Catching Willie Mays (in a children’s book illustration)

How perfect that award-winning children’s book artist Terry Widener has done the pictures for the new picture book by Jonah Winter (just released by Schwartz and Wade) about the greatest all around baseball player ever – Willie Mays.

Terry brings a background of high level advertising and editorial illustration and something else to the many children’s books he’s done on sports figures: The sensibility of a gifted athlete.

Too small to play football on school teams, Widener focused on baseball and mainly golf, which he still avidly plays. In fact he attended art school at the University of Tulsa on a golf scholarship.

After graduation Terry had to choose between two job offers — one as the golf pro at a country club, the other as an ad agency art director. It could have gone either way; Terry went the advertising art route because it paid just a little more per week.

He went on to do design and illustration work for major publications and ad agencies — for national and international clients like Coca Cola, Burger King, The Franklin Mint and Aesculap (a German orthopedic implant manufacturer. )

His first kids’ book illustrations were for Lou Gehrig — The Luckiest Man by David Adler (Gulliver Books/Harcourt Brace) named a Boston Globe/Horn Book Honor book, a Texas Blue Bonnet Reading List selection, an American Library Association Notable Book of the Year and an SCBWI Golden Kite Finalist, and received the IRA Teacher’s Choice Award.

Since then his books have attracted more honors and recognition,  including Smithsonian Notable Book of the Year, School Library Journal  Best Book of the Year, the Junior Library Guild List, the Society of Illustrators Original Art Show, the Bank Street Best Children’s Book of the Year and other awards.

Terry paints in acrylics. He’s experimented with a variety of styles in this medium, though now he works in a more painterly, naturalistic style, in the “Old School” children’s book art style of N.C. Wyeth and Howard Pyle.

That he’s done so many children’s biographies of sports heroes is purely coincidence, he says. What’s no coincidence is the sophisticated-simple design that he brings to these pictures of action and excitement in the ball field, boxing ring and competitive swim lanes — and the comfy authority with which he treats historical settings and scenes.

These videos are excerpts from an in-depth interview Terry gave me for students in the Make Your Splashes — Make Your Marks! course. For more information about this online course on illustrating children’s books, or to receive e-mail news from the “Marks and Splashes” online learning community, go here.

You Never Heard of Willie Mays? by Jonah Winter (Schwartz and Wade) features a lenticular cover illustration. You know those “wiggle pictures” that seem to move when you look at them from different angles? You’d find them  sometimes as surprises inside Cracker Jacks boxes. Schwartz and Wade wanted to use lenticular printing for the covers for this series of picture book sports bios.

The process required Widener to come up with three paintings for the cover. The paintings would animate Mays knocking the ball out of the park, in one of those 50 home run hits of his career.

Terry had to model himself swinging a bat to avoid relying solely on the photos and videos he’d pulled together of the real Willie Mays in the moment — lest he and the publisher end up in a battle with The New York Times and Sports Illustrated over intellectual property!

When dealing with images of sports icons and other stars, be careful to not copy your source material, Terry cautions. Your references are probably all copyrighted!  He couldn’t even render newspaper sports pages of the day as they were, he says. To use them in an illustration he had to change them up a bit — even the wording in the headlines!

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With his art director wife Leslie Widener (also a children’s book author-illustrator) Terry lives in a 100-year-old house in historic McKinney Texas, a few miles north of Dallas, Texas. They’re members of the North Texas chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI.)

Terry enjoys doing school visits and receives many invitations for them each year. He can often be coaxed to draw for students in a collaboration where they “art direct” his improvised sketches on the white board.

For a list of Terry’s books and awards go here and to see the covers of some of his books, go here.

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Terry doesn’t illustrate only books on sports heroes. He takes on a variety of projects, like this series of picture books on folks songs with Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul and Mary.

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IMAGMark and Terry (Laura photo)

Mark Mitchell and Terry Widener share a chuckle at Texas Educational Service Center Region One school librarian’s conference in Harlingen, Texas in September 2012.
(Photo by children’s author-poet Laura Purdie Salas) http://www.laurasalas.com)

Austin SCBWI Kick It Up a Notch! conference delights and inspires 

Renowned illustrator and fine artist E.B. Lewis headlined the Austin SCBWI 2013 conference, Kick it Up a Notch! last weekend at St. Edward’s University. (Below) E.B. drew for pre-K and K students at the Regents School in Austin, Texas.

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He also inspired middle grades at the school.

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E.B. Lewis dazzled illustrators and writers alike with an impromptu watercolor demonstration at a Sunday workshop following Kick It Up a Notch!

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Austin, Texas based illustrator Patrice Barton received the SCBWI Crystal Kite award for her art for the picture book Mine! by Shutta Crum (Knopf) in the reception that kicked off the Austin conference. She and Crum presented a workshop about the making of Mine!.
See the video interview Patty did with this blog about illustrating Mine!

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Caitlin Alexander won first place in the conference Portfolio Showcase that was judged by E.B. Lewis, publisher Neal Porter and agent Rubin Pfeffer. Caitlin receives full tuition to next year’s Austin SCBWI conference and a $200 cash prize from the social media firm, Alter Endeavors, owned by Austin SCBWI’s Nick Alter. Erin McGuire won second place and Laura Logan and Amy Farrier tied for third place in the portfolio competition. All won gift cards from Jerry’s Art Supplies. Photo by author Cynthia Leitich Smith.

Google Drive for Artists free replay

Sign up to see the full recording of the workshop on Google Drive and other great Google tools for illustrators, presented by Pooja Srinivas. Yes, it’s free!

And finally, here is my nomination and vote for the ultimate Valentines Day book.

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Mark Mitchell, who sometimes edits this blog wrote this post.

Author-illustrator Keith Graves: Ace kids’ yarn spinner

You might not learn all you want to know about children’s book author illustrator Keith Graves from his website — like, what is the name of the rock band he was founding member of and still plays in? (Answer: The Whispering Javelinas.)

But you’ll find answers to the important questions, like,  How did he learn to draw?

His response (see the site’s FAQs):  “I have been obsessed with drawing since I was knee high to a slug…

“I’ll bet I have drawn at least five or six billion pictures, mostly of things with one eye, in my life. Most of them stunk, but some came out OK.

“That’s the thing.  If you draw lots of pictures, chances are a few will be really cool.”

Reviewers have used words like zany, quirky, twisted and rowdy to describe his pictures and stories that are also just plain funny and kid-friendly.

If you’ve never read any of his books, the video below with Keith reading his Loretta, Ace Pinky Scout (Scholastic) accompanied by the movie theme from The Great Escape offers a fine introduction to his oeuvre.

His latest work is the first in a series of chapter books that he illustrated with white colored pencil and acrylic paint on black illustration board.

In these video excerpts from a longer interview that he gave for students of the Make Your Splashes – Make Your Marks! course Keith talks about his happy experiment with long form writing and his new series character, Thaddeus J. Hibble.

Keith’s long professional art career has included editorial illustrations for some of the country’s top publications, music album covers, posters,  ads, Hollywood animated film projects,  his own children’s picture books and those of other authors’ (including Margie Palatini, Mary Alice Fontenot,  Helen Ketteman and Sandy Asher.)

He earned his B.F.A. from the University of Southern Louisiana, studied at the Parsons New School for Design in N.Y.C. and finished an M.F.A. from the University of Texas at Austin.

But not before he tackled essential boyhood tasks like building a W.W. II submarine out of cardboard boxes in his (New Orleans neighborhood) backyard, learning to play the guitar and immersing himself in the lore of movie monsters, the hot rod cartoon monster (plastic kit) models of Big Daddy Roth and a particular uncle’s hilarious tall tales about growing up on the bayou.

"Chicken Big" cover

Further down in this post we mention the winners of the SCBWI Tomie de Paola Illustration Award. The contest required artists to render a certain scene from Chicken Licken (or Chicken Little or Henny Penny. )

So we can’t omit mention of Keith’s strangely endearing take on the same tale that resulted in his 2010 picture book Chicken Big  (Chronicle Books.)

Watch the discussion below for his insights into developing a visual character who rings true.

Page  from "Chicken Big" by Keith Graves

St. Edward's University, Austin Texas

Something for Everyone

That’s the theme for the 2012 Regional Conference of the Austin Chapter of the Society of  Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) 

It’s no exaggeration, either — with its insanely good lineup of name authors, agents, editors and a few other top children’s publishing industry professionals.

Conference logo design by Erik Kuntz

Come meet Patti Ann Harris, senior art director at Little, Brown Books for Young Readers who oversees the design of the picture book list and novelty book imprint, LB-Kids,  Bonnie Bader, editor-in-c hief of Grosset and Dunlap and Price Stern Sloan, two imprints of the Penguin Young Readers Group and Diane Muldrow,  editorial director at Golden Books/Random House and editor of the famous Little Golden Books.

Hobnob with agents, Sarah Davies (Greenhouse Literary Agency),  Erin Murphy (Erin Murphy Literary Agency) and Jill Corcoran (Jeff Hermann Agency) along with YA novelist Lisa Lee,  picture book author and writing teacher Anastasia Suen and Kirsten Cappy, who owns the children’s author-illustrator marketing consultancy Curious City.

Conference logo design by Laci Morgan

Registration is still open for Something for Everyone, set for February 17-19 on the St. Edward’s University campus in Austin, Texas.

SCBWI Tomie dePaola Illustration Award winner announced

For first place, from more than 300 entries from around the world, dePaola chose the scene composed by Yvette Piette Herrera for the Chicken Licken fable.

See Yvetter’s wonderful piece and the other winning submissions by Carrie Eko-Burgess,  Rotem Omri and Lori McElrath-Eslick, along with Tomie dePaola’s comments on the SCBWI site.

See more great work (178 of the contest submissions so far and counting) in a special “Unofficial” Tomie dePaola Awards blog initiated by Houston SCBWI illustrator coordinator Diandra Mae, including four pieces by Marks and Splashes students Joanna Strybosch, Catherine Jacobs, Cynthia Iannocone and Virginia Rinkel.

PB Dummy Challenge for kidlitart challenge Twibbon

Twibbon design by Diandra Mae

#KidLitArt Picture Book Dummy Challenge 2012

Here’s what you want to know about this year’s Kidlitart #PBDummy Challenge:

Sign up here, start work on your pencil dummy drop by the #kidlitart Twitter chats at 9 pm (U.S. Eastern Time) every Thursday to visit with your creative colleagues.

You’ll find additional challenge-related discussions on Twitter using the challenge hashtag: #PBDummy.

Try to register for the challenge by January 15 to be eligible for the Agent Pitch contest at the end of the six months.  The challenge extends to July 1.

(Live anywhere near the St. Louis, Mo. area? PB Dummy Challenge co-founder Wendy Martin will teach art and painting classes this Spring at Jefferson College, including Watercolor Pencil Techniques, Narrative Illustration, Cartoon Animals and Basic Logo Design. Check out page 11 of the Jefferson College Continuing Education 2012 spring catalog or contact Wendy directly through her website for more information.  She’ll teach at the Festus, Mo. campus.)

If you feel instead like concentrating on picture book story structure and writing,  consider the 12 x 12 in 2012 Picture Book Writing Challenge.  “Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to write one picture book per month for each of the twelve months of 2012,” states challenge instigator, author Julie Hedlund in her blog, Write Up My Life. 

“This means a first draft: beginning, middle, end.  NOT a submission-ready piece,” she says.

Author-illustrator Jeff Crosby inscribes a book for illustrator Lalena Fisher, while his wife and co author-illustrator Shelley Ann Jackson chats with Lalena.

Triumphs and tallies

Picture books by Austin SCBWI artists Jeff Crosby and Patrice Barton made the Texas Library Association’s 2×2 list for 2012. Wiener Wolf  that Jeff wrote and illustrated and Mine! written by Shutta Crum and illustrated by Patrice made the top 20 books (winnowed down from 700 nominated titles) for children ages two through the second grade.

Patrice’s illustrations for Mine! were also included in the Society of Illustrators 2011 National Exhibition in NYC.

Both illustrators have been profiled on this blog and interviewed on video for the Make Your Splashes – Make Your Marks students.

 Liz Rosenberg’s “Best Books of 2011″ for children article in the Boston Globe leads off with Austin SCBWI’s own Divya Srinivasan’s Little Owl’s Night  (Viking.)

Elizabeth Bird, youth collections specialist for the New York City Public Library compiled her list of 100 Magnificent Children’s Books of 2011 in her blog, A Fuse 8 Production  for School Library Journal.

Illustrator Patrice Barton with author-illustrator Mary Sullivan

You don’t want to miss the 2011 Retrospective for Julie Danielson’s  7 Impossible Things Before Breakfast blog that  includes interviews with Brian SelznickGenevieve Cote, David Ezra Stein, John Rocco, Beth Krommes, Beth Ellis, Betsy Lewin and many others.

And see the 2012 picture book preview by Kirkus Reviews.

Check out “Tech Tuesday” posts on the new Girllustrators Tumblr blog  and Just Picture This: A one stop blog for all things Children’s Illustration. News, events, links, articles and more– compiled by illustrators Diandra MaeCasey G.Dani JonesKelly Light and Jez Tuya.

Art by Sylvia Liu (for an Illustration Friday theme, "Separated")

Marks and Splashes course assayed

Many thanks to Sylvia Liu (illustrator, environmental attorney) for reviewing  the Make Your Splashes – Make Your Marks! online course  — and interviewing me on her richly informative kid lit art blog Sylvia Liu LandRead the review.

Stories that move (really they do)

See some interactive digital books in action (videos) ofs in action and read about the latest InteractBooks Contest (prizes include iPads, an iMac and more)  for artists and authors using the free InteractBuilder software. You’ll find more on the latest post,  Stories that move and talk when you touch them on the lllustration Course blog.

Richard Johnson of InteractBooks

Sign up for free sessions, tutorials

1.) From idea to iTunesAuthor-illustrator David Tribble walks us through how he created his children’s picture book for the iPad, Lord of the Scribes.  See the 90 minute-replay.

2.) Building interactive books for touch screen devices:
A presentation featuring children’s author Dan Byrne who won last year’s InteractBooks competition with his picture book on nutrition and gardening for kids, It’s Time for Carrots (illustrated by Jenna Matsalla) and the developers of the InteractBuilder software. Hear it here.

3.)InteractBuilder Bootcamp online –  a complete training on building interactive books for the iPad, iPhone and other touch screen devices

Three more live Saturday sessions to go with InteractBuilder developers Ezra Weinstein and Richard Johnson teaching how to use their groundbreaking software.  Replays of the previous trainings are available for only three more weeks. Find more information, temporary replay links and upcoming class registration links.

American fine artist Emiy Barto

American artist Emiy Barto

4.) Fabulously free: 

Open source software for artists and illustrators, presented by architect and illustrator Jim Larson. Enjoy the replay.

5.) Build your online gallery on a WordPress.org or WordPress.com blog

Erik Kuntz and Mark Mitchell demonstrate  how to install thumbnail portfolios on WordPress blogs.  Access the replay and videos.

6.) Is there a “best secret” to drawing? Find out here.

"The Three Gnarlies" Interior Page

Interior illustration by Keith Graves for his picture book, "The Three Gnarlies"

Conjuring a young witch’s world in watercolor

University of Texas BFA grad Marsha Riti worked at her first creative love, ceramics before she saw an opportunity to make some extra money with her studio art craft — illustrating books for children.

She did some additional study (including taking my class at the AMOA Art School), joined the Austin chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and built up her portfolio.

Eventually she landed the assignment from Pelican Press to illustrate the picture book The Picky Little Witch by Elizabeth Brokamp.

In these excerpts from a video interview she did for students of the Make Your Splashes – Make Your Marks! online course, Marsha shares her process for illustrating a picture book.

Her technique of patching together and occasionally manipulating her watercolor illustrations in Photoshop has served her well.

Her blog that she fills with her images and interviews with her illustrator and artists friends caught the attention of an agent, which led  to a contract to illustrate a series of chapter books for the Little Simon imprint of Simon & Schuster.

In the slideshow below you can see Marsha garbed as her witch-in-training heroine at last month’s book launch party.

She’s joined by friends from her Austin SCBWI illustrators’ critique group, the Girlustrators who came out to support, babes and broomsticks in tow.

Marsha Riti signs at BookPeople, surrounded by her Girlustrator pals.

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InteractBook contest winners announced

Our judging team has named the winners for the create your own iPad
book app  contest by InteractBooks.

The first place winner in the contest for creating an interactive book using the InteractBuilder software received an iPad2 and a publishing contract.

Other contestants received prizes, too.

First Place –  It’s Time for Carrots by Dan Byrne

Second Place –  Put the Ow in Meow by Adreienne Jervis

Third PlaceThe Magic of Lizzie Boo by Leslie Dennis

Coming in fourth and neck in neck with third place – CAE Club gets Ready for a Great and Scary Halloween by Ann Kesselman.

Congratulations to all contenders!

Stand by for some videos about the entries, an interview with the winner and news about the next InteractBooks contest.

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Read a fun post by South African artist and new student Helga Pearson about the Marsha Riti interview and her experience of her first lessons of the Marks and Splashes course.

Find out more about the Make Your Splashes – Make Your Marks! online course on illustrating children’s books in a changing publishing world.

“It’s like a magic trick…” Perusing Bruce Foster’s pop-up pages

The demands are the same as for writing or illustrating a book:  Something must come to life every time a reader turns a page.  Except with a pop-up book,  it really has to come to life.  By definition. Things move, swing and unfold — hopefully with some grace and more than a few surprises.  Like life.

It’s done with scissors and scotch tape — and the benign wizardry that comes from years of conjuring castles and creatures and dances from paper.

Bruce Foster received clues to his career’s direction back as a painting and  graphic design major at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville —  though he didn’t know it then. What he did know is that he liked gluing objects on to his canvases — to bring textures and dimension to his art pieces. He cut holes in them for the same reason.

“I was going 3-D in a flat paint school,” he says. “My work was more akin to sculpture and as a matter of fact, my best art school friends were actually sculptors. I’m not sure what the painting professors totally thought of it.”

Years later as an art director for a Houston ad agency, he received his first pop-up assignment — a Hi-C fruit juice carton that would blossom out from a grocery store mailer as one opened it. This was the campaign that introduced the first kids’ juice cartons to the consuming world. “This is three dimensional-thinking,” Bruce remembers saying to himself as he worked up the ad.  “I love this.”

It led to more pop up gigs– for books, public relations and ad agencies, cards, more books, museums, a graphic novel, more books and eventually Hollywood! In addition to Disney and Dreamworks, clients and creative partners have included some of the world’s major CGI and digital animation studios,  New York City fashion designers, a Top Chef pastry chef and the national park service.  His 40 books to date are associated with such name authors and illustrators as Mo Willems, Wil Eisner,  Charles Schultz, Charles Dickens  and Chuck Fischer.

One example of Bruce’s Hollywood assignments was creating the pop up castle that appears in the opening credits of the Disney movie “Enchanted.”  To watch Bruce discuss his work with the movies and CGI animators, visit the Illustration Course blog.

Sculpting Hogwarts

Pop-up illustrations for "Harry Potter - a Popup Book"

The castle that Bruce built

And now J.K. Rowling.  On November 16,  three days before the release of the”Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows!” movie,  the official pop-up book celebrating all of the movies from Warner Bros “Harry Potter” series will hit the stores wherever books are sold.

So be on the lookout next month for Harry Potter- A Popup Book with illustrations by Andrew Williamson, lead concept artist for all of the movies, text by Lucy Kee and paper engineering by Bruce Foster.

“It may be a cliché, but this really was a labor of love,” Bruce writes on his website. “My own daughters grew up with Harry as we spent countless nights enjoying the developing epic while I read aloud to them.”

A ‘White Dummy’

Paper engineers work with card stock and scissors to make a white dummy.

Here’s a really good video from a Smithsonian Institution exhibit on the art and science of pop-up books, Fold, Pull, Pop and Turn that runs through October of next year.

The video features Foster and another well known pop-up book artist Chuck Fischer working together on Fischer’s book Angels — and gives a great insight into the labor and thought-intensive process of creating a pop-up work — from earliest thumbnails to the assemblies of the printed books.

“Whenever I make presentations or do school visits, kids and their teachers too are amazed to learn that pop-up books are a hand made craft and not manufactured by machines,”  Bruce says.

“Every time there’s a spot of glue joining two pieces of paper,  that’s been done by hand. These are very delicate and special things.”

But getting to that point requires a “combination of pencil scribbling and sculpting with scissors,” Foster says.  “When I get to the point where I like what’s happening,  I make all the marks on the paper.  I retrace the shapes and put in dotted lines where [the assemblers] cut and blue lines where they fold.”

Before those puzzle pieces are printed and put together, an illustrator must paint them all.

“When Chuck Fischer and I collaborated on his book Christmas Around the World, he would send me a sketch and I would look at it and start sculpting it.  I’d work with scissors and tape right on the light table. That means I cut out my shapes from the sketches as I go, really fast —  right over the light table.”

“It’s sort of like the paper and I work together and it emerges,” Foster  says.

“Like the house that Jack built. It’s how you tell a story in three dimensions.”

“The process for me often starts with a sketch — sometimes in the form of a thumbnail,” Bruce says.  The next step in the paper engineering is assembling the  “white paper dummy.”    It’s  similar to a picture book illustrator’s black and white line dummy — except that it’s in 3-D and  choreography occurs when pages are opened.

Pop-Ups on the iPad?

When can we expect to see pop-up features on an i-Pad book?

Foster is actually working with a client on one now. “There are a lot of iPad book and reader applications happening right now. Mostly they’re things moving around on the screen. Flat.”

The challenge for digital animators and CGI folks,  he says,  is simulating the push of real paper against paper and the ‘ feel’ and proper timing of paper springing from flatness.

It’s hard for programmers to imitate the real thing — pictures invading our space with that “theater in the round” experience that good pop-up books convey.

He looks forward to the day when pop-up books transcend the digital  screen to interact with us in holographic form.

Bruce Foster -- Paper Engineer. Paper engineer Bruce Foster of Houston has worked with some of the top children's book publishers,  museums and movie companies to make paper imagery pop-out, unfold, unfurl, twirl and dance.

Paper engineer Bruce Foster of Houston has worked with some of the top children's book publishers, museums and movie companies to make paper imagery pop-out, unfold, unfurl and twirl.

Bruce's first paper engineering assignment, :Gutenberg's Gift" By Nancy Williard, Illustrated by Brian Leister

"Gutenberg's Gift" uses Bruce's paper sculpture to show how the first printing press worked.

"Gutenberg's Gift" by Nancy Willard and illustrated by Bryan Leister uses Bruce's paper sculpture to show how the first printing press worked and tell the story of Gutenberg's contribution to the world.

Bruce Foster and Houston Museum of Fine Arts curator Jon Evans visit

Bruce chats with Jon Evans, Director of the Hirsch Library, Museum of Fine Arts of Houston, during a special gallery talk, "The Interactive Book"

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Links to visit:  Bruce Foster website

http://paperpops.com
Take a sneak peak a
t Harry Potter – A Pop-Up Book, here on Bruce’s site.

See the pop up castle  Bruce built for the opening credits sequence of the Disney movie Enchanted

See more videos from Mark’s interview with Bruce on the Illustration Course blog
and Illustration Course YouTube channel

Check out the Smithsonian Institution Exhibit   Fold, Pull Pop and Turn and the exhibit blog

Jon Evans of the Houston Museum of Fine Art shows a pop-up book made by Andy Warhol at a recent gallery talk, "The Interactive Book."

Jon Evans of the Houston Museum of Fine Art shows a pop-up book made by Andy Warhol (replete with a simulated Heinz Tomato Paste can popping from the gutter of a double page spread.)

and a cool PDF history of pop-up books that you can download.

Discover the Movable Book Society

Read about some other other pop-up book master:
Chuck Fischer
Robert Sabuda

Matthew Reinhart


Bruce Foster opens a spread from "Harry Potter - a Pop-Up Book" for a museum goer

"Harry Potter - a Pop-Up Book"

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An Austin SCBWI “Picture Perfect” Boot Camp Workshop

Author Lisa Wheeler at Austin conference

Picture book author Lisa Wheeler speaks at "Picture Perfect" -- a workshop presented by the Austin Texas chapter of the SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators) Saturday, October 9

Sarah Sullivan Austin SCBWI conference

Author Sarah Sullivan addresses picture book writers at the "Picture Perfect" workshop hosted by Austin SCBWI.

Gonxales, Wheeler, Greene, Sullivan and Tate

Austin SCBWI regional advisor Debbie Gonzales (left) moderates a "Picture Perfect" panel consisting of picture book and chapter book authors Lisa Wheeler, Stephanie Greene, Sarah Sullivan and author-illustrator Don Tate.

Lisa Wheeler, Stephanie Greene, Sarah Sullivan and Don Tate

Author Sarah Sullivan makes a point on the "Picture Perfect" Panel of children's book creators, while authors Lisa Wheeler, Stephanie Greene and Don Tate tune in.

Sarah Sullivan chats with Dr. Ramsey Fowler, Dean of the Masters of Liberal Arts Program at St. Edward's University, which hosted theconference.

Sarah Sullivan speaks in the morning session.

Sarah Sullivan speaks in the morning session.

"Picture Perfect"  Austin SCBWI October workshop

"Picture Perfect" Austin SCBWI October workshop

Bethany donates doorprize

Austin SCBWI Assistant Regional Advisor Carmen Oliver prepares to give away as a workshop door prize a copy of Bethany Hegedus's novel "Trouble With a Capital T" personalized by the author who stands beside her.

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For a great “secret” on drawing better click here.

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Article on Bruce Foster by Mark Mitchell.  Children’s book author and illustrator Mark Mitchell hosts the How To Be A Children’s Book Illustrator blog.
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See more videos from Mark’s interview with pop up book  engineer Bruce Foster  at the Illustration Course blog.

Author-illustrator, children’s book artists’ den mother

What publishing genre relies on art and pictures more than any other?
Children’s book publishing, of course.   But for a long time the professional organization of children’s book writers and illustrators did not have an illustrators’ spirit guide.

Priscilla Burris "Cheer Girl and Dog"

“Cheer Girl and Dog” illustration by Priscilla Burris aptly describes her role as the National Illustrator Coordinator for the Society of Childrens Book Writers and Illustrators ( or the SCBWI.)

The change began when picture book artist Tomie de Paola nudged his fellow board members of the then Society of Children’s Book Writers to add the “I”  for “illustrators” to the organization’s title.

And so SCBW became SCBWI.

Society of Children's Book Writers and IllustratorsThen in 1998 the society introduced the country’s first children’s illustrators’ den mother.  She was Priscilla Burris — illustrator, designer, picture book author and the former Regional Advisor of her own local SCBWI chapter.

She’s talented, professional, vibrant and she speaks quickly. Over the past  25 years she’s illustrated educational, mass market and trade books and other materials for children, parents and teachers. She’s also created art for products such as greeting cards, rubber stamps and apparel designs.

Priscilla Burris

Priscilla Burris

In her role as the SCBWI  National Illustrator  Coordinator, Priscilla  organizes and oversees the portfolio exhibits and events for both the International Winter and Summer Conferences held in New York and Los Angeles.

Along with speaking and presenting workshops around the U.S.A. she also addresses illustration related issues, questions and inquiries received by the SCBWI international office throughout the year.

Working hand in hand with the SCBWI Board of Advisors Illustrator Committee, which consists of top industry professionals, Priscilla helps in planning the Illustrator Intensives, Socials and other illustrator-related activities.

She spreads encouragement, advice and just plain good vibrations to her fellow SCBWI illustrator members wherever she meets them at conferences, workshops and activities  — not to mention the online forums and list-serves.

It all started with art school…

It was as a college student at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising (FIDM) where she began to discover her calling, and it wasn’t going to be as a “fashion illustrator.”

Sketch girl by Priscilla Burris

Sketch Girl by Priscilla Burris

“At one point, I was firmly reprimanded for putting facial expressions on my drawings and models,” she says.  “I was really scolded because expressions were not at all appropriate for that industry, so the instructor was absolutely right.

“It was a good lesson in that it taught me what I didn’t want to do with my life,” she says. “And actually, characters in children’s books do often wear clothing so nothing we learn is ever a waste!”

Initially, Priscilla thought fashion illustration was the only career path available to a young woman who loved sketching, drawing and doodling. However, after obtaining her degree in Fashion Design, she went on to teach preschool, while at the same time earning a degree in Early Childhood Education.

Frogs on Log spread by Priscilla Burris

“Frogs on Log” from “Five Green and Speckled Frogs” retold and illustrated by Priscilla Burris (Scholastic)

A children’s book class project turned on the light

It was the final project for one of these courses that clinched it. She was to write and illustrate a children’s book and read it to her classmates. Several thoughts ran through her mind when her final project was presented and warmly received, but the most delightful was, Could this be an actual job for an artist — creating illustrations for children’s books?

Priscilla Burris

Priscilla Garcia Burris

She’d first encountered the power and love of children’s picture books in the public library built right across her little neighborhood street in East Los Angeles where she grew up and spent countless hours. (Fast Forward note: Priscilla has had the privilege of being invited back to her childhood library as an author/illustrator for presentations to groups of neighborhood schoolchildren.  She treasures the opportunity to encourage the students to write and draw, as well as sharing with them the delights of working in the children’s book field.)

Her first illustration assignment came as a result of a drawing of a little girl happily sketching, printed on her business cards, which had been posted in a local graphic design shop. It caught the attention of an educational publishing editor who saw it and put her to work.

Jack Frost’s talented cousin Latisha for “the Tale of Jack Frost” (Scholastic) written by Marcia Thornton Jones and illustrated by Priscilla Burris

How to get involved with the children’s picture book – creating world

Shortly after joining her local  SCBWI regional chapter in the early 1990s, she  approached her Regional Advisor asking, “Is there anything I can do to help you?”  (A great way to begin one’s networking and making friends, too,  she says.)

Eventually, she became her own chapter’s Regional Advisor, and after serving for a few years she and a couple of other Regional Advisors who were also illustrators brainstormed and created a proposal for an Illustrator Coordinator for the SCBWI. This was warmly and enthusiastically accepted and welcomed, and Priscilla happily stepped into her new role (always mindful and grateful to Tomie for his initial push and passion for the “I” in SCBWI!)

“As a result of this fresh beginning of representation and focus of our illustrator membership nationally and internationally, we began to see the appointing of local regional Illustrator Coordinators, or Liasons, as being very insightful and helpful illustrator member-links to their Regional Advisors,” Priscilla says.

“Currently, with an international membership of more than 22,000 members, this has been a growing dynamic in new, innovative and incredibly helpful events specifically created and designed for illustrators in the children’s book field.”

Of the total number of members around the world, 16,865 identify themselves as writers and 4,748 identify themselves as illustrators.

Portfolios on display at SCBWI National Winter Conference in New York

Illustrators’ portfolios on display at SCBWI National Winter Conference in New York – 2009

Networking takes place on a global community listserve that Priscilla moderates, along with Bridget Strevens-Marzo, who serves as the SCBWI International Illustrator Coordinator.

Summer Conference portfolio showcase

Portfolio showcase at the SCBWI National 2009 Summer Conference in Los Angeles, Photos courtesy of Priscilla Burris.

What’s in it  for ‘moi?’

So, who better to ask than Priscilla Burris this question.

What does  membership in  SCBWI  offer an illustrator or aspiring illustrator?

“It offers a professional community where you can grow — and it offers a hand to help if you’re willing to take it, and apply what you’ve learned.” she says.

Cowabunga Cow

Cowabunga  Cow by Priscilla Burris

“Although there are many different organizations and associations for artists and illustrators, specifically for children’s books,  the SCBWI is the place to be.

“Here there are widely known and highly esteemed authors and illustrators, editors, art directors, and agents with wisdom to share.  The SCBWI offers a vast array of opportunities where an illustrator can grow and learn and be challenged in his or her career,” Priscilla says.

Beach Artist Girl

“Beach Artist Girl” by Priscilla Burris

“From the events, workshops, and critique groups taking place on a local level, to the international conferences held every year, so much can be gleaned that can move you further in your professional life as a children’s book illustrator.

“These are venues where you can meet and make contacts with like-minded creatives and hear the latest information on the industry from the speakers and presenters.  A lot of information and networking takes place just from meeting and chatting with other event attendees!

“The SCBWI website offers great opportunities for illustrator members to feature their own images and portfolios in the Illustrator’s Gallery — A truly inspiring place to visit.

“There are articles and columns in the SCBWI Bulletin devoted to illustration, which are very useful as well as informative.

Gabriela Diner Table Spread

Family breakfast table spread in “La Cancion de Gabriela” (HarperCollins RAYO), written by Dra. Isabel & Eric Vasallo and illustrated by Priscilla Burris

Professional tips

Since one function of  Priscilla’s role as SCBWI National Illustrator  Coordinator is teacher-mentor-spirit guide, let’s not let her get away without asking her for a few  nuggets of her professional advice.

So what parting counsel does she have for illustrators (beyond urging us to join SCBWI and find a regional chapter to participate in?)

Here are some of her quotes:

“It’s great to come up with an intriguing or endearing character for a story, but in the picture book genre, the challenge is to create the setting, story-telling and page-turning that is so vital.”

Aloha Friends

“Aloha for Carol Ann” (Marimba Books), written by Margo Sorenson, illustrated by Priscilla Burris

“I’ve found that as an illustrator,  it behooves you to listen in and learn from presentations and talks that seem specifically designed just for the writers of children’s books. You’ll be amazed at how much you will glean. I cannot state this strongly enough.”

“Obtaining work in this industry is definitely the right timing, but it’s also being continually ready and always having something newly fresh and ready to send out.”

Don’t dwell on the glamour of it all.  Rather,  focus on the craft of illustrating a story as well as the continual networking with others of the same professional mindset.”

“Besides your social media and online portfolios, periodically mail out your images to prospective clients, as well as those you have heard speak that have proven helpful or inspiring.”

Priscilla Burris promotional image

“Homeroom Decorating Committee” – Promotional piece by Priscilla Burris

“Put together some of your illustrations with stories, along with your other portfolio samples, so the potential client viewing it will have a story to look at.”

“Be careful what you ask for.  In other words, don’t show in your portfolio or promos what you wouldn’t want to labor over for a 32 page picture book and all that entails.”

“Know the characters you are illustrating inside and out — their traits and personalities.

Five Green and Specklled Frogs

“Five Green and Speckled Frogs” retold and illustrated by Priscilla Burris (Scholastic)

“When I am developing a character, I like to get to know a character visually, by creating five or six versions and then set them aside where they can be seen as I walk by. This is what I did for my book Five Green and Speckled Frogs.

“I drew several variations of my frogs. I was afraid they were getting a little too goofy. I wanted them funny but not goofy. They ended up in the final book pretty close to how they were in the first version, but more further developed in the process.

“Learning your market and target audience is so important. From realistic styles, to edgy or cartoony, you should know the places that need and publish your style of art. One of the ways to learn this is by attending SCBWI conferences, networking and talking with other illustrators and writers.”

"Priscilla Garcia Burris Sketch"

“Mama and Baby Lullaby” pencil sketch by Priscilla Burris

Priscilla-Garcia-Burris-Fin

“Mama and Baby Lullaby” piece finished on the computer by Priscilla Burris

“It’s always competitive. But publishers are continually looking for fresh new ideas and characters and stories. There’s always room – and a need – for great illustration!”

Lastly,

“Enjoy what you are working on, what you are creating. Ultimately, you need to be proud of your own creative works.”

Priscilla's Brew Blog Banner

“Priscilla’s Brew” blog banner, where Priscilla is getting to know one of her new characters

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From Priscilla’s International SCBWI profile page:

Her works include Five Green and Speckled Frogs (Scholastic), which she wrote and illustrated, I Love You All Day Long, and Daddy All Day Long (HarperCollins), written by Francesca Rusackas.
Since January 1998, Priscilla has held the position of National Illustrator Coordinator for the SCBWI. This position allows her to plan for, work with, present, and speak to illustrators and author-illustrators.”

She’s represented by artists’ agent Christina Tugeau.

Priscilla Burris’ website

Priscilla Burris’ blog

Priscilla’s Brew blog

Priscilla interviewed on the Doodle Diner

See and “like” Priscilla’s new Facebook page
Priscilla Burris Illustration-Writing-Design

Twitter: http://twitter.com/PriscillaDesign
e-mail Priscilla

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Dragon Egg

“Dragon Egg” by Lisa Falkenstern

In the next post we’ll be asked to put  our collective creative heads together. In  this blog’s  first ever reader poll, we’ll be helping talented New York illustrator Lisa Falkenstern and her editor to choose a title for Lisa’s new picture book.  So please stay tuned — and be ready to brainstorm.

 

2-19-2013 4-48-58 PM

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Mark Mitchell hosts the “How To Be A Children’s Book Illustrator” blog and he offers an online course on children’s book illustration that you can learn about here..
He’s the Illustrator Coordinator for the Austin, Texas Cha
pter of SCBWI.

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"Fireflies" by Priscilla Burris

Counting fireflies with Daddy spread in “Daddy All Day Long”  (HarperCollins), written by Francesca Rusackas.  Illustration by Priscilla Burris

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“Let’s Board It Up!” The Magic of the Storyboard

 This Google Video clip from the promo documentary Finding Lady: The Art of Storyboarding  has been circulating around the art and cartoon blogs recently.

Disney animator Eric Goldberg explains how the Disney artists have always used storyboards as a developmental first step in their animation productions.

The clip goes on to show how movie makers from Alfred Hitchcock to Kevin Costner have used them as perhaps the crucial planning tool in a film.

Finding Lady came out to herald the 1991 release of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast and the “renaissance of the animated film” that some say began with The Little Mermaid  in 1989. 

It’s not exactly the way storyboarding is covered in our course  on how to illustrate children’s books. 

The storyboard thumbnails we talk about are quite different animals from the sketches and drawings you see tacked up on Disney’s storyboard wall.

But the same big ideas apply:  Using the storyboard to work out the the  “bits” of stagecraft,  the action and gags. Pacing, story flow and the economy of the viewer’s or reader’s attention.

For the movie director, storyboarding saves costly waffling around on the set, the video points out.  Because the details and the sequences have all been worked out in advance, the director can “edit in the camera.”

For the children’s book artist, storyboardings helps to gestalt the entire book on just one page. The simple very exercise  of it can spring  ideas free and save weeks of unecessary drawing and painting. 

To enlarge the video for better visibility, click on the Google Video box, then hit the enlarge screen button under the video on the Google Video page.

For information on the online Children’s Book Illustration 101 course”  look here.

Or to check out the free color lessons from the course (while they’re still available)  click here.

When is it OK for adults to criticize other adults? Answer: At a portfolio critique session, of course.

Members of the picture book critique group, \
Some members of “The Inklings” picture book critique group review their portfolios at a pre-conference “emergency session” at Austin’s Central Market Cafe in April.  One of many critique groups in the  Society of  Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) Austin Chapter, these “Inklings” were preparing to have their work examined by their peers and artists’ agent Christina Tugeau at the Austin SCBWI Spring Conference that Saturday. Left to right around are illustrators Martin Thomas, Diandra Schwartz, Amy Farrier, Austin SCBWI Illustration Chair Christy Stallop, Sarah Ackerley and Clint Young. 

 
Thumbs up, down or sideways?

It was the nonverbal language of the portfolio huddle. Christy Stallop, author, creator of humorous illustrations and the Austin SCBWI illustration chair initiated the Sunday morning “emergency session” review. It would be an RX for those with portfolio jitters before the regional Spring conference that was set for that Saturday.

All right, review may be too milquetoast a word for what came down at the cafe amid sleepy tables of taco breakfasters and laptop mullers. 

Thumbs up and thumbs down, of course, derived from the Romans deciding fhe fates of fallen gladiators. Thumbs sideways is Christy’s contribution to the vernacular. It means “Toss It.”  
 
“Get it out of your portfolio before it ruins everything !”

Sometimes she would say “Out” flatly while also gesturing thumbs sideways — a sort of combo-imperative.  (Christy is a very talented, “tough love” illustration chair.)

Great pointers from Christy and the group:                  

1.) Get a real portfolio at an art supply shop. It does not have to be large, but it should have pages with protective sleeves to slide your work into, like a photo album.  Never put original art in your portfolio. Only show reproductions — scans and transparencies are best. (See more on that below.)

2.)  Avoid a busy-looking portfolio with busy pages. I.e. Don’t stuff your portfolio — one piece per page is best. Then the viewer can actually see the artwork. Of course the corollary to that is the artwork you select for the page must have an impact and be unassailable. Ask yourself, “Is the piece good enough to stand on its own?”

2.)  Don’t worry too much about “rules” of portfolio presentation or format. Use your common sense.  But do find a way to present and organize your portfolio so that it makes good sense for your work. For example, have all of your art pieces lining up the same way in the album so the viewer doesn’t have to turn it this way and that way to examine pieces right side up.  

Grouping  is nice. It breaks things up in a nice way for a better read and gives the viewer a bit of a rest, too, going through. 

Christy suggested that I group my portfolio into two sections — one for color and one for black and white, with each section prefaced by a title page with some spot art (either B&W or color, suggesting what’s to follow.) 

3.) Get business cards professionally printed before an event such as an SCBWI conference. (Christy expressed this a little more emphatically  to me than that.) If you don’t have a print shop handy and you need the cards fast, try a place like Overnightprints.com They have plenty of templates on their website that you can use to hastily throw together your card — and still it won’t look like an amateur effort. Yes, you will pay to have the cards sped to your doorstep. 

4.) Yes you may include a few of your “tearsheets” or color photocopies of your published work. 
But carry some of your best original art to a print shop and have it professionally scanned there. 

If you’ve scanned your own artwork at home (make sure the resolution is nothing less than 300 dpi) bring your flashdrive or  CD to printshop to have the piece professionally reproduced.  Choose a matte rather than gloss finish. Yes, it is expensive to make these professional scans. If you must economize, use just a few as your portfolio showstoppers.

5.)  Remember you’re showing your art to editors and art directors in the children’s book industry. So consider this in your selections. Kids, animals, people — especially in action. are good. Duh.

Industrial art, however well done, should probably go.  Same with the techy-looking digital game art, graphic design, most cartoons, album covers, machinery, cars, monsters, sci-fi, architecture (real or fantasy), space ships, nudes from art classes… Thumbs sideways.

And now for something completely different:

The How To Be a Children’s Book Illustrator  blog is offering four months of free online instruction for anyone who clicks here  — and answers the survey question they see on the screen. 

Good deal, huh? The offer is only good through June.
So click now if you’re interested.
The first lesson goes out about the end of the month.