Friday, January 30, 2009


I feel like a sponge that has been thrown into a pool instead of a bathtub! I can’t possibly process all the information that has been floating around the Illustrator Intensive program today, but I thought I would blog about a few of the highlights.

Our morning started off with an amazing talk by Leo & Diane Dillon who work in tandem as a husband and wife illustration team. Their incredible body of work was inspiring to see and also uplifting in how it encouraged any artist to continue to grow and learn. I bought one of their books and had the chance to get them both to autograph it afterwards.

After that came a head warping session about how to paint in a traditional manner using Digital medium. I only have Photoshop Elements rather than Photoshop CS3, so a LOT of the pull down menus he was showing us didn’t work the same, but many of us sat there with our laptops and tablets trying out the shortcuts, tips or tricks that got crammed into the two hour session. At one point, I just shut my computer down and took notes because my head was starting to hurt! The room was also very chilly. Even the heat of all the computers humming didn’t warm us up much.

At noon, we had to take our portfolios and promotional cards down to the other end of the floor to enter them in the exhibition. With over 100 illustrators taking part, even though we were dropping them off in alphabetical chunks, it took about 15 minutes of our 45 minute lunch break. Teresa and I headed up to our room and decided to leave our computers behind for the afternoon session, but that meant running down to the business centre to print out our “childhood memories” for the graphic novel workshop. This didn’t leave much time for anything other than a granola bar and a banana before we headed into our afternoon session.

Elise Primavera ran the workshop on graphic novels which included some of her history as an illustrator and then a challenging round-robin story activity where we had less than 5 minutes to create and introduce 2 characters in 2 panels of a graphic novel thumbnail. When the time was up, we passed the page to the person on our left and started a new 2 panel illustration continuing the story by the person to our right. Elise guided us by telling us things we had to do to introduce conflict etc. but with only 4 minutes for each 2 squares x 5 pages... it got a little exhausting and overwhelming. To top it all off, our group got to act out the best story from our circle. Being the shy, retiring type I got to act out the part of a hungry dog..... and Teresa was a great sport about being the T-bone steak (it’s hard to explain!) At least I didn’t have to bite the other dog’s butt like in the cartoon panel one of our members drew! Many of the stories ended up involving food or being hungry, so I don’t think that Teresa and I were the only ones to skip lunch!

The last session of the day was the Art Director’s Panel which ended up being SO much more nerve-wracking than I’d dreamed! Back in December, they’d asked attendees to submit images for a panel, but I thought the members would just pull out images to match their points about key elements of children’s book illustration (ie. strong characters, good composition, use of colour etc.) As the panel started, the first 3 images from one illustrator came up and they began to talk about consistency of style etc., reviewing the 3 images as a whole. My stomach sank somewhere under the table to my toes. I thought about the variety in the 3 pictures I had submitted and just dreaded what they might say if my work suddenly appeared on the screen.

Anyone who has ever read “Steering by Starlight” by Martha Beck can appreciate how my inner lizard was having a TOTAL MELTDOWN!! I actually own a Webkinz Gecko that I can “Sneaky” who I can usually pat when I get these sneak panic attacks... but she was all the way back in my hotel room!

Two hours of angst, but all in vain. Thankfully (or should I feel disappointed) none of my images appeared on the screen to be critiqued. When the session was over, Teresa and I met up with Paul to go in search of some much needed FOOD! Then it was back up to the hotel to wait until we were allowed to go into view all of the portfolios once the Art Directors were finished looking at them. The lighting was much better than during the portfolio exhibition in LA this summer and there were less people allowed in to see the work (just the illustrators themselves instead of everyone) but I still found it VERY confusing. I wish that each Art Director or publisher that attended the SCBWI portfolio review had been given a pile of coloured sticky notes or tabs and been asked to stick one on any image in an illustrator’s portfolio that they found particularly strong. This would certainly give us more feedback!! I also found a huge discrepancy in the number of images in the portfolios. This summer, I kept hearing that you should only put in your 5 to 10 strongest images.... but some of the binders there had between a dozen and 25 pictures each!! I looked as if I just didn’t draw much instead of the fact that I really took the time to edit my selections...

As an illustrator, the most valuable thing that anyone can share with me, beyond their own journey or experience, is feedback and guidance on what works or what doesn’t and where to go from here. Hopefully, there will be more of that tomorrow.

OK... my head really, really hurts... but only because I think I’ve learned way too much to process tonight. I didn’t sleep much last night, but I know that I will sleep well in a very short while...

1 comment:

geeky Heather said...

This was really cool to read, from someone who can't draw, and has no idea what the illustrator world is all about (but whose DH draws and has attended animation events at Disney)! Thank you for sharing your experiences. I hope your head has processed everything by now!!!