Tuesday, February 10, 2009

2009 SCBWI Winter Conference - Illustrators' Intensive

The sun rises over New York as we approach the city

I wanted to post up my notes from the conference as soon as I got back, but here we are, and it's been about 2 weeks, and I'm still trying to process the amazing weekend. I've been wanting to go for a couple years, and decided that this year I must go, but then I started to have doubts as to if I was 'ready'. I contacted Leeza, and after a long talk we decided to be roomies, and it was so wonderful to be around her amazing energy and positive generous vibes.

Day 1 of the conference was the Illustrator's Intensive. On the way down in the elevator a kind woman enters from another floor. Leeza introduces me, and tells me this is Lin Oliver, the Executive Director and co-founder of SCBWI. What a wonderful way to start the conference!

After grabbing some bagels we file into the room with chairs and nice narrow tables which are great for note taking and resting one's plate of toasted bagel halves and ice water. We are told that revolution is upon us. Whatever worked in 2008 will not work in 2009, and 2010 will be a whole new game. We are entering a period of redefinition and reinvention. Our speakers exemplify this. Change is a permanent part of their portfolios. We will redefine children's books.

Leo and Diane Dillon

Our first speakers were Leo and Diane Dillon who are the only illustrators to have won the Caldecott 2 years in a row. The married couple has worked together for over 50 years, and they were a treat to listen to. Their strength has been their flexibility and their ability to change with the times. They talked about painting layers on acetate, and learning new techniques like tapestry, and woodcarving, and stained glass looks for the first time during actual illustration jobs. They said you learn fast when you have to. I am amazed at how they worked together on the same projects. They said they worked in shifts, and always respected each others space by asking permission if it was ok to look at the others' work yet. They jokingly said the biggest advantage to working as a team is that you can always blame the other one, or the other one can fix it.

We then had our first workshop on digital painting with William Low. He likes to work with a full screen in Photoshop without any palettes showing, so he has memorized just about every keyboard shortcut there is. I don't know if I could fully commit to working that way. That's just a little too much info for my brain to handle. For me it would be like working blind. I like to see my layers palette growing, and my history, navigator, and menu tool bar. To paint digitally Low said to treat layers in terms of physical space, so your foreground, middle, and background are on their own layers. In designing for a book we're not just creating pretty pictures. The type and art must fit like a dovetail joint. He provided many tips in blending , color settings, etc. that even a Photoshop expert could benefit from.

Grand Central Station

Then after dropping off our portfolios and a very quick lunch picked up next door from Grand Central Station it was onto workshop #2 with Elise Primavera. Her advice is that in order to do something fresh do something you are completely unqualified to do. At one point she thought she had nothing to say, and was not a writer. She was living at home with her parents at age 40, but then she wrote a successful children's book. She is now finding success in the graphic novel market which we often heard at the conference is the hot new trend, especially as the format relates to picture books. She split us off into groups, and we created the beginning of a paneled story by each of us introducing our characters, and then passing it to the next person to continue the story. This exercise was a good introduction to the basics of storytelling for me. After some initial confusion it ended up being a lot of fun, and some people went up to act there's out.

After all this the day 1 Intensive was still not over. The Art Directors' Panel is coming up in the next post.

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