How to win a logo illustration-design contest

Debbie Gonzales, the regional advisor for the Austin Chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators wanted a logo.

Dallion's logo

Logo design by Dallion McGregor

Ideally,  the logo would have to say a lot on its own about the premise of our upcoming symposium Storytelling in the Digital Age: Embrace the Change.

We (Debbie,  Austin SCBWI assistant regional advisor Carmen Oliver and I,  as the chapter’s illustrator coordinator)  decided to put a call out for entries.

Dallion's thumbnail pencil sketch for logo

Dallion's original sketch for the logo

Our talent pool would be the Austin SCBWI illustrators community and students, new and old, past and present of my online children’s book illustration course and classes at the Art School of the Austin Museum of Art.

Dallion's line art final after revisions

Dallion's line art final after revisions

The winning logo would be used to help promote the conference and also appear on the conference program and other materials.  The winning designer would be paid to create the final art for the logo he or she had dreamed up.

We asked for rough thumbnail sketches first.

Any one of the many little pencil drawings  that came in as a result would have resulted in a fun, solid logo for our event.  In the end, the nod went to Dallion McGregor, one of our chapter members.

He spoke to us recently. To help with illustrating this interview post, several other contenders in the contest graciously consented to having their entries included in this post.

1.) What made you decide to enter the contest?

Dallion: I entered the contest primarily to help focus my efforts.  I often practice at home, but it’s nice to see something to completion.  If someone is waiting for a finished product it’s harder to get bogged down and over-think it, which seems to happen more often with my personal projects.  I also wanted to prove to myself I could win.

2.) Can you talk a little about your background? How have you happened to attract so much logo design work in your biz?

I used to love drawing when I was a child, yet as a young adult I foolishly overlooked this passion. Distractions and detours eventually led me to a fairly successful career in the tech industry, but despite having obtained a comfortable lifestyle, I soon discovered I wasn’t happy.

thumbnail sketch idea by Ressa McCray

Thumbnail sketch idea by Ressa McCray (U.S.A.)

I began keeping a journal and painting on the weekends, and slowly, my creative side began to re-emerge. In some epic search for myself, I moved from Los Angeles in 2006 and have found Austin a good spot to let this little sprout grow.  It’s been wonderful.  In addition to the fertile creative soil, the lower cost of living has allowed me to devote more time to personal development.

I’ve picked up many logo design gigs simply from knowing people with small businesses.

Often I’ll work for barter. I don’t mind cutting friends a break. It’s good practice anyway!

3.) What brought you into the Austin SCBWI community and how have you benefited by being a part of this group?

You reeled me in, Mark!  Children’s books have been so important in my life, when I saw your class “Children’s Book Illustration” being taught at the AMOA Laguna Gloria campus, deciding to attend was a no brainer.
In that class you introduced me to many new concepts, including the SCBWI.

H.T. Yao's thumbnail for the logo

H.T. Yao's thumbnail for the logo (U.S.A.)

Since then, the Austin SCBWI chapter has been an incredible resource.  I find illustration to be a very solitary experience, but when I emerge from my studio, it’s nice to know the Austin SCBWI is there with encouraging words and a tried and tested roadmap to publication.

4.) What were the challenges you saw in creating a logo for a conference on digital publishing. What ideas did you want to communicate in your logo?

I think the biggest challenge when designing a logo is communicating an idea clearly and quickly. A logo doesn’t exist for its own sake, like a painting. It’s there to essentially advertise, or point to something larger, like a business or event. So the best logos relate their message effectively. Bonus points if it elicits an emotion.

 I saw the announcement for the logo contest, considered entering, but did nothing about it for a few days.

During this time, I suppose my subconscious mulled it over, because by the time the deadline approached the image was there in my head.

That said, it does seem the logo communicates some relevant ideas:

1.) That digital publishing is the next evolutionary step in children’s books and

2.) It doesn’t have to be scary.  In fact it can be exciting and fun.

The night seems to represent the end of an age, while the sun represents a new day dawning.

It almost looks like the children can step into a new world, which is a powerful and magical motif, and how we authors and illustrators feel facing this transition to digital publishing!

color thumbnail sketch by Jenni Davies (South Africa)

Color thumbnail sketch by Jenni Davies (South Africa)

I also feel this logo is effective because the children are dwarfed by this thing we call technology, which while uncomfortable to acknowledge, has become a sort of god to us. We give it our money, our attention, we spend time learning it, and in return it gives us power like never before. Technology is godlike and I think that comes through in the piece.

5.) How do you go about brainstorming for “best images” to communicate your main ideas in a logo design?

The subconscious does the idea making, I just take the credit. Random doodling seems to help.

6.) Can you discuss your process in creating the first rough pencil sketch?

The initial drawing was very crude. Details were not important, nor were proving my drawing skills (I referred you to my website for that). The only important thing was getting across the concept. Since there was no guarantee I would be chosen for the job, I only spent 15 minutes on the initial thumbnail sketch.

Thumbnail sketch by Sylvia Liu

Thumbnail sketch by Sylvia Liu (U.S.A.)

7.) Can you discuss the process of turning your rough sketch for the Digital Publishing Symposium logo into a more finished pencil sketch?

I’m leery of using pencil under-drawings because I feel it undercuts the spontaneous energy of the finished image. Using a ruler to make lines is a big No-No for the same reason. I usually draw directly on the blank page using a Micron mechanical pen. When drawing I’ve learned not to fear mistakes, since it’s easy to erase stray lines later in Photoshop.

I draw each element separately because it removes the stress of creating a single flawless image.

With this project I drew the books and e-reader on their own, then drew the children, the dog, the stars – all separately – then scanned them into the computer and pasted the pieces together in Photoshop.

Dallion's children sketches

This is an effective way for me to work and also seems compatible with the way app designers work since they want the art separated on different layers.

8.) Can you discuss the process of turning your finished  sketch into a colored rough and then final art?

When I’m happy with the finished line work, I print multiple copies on 90lb Strathmore Aquarius II watercolor paper.

Thumbnail sketch proposal by Paola Tavoletti (Italy)

Thumbnail sketch proposal by Paola Tavoletti (Italy)

With multiple copies I can try different color schemes and not be tense about making mistakes. After getting a watercolored version I’m happy with, it’s re-scanned into Photoshop and further adjustments are made.

In this case I added tone, shadows, and a glowing effect around the edge of the e-reader’s screen. With this method I’ve found a happy compromise between traditional and digital techniques.

9.) What is the next project you plan to tackle related to children’s illustration? Care to tell us a little about it?

I’d be happy simply continuing to hone my craft.  I do this through daily practice and by creating gifts for people. There are a few stories I have floating around that would be fun to illustrate and I hope to start producing more of these soon. I try not to think about creating for the masses. As long as I’m having fun, good things will come.

Thumbnail by Pascale Mackey

Sketch proposal by Pascale Mackey (U.S.A.)


* * * * *

Angela Black answered the question that was put to readers of this blog in the spring:  “What epiphany in connection to drawing, painting or children’s book illustration have you experienced in the past year?”

Illustrator Joel Hickerson (far right) shows his illustrated storyboard for an animated video "chalk talk" to students in the children's book illustration class at the Art School of the Austin Museum of Art

Don’t grow up too fast!

Epiphany Essay # 3

by Angela Black

You may already consider yourself a mature artistic adult, but the most
effective tip I have discovered when drawing for children is to look at the
world through “their” eyes. It all begins with *perspective* and the best
advice I can give a would-be children’s illustrator is to do the following
three things:

1. Surround yourself with children! You have to get to know your
audience, and the more personally you take this on, the better your artistic
perspective will be.

2. Become an analyzer of children’s art!  No, not the art made
“for” children, but rather the art made by children! Look at the pictures they draw, and see what stands out most to them. What attracts their eye, excites their imagination, etc.?

Ask young artists questions about the pictures they draw. “What is that?” “Who
are those guys?” “What are they doing?” “Why?” etc.

3. Draw with children!  This is one of my favorite things to do! Find a
child (or several) who likes to draw and who would be willing to draw “with

Let the child lead the way. You may suggest a topic but let the
child tell you what is happening in the picture by asking questions and
drawing whatever the child would like you to add.

Draw on the same piece of paper with the child and remember to *follow the child’s lead*, because you want to see art through a child’s eyes.

When drawing for children, it truly pays off to get a clear insight into their world, and in doing so, you might just have so much fun yourself, that you “feel” like a kid again too!

* * * * *

Cool conferences to consider:

Coming up this month:

Florida SCBWI Illustrators Intensive

Join Lucy Cummins, associate art director with Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, Priscilla Burris, SCBWI National Illustrator Coordinator and  author- illustrator  Linda Shute for a one-day event for committed illustrators who wish to hone their craft through hands-on activities and discussion.  Read more and register for the Saturday, June 24  SCBWI FLorida Illustrators’ Intensive 2011.

North Central North East Texas SCBWI Illustrators Intensvie

Join author-illustrator Richard Jesse Watson in several interactive character busting exercises designed for both writer and illustrator in an Illustrators’ Workshop June 25th in Arlington Texas.

In this one day event by the North Central/North East chapter of the SCBWI, HOW TO HUNT, HOGTIE, & TAME A PICTURE BOOK CHARACTER: Character and Story Development Techniques for Writers and Illustrators of the Wild and Elusive Picture Book  you’ll learn how to track down stubborn picture book characters and develop their true selves.

You’ll also discover ways to think outside your own boxes and create memorable picture book text and illustrations based on character driven discoveries.  Read more about it.

Coming up in August:

SCBWI Summer Conference

It’s the big one.  Get the scoop on this year’s SCBWI National Conference in Los Angeles, August 5-8.

Coming up in September…

The Southwest Texas  SCBWI Fall Conference,  Saturday September 17 in San Antonio, Texas featuring Beach Lane Press Editor Andrea Welch and Balzer and Bray Editor Kristin Daly Rens, along with agent Elena Mechlin, InteractBooks publisher Richard Johnson,  author Diana Bertrand Gonzales and online media specialist Kim Murray. Read more and sign up here!

Coming up in October…

NCNE Texas SCBWI Regional ConferenceThe North Central North East Texas SCBWI chapter annual conference, Traditions and Technology  in Arlington Texas, October 7th and 8th features Simon and Schuster Art Director Laurent Linn,  illustrator Alan Stacy and editors from Delacorte,  Scholastic and a host of top authors and agents from top literary agencies.  Read more and sign up!

Austin SCBWI special symposium:   Storytelling in the Digital Age: Embrace the Change ! — October 8 features illustrators Erik Kuntz, Clint Young, Amanda Williams, Ezra Weinstein,  Joel Hickerson, picture book author and playwright Lindsey Lane , author P.J. Hoover and many other emerging stars in digital publishing.  The highlight will be the keynote presentation via SKYPE by the SCBWI National Executive Director (and co-founder) Lin Oliver, about the SCBWI’s stance on digital publishing and how to evaluate those publishers and opportunities in the new marketplace.  Oh my gosh —  Read more! 

* * * * *

Art aloft: The ‘Golden Kite’ children’s book illustrations

It’s hard to explain the thrill of being inches away from an original watercolor by Uri Shulevitz, or Jerry Pinkney or the late Trina Schart Hyman.

"The Huntsman" from "Little Red Riding Hood"  by Trina Schart Hyman,

“The Huntsman” from “Little Red Riding Hood” by Trina Schart Hyman, 1984 Golden Kite Medal winner

You just have to be there.  The National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature (NCCIL) working with  The Society of Children’s Book Writers and  Illustrators (SCBWI) has now made that possible for  thousands of people  with a new exhibit, Golden Kite Golden Dreams that opened last Thursday at the Center in Abilene, Texas.

Located 180 miles west of Fort Worth,  the NCCIL (they pronounce their acronym nickel)  “enhances visual and verbal literacy by celebrating the best original art published in children’s literature” as their mission states.  Their previous shows have celebrated the  art of Mike Berenstain, Eric Carle, Kevin Henkes, William Joyce,  Robert Sabuda, Diane Stanley and N.C. Wyeth — to mention just a few. Golden Kite Golden Dreams, like  previous NCCIL exhibits will tour major cities around the country when its stay in the  rugged Texas hill country ends.

Richard Jesse Watson illustration
Closeup photo of “Tom Thumb is kidnapped” egg tempera painting for “Tom Thumb” by Richard Jesse Watson. 1990 Golden Kite Medal winner.

The SCBWI, which sponsors conferences, workshops and a wide variety of informational services to writers, illustrators and  others engaged with children’s publishing, awards the   Golden Kite Medals and Honors each year to the best books in four categories — fiction, nonfiction, picture book text and picture book illustration.

Golden Kite Golden Dreams pulls together original art from the winning books of the past 36 years.
Significant, I think that the first retrospective of Golden Kite Medal and Honor winners comes in the way of an art show. And this is a dazzling one:  75 pieces by 47 artists, curated by designer and children’s book illustrator (and SCBWI board member)  David Diaz.

David Diaz draws

Illustrator and SCBWI board member David Diaz draws for kids at the Abilene Public Library

Illustrator David Diaz

Here he talks to them about face proportions and facial feature relationships, while they sketch notes!

Tomie dePaola illustration

"What the Mailman Bought" illustration art by Tomie dePaola, 1988 Golden Kite Honor

Representatives from every Texas SCBWI chapter — Houston, North Central North East Texas (Fort Worth-Dallas) Austin and Southwest (San Antonio)  and Brazos Valley (College Station-Bryan) —  joined their fellow  illustrators, author-illustrators and SCBWI national board members and executive leaders for the opening  weekend activities, talks and workshops.

Illustrator Kristen Balouch

Kristen Balouch's digital illustration for the Golden Kite Honor book "The King and the Three Thieves" is featured in the exhibit. Here she makes a face.

Kristen and a young illustrator collaborate on the drawing

Larry Day illustration

Watercolor illustration by Larry Day for "Not Afraid of Dogs; Not Afraid of Dogs" -- Golden Kite Medal winner for 2007

Illustration byu Jerry Pinkney, pencil on watercolor paper for "Home Place", Golden Kite Medal Winner 1991

Richard Jessie Watson

Golden Kite Medal winning author-illustrator Richard Jesse Watson demonstrates painting in egg tempera

Fairy -- egg tempera demonstration by Richard Jesse Watson

Fairy -- egg tempera demo before the group by author-illustrator Richard Jesse Watson

Lin Oliver, executive director and Steve Mooser, president of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI)

Lin Oliver and Steve Mooser

Lin Oliver and Steve Mooser created the SCBWI in 1971. The Society now has 22,000 members in more than 100 regions around the world.

In a Saturday presentation, SCBWI founders Steve Mooser and Lin Oliver told how they literally knocked on doors of top children’s authors to round up board members — and presenters for the first SCBWI conference (in 1971.)

For the organization’s first book award  in 1974 (for Summer of My German Soldier by Bette Greene)  “We picked the kite as our organization and contest logo,”  SCBWI executive director Lin Oliver said, “because [author and SCBWI board member] Jane Yolen’s father was an expert kite flier.”

Debra Lillick, exec director of the NCCIL

Debbie Lillick and Alexandra Howle of the National Center for Children's Illustrated Literature (NCCIL) Debbie is NCCIL executive director.

as SCBWI contingent and National Illustrator Coordinator Priscilla  Burris

Illustrator, designer and SCBWI National Illustrator Coordinator Priscilla Burris huddles with the SCBWI Texas contingent. Left to right: Millie Martin, Heather Powers, Priscilla Burris, Mark Mitchell. Carol Cooke Barrayre, Allan Stacy, Jacqueline Gramann, and Liz Mertz. The statue behind them is inspired by the William Joyce's picture book Santa Calls.

Kevin Hawkes illustration

Closeup of "By the light of the Halloween Moon. The Ghost Who Trips the Ghoul" acrylic illustration by Kevin Hawkes, 1994 Golden Kite Medal winner

“One of the things we want to show is how complex an art this is,” Oliver said, speaking of of the original watercolor, gouache, tempera, acrylic , papercut and inkworks on display and children’s  book illustration generally.

“For many, children’s books are the first exposure to literature and art and philosophy and what it is to be human,” SCBWI president Steve Mooser said.

National Center for Children's Illustrated LiteratureNCCIL in Abilene, Texas

Golden Kite Golden Dreams exhibit at the National Center for Children's Illustrated Literature (NCCIL) on quiet Cedar Street in Abilene, Texas

Also in attendance were author Illustrators Pat Cummings, Diane Stanley (a native of Abilene),    Priscilla Burris (SCBWI National Illustrator Coordinator),  Richard Jesse Watson, Larry Day, and Kristen Balouch Alan Stacy and Barbara McClintock and artist, art director and VP at Penguin Young Readers Group, Cecilia Yung.

Watson, Day, Balouch, McClintock and Stacy have work featured in the exhibit.

Burris, Cummings, Diaz and Yung  serve on the International SCBWI Board of Advisers.

The NCCIL show will attract some wonderful attention to children’s book art and artists as it starts to tour the country this fall.

SCBW Scroll of Scribbles

SCBWI scroll of scribbles featuring the improvised art of Heather Powers, Priscilla Burris, Allan Stacy, David Diaz, Lin Oliver and several others.

* * * * *

Author-illustrator Mark Mitchell hosts How To Be A Children’s Book Illustrator from his drawing table in Austin, Texas.

Illustrators and the conference

Massive, and I do mean massive blog coverage of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) National Conference in Los Angeles at  The Official SCBWI Conference Blog.

The team-blogging effort was led by Alice Pope, who edits the Children’s Writers and Illustrators Market, the annually updated directory published by Writer’s Digest Books.

I also recommend Diandra Mae’s blog Taking Flight for her attentive,  fun  coverage of her experience as an attendee of the four days of panels, workshops, talks and socials .

Before we  get into the blogs,  though, here’s a clip of the great picture book artist and creator Tomie dePaolo being interviewed by SCBW National Executive Director Lin Oliver about the “art of the picture book.”  No, the video’ was not part of the conference but part of an SCBWI “Master Class.” But these are two personalities who loom large over the org.

If you’ve not yet heard of SCBWI or know much about it, here’s an interview from the SCBWI website where Executive Director (and prolific children’s author and producer of movies based on children’s books) Lin Oliver does a good job of speaking for the now global organization.

D’s a talented illustrator in the Houston area — a former 7th grade teacher now active with the  Houston chapter of SCBWI .  Her posts put you in the shoes of someone packing her bags and heading out to Los Angeles for the big event.

She catches many good quotes and observations in her blog  Taking Flight, like David Weisner’s remark in an illustrators’  Q&A:

“…He did mention that with all of these portfolios he is asked to view at art schools around the country, he’s noticed that there is a serious lack of drawing ability that often hinders brilliant and wonderful ideas. ‘Take a figure drawing class for goodness’ sakes!’ He reminds us that this ”is not about making precious drawings, it’s about learning the craft’ because ‘observational drawings are at the heart of everything we do.’ “

I  enjoyed reading what she says about the first ever Illustrators’ Social at the national conference. D writes,“What a wonderful concept! Cecilia Yung, David Diaz, Priscilla Burris were there to facilitate the chaos of portfolio sharing, card swapping and chatting. They talked a little about how we illustrators were only 15% of the attendees, and we needed to band together for support.”

So here are her reports:  Day One , Day Two , Day Three,
Day Four
. Thank you, Diandra Mae  for some wonderful reporting.

The SCBWI LA Conference team blog includes the  Golden Kite Awards/2009 Conference Portfolio Awards along with art from the winners of the SCBWI New York Portfolio Exhibition and the Tomie dePaola Award.

Alice Pope on her own Children’s Writers and Illustrators Market blog (on August 12) includes  a transcript of her own tweets throughout the four days. They’re entertaining  even if you’re not familiar with all of the authors’ and editors’ names.

You can read all tweets from all persons who tweeted in real time on  the event at this Twitter site. (Or you can pull them up on your own twitter page by searching for:  #scbwi09.)  The tweets are nano-quotes from the artist/writer/editors/ agent panels and talks,  breadcrumb trails of “kid publishing” thought.

Team blog carries reportage on talks by the wonderful (Caldecott Honor) illustrator Marla Frazee, Dan Yaccarino,  Scholastic Executive Art Director Elizabeth Parisi (on book dummies), Golden Kite Award winner for illustration (for Last Night,  Farrar, Straus and Giroux) Hyewon Yum — and more from David Weisner, like how, for those  lily pad piloting frogs of  his Caldecott Medal winning-Tuesday,  he found frog skeletons to study.