“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.

CS JUennings presentation banner

An amazing way to learn illustration

So what is musician-performer-dancer-composer Lindsey Stirling doing on this blog about children’s book illustration? She’s an artist but she works in a different medium. She hasn’t published a children’s picture book. (Not yet, anyway, but give her time.)

I’m sharing this video of her 2011 tune Shadows, because twenty-two million YouTube viewers are not wrong — it’s a great music video. It also helps me to make a point about something I see happening that I like to call:

Are you ready?  (It’s a big phrase.)  Ahem... The toppling of the hierarchy of learning.

Lindsey has studied classical violin since age six. Private teachers for 12 years.

But my question is…

Where did she learn to dance like this?

Answer: YouTube! She says so here on her website. She analysed music videos, studied the footwork of the dancers, put her own moves together and practiced in front of a mirror.

So my next question is:

If Lindsey can learn her choreography from the Internet, do you think you can you learn to design and improve your drawing and painting similarly?

I  certainly think so! Good thing, too because in recent weeks four new art courses have launched online. Two of them, focusing on illustrating children’s books start next month (June, 2013)

Mira Reisberg (aka: The Picture Book Whisperer) is offering The Craft and Business of Children’s Book IllustrationJune 3 — July 15.

Will Terry and Jake Parker are offering Illustration for Storytellers, June 10 — July 10.

Last week I interviewed these teachers to discover more. We decided to open up our discussions so that anyone watching could ask questions. You can catch the replay of our session with magical Mira here or by clicking on the graphic below. (You’ll be asked for your e-mail address. It will be worth it.)

The Picture Book Academy

Mira Reisberg’s Picture Book Academy

Mira’s class promises a full-immersion experience into the world of children’s publishing, with her own video interviews with editors, art directors and author-illustrators. There will also be wide-ranging lessons on craft/technique and the business/career-building side of being a children’s book artist.

Will’s and Jake’s training will take you through design, draftsmanship, painting and building flowing storyboards and successful full-colored final art. They’ll cover how to prepare your art for a traditional print book, e-book, story app, help you to understand traditional vs digital illustration, file types, pagination, pacing, layouts — and how to build your online presence as an artist. The live interactive class is already full, but through July 15 you can still register for the lite version, to receive the recordings.

You can access our amazing two-hour session with Will and Jake here or by clicking on the graphic below. Will and Jake each taught a very cool, generous lesson that you won’t want to miss.

Mark Mitchell, Will Terry and Jake Parker

Mark Mitchell, Will Terry and Jake Parker

Of the two classes, which one should you pick? It’s a no-brainer! Take both!

They’re by gifted people, professionally experienced artists who are also natural teachers (as you’ll see in the replays.) Their curriculums are different and as rich and rewarding as any you’d find at a brick and mortar campus. (This is not surprising, since Mira, Jake and Will all teach or have taught at brick and mortar campuses.)

And when you finish their classes, consider taking my Make Your Splashes; Make Your Marks! online course, too! It’s also about children’s book illustration. Online art classes like these rock! They’re fun. They’ll make you better. And they’re re not as difficult as teaching yourself to dance while playing the violin.

At author-illustrator Mary Sullivan's launch party for her one word picture book "Ball!" (Houghton Mifflin) at the Writing Barn. Left to right Austin SCBWI Regional Advisor and author-Illustrator shelley Ann Jackson, Austin SCBWI Illustrator Coordinator Amy Farrier, Mary Sullivan, author-illustrator Mark Mitchell, author Julie Lake, author-illustrators Erik Kuntz and Jeff Crosby. Photo by author Bethany Hegedus.

At author-illustrator Mary Sullivan’s launch party for her one word picture book Ball! (Houghton Mifflin) at The Writing Barn, in Austin Texas on May 4. Left to right Austin SCBWI Regional Advisor and author-illustrator Shelley Ann Jackson, Austin SCBWI Illustrator Coordinator Amy Farrier,  author-illustrator Mary Sullivan, author-illustrator Mark Mitchell, author Julie Lake, author-illustrators Erik Kuntz and Jeff Crosby. Photo by author Bethany Hegedus. To see a recent post and video interview featuring Mary, go here.

A spread from Mary Sullivan's "Ball!"

A spread from Mary Sullivan’s new picture book Ball! published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.

From Mary Sullivan's new book Ball!

From Mary Sullivan’s new book Ball!

Julie Lake reads "BalL!" at The Writing Barn.

Julie Lake reads Ball! at The Writing Barn.

Bethany Hegedus with page proofs of her new picture book "Grandfather Gandhi"

During Mary’s signing party at The Writing Barn, Austin SCBWI Illustrator Coordinator Amy Farrier, authors Greg Leitich Smith, Cynthia Leitich Smith and Bethany Hegedus, author-illustrators Jeff Crosby and Erik Kuntz and author Julie Lake review the early page proofs shared by Bethany from her upcoming picture book, Grandfather Gandhi, co-authored by Arun Gandhi and illustrated by Evan Turk. Due out in March, 2014.

Cover of the upcoming picture book, Grandfather Gandhi, co-authored by Arun Gandhi and Bethany Hegedus, illustrated by Evan Turk.

Cover of the upcoming picture book, Grandfather Gandhi, co-authored by Arun Gandhi and Bethany Hegedus, illustrated by Evan Turk.

From the upcoming picture book, Grandfather Gandhi,

From the upcoming picture book, Grandfather Gandhi, co-authored by Bethany Hegedus and Arun Gandhi and illustrated by Evan Turk.  Scheduled for publication 3/11/2014.

From the upcoming picture book, Grandfather Gandhi,

Illustration by Evan Turk from the upcoming picture book, Grandfather Gandhi by Bethany Hegedus and Arun Gandhi.  Scheduled for publication 3/11/2014

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Post by Mark Mitchell.

How to build a robot in Quark

Children’s book author-illustrator Annette Simon works hard to make her picture books playful. Or, maybe more accurately, she plays hard to make her picture books work.  

Her Robot Zombie Frankenstein! (Candlewick Press) delivers an exhilarating,  escalating battle of wits, creativity, costumery and dessert in 72 words.

The bright pictures suggest Colorforms — the plastic stick-ons found in kindergarten toy boxes — but they’re not. Annette illustrates with her computer mouse, using QuarkXpress, an old program for creating page layouts.

To make a shape she clicks and drags the Quark “photo box” across her screen, then pops a color into the outline.  She develops her characters by artfully layering these colored slices.

And somehow she makes them — her characters, the mechanical dueling bots — feel like people we know as well as our own siblings.

A savvy, award-winning creative director, Annette worked at the national advertising and graphic design firm GSD&M in Austin, Texas for several years before she and her husband moved to Neptune Beach, Florida. Today she writes and draws books for young readers and works part-time at the indie book store The BookMark.

Below, more nuts and bolts re: her Robot Zombie Frankenstein! art-making:

The videos are excerpts from an on-camera interview, including a discussion on book cover design that she gave for students of the Make Your Splashes – Make Your Marks! course. You can see more of her interview and photos from her July signing party with her Austin SCBWI pals here

Below (as promised in the video), the steps for constructing a robot in Quark, starting with a purple box: (courtesy of Annette Simon) 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Jump to see more of Annette’s interview, including her thoughts about her process, revising and working with her long distance critique group.

Digital Symposium II October 6

The second annual Austin SCBWI Digital Symposium set for Saturday, October 6 at St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas, features hands on training on digital art-making, WordPress, book video-trailer making for YouTube and lots more.

These Xtra Normal guys say they definitely are going. The symposium trailer is by animator and online comics creator Erik Kuntz, who is also our SCBWI chapter’s webmaster and will lead the workshops on Anime Studio and Manga Studio. You’ll find details on the workshop and presenters and your registration packet here.

Illustrator E.B. Lewis headlines 2013 Austin conference, Let’s Kick it Up a Notch

E.B. Lewis Art

Watercolor illustration by E.B. Lewis

It’s official! Renown children’s book illustrator and fine artist E.B. Lewis will review portfolios and conduct a special Sunday illustrators’ intensive at the Austin SCBWI 2013 Regional ConferenceFebruary 8-10 at St. Edward’s University. He’ll be joined by an extraordinary conference faculty that will include agents, authors, editors art directors and senior children’s book publishing execs.

To drop just a few names: SCBWI Crystal Kite award winning illustrator Patty Barton and and author Shutta Crum, literary agent with S©ott Treimel NY John M. Cusick, best-selling YA author Cynthia Leitich Smith,  Senior VP and publisher of Simon and Schuster Books Rubin Pfeffer, Caldecott Honor author, poet Liz Garton Scanlon, Macmillan Children’s Books publisher Neal Porter.

And that’s not everyone. Download your copy of the Kick it Up a Notch faculty sheet and the registration packet

P.S. The August 26 post on Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast features E.B. Lewis’ stunning illustrations for Jacqueline Woodson’ s picture book on children’s cruelty,  Each Kindness.

Google+ tools for artists and illustrators — free workshop

Pooja's Google+ workshop screenshot

Hey illustrators! If you haven’t yet seen Pooja Srinivas’ Google Hangout presentation, Google+ for Artists and Illustrators you’ll probably want toIn her fast-moving 80-minute recorded workshop, she shows us how to find and build community, network and promote our art with free Google+ tools. Discover a fabulous, huge resource that’s as close and accessible to you as your Gmail account. See Pooja’s free workshop.

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Jump to see more of Annette’s interview, including her thoughts about her process, revising and working with her long distance critique group.

Children’s book author-illustrator Mark Mitchell wrote this post. Watch his short video on the “best drawing secret.”

Annette Simon addresses a packed second floor at her signing for “Robot Zombie Frankenstein!” at BookPeople in Austin  in July.

What the heck is an e-book, anyway?

Children’s book illustrators, artistrators, writers take note:

These guys kind of say it all. The trailer is by animator, web designer, online comics creator Erik Kuntz  (who also happens to be our SCBWI chapter’s webmaster.)

Briefly, the Second Annual Austin SCBWI Digital Symposium is October 6 at St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas. But for the schedule and more details on the workshop and presenters, go here.

Google+ tools for artists and illustrators — a free workshop

Pooja's Google+ workshop screenshot

Watch Pooja Srinivas’ video presentation, Google+ for Artists and Illustrators  — and discover how to network, find and build community, extend your reach and promote your art and illustration with free Google+ tools.  Go here for Pooja’s superb 1.3 hour workshop.

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Children’s book author-illustrator Mark Mitchell is also the author of this post.  See Mark’s short video about the “best drawing secret” here.

Erik animation screenshot

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.) http://WWW.YaoIllustration.com

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.) http://www.sylvialiuland.com

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.) http://www.MackeyWebDesign.com


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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!

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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! 

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Your “Epiphany Essay”

It should have something to do with children’s book illustration, or illustrators or drawing or painting or simply communicating to younger readers with your art.

American painter Aline Rhonie working on wall mural

Aline H Rhonie learned mural painting from Diego Rivera.  She painted the large aviation themed fresco mural in Hangar F at Roosevelt Field.

By it,  I do mean — your epiphany.

What epiphany, you ask.
The epiphany that you’re going to write and tell me about in your essay.

What essay?  I can almost hear you.

Your  essay for the contest to win illustrator Will Terry’s eight video course, Children’s Book Illustration.

Will  Terry's video course on children's book illustration

Tell us that aha insight you had, or were keen enough to see when someone showed it to you or you  saw, heard or read somewhere.

Keep it under 400 words and e-mail it to me at Mark@HowToBeAChildrensBook Illustrator.com

Or leave a comment here on the blog.

Or,  if you prefer, use the form above. If you don’t want to enter the contest, use the form to express where you think children’s publishing is going, or what you’d like to see in the way of  informal online trainings for visual artists.  Your comments will get you a soapbox here.

But they won’t get you the prize.  The prize will go to the writer  of the best short essay about his or her aha moment or uniquely personal learning experience pertaining to drawing, painting or children’s book illustration.

No, your epiphany does not have to be a result of my lessons.  As much as I’d appreciate the references, your essay probably will be scored higher if it’s on your own inspiration or problem solution.

Many good essays already have been turned in since the launching of the contest a few weeks ago. You can enter more than one, by the way. But I want to make this an open competition. Open to everyone — not just those caring, responsible souls who always get their homework in early.

There’s a real deadline, though. It’s this Wednesday (April 6.)   The winner will be announced here Friday (April 8.)

All submitted essays will be published at some point — along with attributions and links to sites and/or blogs, contributors willing.

Thank you to all of you who have taken pen in hand and submitted fun pieces.  Good luck to everyone who’s  been or will be daring enough to try.

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WordPress for Artists workshop

You’ve probably already heard from me, or others how awesome it was.
If you haven’t received an e-mail with the link to the recording yet, you can get that e-mail by signing up for the replay here. Web developer and animator Erik Kuntz of  Square Bear Studio brilliantly walked us through how to install great looking and elegantly functioning picture thumbnail galleries on our WordPress blogs.

If you’ve ever wondered how to get your portfolio up and looking smart on line,  here’s a great way to do it with some free WordPress plug-ins.
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Houston SCBWI Conference set for this Saturday

Get your details and registration form here.   Editors from Disney Hyperion and Scholastic and an art director from Simon and Schuster will present there, along with author-illustrator Ruth McNally Barshaw.  Simon and Schuster art director Laurent Linn will do a 90 minute breakout session with illustrators and portfolio reviews.

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When was the last time you really doodled?

See the amazing Sunni Brown of the  “Doodle Revolution” in the video made of a presentation she gave at Duarte Design. It’s up on my blog, Illustration Course and you really don’t want to miss her or her ideas.

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Courses page

Check out the new Courses page, which compiles all the “ala carte” offerings from the Marks and Splashes course — for those who like their learning in small doses.

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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.


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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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’.

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Austin SCBWI  illustration chair