The Art Director's Panel was one of the most helpful parts of the day for me. By listening to them critique 3 pieces of art from 30 different illustrators we got to hear what they are looking for. On the panel was Giuseppe Castellano from Simon Spotlight, Scott Piehl from Disney Book Group, and Carla Weise from HarperCollins.
They said they are looking for a distinctive style with a strong narrative and strong characters, strong color, and strong composition.
In an artist they look for: dependability, creativity, humor, ability to be part of a team, and someone who understands that nothing is personal. It's about creating the best work.
Their criteria for judging good art:
• Craft - proportions, correctness (Is it a dog or a horse, a child or a short adult?)
• Idea/Concept - Do you want to know more about the story?
• Appropriate for market?
Detail is good as it gives children something to take a second look at. There should be as much concentration on creating a good background as the characters. Be careful about creating work that looks dated. Characters should not be too 'Disney-like' unless you want to work on stories with licensed characters.
When sending 3-4 samples there should be a consistency. Don't show type in an illustration or they will concentrate on that instead. Makes sure art is not too editorial which is a singular image that you can't see the narrative in.
They are looking for something they haven't seen before.
Giuseppe said it's important to send good artist samples without too much information-your contact info type needs to be only big enough to read. Your postcard will only be looked at for 10 seconds. If it's bad it will be thrown away. Don't send anything gimmicky-no puzzle cards. One good postcard is all it takes.
Scott said he prefers mailed samples over email. He's looking for artwork with high impact.
Don't send 10 styles to one art director. If they can't see a consistency they still don't know what to expect from you. Instead, if you work in multiple styles send one style per art director, and make sure to do research to know who would like that style.
Giuseppe says he goes to blogs. He says he loves them because he gets access into your head. And they all love websites and portfolio sites because they can forward your link easily.
After my head was spinning with all the info from the Intensive, which was indeed quite intense, Leeza and I headed off to the Wheeltapper Pub with awesome illustrator friends, Pat Cantor and Andy Mitchell, and fabulous writer friend, Sara Wilson Etienne for the Kidlit Cocktail Party hosted by Betsy Bird and Cheryl Klein. I met agent Stephen Barbara, and the amazingly talented illustrator/art director, Laurent Linn. It was great meeting SCBWI members in a casual setting. I met another Angela, Angela Russell, a writer who was there with her sister, and we had a great chat with NY Times Bestselling author, Jay Asher, who was so wonderful and humble! It was a great first day in NY.