Art aloft: The ‘Golden Kite’ children’s book illustrations

It’s hard to explain the thrill of being inches away from an original watercolor by Uri Shulevitz, or Jerry Pinkney or the late Trina Schart Hyman.

"The Huntsman" from "Little Red Riding Hood"  by Trina Schart Hyman,

“The Huntsman” from “Little Red Riding Hood” by Trina Schart Hyman, 1984 Golden Kite Medal winner

You just have to be there.  The National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature (NCCIL) working with  The Society of Children’s Book Writers and  Illustrators (SCBWI) has now made that possible for  thousands of people  with a new exhibit, Golden Kite Golden Dreams that opened last Thursday at the Center in Abilene, Texas.

Located 180 miles west of Fort Worth,  the NCCIL (they pronounce their acronym nickel)  “enhances visual and verbal literacy by celebrating the best original art published in children’s literature” as their mission states.  Their previous shows have celebrated the  art of Mike Berenstain, Eric Carle, Kevin Henkes, William Joyce,  Robert Sabuda, Diane Stanley and N.C. Wyeth — to mention just a few. Golden Kite Golden Dreams, like  previous NCCIL exhibits will tour major cities around the country when its stay in the  rugged Texas hill country ends.

Richard Jesse Watson illustration
Closeup photo of “Tom Thumb is kidnapped” egg tempera painting for “Tom Thumb” by Richard Jesse Watson. 1990 Golden Kite Medal winner.

The SCBWI, which sponsors conferences, workshops and a wide variety of informational services to writers, illustrators and  others engaged with children’s publishing, awards the   Golden Kite Medals and Honors each year to the best books in four categories — fiction, nonfiction, picture book text and picture book illustration.

Golden Kite Golden Dreams pulls together original art from the winning books of the past 36 years.
Significant, I think that the first retrospective of Golden Kite Medal and Honor winners comes in the way of an art show. And this is a dazzling one:  75 pieces by 47 artists, curated by designer and children’s book illustrator (and SCBWI board member)  David Diaz.

David Diaz draws

Illustrator and SCBWI board member David Diaz draws for kids at the Abilene Public Library

Illustrator David Diaz

Here he talks to them about face proportions and facial feature relationships, while they sketch notes!

Tomie dePaola illustration

"What the Mailman Bought" illustration art by Tomie dePaola, 1988 Golden Kite Honor

Representatives from every Texas SCBWI chapter — Houston, North Central North East Texas (Fort Worth-Dallas) Austin and Southwest (San Antonio)  and Brazos Valley (College Station-Bryan) —  joined their fellow  illustrators, author-illustrators and SCBWI national board members and executive leaders for the opening  weekend activities, talks and workshops.

Illustrator Kristen Balouch

Kristen Balouch's digital illustration for the Golden Kite Honor book "The King and the Three Thieves" is featured in the exhibit. Here she makes a face.

Kristen and a young illustrator collaborate on the drawing

Larry Day illustration

Watercolor illustration by Larry Day for "Not Afraid of Dogs; Not Afraid of Dogs" -- Golden Kite Medal winner for 2007

Illustration byu Jerry Pinkney, pencil on watercolor paper for "Home Place", Golden Kite Medal Winner 1991

Richard Jessie Watson

Golden Kite Medal winning author-illustrator Richard Jesse Watson demonstrates painting in egg tempera

Fairy -- egg tempera demonstration by Richard Jesse Watson

Fairy -- egg tempera demo before the group by author-illustrator Richard Jesse Watson

Lin Oliver, executive director and Steve Mooser, president of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI)

Lin Oliver and Steve Mooser

Lin Oliver and Steve Mooser created the SCBWI in 1971. The Society now has 22,000 members in more than 100 regions around the world.

In a Saturday presentation, SCBWI founders Steve Mooser and Lin Oliver told how they literally knocked on doors of top children’s authors to round up board members — and presenters for the first SCBWI conference (in 1971.)

For the organization’s first book award  in 1974 (for Summer of My German Soldier by Bette Greene)  “We picked the kite as our organization and contest logo,”  SCBWI executive director Lin Oliver said, “because [author and SCBWI board member] Jane Yolen’s father was an expert kite flier.”

Debra Lillick, exec director of the NCCIL

Debbie Lillick and Alexandra Howle of the National Center for Children's Illustrated Literature (NCCIL) Debbie is NCCIL executive director.

as SCBWI contingent and National Illustrator Coordinator Priscilla  Burris

Illustrator, designer and SCBWI National Illustrator Coordinator Priscilla Burris huddles with the SCBWI Texas contingent. Left to right: Millie Martin, Heather Powers, Priscilla Burris, Mark Mitchell. Carol Cooke Barrayre, Allan Stacy, Jacqueline Gramann, and Liz Mertz. The statue behind them is inspired by the William Joyce's picture book Santa Calls.

Kevin Hawkes illustration

Closeup of "By the light of the Halloween Moon. The Ghost Who Trips the Ghoul" acrylic illustration by Kevin Hawkes, 1994 Golden Kite Medal winner

“One of the things we want to show is how complex an art this is,” Oliver said, speaking of of the original watercolor, gouache, tempera, acrylic , papercut and inkworks on display and children’s  book illustration generally.

“For many, children’s books are the first exposure to literature and art and philosophy and what it is to be human,” SCBWI president Steve Mooser said.

National Center for Children's Illustrated LiteratureNCCIL in Abilene, Texas

Golden Kite Golden Dreams exhibit at the National Center for Children's Illustrated Literature (NCCIL) on quiet Cedar Street in Abilene, Texas

Also in attendance were author Illustrators Pat Cummings, Diane Stanley (a native of Abilene),    Priscilla Burris (SCBWI National Illustrator Coordinator),  Richard Jesse Watson, Larry Day, and Kristen Balouch Alan Stacy and Barbara McClintock and artist, art director and VP at Penguin Young Readers Group, Cecilia Yung.

Watson, Day, Balouch, McClintock and Stacy have work featured in the exhibit.

Burris, Cummings, Diaz and Yung  serve on the International SCBWI Board of Advisers.

The NCCIL show will attract some wonderful attention to children’s book art and artists as it starts to tour the country this fall.

SCBW Scroll of Scribbles

SCBWI scroll of scribbles featuring the improvised art of Heather Powers, Priscilla Burris, Allan Stacy, David Diaz, Lin Oliver and several others.

* * * * *

Author-illustrator Mark Mitchell hosts How To Be A Children’s Book Illustrator from his drawing table in Austin, Texas.

ALA honors for Austin authors; SCBWI conferences and illustration classes for you

It’s been a landmark week for Austin children’s writers.  Three of our gang scored top honors– a Caldecott Honor, a Sibert Honor and a Newbery Honor from the American Library Association.

Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly

Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly

Our Austin, Texas  chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers (SCBWI) is a little dazed after last weekend’s 2010 award announcements.  Austin’ s Jacqueline Kelly received a Newbery Honor for her YA novel The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate about a girl growing up at the turn of the 19th century.  The  picture book poem All the World penned by Liz Garton Scanlon of Austin and illustrated by Marla Frazee was named one of the two Caldecott Honor books. (Frazee’s second Caldecott Honor.)

All the World

"All the World" by Liz Garton Scanlon, illustrated by Marla Frazee

The Day Glo Brothers by Chris Barton and illustrated by Tony Persiani

And The Day-Glo Brothers written by Chris Barton of Austin and illustrated with retro lines and Day-Glo colors by Tony Persiani won a Sibert Honor for children’s  nonfiction.  (From the ALA – “The Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Medal is awarded annually to the author(s) and illustrator(s) of the most distinguished informational book published in English during the preceding year.”)

Our SCBWI chapter claims all three of these writers and we’ll claim Frazee, too.  So that makes four.

All four,  as it just so happens  had been scheduled to present at the Austin SCBWI regional 2010 conference “Destination Publication” next weekend (January 30) with an already honors heavy lineup of authors, editors and agents. Marla  is giving the keynote address along with Newbery Honor author Kirby Larson (Hatti Big Sky)

Another Texan, Libba Bray won the Michael L. Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature for her novel Going Bovine. We’ll claim her, too — so that’s five.

The Lion and the Mouse by Jerry Pinkney - 2010 Caldecott Medal

The Caldecott Medal, the most prestigious award for children’s book illustration in the United States  went to Jerry Pinkney for his wordless telling of the Aesop’s Fable The Lion and the Mouse.

The Theodor Seuss Geisel Award for most distinguished beginning reader book went to Benny and Penny in the Big No-No!, written and illustrated by Geoffrey Hayes. We discussed Benny and Penny and other Toon Books in previous post.

Cheers and tears

Many of my Facebook buds are SCBWI  illustrators and writers. You should have seen how they were afire this week with exclamations, congratulations and jubilations over Austin’s harvest of trophies.

A number of our tribe were out of town at the Vermont College of Fine Arts for a residency semester for the MFA in writing for children and young adults. Their FB reports segued from fascinated discussions of snow and cold to tearful excitement over the ALA announcements (especially pertaining to Texas) which they followed on a streaming net feed projected on a large screen in the venerable campus lunchroom.

There are stories behind the stories as there usually are.  For example —  the 23 rejections for The Day-Glo Brothers before the manuscript was accepted by Charlesbridge then a five year wait before the  book rolled off the presses. You can read a little about its  nine year journey to publication on Chris’s blog Bartography.

Liz has her own story about coming to an impasse in her writing — until an editor’s chance comment got her riffing  again on a string of rhymes and word images, which turned into All the World.  I hope you get to hear or read her account of her process one day.  Liz and Marla will discuss their collaboration on the book at the Austin conference.

Texas Conferences

I keep hitting them here, but here are the links again.  You can download PDF information, schedules and enrollment forms. Austin SCBWI’s “Destination Publication” (January 30th) was nearly sold out, but here  you go; there might be a spot left. At last report there were still a couple of portfolio critique slots open with the wonderful illustrator, Patrice Barton. She’s the other illustrator in the day’s faculty lineup.

The Houston SCBWI conference is February 20 and will feature author Cynthia Leitich Smith, senior editors from Simon &  Schuster Books for Young Readers and Scholastic Inc.  and the art director for Henry Holt Books for Young Readers, Patrick Collins, who will review portfolios.  Collins also will teach a special breakout workshop for illustrators on “Making a Picture Book Dummy” during the day.  It’s an opportunity  not to miss.

Let’s take a break…

And see this fun video that’s remarkable for its characterizations and dialogue.  Animator  Caroline Ting overheard the two boys talking in a comic book store and used them as the voice actors for her little film she titled RAM (Random Access Memory) about…well,  an addiction peculiar to the 21st century (and I’m not talking about Farmville. ) I recognized  myself in it and you might, too.

Animals in the classroom?

For anyone living in the heart of Texas I’ll be teaching spring semester classes in children’s book illustration beginning next week at the Art School of the Austin Museum of Art .  The  six week  “Level 1” class begins next Wednesday evening 6 to 9 p.m.  January 27 — and runs through March 10 (with no class February 17. )

Level II is set for Tuesday evenings 6 to 9 p.m. March 23 – April 20 (five sessions.)  To register or if you have any questions contact the Art School at (512) 323-6380 or go to the website: www.amoa.org/artschool

If you want to take a course but live nowhere near Central Texas,  remember you have an online home-study option,  Make Your Splashes; Make Your Marks! Drawing and Painting for Children’s Book Illustration

Childrens Book Illustration class at the AMOA Art School at Laguna Gloria

Austin Museum of Art Art School at the Laguna Gloria campus, Children’s Book Illustration fall semester 2009.  Left to righ: Anney Rehm, Paula Engelhardt, Laura Smith, Naomi Smith, Halli Hollister, and April Richardson and some guinea pig friends.

Author-illustrator Mark Mitchell hosts this blog.  He teaches children’s book illustration at the Art School at the Austin Museum of Art and through the “Make Your Splashes; Make Your Marks!” online course.