Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Indiana SCBWI Picture Book Conference

I'm still behind on things I want to share and chronicle here on the blog. There's been so many good art things going on lately. I want to finish a drawing tonight, but before I do I want to share some of my notes from the Indiana SCBWI Picture Book Conference I attended last month. I was most excited about this conference because the focus was all on Picture Books. (Their MG and YA conference will be in Spring 2010.) These conferences are like graduate school for anyone looking to seriously enter the children's book market.

I arrived the night before for the Open Mic at the hotel to hear attendees read the beginnings of their manuscripts. Since I'm still trying to jump start my writing brain these are always helpful. Then afterwards, we laid out our illustration portfolios for a critique. I was excited to meet fellow CCAD grad, and amazing illustrator, Kristi Valiant, who had printed out critique cards with check marks for the necessary criteria, and what the strongest and weakest pieces were. This last question was one of the most helpful. Then, it was off to sleep before an early morning, and I realized that this was my first solo stay at a hotel. After cramming 5 of us in the smallest hotel room I'd ever seen in my life back in San Diego, I felt like quite a princess in my nicely sized room. :)

The conference was at The Saturday Evening Post. Somehow, it hadn't dawned on me where we were until I saw the sign. I didn't realize this famed publication was located in Indiana.

The halls were lined with all the familiar covers.

Actual real life original Norman Rockwell paintings also hung throughout the building. Real canvas texture!

Courtney Bongiolatti, Associate Editor at Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers was our first speaker. She spoke about what an editor looks for in a Picture Book.
In her terms, she's looking for:
1. Uniqueity -Make what's existing unique. Unique a trend. Unique a format.
2. Readability - Does it read well out loud?
3. Realatability
4. Schoolability - Is it relevant to the school market?

Laurent Linn, Art Director for Simon & Schuster for Young Readers spoke to us about the Anatomy of a Picture Book, and their basic structure. He explained that rather than think about the art as separate illustrations, a PB should be thought of as one illustration over 32 pages. Fun Fact: a press sheet is called a 'signature' because back in the day it needed a signature 'sign off' approval.


Laurant also conducted a workshop explaining, through examples, what makes appropriate art to send as samples to publishers. Portraits, landscapes, still lifes, and figure drawings may be beautiful art, but they are not appropriate portfolio samples. A Renoir portrait is great for frame, but doesn't tell enough of a story in the way Tenniel's 'Alice in Wonderland' illustrations do. As illustrators we are costume designers. Dress your characters to show each individual personality. Posture shows character. Think in camera angles. The city, a landscape, or a single tree can be a character. Use light and shadow to show mood.

Illustrators, Kristi Valiant and Sharon Vargo also gave a talk on the Illustrators Perspective. A portfolio should demostrate that you can master a range of emotions. In writing for picture books, anything that you can show in the illustration gets chopped out of the story. SCBWI has a list of mostly current publishers at each house to send art samples to.


All in all it was an excellent conference, and just what I needed to get focused again after my move. Kristi was kind enough to sign her latest trade book for me, 'Cora Cooks Pancit'. I love how she's perfected a digital style that looks so beautifully traditional, and the story about a Filipino girl who wants to help cook with the grown-ups is wonderful and relatable. Check out an interview with Kristi about her book on Elizabeth O. Dulebra's site.

Now, to the lightbox to work on my drawing before my eyelids no longer stay open....

1 comment:

Kristi Valiant said...

What a wonderful conference! It was super fun to meet you, Angela! I learned so much, and really need to blog my thoughts and photos too. Thanks for the reminder.