled Creating Picture Book Art, narrated by Denise Cronin, Vice President and Art Director for Viking Children's Books. She spoke about the Seven Essentials for Picture Book Art. I found her workshop to be the most interesting. I was familiar with several of her Seven Essentials, for example having an effective and easy website to navigate. Creatives should have updated blogs. I enjoyed her comment, Observe The World Around You, suggesting that you should observe everything you see because this information might just be useful in one's creative projects. She mentioned the example of How A Cat Stalks It's Victim.  How does a cat position itself before it strikes a victim. Think how you will market yourself was another important point she made. What should creatives consider to get their names in front of art buyers. Ms Cronin suggested sending out promotion cards, joining art critiques and attending more conferences.

I was gradually realizing my thoughts at the Conference dwelling on different strategies I should develop that would guide me through the children's book industry. I knew from experience that my own tried and true tactics such as marketing and create great artwork were essential. Visiting bookstores, looking at picture books and remembering the names of interested publishers. Contacting agents is a possibility and joining critique groups is beneficial. These were some of the essentials that Ms Cronin emphasized. After a small break I returned to my brothers apartment before returning for the evening Art Browse at the conference. This would give me a chance to view again many illustration portfolios and chat with some of my fellow artists. The SCBWI Winter Conference had an Optional Socials gathering for a variety of different groups to meet and socialize. I choose the Illustration Group obviously because illustrators are a enthused group of people to hang around with. I spoke with Prescott Hill who explained how he achieved his delightful illustrations with SketchBook Pro. I really enjoyed looking at Lori Keehner's book of paintings and many more illustrators.

Sunday was the last day of the SCBWI Winter Conference. I decided to finish the day and participate in a few events so I could say my good-byes to fellow illustrators. I attended an early afternoon keynote panel. Titled Keynote Agents' Panel: Charting Your Career Path. This was moderated by Brenda Bowen with the panelists consisting of Barry Goldblatt Literary LLC, Jennifer Laughran, Andrea Brown Literary Agency and Tina Wexler, International Creative Management. This group covered similar issues from my Saturday workshop with Heather Alexander but mentioned even more topics for creatives to consider before contacting and working with an agent. Some issues mentioned were The Money Issues, by Barry Goldblatt. He mentioned that the children's publishing industry is not an easy profession to make a living at and creatives should not give up their day jobs. Make sure you can pay your bills such as the rent or the mortgage. I can't disagree with what Mr. Goldblatt said because of my very own experience with part-time jobs. Jennifer Laughran mentioned ways creative professionals can increase their exposure such as having an online portfolio, participating with social media and marketing yourself. She also spoke about being part of Illustration Spotlights and attending more conferences. I found Barry Goldblatt's comment about shutting down your Amazon ranking amusing if you are checking your rank obsessively. This is an issue I don't worry about because I don't have any ranking so far. This panel left me with even more ideas to ponder as I left the Empire State Ballroom.

After leaving the panel discussion I quickly went to the children's bookstore to load up on some of my favorite picture books. I purchased Accoustic Rooster and His Barnyard Band by Kwame Alexander and illustrated by the fantastic illustrator Tim Bowers. I really enjoy Tim's amusing and colorful animal illustrations. I was saddened that these three days passed so fast and are just about over. I would cherished all the friends I met and great times we had together. I received so much information to improve my skills as a children's book illustrator. I would strongly suggest saving the money to attend one of these SCBWI Conferences you certainly won't regret it. These conferences are not cheap. I really enjoyed the experience of being part of a large group of creatives who just love picture books and look forward to my next SCBWI conference.


Sunday, February 15, 2015

Exploring Owl Character Designs With Pencil

Trying out a new pencil style creating some character designs for owls. Took the sketches into Photoshop and turned it into a duotone image. You can watch this video at http://youtu.be/ZlmGWkh5A14 You can view some of my other videos at http://bit.ly/1kcta6h

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

I Am Not Concerned About New Year's Resolutions

The new year is here and I don't give much thought to resolutions. 
I am more concerned about the challenges before me. I won't 
become overwhelmed as long as I organize my goals and set 
steps to achieve them.

My business is a priority but I do have a life and need to maintain 
it.  Business is business but only as good as a healthy outlook. I will 
dance and sing songs.

I plan to dream bigger and better and go after creative jobs that
excite me. I won't let my objectives disrupt me but will handle as
small steps. I will stay positive and greet people with a smile.

My calendar will have goals listed and nothing on it I can not achieve.  
I will not loose focus, become overwhelmed and procrastinate. When
I need to take a break I will strike a pirate pose and say "Aarrr".

I will enjoy my relationships with family, friends and business 
folks. Most of all I will appreciate each day I awake to the sound of 
birds and the sun shining.

Important thought:
The future is now and belongs to those who believe in their dreams
and set out to reach them.