“A marvelous way to tell a difficult story”

The upcoming Austin SCBWI Graphic Novel Workshop on Saturday, October 5 promises to be a day for writers and illustrators, writer-illustrators and anyone interested in exciting alternative literary forms for children, teens and young adults. OK, plenty of adults read them, too.

Webcomics creator, animator, digital content creator and our SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) chapter’s intrepid webmaster Erik Kuntz of Square Bear Studio talked with me about graphic novels, why they matter and what workshop attendees can expect from what could well be the first SCBWI  conference devoted solely to graphic novels that we know of.

You can see the full playlist of Erik’s and my video discussion of the workshop and the art form here.

Austin is a natural location for such a workshop, having been home  to many notable cartoonists and comic book artists in their earliesh careers, including William Sidney Porter (otherwise known as the short story writer “O. Henry” who illustrated his Austin humor newspaper The Rolling Stone with a lot of his own humorous line art; Roy Crane, who pioneered the ‘adventure comic strip’ with Wash Tubbs, Captain Easy and Buz Sawyer, Gilbert Shelton, who also attended the University of Texas at Austin and conjured the Wonder Wart Hog and The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers in some of the first ‘underground comics’ of the early 1960s — and children’s book author-illustrator Berke Breathed, famous for the Pulitzer Prize winning Bloom County strip of the 1980s, ten years after he did his first comic strips for the University of Texas at Austin  student newspaper The Daily Texan. 

Dave Roman's "Astronaut Academy"

Dave Roman’s “Astronaut Academy” (First Second Books

As Erik shares with us in the video playlist, The Graphic Novel workshop will feature First Second Books senior editor Calista Brill, graphic novelist author-illustrator Dave Roman, whose children’s graphic novel series Astronaut Academy is published by First Second, and graphics novel writer Cynthia Leitich Smith, whose graphic novels Tantalize: Kieran’s Story (Candlewick Press) and soon to be published Eternal: Zachary Story (also Candlewick Press) stem from her own best-selling Tantalize YA Gothic fantasy series. (Candlewick Press.)

Tantalize: Kieran's Story by Cynthia Letiich Smith, illustrated by Ming Doyle

Tantalize: Kieran’s Story by Cynthia Letiich Smith, illustrated by Ming Doyle

The workshop will occur on the St. Edward’s University campus at 3001 South Congress. Registration tables open at 9 a.m. and you can also register online and read more about the workshop here.

You can check out Erik’s own webcomics series, Hex Libris here.

Enjoy the interview of Cynthia in Cynsations by Austin SCBWI regional advisor Samantha Clark about her work in graphic novel and this Q&A style post, Graphic Novels: What are they and why should I care? on the Austin SCBWI website.

"Hex Libris" webcomic serial by Erik Kuntz
“Hex Libris” webcomic serial by Erik Kuntz

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Mark Mitchell, who wrote wrote this post teaches a children’s book illustration class at The Contemporary Austin Art School at Laguna Gloria and his online Make Your Splashes – Make Your Marks! course.

Click on the below image to enjoy the recent presentation by author- illustrator CS Jennings.

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“Speak the language.” Children’s book illustrator E.B. Lewis shares his emotional work and words

Earl Gradley Lewis demonstrates at the Austin SCBWI conference

“Art is a language,” Children’s book illustrator E.B. Lewis told a roomful of illustrators, aspiring and professional. “Speak the language.”

What is a language, Lewis asked. “In spoken language, it’s the letters of the alphabet that join together to form words, then paragraphs. And finally stories and jokes,” he answered his own question.

The mark of fluency? Maybe not what you think. “Telling a story is not the most important part. It’s telling the joke,” he said.

“Being able to tell the joke — and everybody in the room gets the joke and laughs — is when you know you’ve mastered the spoken language.”

The conference had reserved this informal session for those who’d submitted portfolios in the Austin Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) 2013  Conference, Kick it Up a Notch. 

In this same conference room at St. Edward’s University the year before, the group had listened to Senior Art Director Patty Ann Harris of Little, Brown Publishers. The year before that,  illustrator, designer and SCBWI advisory board member David Diaz had huddled with the illustrators.

Now it was Lewis, one of the finest watercolor artists in the U.S. and an illustrator since 1992 with 58 picture books and many awards to his credit, including a Caldecott Honor and the Coretta Scott King Award. A few hours before he’d delivered the conference keynote address. Now he was hunkered down with his art colleagues, discussing…hmmm, of all things, languages.

The Caldecott Honor winning "The Other Side" by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by E.B. Lewis.

The Caldecott Honor winning “The Other Side” by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by E.B. Lewis.

So what was the basic building piece or element of a work of visual art, he asked the gang. “For writing, it’s the word. For music, it’s the note, right? For dance, it’s the step,” he said.

“For drawing, it’s the the stroke. A painting is a string of strokes. With these building blocks, basic units there’s a thought process that takes place, right?

“Most of you are just learning the language. You can’t tell a story yet. You definitely can’t tell a joke.”

Fluency in a language demands practicing what you love, investing those requisite 10,000 hours into your craft — even if it’s at the price of sleep, Lewis said.

For illustrators fluency means knowing your story characters — their thoughts and sensations, “nuances and small movements,” he added.

From "The Other Side", watercolor illustration by E.B. Lewis
From “The Other Side”, watercolor illustration by E.B. Lewis

“Take your characters to lunch. Research your scenes. Immerse yourself in your subject and dig in the dirt until you can smell it.

“For every composition you’re developing an entire world. Because we’re storytellers.”

EB Lewsi watercolor demonstration

At a special workshop session on Sunday, after the conference he was pressed to demonstrate his watercolor technique, off the cuff and handed paints, a palette and some magazine photos for ideas. That’s what you’re seeing in the videos. Sorry I couldn’t get in closer. I didn’t want to disrupt him or the attendees packed 360 degrees around him.

EB Lewis talking to elementary students at The Legends School

A few days before the conference at a private K-12 Classical Christian school in West Austin called The Regents, Lewis had told a library teeming with first graders “The reason you come to school is to discover your passion and prepare yourself for it.”

“Meet your tribe,” he exhorted the 6th and 7th grades. Not a false tribe, like a gang they had to conform to, but their “true tribe,” the group who shared the same passion for a subject that they did. Students seemed to hang on his words.

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“Each Kindness” by Jacqueline Woodson, Illustrated by E.B. Lewis

His message to the kids stayed consisted that day about self-direction, finding one’s own way, never settling or giving up or feeling badly about coming from behind. Perhaps because that’s his story. He didn’t really find his way as an artist until his thirties. The children’s books came even later.

Not one of his youthful experiences suggested the success he enjoys now in the arts and publishing. Lewis is quick to describe himself as an elementary grade under-achiever. Dyslexia made it hard to read or study and his clowning antics did a poor job of masking his lack of confidence in the classroom. He flunked the third grade. The problems with teachers continued through middle school. But Lewis credits a college professor uncle for getting — and keeping him in Saturday morning art classes, starting in the sixth grade. In those museum classes, under the tutelage of painter Clarence Wood, Lewis discovered drawing and painting.

For another, recent picture book by Jacqueline Woodson, "Each Kindness." Illustraiton by E.B. Lewis

For another, recent picture book by Jacqueline Woodson, “Each Kindness.” Illustration by E.B. Lewis (Putnam)

He found his way, eventually to voracious reading — nonfiction and literature. The arts became his passion and those who painted, his tribe. After high school, he pursued graphic design, illustration and art education at the Tyler School of Art at Temple University.

Still the road was slow. He worked for many years in the public schools, first as a teacher’s assistant, later as an art teacher. The watercolor work he did on weekends and late at night, while his family slept.

Illustration by E.B. Lewis for "Each Kindness" by Jacqueline Woodson (Nancy Paulsen Books, Penguin)

Illustration by E.B. Lewis for “Each Kindness” by Jacqueline Woodson (Nancy Paulsen Books, Penguin)

So a long, roundabout journey of working quietly behind the scenes, perfecting his art.

One day a children’s book artists’ agent, Jeff Dwyer contacted Lewis. His agency partner Elizabeth O’Grady had read a feature about him in and seen his watercolors in The Artists Magazine.

“I don’t do children’s book illustration. I’m a fine arts gallery painter,” Lewis responded (in my distillation of their conversation.)

From "Each Kindness", illustration by E.B. Lewis

From “Each Kindness”, illustration by E.B. Lewis

“Yes. Have you looked at any children’s picture books lately?” Dwyer replied before tossing out some names — Jerry Pinkney, Barry Moser and Chris Van Allsburg — for Lewis to check out.

The rest of the story you can find on the book blurbs and Lewis’s website.

It’s that meandering come-from-behind journey I think that informs his striking empathy for children — in the ways he depicts them with such vulnerability in his pictures and interacts with them in life. It’s something special to see. Even the seventh graders listen intently and believe when he tells them, “Mediocrity is self inflicted. Genius is self-bestowed.”
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My plaque for serving three years as Austin SCBWI Illustrators Coordinator and the special surprise that came with it -- the first two books in the Critter Club series by Callie Barkley, illustrated by Austin SCBWIer Marsha Riti, whom I met in the children's book illustration class I teach at AMOA/Arthouse Laguna Gloria. Marsha will be illustrating the entire series being published by Little Simon.

My award for completing a three year term as Austin SCBWI Illustrators Coordinator and special surprise that came with it — the first two books in The Critter Club series by Callie Barkley, illustrated by Marsha Riti, whom I met a few years ago in the children’s book illustration class I teach at AMOA/Arthouse Laguna Gloria. Austin SCBWI’s Marsha will illustrate the entire series being published by Little Simon, Simon and Schuster.

The Critter Club books (first two) illustrated by Marsha Riti of Austin SCBWI

Award winning author Cynthia Levinson reads from her hit nonfiction children's book "We've Got a Job"(Peachtree Publishers) about the  1963 Birmingham Children's March. It was one of several readings and talks at the "Kick It Up a Notch" pre-conference Friday receptionat the Austin Children's Museum.

Award winning author Cynthia Levinson of Austin SCBWI reads from her hit nonfiction children’s book “We’ve Got a Job”(Peachtree Publishers) about the 1963 Birmingham Children’s March. It was one of several readings and talks at the “Kick It Up a Notch” pre-conference Friday receptionat the Austin Children’s Museum.

Picture Book author Shutta Crum and SCBWI Crystal Kite Award-winning illustrator Patrice Barton talk about their collaboration on the picture book "Mine!" (Knopf)

Picture Book author Shutta Crum and SCBWI Crystal Kite Award-winning illustrator Patrice Barton talk about their collaboration on the picture book “Mine!” (Knopf) at the Austin conference.

I'm joined by SCBWI author friends Julie Lake, Cynthia Leitich and Liz Garton Scanlon at the Friday reception. (Photo by Greg Leitich Smith)

I’m joined by Austin SCBWI author friends Julie Lake, Cynthia Leitich and Liz Garton Scanlon at the Friday reception. (Photo by author Greg Leitich Smith)

EB Lewis talking to middle schoolers at the Legends Schoolo

Redesigning lost treasures

Hardy Boys, "The Tower Treasure

Students of the Make Your Splashes – Make Your Marks! online course on children’s book illustration are busy re-designing covers for the first-ever Hardy Boys book or the first ever Nancy Drew mystery in a mock assignment given them by art director Giuseppe Castellano of Penguin/Grosset & Dunlap, which was the original publisher of both series. Students have until April 20 to complete their final art, following Castellano’s specifications. Many thanks to Marks and Splashes student Pooja Srinivas for digging up some of the original covers for class reference!

Nancy Drew Covers

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Talking Dummies with Wendy Martin

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.

World touring sketchbooks

Have you drawn in your sketchbook today? It’s a question that humbles every aspiring children’s book illustrator.

But in our “high touch era” where the handcrafts site Etsy numbers near the top of online marketplaces and scrapbooking became so cool that it inspired the social media phenomenon known as Pinterest, sketchbooks and the art of filling them are no longer restricted to fine artists and commercial artists and hobby painters.

It’s a more general cause celebre and maybe even a craze, if popular blog groups like SketchCrawl, Urban Sketchers and Everyday Matters are an indication. Since 2009 the Brooklyn Art-House Co-Op has been gathering up sketchbooks and sending them on national tour in a traveling library. This year the effort extended across the Atlantic to include London. Hence the name,  2012 Sketchbook Project World Tour

“The Sketchbook Project is a global, crowd-sourced art project where participants from all walks of life are sent a sketchbook and have until January 15th to fill the pages and return it for inclusion in a traveling exhibition and permanent collection at The Brooklyn Art Library,” the co-op’s website says.

You can see some 500 photos on the Facebook page. And some more cool photos in this Instagram gallery on Tumblr.

Sketchbook Tour stops in Austin

Our children’s picture book critique group under the Austin (Texas) Chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), the Inklings decided to take part in this year’s tour with a group sketchbook mosaic.

It’s all explained (twice) in this riveting cinéma vérité documentary. Notice how the camera is not only hand-held in the respected auteur tradition, but often entirely neglected as the chronicler starts talking with his subjects and the lens tips to study T-shirts and shoes, picnic tables and dirt on the ground…

Austin (September 12-16) was the last North American stop before the books moved on to London. Starting from Brooklyn they’d already traveled to Chicago, Portland, Vancouver, Los Angeles, Oakland, Lynn, Portland (Maine), Toronto, Philadelphia, Atlanta and Orlando.

Co-Lab Project Space on Allen Street in East Austin was converted into a library replete with signage,  computers, workers, loaded bookshelves and waiting lines.  According to the Brooklyn ArtHouse archive, 2,435 books were checked out and viewed during those four days in Austin and 300 new Sketchbook Project library cards were issued.

The sketchbooks, new ones will be back in Austin next year — at Co-Labs again and at the SXSW Festival scene on March 15-17  for the 2013 World Tour.

Maury Tieman, Martha Carleton, Mark Mitchell, Joyce Chambers-Selber and Allissa Chambers of the Austin SCBWI Inklings — with “Willie Lisa.” Other “Inklings” who participated in the mosaic project included Margaret Jonon Buford, Martin Fry, Ann Hartman, Jeff Crosby and the late Louise Shelby.

November events

The biggest news of recent weeks? No, it wasn’t the U.S. presidential election. It was Disney buying LucasFilm/LucasArts and all Star Wars rights for $4 billion. Here’s a Forbes take on the purchase and more particulars and videos from Mashable. It means more Star Wars movies to come, a re-thinking and possible scrapping of Star Wars games currently on the boards and a new (apparently long overdue) Disney line for boys.

No, Star Wars didn’t start off as a children’s book, but it could have. The Disney purchase evidences the staggering value of an intellectual asset and of what sometimes can happen when a story with good characters ascends to the status of a meme.  This was not a freak occurrence, either. In 2009 Disney paid $4 billion  for Marvel Comics.

The other news of course is the publishing merger. Two of the “Big Six”, Random House, owned by the conglomerate Bertelsmann and Penguin, owned by publishing giant Pearson announced joining forces in a deal exptected to close sometime next year (to counter the threat of Amazon, some industry watchers suggest.) Combined companies willl have a fourth of the English-language consumer book sales, asserts the Publishers Weekly story on the announcement,

The merger takes the “Big Six” down to five:  Random House Penguin, Hachette, Holtzbrinck/Macmillan,  HarperCollins,  which is a subsidiary of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation and the CBS owned Simon & Schuster — with those pesky 21st century publishing upstarts Amazon, Apple and Microsoft nipping at their heels.

November is Picture Book Month and author Dianne de Las Casas with co-founding author-illustrators Elizabeth DulembaKatie DavisTara Lazar and Wendy Martin have assembled this this delightful blog where author-illustrators guest post and the joys and significance of this peculiarly demanding literary art form.

November is also Picture Book Idea Month, if you didn’t know. It’s what PiBoIdMo stands for, writes children’s author Tara Lazar. “Tired of novelists having all the fun in November with NaNoWriMo [National Novel Writing Month]? That’s why I created PiBoIdMo, as a 30-day challenge for picture book writers,” she says.  “The concept is to create 30 picture book ideas in 30 days. You don’t have to write a manuscript (but you can if the mood strikes).” The PiBoiMo part of Tara’s blog  is  loaded full with super “process posts” and tips from practitioners, along with some great author-illustrator “war stories” that will move and inspire you.

On the storm front, Chronicle Books editor Melissa Manlove is offering what is truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for an aspiring picture book author — a FREE PASS to one of her company’s editorial meetings, along with a private  critique before yourstory goes to the meeting. It’s one of many neat auction items touted for KidLit Cares, a Hurricane Sandy relief effort. Read all about it on organizer and children’s book author Kate Messer’s blog.

E.B. Lewis to headline Austin SCBWI conference

Caldecott honor-winning illustrator E.B. Lewis will keynote the conference, Kick It Up a Notch as well as conduct a special illustrators’ intensive on Sunday after Saturday’s main event.

In the video below Lewis speaks compassionately on his painting exhibit Lotto Icons, which began as scribbled ideas in his (what else?) sketchbook.

Drawing in Photoshop

Steve Connor is an abstract fine arts painter, former art director, Adobe CS-6 certified instructor and CEO of Deep4D Digital Media & Training. He demystifies the PS tools and the difference modes of drawing and painting with them in this free 90 minute workshop, Vector and Paint: An Intro to Photoshop.

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Award-winning author-illustrator Mark Mitchell wrote this post. Get on the blog mailing list and see some short videos on  “the best secret” to good drawing.

Making it up as we go along…

Author-Illustrator Jeff Crosby

Children’s book author-illustrator Jeff Crosby (Wiener WolfDisney-Hyperion) was talking with young students of the Austin Independent School District the other day — and he let them tell him a story, while he illustrated their scenes.

A bit of a high wire act, yes but he pulled it off with his usual calm and cleverness.

You can see the story somewhere in the following slide show.

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The slides include some of Jeff’s original sketches and paintings from Wiener Wolf as well as for Little Lions, Bull  Baiters  & Hunting Hounds (Tundra Books)  that he wrote and illustrated with his wife, author-illustrator Shelley Ann Jackson.

The event was for a birthday bash of sorts, 100 Years of School Libraries in Austin.

Illustrators recognized as the 2012 SCBWI Summer Conference wraps up

Congratulations to Melissa Sweet — winner of the 2012 Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) Golden Kite Award for Picture Book Illustration,  for Balloons over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of the Macy’s Parade (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011), a picture book biography that was five years in the making and has won several other awards.

And congratulations to Juana Martinez Neal, Grand Prize winner, and Mary Jo Scott, Nancy Armo and  Mary Lundquist,  honor winners in the Summer Conference Portfolio Contest.  

The awards were presented at the conference Sunday luncheon in Los Angeles.

Painted motion on glass

Alexander Petrov's "the Old Man and the Sea"

Does the Russian animator Alexander Petrov know a thing or two about using thumbnail sketches to build his stories and move them forward? Of course he does! Read about this and see his complete Academy Award – winning animated film, The Old Man and the Sea (20 minutes), based on Ernest Hemingway’s short novel here on the Illustration Course blog.

On your mouse, get set…go!

Austin SCBWI’s Digital Symposium II: Nuts and Bolts of Success is a hands-on technology workshop for illustrators and authors of all techie levels. Be it blogging or beveling, tweeting or technique sharing, hyperlinking or hashtagging, the intention of this symposium set for October 6 at St. Edward’s University is for the participants to leave with new skills to add their technological tool belts. You can download the full packet here, which includes conference info and an off-line registration sheet.

Parlay your ideas into children’s book art

"Make Your Splashes - Make Your Marks!" online course

“Make Your Splashes – Make Your Marks!” online course

Learn drawing and painting the fun way this summer. Take Mark Mitchell’s self-paced, online course Make Your Splashes – Make Your Marks! 

It teaches a dynamic approach to illustrating children’s books using traditional painting mediums.

Discover a great secret about drawing (four videos) and find more details about the course here.

Kevin Henkes’ gentle brush

Children’s book author-illustrator Kevin Henkes received the Caldecott Medal in 2005 for his picture book Kitten’s First Full Moon (Greenwillow, HarperCollins.)

But that was just a step on the journey that began more than 25 years before when, as a junior in high school, he decided to make a career of illustrating children’s books.The summer after his freshman year at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, Henkes set out for New York, portfolio under his arm.

He was 19. His first stop was Greenwillow Books and there he met the publishers founder, Susan Hirschman who, in the words from his website bio “signed him up on the spot.”

Henkes’s first published picture book, All Alone (1981) was followed by a series of icgture books featuring little mice characters — most famously Owen, named a Caldecott Honor Book (1994) and Lilly of Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse (1996.)

“Each book is different. Some come easily, and some are very difficult to bring to completion.
I’ll often think about an idea for months, even years, before I’m ready to write,” Henkes says.

“It’s difficult to say how much time I spend on each illustration. I don’t do each illustration from start to finish; I do them in stages.  I do sketches for the entire book first. Then I’ll refine all the sketches. Next, I’ll do a finished pencil drawing for each illustration in the book.”

He then inks, tests colors for each illustration, then paints in watercolor.

Kevin Henke's "Old Bear"

Time to submit your story in the PB Dummy Challenge

The PB Dummy Challenge crew wraps up its series on the #KidLitArt blog this week with this this post about how to pitch your story to the world and author-illustrator Tara Lazar’s encouraging video in which she shares truths about rejection and “revisions on spec” requests from editors.

Parlay those art skills into children’s book pictures 

"Make Your Splashes - Make Your Marks!" online course

“Make Your Splashes – Make Your Marks!” online course

Learn drawing and painting the fun way this summer. Take Mark Mitchell’s self-paced course Make Your Splashes – Make Your Marks!which teaches a dynamic approach to illustrating children’s books using traditional watercolor. Discover a great secret about drawing (video) and more about the course here.

Illustrators, how do your stories grow?

Illustrators, writers, quite inspired, how do your stories grow? was the theme for the 2012 regional conference of the Houston Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) back in March. The weekend featured a most inspired and prolific storyteller-artist Dan Yaccarino along with editors, agents and one art director, Susan Sherman of Charlesbridge Publishing.

By Daniel Miyares for "Bambino and Mr. Twain" by P.I. Maltbie (Charlesbridge Publishing)

Front matter art by Daniel Miyares for “Bambino and Mr. Twain” by P.I. Maltbie (Charlesbridge Publishing)

Jennifer Rofe, literary agent with the Andrea Brown Literary Agency discussed The “So What?” Factor. Susan Sherman showed Pictures That Make the Words Work and Dial Books for Young Readers editor Heather Alexander walked the crowd through a document used by the department heads at Penguin’s Young Readers Group to evaluate if a dummy/manuscript is a go or no go in The Hard Sell: How Publishers Sell Your Manuscript In-house and Out. This all before lunch.

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Editors Jenne Abramowitz of Scholastic, Connie Hsu of Little, Brown Books for Young Readers  kept us awake all afternoon in their talks on writing and and book concepts. Kathleen Ortiz discussed author web sites.

For illustrators, this bracing counsel from Dan Yaccarino in his answer to a question from the assembly (and I’m paraphrasing): Don’t spend your time working for small presses or author self-published projects. Aim for the big houses, the major trade book assignments, the important work. ASAP.

Faculty for the Houston SCBWI regional conference 2012 art director Susan Sherman, agent, Kathleen Ortiz, editor Jenne Abramowitz, author-illustrator Dan Yaccarino, editors Heather Alexander and Connie Hsu, and agent Jennifer Rofé. Photo by Marianne Dyson, Houston SCBWI

Faculty for the Houston SCBWI regional conference 2012 art director Susan Sherman, agent, Kathleen Ortiz, editor Jenne Abramowitz, author-illustrator Dan Yaccarino, editors Heather Alexander and Connie Hsu, and agent Jennifer Rofé. Photo by Marianne Dyson, Houston SCBWI

InteractBooks contest winners created six new children’s books for the iPad

Congratulations to author Gwen Christie and illustrator Paul Wrangles of England for winning the 2012 Winter InteractBooks competition with their interactive digital book The Champion Hare. 

First Place winner of the InteractBooks Winter interactive digital book-building contest, "The Champion Hare" by Gwen Christie and (illustrator) Paul Wrangles of England.

First Place winner of the InteractBooks Winter interactive digital book-building contest, “The Champion Hare” by Gwen Christie and (illustrator) Paul Wrangles.

CEO Ezra Weinstein announced the first place through fifth place winners (there was a tie for third place) for the winter contest in a live webinar broadcast.

See the recording with news about the 2012 spring contest and an upcoming class series on building interactive books for electronic tablets, using the new 3.0 InteractBuilder software.

Check out the covers of all the winning books on the InteractBook Facebook page.

Behold the “e-Future”

A couple of years ago editor and publisher  Stephen Roxburgh put his thoughts together on the “e-Future”  — for a talk he was to give at the Austin SCBWI regional conference.

He’s updated it since then and in April Horn Book magazine featured his essay that offers a remarkable snapshot of the publishing industry at the crossroads.

If the topic of e-books interests you, you’re in for a great read.

Author-illustrator Peter Sis

Author-illustrator Peter Sis

Sis named 2012 Hans Christian Andersen book artist

In this interview by Takoma Park. Maryland librarian Karen McPherson, distributed by  the Scripps Howard News Service, Peter Sis, the winner of this year’s Hans Christian Andersen Illustrator Awardtalks about three phone calls that changed his life.

One was a collect call from Maurice Sendak who urged him to move to New York if he wanted a serious career as a children’s book author-illustrator. (Sis took his advice.)

A call from editor Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis at Doubleday led him to writing and illustrating a book about growing up in his native Czechoslovakia.

From the McPherson interview: “Sis remembers that, in communist Czechoslovakia, ‘we couldn’t talk openly… We all started to think and talk in different layers — protective layers,’ he said. Those “layers” became second nature to Sis, whose books and other artwork now are noted for their stratums of design and meaning.”

The third call came from the MacArthur Foundation to inform him that he’d been selected to receive one of the foundation’s “genius grants.”

Sis, who once made an animated films and later illustrated for the New York Times,  mentioned the three life-changing calls in his acceptance speech for the award.

The Hans Christian Andersen Awards were announced by the International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY) at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair in March. You can learn more about the awards and this year’s other winners here. You might also enjoy this short audio in which Peter Sis tells interviewer Susan Viebrock how growing up in a communist state has informed his books, themes and artwork. You can listen to the audio here.

Sizing up Sendak

As news of Maurice Sendak’s passing settles down it might be time to reflect a little on his scruffy, straightforward, exquisite cartoon art and what it’s meant to two generations. Here are some resources to consider.

Maurice Sendak, widely considered the most important children’s book artist of the 20th century, who wrenched the picture book out of the safe, sanitized world of the nursery and plunged it into the dark, terrifying and hauntingly beautiful recesses of the human psyche, died on Tuesday in Danbury, Conn. He was 83… ” the obituary leads off.

Nutshell Library by Maurice Sendak with "Pierre" featured on the cover

“…Roundly praised, intermittently censored and occasionally eaten, Mr. Sendak’s books were essential ingredients of childhood for the generation born after 1960 or thereabouts, and in turn for their children.”

How has the art of Maurice Sendak affected you in your life?

What’s your PB Dummy Challenge?

Chances are you’ll see your issue addressed in the Picture Book Dummy Challenge series that’s been going on all year over at the #KidLitArt blog.

You’ll enjoy this latest process post by Aaron Zenz on that critical stage of producing the final art for your picture book.

Illustration by Aaron Zenz

Zenz shows how he’s willing to re-do a painting or try a new concept — sometimes more than once —  if that’s what it takes to delight his editor, publisher, or client. The post is filled with ‘case studies’ and Zenz’s appealing artwork from these assignments.

Illustrators Bonnie Adamson and Wendy Martin do a great job riding herd on the #KidLitArt blog series.This could be a biased statement, because I also guest posted for the series (PB Dummy Challenge Step 5,  Creating Full Sized Drawings for your Dummy Pages.)

But I can vouch with complete objectivity for the #kidlitart chats that Martin and Adamson host every Thursday night (U.S. Time zones) and are open to anyone on Twitter.

Each chat is based on a theme important to children’s illustrators. Each chat provides a fine opportunity to hunker down with your picture-making colleagues, published and aspiring. If you miss a live session you can always catch the transcript archived on the blog.

And the learning never stops…

Austin, Texas sure likes digital storytelling for children.

Registration has opened for Austin SCBWI’s Digital Symposium II: Nuts and Bolts of Success, a hands-on technology workshop for illustrators and authors of all techie levels.  Set for Saturday, October 6, once again this year at St. Edward’s University’s Fleck Hall.  Read more.

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featuring illustrations by Charisse MellizaThree cheers for Charisse Melliza whose illustrations appear in the newly released Mama and Asha by Carolyn Rohrbaugh (Shapato Publishing)

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Then, there’s Mowgli and Baloo…

Yes, we’re exploring the art and cunning of the Disney animators over at the Illustration Course blog.

The latest video post shows how Walt Disney and his team turned the Rudyard Kipling stories sideways and added songs for their animated version of The Jungle Book. Part1 of an absorbing documentary.

* * * * * "Make Your Splashes Make Your Marks!" course modules

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Discover a way to righteously better drawing. These free videos show you the secret.

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