A 24 Hour Comics Day album

On October 3, illustrators and comic book creators in cities around the world hunkered down  to produce original content.

It was Twenty Four Hour Comics Day — an annual happening launched last century by cartoonist and teacher Scott McCloud, author of Understanding Comics. (You can read the rules at that link.) Bawls, a company that produces caffeinated energy drinks  sponsored this year’s event.

Erik's laptop with a panel from his new comic --work in progress.

Erik's laptop with a panel from his new comic --work in progress.

In Austin the comic artists conclaved at a store,  Dragon’s Lair Comics and Fantasy, where lots of tables had been set up for them.  There were all kinds of things going on in the store that rainy night — people were putting models together, browsing the shelves, visiting their friends.

I wasn’t a participant. Only  a curious bystander with a camera. Plus a pal–   cartoonist and writer Erik Kuntz, part of our enchanted SCBWI tribe —was doing  the marathon again this year. Erik is the author-artist of  Hex Libris, a witty,  kid-friendly webcomic with wonderful characters.

(L. to R) Bonn Adame, Erik Kuntz, Justin Rogers and Jeremy Guyton create at their table during 24 Hour Comics Day in Austin, Texas.

(L. to R.) Bonn Adame, Erik Kuntz, Justin Rogers and Jeremy Guyton create at their table during 24 Hour Comics Day in Austin, Texas recently.

I don’t do comics much anymore but they were important to me growing up.  I read them and drew them.

I acquired my own formidable classical education by reading Classics Illustrated Comic Books. Better than CliffsNotes.

A panel of sketches for "Action Packed Gorillas", a new web comic being developed by Erik Kuntz.  The dialogue balloons always come first. (Note: The character featured here is a chimp, not a gorilla.)

A panel of sketches for "Action Packed Gorillas", a new web comic being developed by Erik Kuntz. The dialogue balloons always come first. (Note: The character featured here is a chimp, not a gorilla.)

Comics are not exactly children’s book illustration.  An d yet…

Another SCBWI and Inklings Group pal,   illustrator Martin Thomas is a professional colorist of comics.

Mary Sullivan,  supremely talented illustrator for Highlights and other magazines and books and part of our Austin clan — has illustrated a beautiful and funny children’s comic book and she draws in comic panels for her own amusement.

Austin SCBWI  illustration chair Christy Stallop does great black and white  comic strip panel style illustrations

Kads and Matt. Matt has the webcomic http://ayellowworld.com

Kads and Matt. Matt has the webcomic http://ayellowworld.com

Kads and Matt (above) working on separate comics. By the way, Matt’s blog has a good recap of his experience of the 24 Hour Comics Day here.

My stepson Glenn remains  a connoisseur- collector of graphic novels.  School librarians are making more space for graphic novels on their shelves.  Scholastic Books is whipping up  its own graphic novel brand.

For years the “comic book look” has  been finding its way into wildly popular  “chapter books ” for upper elementary and middle grades.  Dav Pilkey is one example.  The Zack Proton series by Austin author Brian Anderson (of our SCBWI Mafia family) with illustrator Doug Holgate is another.

The Toon Books are comics for toddlers and children just begining to learn to read.

Disney bought Marvel.

Artist-writer Meghan Regis and her technical consultant Jeremy Zunker (an engineering student.) Meghan is the creator of "Yours Truly" a comic published in "The Paisano", the weekly newspaper of the University of Texas at San Antonio. The reason why she needs a technical consultant is that her main character is a young woman on the moon.

Artist-writer Meghan Regis and technical consultant Jeremy Zunker (an engineering student.) Meghan is the creator of the comic series "Yours Truly" published in "The Paisano", the weekly newspaper of the University of Texas at San Antonio. The main main character in the strip is a young woman who lives on the moon. So seriously, that's why Meghan needs a technical consultant around her when she's working. "Because there are a lot of technical terms that are used in the dialogue," Zunker explained.So

And Yes. Women do participate in 24 Hour Comics Day.  In addition to Meghan (above and below) there was Kad (who will let us know when she has her website up) and Melanie Moore working on her strip “Sacred Junk” with Amy Middleton (not shown.)

Meghan Regis with her panels.

Meghan Regis with her panels.

The teamwork of Jason Poland and Austin Havican ( below) can be seen here and here.

Colored comic panels (watercolor washes) on the comic strip "The Ortolan" created by a collaborative team,  Jason Poland, and Austin Havican, whose hands you see here. They described their work as deceptively simple child-like and simply but "definitely not child-friendly." See more of their work at www.robbieandbobby.com. S

Colored comic panels (watercolor washes) on the comic strip "The Ortolan" created by a collaborative team, Jason Poland, and Austin Havican, whose hands you see here. They described their work as deceptively simple child-like and simply but "definitely not child-friendly." See more of their work at http://www.robbieandbobby.com. S

Erik Kuntz laughs at one of his digital cartoons as he draws on a Wacom tablet, while Justin Rogers works with traditional comic artist materials -- paper, pencil, eraser, pen, triangle, T-square, etc.

Erik Kuntz laughs at one of his own digital cartoons as he draws on a Wacom tablet while Justin Rogers works with traditional comic artist materials -- paper, pencil, eraser, pen, triangle, T-square, etc. (In the background with beard is comics writer Tony Franklin. )

As you see, there were fun moments and lots of hard work– or should I say heart work? They go together  — accomplished by a lot of people  in that comic book store.

Erik is suggesting that we get together next year for something a little less intense than a They Shoot Horses Don’t They? draw-a-thon.

He’s calling it the “geriatric version of 24 Hour Comics Day.” I can’t say that I’m in favor of the name.  It sounds, you know, a little ageist — and hits a little close.  But the idea intrigues. Instead of laboring over pages of comic panels, we could be blitzing through picture book thumbnails and storyboards, or maybe even a dummy.

A children’s book illustrators lockdown. Check back with us in September next year to read our rules.

Seraphine

I should mention that I saw the movie Seraphine recently, about an early 20th century painter most of us have never heard of —  Seraphine Louis or Seraphine de Senlis.

Click on the image here to see the larger more detailed view on YouTube.

Seraphine offers an unblinking look at the  art vs. reality dilemma that confronts every artist sooner or later.

“Seraphine” tells us of a cleaning woman who painted “primitive” florals at night,  with paints she  ground herself from materials gathered on her woodland treks.   It’s also about the kindly German art collector who discovered her.  Billed as a fictionalized portrait, it’s still an honest movie —  as unsensational as it is beautiful.  I’d love to hear your thoughts if you’ve seen it.  Leave  a comment.

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Mark Mitchell hosts the “How To Be A Children’s Book Illustrator” blog.

Connecting Points

A big welcome to talented  illustrators Susan Sorrell HillTina Yao , Diandra Mae and Vanessa Van Cleve Roeder who have joined our blog roll!
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We are also delighted to welcome fine artist, illustrator, plein-air painter, teacher, writer and innovating creator of art instruction materials Cathy Johnson to the our links. You might recognize her work or “voice”  fromThe Artists Magazine”, where she’s been a contributing editor for years.

Here is her website where you can sign up for her  free newsletter and e-mail art tips! I’ve been enjoying them for a long time. Here is her blog.

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West Texas children’s artist writer Michelle Munger has started a Ning groupManic — The Author/Illustrator Network: For the Author/Illustrator  that does it all.

You don’t have to be West Texan or  manic to be a member — just a double-threat creator of children’s books, published or not.  Click here to join. I’ll see you there.

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Read about the just announced  National Book Award finalists here.

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Si
gn up for Mark’s free best drawing secret videos and lesson here.
He’s giving away the “secrets”  to promote his course on illustrating children’s books.
Get them while they’re hot and available for nuthin’.
Here.

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Austin SCBWI  illustration chair

Awesome Austin Writers roll up their T-shirt sleeves

Awesome Austin Writers Workshop in session

Awesome Austin Writers Workshop in session (Photo by Cynthia Leitich Smith)

A mega-critique of 26 children’s and YA published and soon-to-be-published authors, the Awesome Austin Writers Workshop  ended Sunday, June 29, and everyone drove home in shock.  Shock because it was over and had gone so well and we realized  that we weren’t coming back to hang out with each other again the next day.

The workshop took place in the 1920s-vintage Austin, Texas home of authors Greg and Cynthia Leitich Smith.

Cynthia, who teaches in the children’s and young adult writing MFA program at the Vermont College of Fine Arts thought up and organized the event with help from her author-attorney husband, Greg and other friends from the Austin chapter of SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.)  

For three days she led the critiques in a tour de force of quick wit, good fun, practical erudition, zinging (as opposed to stinging) professional insight and Kansas Pioneer Woman stamina. 

Months before we’d been asked to submit up to ten pages of our works in progress. These were the beginnings of picture books, parts of YA novels and sci-fantasy chapter books, poems and nonfiction stories. Each writer got 40-45 minutes of vociferous attention from the group, moderated by Cynthia. 

Liz Scanlon, Alison Dellenbaugh, Erin Edwards, Phillip Yates get their papers in order. April Lurie is in the background. (Photo courtesy of Cynthia Leitich Smith.)

Liz Scanlon, Alison Dellenbaugh, Erin Edwards and Phillip Yates get their papers in order. April Lurie is in the background. (Photo courtesy of Cynthia Leitich Smith.)

It’s an odd sensation to be on the receiving end of so much focus — 26 bright minds reacting to your prose or verse, while you’re not allowed to talk back. It feels like a surgical procedure is being done — a double cataract removal. 

Like the other dazed & AAWW’ed patients after their operations, I got my copies back scribbled with thoughts, kudos, suggestions for fixes, often accompanied by typed notes. We clutched our precious stacks like they were our medical charts and we were on our gurneys in the recovery room.

Since I was one of two illustrators present, I was invited to pass around a couple of sketches to accompany my picture book offering — for additional AAWW-some scrutiny.

There was a lot of sharing, bonding, helping and a lot of eating going on.  Our graceful “pages” (fellow SCBWI’ers)  Donna Bratton and Carmen Oliver kept us supplied with coffee, scrambled egg kolaches, chocolates, juice and jokes (bad pun jokes — relentless pantomiming on the theme “turning pages”,  “flipping pages.” At one point they donned tunics with labels: “Page #1” and “Page #2.”)

The founder and first regional adviser of our Austin SCBWI chapter, Meredith Davis was there, along with our current RA Tim Crow and former RA Julie Lake and our 90 year old member Betty X. Davis, who frequently outpaces us.  Participant Gene Brenek wrote later, “These relationships have been years in the making.” It was true and probably contributed to all the magic we felt around us. Still, not  everyone present was an Awesome Austin writer. You see, Awesome writer Varsha Bajaj joined us from the Houston SCBWI chapter. She became one of us quickly, though.

Taking time out from their pagination, Donna Bratton (left) and Carmen Oliver (right) visit with author Lindsey Lane at the Saturday night party at author Helen Hemphill's home

Taking time out from their paginations, Donna Bratton(left) and Carmen Oliver (right) visit with author Lindsey Lane at the Saturday night party at author Helen Hemphill's home. (Photo by Cynthia Leitich Smith.)

We enjoyed a relaxing Saturday night party in the lovely loft residence of YA author Helen Hemphill and her husband Neil. Children’s writers settled right in to flowing wine, a spectacular catered supper and twinkling night views of the downtown.

Sunday around lunchtime everyone drove home in shock, as I’ve explained above. Many, after recovering somewhat, went straight to blogging about their experience, which is why the Awesome Austin Writers Workshop is all over the Internet today, as it should be.

I’ll borrow the list of attendees from Cynthia’s blog Cynsations.

Here are some of the blogposts::

Jo Whittemore, Julie Lake, Liz Scanlon and Betty Davis prepare for the next critique round. (Photo by Cynthia Leitich Smith)

Jo Whittemore, Julie Lake, Liz Scanlon and Betty Davis prepare for the next critique round. (Photo by Cynthia Leitich Smith)

Mark Mitchell, who wrote this, teaches a summer class in “How to Illustrate Children’s Books” beginning next Tuesday, July 15 at the Art School Austin Museum of Art Art School at 3809 West 35th Street, Austin, Texas 78703.  The class will run Tuesday nights from 6 to 9 p.m. through August 19. For more information on any of the AMOA summer art classes (for adults or children) call the Art School at (512) 323-6380 or visit the AMOA  website.