One Illustration Reverie; Two Real Deals

What does this short animated clip have to do with John Singer Sargent or children’s book illustration?

A quoi ca sert l’amour,  a short animation by Louis Clichy, with thanks to illustrator  and animation/game artist Amanda Williams for finding this.  She called  it “brutal and adorable.”

If a child-friendly story had illustrations with these lines — and visual characters as memorable as these  and color the way John Singer Sargent used it in his painted scenes, it would be some picture book, right?

I’m assembling a fantasy football — I mean  illustration project  — team here.

So, starting with the cartoon:  What makes these stick figures tug at your emotions as they do?

The honesty of the emotions depicted?

The “simple” (oh-so-sophisticated) graphics with their varied perspectives and 360 degree “camera revolutions”?

All the fast cutting and the surprise transitions?

The song?  Edith Piaf’s and Theo Sarapo’s singing?

The subject?

Could some of this aplomb be translated into picture book illustrations?

OK,  so let’s add some color and texture.  John Singer Sargent had a knack  for such things. Thanks to Chicago based painter Raymond Thornton for finding this.

I know.  Sargent is the painter who gives all other painters inferiority complexes.  We don’t know a lot about how he made his palette choices. (We know that he looked carefully.)

So enough with dream teaming. We’ve got some news today.

Two power chapters of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) have announced their 2010 pow-wows — both set for early next year.

It’s Time to Mingle in Texas

State Capitol in Austin, Texas

State Capitol in Austin, Texas

Awesome Austin

Austin SCBWI comes first with Destination Publication featuring  a Caldeecott Honor Illustrator and Newberry Honor Author, along with agents, editors, more authors, another fab illustrator, critiques, portfolio reviews and parties.

Mark the date — Saturday, January 30, 2010,  8:00 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.  Get the full lowdown and the registration form here. Send in your form pronto if you’re interested — more than 100 people have already signed up. Manuscript crtiques are already sold out. But a few portfolio reviews are still open at this writing!

Destination Publication features Kirby Larson, author of the 2007 Newbery Honor Book, Hattie Big Sky and Marla Frazee, author-illustrator of A Couple of Boys Have the Best Week Ever, which received a Caldecott Honor Award, and more recently All the World penned (all 200 words of it) by Austin’s own children’s author/poet Liz Garton Scanlon.

Frazee teaches children’s book illustration at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, CA.  She and Scanlon will talk about their collaboration on All the Worldt. You can read each of their stories  Behind The Book at a Simon & Schuster webpage here.

"All the World" by Liz Garton Scanlon and Marla Frazee

"All the World" by Liz Garton Scanlon and Marla Frazee

The  one-day faculty also includes:

Cheryl Klein, senior editor at Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic.

Lisa Graff, Associate Editor at Farrar, Straus and Giroux Books for Young Readers.

Stacy Cantor, Editor, Bloomsbury USA/Walker  Books For Young Readers.

Andrea Cascardi agent with Transatlantic Literary Agency (and a former editor.)

Mark McVeigh another former editor who represents writers, illustrators, photographers and graphic novelists for both the adult and children’s markets.

Nathan Bransford, agent.

The conference  will also showcase authors  Sara Lewis Holmes, Shana Burg, P. J. Hoover, Jessica Lee Anderson, Chris Barton, Jacqueline Kelly, Jennifer Ziegler, Philip Yates and illustrator Patrice Barton.

Read more about everyone here.

Happenin’ Houston

Houston SCBWI has announced a still developing  lineup for its conference just three weeks after Austin’s:   Saturday, February 20, 2010.  Registration has just opened.

Headliners here:

Cynthia Leitich Smith, acclaimed author of short stories, funny picture books, Native American fiction, and YA Gothic fantasies. Faculty member, Vermont College of Fine Arts.

Ruta Rimas, assistant editor Balzer & Bray/HarperCollin.



Patrick Collins, creative director at Henry Holt Books for Young Readers. Collins art directs and designs picture books, young adult novels and middle grade fiction (Baby Bear, Baby Bear, What Do You See?, Old Penn Station and Rosa, a Caldecott Honor book.)

Also featured: Alexandra Cooper,  senior editor at Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, Lisa Ann Sandell,  senior editor at Scholastic Inc., and Sara Crowe, a New York agent with Harvey Klinger, Inc.

Download their bios, more Houston conference info and a registration form from this page. No, you don’t have to be Texan to register for either of these “big as Texas” events.

Mark Mitchell teaches children’s book illustration at the Austin Museum of Art Art School — and online. Learn the best drawing secret free here.

“…Make it a better book.”

So what does this lullaby have to do with the art of  children’s book illustration?
I knew you’d ask, so I’ve come up with a list.

The artist is prominent musician Olga Kishkina of  Finland. Her instrument is the gusli, a sort of  Russian cousin to the zither.

“Her expression at the end is like a gangsta rapper, daring you to step up and challenge her skillz,” notes a fan on the YouTube page.

The list:  artistry. dedication, pride in craft, building upon on a simple theme,  throwing yourself into the expression of a passage, letting the music ( form) speak for itself.

Plenty of parallels to the illustration process here.

Working your art is developing your character.

You know that at some point, your attitude about your process will be tested.
You’ll have to patiently push through and not make a big deal about it.

Texas children’s author Janice Shefelman quoted Pablo Picasso on Facebook the other day. The quote was something like: “Inspiration will pay you a visit, but it wants to find you at work.”

So here is another video.  Caldecott Medal winning illustrator Ed Young talks about the time he lost the package of his completed illustrations just before he was to send them in to his publisher. (Read my interview with Young about it  here.)

They were due in a couple of weeks, his finished collage pictures for the picture book Wabi Sabi by Mark Reibstein. Once he got over the shock of their disappearance, Ed knew that he would have to start all over again.

First you’ll hear author (and former English teacher)  Reibstein talk about his inspiration for the book ( his Kyoto cat. ) Stay with the video to hear Ed discuss the decision he had to make in a time of dismay and stress.

“Creating enough tension in me to make it better than the first version…”

Which brings us to two new books with  Ed Young art.

Tsunami by Kimiko Kajikawa and Ed Young

Tsunami by Kimiko Kajikawa and Ed Young

Tsunami by Kimiko Kajikawa is
a taut telling of a Japanese folktale about a wise grandfather who, with his grandson, sets fire to his own rice field.  It’s his way to draw the villagers up from the the beach before the Tsnunami,  the “monster wave”  strikes.
Only the grandfather and grandson can see the wall of water coming, because of their high vantage point over the small town and bay.

You see, the grandfather knows the villagers will rush up the hill to help him put out the fire in his field.

The crowd’s own sense of community and duty saves them — but not before the grandfather’s sacrifice of his harvest.

Philomel Books has brought out an exciting action story. Young’s ingenious collage illustrations immerse the reader in a harrowing experience of fire and water and a Japan  of long ago.

You can hear my podcast review of  Tsunami on the children’s book audio blog  Just One More Book here.

'Hook" written and illustrated bv Ed Young

'Hook" written and illustrated bv Ed Young

Roaring Brook Press has just published Hook Ed Young’s original story of a Native American boy who finds an eagle’s egg. He brings the egg home to his pueblo village, where the hens can look after it. The baby  eagle doesn’t fit in very well with town or chickens, despite everyone’s efforts to try to teach him to fly. “You weren’t meant for Earth,” observes a kind hen, before the boy takes the eaglet to the top of the canyon for the last  flying lesson he will need.

Instead of resorting to his now famous collage technique, Young illustrates with his evocative drawings. He uses luminous pastel  on  brown speckled paper that evokes the red rock and sand of the American Southwest.

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Mark Mitchell hosts the How to Be a Children’s Book Illustrator blog.
Hear his review of  Tsunami on last Wednesday’s podcast of  Just One More Book.

Do you live near the Austin, Texas area?  Join Mark’s six week class in children’s book illustration scheduled to begin Monday, September 14 at the  Art School of the Austin Museum of Art.

The class will run  6 p.m. – 9 p.m.  Monday evenings until October 19. Visit the website or contact the AMOA art school at (512) 323-6380 to learn more.

Don’t live anywhere near Central Texas? Then try out some free online lessons on using color in your painting.  They’re some of the best from Mark’s 19 part online course, “Mark Your Splashes! Make Your Marks!” And they’re available free, for a few weeks longer.  Download Power Color here.

Uralish Dance: Olga Kishkina plays the gusli.  Arto Tarkkonen plays the accordian.

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