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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WordPress for artists?

Children’s book illustrators,  like all artists, can reach their markets and audiences more easily than ever before, thanks to the Internet!

And I believe that WordPress, the open source content management system is one of the best ways to establish a presence on the web.

Erik Kuntz, designer, web consultant, instructor and web comic artist feels the same way I do about WordPress. Except he knows tons more about it than I do.  He consults with small businesses and big companies on this stuff.  (He’s also the intrepid webmaster of our Austin, Texas SCBWI chapter.)

Erik Kuntz with Austin illustrators

Erik (standing, right) is joined by Austin illustrators and writers and friends (left to right) Jeff and Libby Byington, Don Tate, Christy Stallop, Amy Farrier, Torran Anderson, Louise Shelby, Ross Carnes and Martin Thomas.

A couple of weeks ago he conducted a special online workshop session for my Make Your Marks; Make Your Splashes class.

He did a brilliant presentation, showing us different ways to put up our illustration galleries on our WordPress blogs.  By galleries  I mean the tiny thumbnail pictures you click on to see much larger higher res versions of them.  After showing us a trick for doing it on WordPress.com blogs, he showed us how to do it on our WordPress.org blogs using the free plug-in, NextGen Gallery.

Alas, things do not always work out perfectly.  The recording did not take.

We were all so counting on the replay.  Erik shared so much with us that it was hard to get it all down in our notes!  I did what I had to:  Asked him if he’d be willing to walk us through the workshop again.

He agreed to — characteristically, because he’s a helpful soul.

So we’re doing the same workshop again. This time we’re throwing the doors open a bit, broadcasting on UStream.

The recording will stay up on Erik’s UStream channel. This way students won’t miss a thing.

But it will also be available to anyone with an interest in WordPress galleries.  Marks and Splashes students will get the first crack at questions, though.

We’ve set Thursday, March 31 as our evening for the workshop.  If you’d like a reminder with details about how to find the broadcast, please sign our guest list.

What else would you like to know about using WordPress?


Thank you for participating in our poll!
Here are links for Erik’s webcomic, Erik and Monkey (talk about life) and blog and signing up for the broadcast reminder.

Photoshop Basics

A Bare Bones Intro to Photoshop is a video lesson by another talented teacher I know. 

Steve Connor (pictured left) teaches animation, film and design media software at ITT Technical Institute and the Art School of the Austin Museum of Art. He’s also enjoyed a career as an art director for firms in the San Francisco Bay area. He  also creates lyrical abstract art.

In the video he shows how to work with layers, the brush toolshapes and effects. His information applies to any edition of Photoshop you might have.

After seeing the lesson, if you feel so moved, please take Steve’s survey to help him determine what you’d most like to learn from a series of informal trainings — on Photoshop and other software thought of as OMG-This is too hard for me! Here’s the survey: Learning Digital Media. And the tutorial link again:  A Bare Bones Intro to Photoshop.

"Marks and Splashes" course author Mark Mitchell ( second from left) with the Inklings, an Austin SCBWI children's picture book critique group. To the left (of Mark) is writer-illustrator Martin Fry. Going around the table to the right (of Mark) are Amy Farrier, Andrea Weissenbuehler, Erik Kuntz, Martin Thomas, Robyn Honig and Margaret Jonon Buford. They're holding 150 million year old oyster fossils that Fry had brought to the coffee.

Marks and Splashes course

The Make Your Splashes; Make Your Marks course moves into a new phase of life next month, adding video interviews with working children’s book illustrators and more content and trainings. All current and past students will receive the new material as it rolls out.

But students who sign on after the new course “launch” date will pay a slightly higher tuition than present students did.

You can head that calamity off at the pass! Go here to get the new, bigger version at the old  price.  You’ll be glad you acted with alacrity.

Here’s the course info page link: Make Your Splashes; Make Your Marks

Houston SCBWI 2011 Conference set for April!

The Houston SCBWI 2011 regional conference The Art of Book Craft is set for Saturday April 9 at Merrell Center in Katy, Texas.  Get your details and registration form here.

Editors from Disney Hyperion and Scholastic and an art director fronm 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.

Build your book? Children’s book illustrators have new options.

Illustrations that move and make sounds at the touch of a finger.  The age of the interactive children’s book app has arrived.

We talked with Ezra Weinstein and Richard Johnson of InteractBooks,  a publisher of books for iPads back in December in Austin.  Weinstein is a programmer, app developer and the son of a school librarian. His business partner Johnson has a background in the computer gaming industry.

Things have moved right along for their company InteractBooks since that Saturday lunch visit.  Their free InteractBooks (Version 1) app is scheduled to be released on the Apple AppStore on February 28,  2011.  (If you want to download their free app for your mobile device you get it from iTunes right here.) Several new Interact children’s picture book s will be ready for download by then.

The company is already working on InteractBooks App Version 2.  When it comes out,  Weinstein and Johnson will also  make available their  free InteractBuilder tool that will run on Mac and PC platforms.

“The InteractBuilder will allow developers of all ages to create and publish their own InteractBooks to their supported tablet and smart phone devices,” Weinstein says. “Publishers can use the InteractBuilder and our InteractPublisher tools to publish their own books for sale in our online marketplace. ”

“If you want to build your own children’s book, graphic novel, or educational content into an InteractBook, please be sure to sign up for the InteractBuilder Community on our website and we will send you details as they are available,” Weinstein says.

See the InteractBooks website, Facebook page or iTunes page to learn how to sign up to be a beta tester for the InteractBuilder.

Lots of companies are jumping into the iPad and mobile device book space,  including, of course the major children’s publishers.  Yes, it’s a new technology scramble and you do hear allusions to the Rushes — for Oklahoma Land and 1849 California Gold.  Rush.  This is a virtual landrush that has long-time publishers and media companies drooling — and maybe a little bit frightened. No one is quite sure yet how the business model should work.  In publishing, supply typically exceeds demand and so the trick remains: How do you capture public imagination and achieve mind share?  It’s the same old quest for readers and eyeballs, though the platforms seem to be changing.

You can read more about how entrenched traditional publishers like Harpercollins are gearing up for the new era of “reading media” and discover a few tips about how to evaluate children’s book apps in this School Library Journal round-up by Elizabeth Bird.

Weinstein and Johnson, though both love books and the idea of being publishers, are also interested in selling their platform software to existing publishers, educators and marketers. And they’ve found that children’s picture books — with their artwork that drives the stories — make a marvelous vehicle for showing off their interactive book-building and publishing technologies.

Watch more of the interview with Ezra and Richard Johnson (seven short videos total) on the IllustrationCourse.com YouTube channel.

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2011 Caldecott Medal awarded to Erin Snead

The Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association (ALA) awarded the Caldecott Medal to Erin Snead for her illustrations for the picture book

A Sick Day for Amos a few weeks ago, during the annual ALA Conference.  Named in honor of nineteenth-century English illustrator Randolph Caldecott, the medal  is awarded each year to the  artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children published in the U.S. that year.

A Sick Day for Amos McGee was written by Philip C. Stead, and is a Neal Porter Book, published by Roaring Brook Press, a division of Holtzbrinck Publishing.

Below are the runners-up — the two Caldecott Honor winners.


Dave the Potter: Artist, Poet Slave
illustrated by Bryan Collier, written by Laban Carrick Hill and published by Little, Brown and Company, a division of Hachette Book Group, Inc.


Interrupting Chicken Written and illustrated by David Ezra Stein, and published by Candlewick Press

We have winners!

We have our winners for the free portfolio critiques and the group intensive sessions at the Austin SCBWI 2011 Regional Conference coming up in two weeks.

Illustrator Shelley Ann Jackson of Austin has won a free portfolio consultation with illustrator Julian Hector and Illustrator Debbie Meyer of McKinney, Texas has won the free portfolio critique with David Diazcourtesy of the Texas Sweethearts and Scoundrels.

Author-illustrator Frances Yansky's portfolio display

Debbie Meyer, Bobbie Dacus and Debra Haun won free front row seats at the group intensive session with Julian Hector. And Bobbie Dacus won a portfolio review session with me.

Congratulations, gang! Thank you to everyone who entered the contests!

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Enter to win Will Terry’s video course

I’ll be giving away a free pass to children’s book llustrator and instructor Will Terry’s wonderful eight video course on children’s book illustration! The prize will go out next month to whoever writes me the best e-mail short essay on the following topic:

“What’s the major discovery you’ve made or the biggest insight you’ve learned this year in drawing or  painting, or marketing oneself as an artist in  the children’s publishing field?”

So that’s it. Just write about your best discovery or insight into the craft gleaned over the past 12 months.  Your essays do not have to be long — just fun to read and genuinely helpful. Look for the award to go out  in March.  I’ll review Will’s first online video course in an upcoming post.

"A Dragon Moves In" written and illustrated by Lisa Falkenstern

Name chosen for Lisa Falkenstern’s book!

New York illustrator and now author-illustrator Lisa Falkenstern reports that she has completed and submitted all of her finished art for her picture book A Dragon Moves In, to be published later this year by Marshall Cavendish. You might remember that we ran a poll for her back in June to help her decide on a title for her picture book. Lisa and I want to thank all 367 readers who voted or offered write-in suggestions for titles! The feedback helped her and her editor  choose from the list of possibilities they were considering but a little stuck on.

Austin SCBWI wrapping up registration for” Boots”

Yikes! Boots, Books and Buckskins has just about filled up and the gates are about to close.  The cut-off date for registering for the 2011 regional conference of the Austin chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) is this Thursday, February 10.

St. Edwards University, home of the Austin SCBWI 2011 Conference

Spend a day at one of the most beautiful college campuses in Texas, St. Edward’s University hearing from Caldecott Medal winning illustrator David Diaz, author-illustrator Julian Hector, National Book Award winning YA novelist Kimberly Willis Holt, publishers, editors and the agent (Emily van Beek)  who represents this year’s Caldecott Medal winning illustrator-author team.

The conference is being sponsored by St. Edwards University and InteractBooks, the iPad book publisher featured in this post.

Register online and/or download the conference information and registration packet.

"Make Your Marks; Make Your Splashes!" course“Marks and Splashes” sale ends Thursday

A 25 percent off sale for the  “Make Your Splashes; Make Your Marks” course extends through the end of day Thursday, February 10.   It’s to  draw attention to the 2011 expansion of the online course, which teaches how to draw and paint effectively for children’s book illustration.  The price for the 2011  version will be higher, but students already enrolled in the course will receive the upgraded features and benefits at no cost.

If you’re interested in enrolling at the sale price, you have about 24 hours from the date and time of this post to go to this page, click on the “enroll now” button near the bottom and enter the following coupon code in the field box on the registration form where it says, Enter coupon code:   Here’s the code ED292AF0DC

The code is good through the end of Thursday.
Current and past (online) students do not have to re-enroll.  You’re already in.

Houston SCBWI 2011 Regional Conference

“The Art of Book Craft” –  Houston SCBWI 2011 Conference slated for April

The Houston SCBWI 2011 regional conference The Art of Book Craft is set for Saturday April 9 at Merrell Center in Katy, Texas.  Get your details and registration form here.  Let me just telegraph some of the line-up of presenters:

Ruth McNally BarshawAuthor-Illustrator of the Ellie McDoodle Series
Laurent Linn, Art Director
, Simon and Schuster
Brenda Murray, Senior Editor
, Scholastic
Abby Ranger, Editor
, Disney Hyperion
Anna Webman, Agent
Curtis Brown
Kate Fletcher, Editor
, Candlewick

and more authors, agents and editors. Diandra Mae,  a friend and the illustrator -coordinator for the Houston SCBWI chapter says that Laurent Linn, the art directorfor Simon and Schuster plans to  “do a general assembly presentation as well as a ninety minute breakout session for illustrators, portfolio critiques.”

“He’ll also judge the portfolio showcase,” she adds. “We’re ironing out all the details of his sessions now, but I’ve heard he’s  a fantastic presenter!”

Is your buffalo ready for kindergarten?

Austin SCBWI illustrators enjoyed meeting Daniel Jennewein,  illustrator of Audrey Glassman Vernick’s picture book Is Your Buffalo Ready for Kindergarten (Balzer & Bray/HarperCollins) on his swing through Austin on a U.S. book tour that was scheduled to include an appearance at the SCBWI National Winter Conference in New York City.  Jennewein works as an illustrator and commercial designer in Frankfurt, Germany.  Some members of the Inklings, a picture book critique group under the Austin SCBWI took him and his wife, YA literature blogger and Texan Lenore Applehans to lunch at the Shoal Creek Saloon after Jennewein’s appearance Saturday January 22 at BookPeople. They were accompanied by several other Central Texas YA blogger friends.

Austin illustrators meet with German illustrator Daniel Jennewein

Austin, Texas SCBWI illustrators meet with German illustrator Daniel Jennewein and friends.

Left to right (top) are authors, writers and  illustrators Jeff Crosby, Shelley Ann Jackson, Daniel Jennewein, Martin and Marie Fry, Amanda Gignac (Zen Leaf), Daniel’s wife Lenore Appelhans (Presenting Lenore), (bottom) Maury Tieman, Mark Mitchell, Jenny Bragdon and Sarah Pitre ( both of Forever Young Adult)

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Richard Johnson and Ezra Weinstein, founders of InteractBooks at Tokyo Sushi. See all of the interview videos at http://YouTube.com/user/IllustrationCourse