Conference debrief

More than 200 children’s book writers and illustrators (aspiring and professional) converged on a little Unitarian church just north of Austin for the 2010 Destination Publication SCBWI conference January 30.

Poet Liz Garton Scanlon and Illustrator Marla Frazee

Poet Liz Garton Scanlon and Illustrator Marla Frazee talk about their many months of collaboration with each other and Beach Lane Books V.P. and publisher Allyn Johnston who was their editor.

Guests and speakers arrived from Texas and everywhere for a day of inspiring presentations and professional critiques of manuscripts and portfolios.

“The most expensive people — all  those who were trained by the great editors Ursula Nordstrom and Margaret McElderry are gone,” agent and former editor Mark McVeigh said in his rivetting keynote,  “Defending Your Muse.”

Still children’s publishing is  “not an industry in ruins, but in transition,” he continued.  He spoke about the emerging digital media and mobile media (Kindle, iPhone, etc.) marketplace.  But he kept returning to the sovereignty of language, individual creativity — and the Emily Dickinson poem he keeps in his wallet.  You can read  Mark’s recapping of his time with us in Austin and see the full text of the Dickinson poem  on his agency blog .

Later in the day  Curtis Brown agent Nathan Bransford elicited a gasp or two with his comment that he sees 15,000 to 20,000 submissions a year and might take  four to five clients per year from that pile. Yet his presentation hit inspiring notes.  He refers to the Austin conference in his publishing news packed- blog.

Liz reads one of Marla's e-mails

Liz reads one of Marla's e-mails

“Designing the ‘page-turns‘ is the most important thing,” asserted two-time Caldecott Honor illustrator Marla Frazee in an extraordinary presentation on the the picture book creation process.

“Use the page turn in the narrative when you want the mood to shift and your images to really stand out,”  she continued.

“Save diagonals for the most dramatic parts of your story. They’re like exclamation marks!”

Marla demonstrated how she filled the imagery for  All the World (2010 Caldecott Honor book penned by Austin poet Liz Garton Scanlon) with imagery from her own life  — landscapes of the central California coast,  her grandfather,  a favorite cafe — even the outdoor chairs and tables from the student union of her alma mater — props, settings and people that mattered a great deal for her.

A wonderful interview by Julie Danielson in her blog Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast will give you a sense of the presentation by Marla and Liz and contains much of the same imagery.

In a special breakout session with the illustrators Marla discussed the artist’s voice, characterization and setting as the  foundation for illustrating books for children.

“I’ll start with a sketch trying to get to know the character. It’s about digging into the character.”It doesn’t have to be complicated. If you can get the reader to feel the emotion your character is feeling,  you’ve won most of the battle.”

As for setting,  details are important. “It should feel like you’re opening up a world.

“It’s really a matter of putting the time in.”

Marla-and-cafe-scene

Poet Liz Garton Scanlon watches illustrator Marla Frazee discuss the cafe scene in the 2010 Caldecott Honor Book "All the World"

spread from "All the World"

spread from "All the World"

Frances Yansky's portfolio in the illustrators' portfolio display room.

Marla-and-lunchroom

Marla Frazee (bottom left) visits with attendees at the conference breakfast

While the illustrators soaked up Marla’s words and instructive  slides,  writers were treated to presentations by Newbery Honor author Kirby Larson, agent Andrea Cascardi (Transatlantic Literary Agency) ,  Editors  Cheryl  Klein (Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic) and  Stacy Cantor (Bloomsbury, USA), writer and former Farrar, Straus and Giroux editor Lisa Graf, and author Sara Lewis Holmes.

Attendees also heard from our own power gang of authors Liz Garton Scanlon, Sibert Honor author Chris BartonNewbery Honor author Jacqueline Kelly and Shana BurgPhilip Yates, Jennifer Ziegler, Jessica Lee Anderson and P.J. Hoover and power illustrator Patrice Barton in a fun panel discussion moderated by author Julie Lake (a former regional advisor of Austin SCBWI)

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Long time Austin SCBWI illustration chair Christy Stallop

Longtime Austin SCBWI illustration chair Christy Stallop.

Illustrator and writer Erik Kuntz

Illustrator and writer Erik Kuntz shows illustrator pals a picture from his book " A Dog a Day"

Conference illustrators' hangout

Illustrators had their own portable building to hang out in. Left to right around the circle starting with Christy Stallop are Amy Farrier, Clint Young, Mike Benny, Don Tate, Kim Edge, Jamie Adams, Erik Kuntz and Diandra Mae

Here’s an Austin SCBWI round-up (so far) of blogposts on the conference:

Marla Frazee shows an early storyboard for "All the World"

Marla Frazee shows an early storyboard for "All the World"

Audrey and Amy Farrier

Audrey and Amy Farrier

Rumor has it there was a national SCBWI conference in New York City that same weekend.

OKAY,  it wasn’t a rumor.  It was the giant Winter Conference. Here’s the SCBWI team blog coverage of that major annual event that somehow messed up and booked the same date as ours.

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Author-illustrator Mark Mitchell hosts this blog and teaches the  self paced course  Make Your Splashes; Make Your Marks! Drawing and Painting for Children’s Book Illustration.

Newbery Honor author Kirby Larson and Mark Mitchell

Newbery Honor author Kirby Larson and author-illustrator Mark Mitchell

Success panel

In the line up photo of the panel, Regional adviser Tim Crow is introducing the panel and left to right are Jessica Lee Anderson, Chris Barton, Patrice Barton, Shana Burg, Julie Lake, Jacqueline Kelly, P.J. Hoover, Liz Garton Scanlon, Philip Yates and Jennifer Ziegler.

In the line up photo of the panel, Regional advisor Tim Crow is introducing the panel and left to right are Jessica Lee Anderson, Chris Barton, Patrice Barton, Shana Burg, Julie Lake, Jacqueline Kelly, P.J. Hoover, Liz Garton Scanlon, Philip Yates and Jennifer Ziegler.

Scene by Marla Frazee from "All the World"

Scene by Marla Frazee from "All the World"

Illustrators decorated mirror frames for the silent auction.

Illustrators decorated mirror frames for the silent auction. Assemblage photo by Christy Stallop

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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.

Should you advertise in an illustration directory?

For some children’s book artists this interview might be a little hard to hear and to bear.  For others it could offer new hope.

Jo Ann Miller of Serbin Communications’ Directory of Illustration suggests that illustrators think a little bit outside the book.

Jo Ann Miller of Sebin Communications' Directory of Illustration
Jo Ann Miller of Sebin Communications’ Directory of Illustration greets a Transformer at this year’s San Diego Comic Con

You’ve seen artists’ directories —  glossy annuals combined with online portfolio galleries where artists or their reps buy display ads. The Directory of Illustration is the dreadnought battleship of illustration directories, aiming its marketing guns at the entire waterfront of graphic arts, not just children’s publishing. That means children’s products,  fashion and cosmetics merchandising, corporate promotions, retail advertising, medical illustration, the animation industry and even landscape design — to name a few.

With the Toy Industry Association as a partner, the Santa Barbara, Ca. based publisher also produces Play! “Illustration for Toys and Interactive Games — a website for hiring toy and interactive game artists.
Best of Photography Annual, the Medical Illustration Sourcebook and Designer Jewelry Showcase are some other annuals from Serbin Communications.

The Directory of Illustration is going on its 27th year. It’s not cheap being in a dominant industry directory . $2,500-$2,600 gets you a full page with 30 portfolio images. Artists re-up year after year, sometimes sharing pages with others who have the same art rep or agent.  Program benefits include, hardcopy distribution to 20,000 illustration buyers and art directors, national online advertising, free website design and cross promotion with Contact, a leading talent directory in the UK and Europe.

If you’re like me and many freelancers who keep a death grip on their wallets,  you might question spending the equivalent of a small book advance every 12 months to participate in a showcase with a few hundred of your keenest competitors.

Why do it when you can upload  images for free to your Flickr page, WordPress.com  blog,  SCBWI portfolio,  or favorite art web ring. Or mail out your own printed Christmas postcards to the small ranks of active children’s book editors?

You can do it to  reach markets for your art that you might never have thought of,  says Jo Ann.
So lets let her talk us through some of this.

What does the “Directory of Illustration” offer artists who have their hearts set on illustrating children’s books?

I love children’s book illustration and I work with many children’s book illustrators in the directory, but they also do other things.

The children’s publishing market can pay very well but advertising and design generally pays better. The market for children’s book art ebbs and flows.  The in-between target group — ages 12 – 15 (particularly girls)  — based on what iour clients tell me, happens to be very active.
So the first question I always ask illustrators is,  ‘Who is your target audience? What is your age group?’

Illustration by Lisa Falkenstern
Illustration by Lisa Falkenstern

New York illustrator Lisa Falkenstern generally works in oils, but also in egg tempera, acrylic, and digitally. Here’s her directory portfolio page. After 20 years as a professional illustrator,she’s just finished illustrations for The Busy Tree, by Jennifer Ward for ages 5-8, published by Marshall Cavendish.  She’s also written and illustrated her own children’s work that is currently in production.  Treat yourself to a look at her magical website.

Is that what you told aspiring illustrators in the Portland chapter of  SCBWI, when you were invited to speak to them recently?

We discussed how the art buyer looks at the target audience and the age group within that target audience, and things like color — the palette. Right now purple and magenta colors dominate in advertising, so  illustrators showing a lot of purple in their portfolios are getting looks.

I can remember a few years ago when the Razor Skooter first appeared in stores — if an illustrator had a child on a razor scooter, he was appealing to art buyers who were looking to market to that age group.

When Starbucks was ready to launch its franchises around the country every illustrator who had an image of a coffee cup on his page in our directory was getting calls.

So you’re saying it comes down to the marketplace.

Yes. So if you understand how to tell a story and emotionally connect with people in the pages of  Scholastic magazine or a picture book —  can you make the attitude shift to collaborate with an art buyer or a designer to put together a product or package?

If you can, if you can interpolate the needs of the art buyers and you’re  not afraid of taking art direction or design direction, you’ll strengthen your repertoire and make a little more money.

Your children’s illustration on a children’s clothing hang tag.

Tom Kerr illustration
Tom Kerr illustration – a mother bunny

Tom Kerr,  a directory artist based in Omaha works in acrylic, colored pencil, watercolor. pen and ink and digital media. Here’s his directory portfolio page. His light humorous  style has found its way into newspaper editorial cartoons,  magazines, animation characters and 25 books, the most recent being “Math Wizardry for Kids” by Margaret Kenda and Phyllis S. Williams (Barron’s Publishing.)

New meadows to graze

So your message to artists is,  try to expand into different venues?

Over the years I’ve seen illustrators getting their names in editorial publications because they were doing storytelling art for merchandise packaging. I’ve seen it work the other way, too  — illustrators’ success grow from the editorial audience to the design audience.  That’s  because the same age group that buys a book will buy the game, the cereal, the clothing and the McDonald’s happy meal set with the character toy and all the packaging.

The art buyer looks at the children’s market as being intertwined with comic books, graphic novels, sci fi market and merchandising and advertising. I  don’t think illustrators are always thought of as having a style.  They’re thought of in terms of solving a problem.

You put an image on a book to sell the book…the magazines…
the product… the ad campaign.

So it’s not just storytelling, but it’s also selling a product.

If  you can show the skill set beyond storytelling, you broaden your appeal to the ad agencies and design shows. That means if you can illustrate a story, but you also have certain digital skills, some animation or flash, or modeling and 3-D skills, you’ll often be considered for a variety of products.

Is there a  place in this commercially driven universe for the traditional illustration, rendered with real paint on real paper?

Digital art  seems to get more attention than traditional art. It’s very popular for packaging and creating characters.  It’s used to communicate just about anything. Digital artists get a lot of people looking in their portfolios.

But there are always people — right now especially — looking for that nostalgic, hands on feel in the art. Watercolor, draftsmanship, the simple pen and ink line have a more important place than they had three years ago.  Everybody’s been touched by someone who’s lost a job. People are going through a tough time. They want an emotional comfort level. That means  images that strike an emotional, warm and fuzzy feeling, that appear hand-made rather than in your face and MTV-like.

Would you want your child, your three year old exposed only to  that hard edged computer or  Disney- look?

No!

There’s always a  need  for the humaneness  in visual images particularly  in an economy that’s struggling. And it’s often found in pictures done in the very traditional mediums like watercolor and  pencil. I think artists of that old school style have shied away from promoting themselves.
When they should be embracing opportunities to showcase their art.

So we have artists in the directory like John Parra whose fine art/folk art traditional style finds outlets in  many kinds of publications — including children’s books.

Gracias Thanks by Pat Mora with Illustrations by John Parra

Gracias Thanks by Pat Mora with illustrations by John Parra
who works in acrylic, oils and digitally. See his website.

How to tout one’s own horn in the arts?

In her own life Jo Ann ran up against this vexing question.
At age 18 she became a national dance champion (having studied dance since the age of 5).
She won the title of Miss Dance of America, which led to an invitation to enter the Miss America Pageant, where she tied for 11th place.

At 19, she won Miss New York  State. She entered the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City with her scholarship from the pageant.  “I wanted to dance but I never knew how to promote myself except to audition,” she says. “My father wanted to help.  He was an engineer. He put together a business card for me that said ‘dancer, beauty pageant winner.'”

After college studies in marketing she worked as a Ford Model in New York City.  But an injury while filming a TV commercial forced a career shift — she launched a public relations firm on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, California.
Her client base came to include Vanessa Williams and President Ronald Reagan.

Over the last 17 years  Jo Ann has worked matching illustrators and  designers with buyers and art directors, first with  the now gone artists directory American Showcase, then Serbin Commuinications and The Directory of Illustration.

Tom Kerr illustration

Page illustration by Tom Kerr

Page illustration by Tom Kerr from the Directory of Illustration

Jo Ann, is it true that the Directory of Illustration is not  for everyone?

Not every children’s book illustrator will be right for the Directory of Illustration.
Not all illustrators have the ‘want to’ or the ability to understand the buyer’s needs.

And if the illustrator doesn’t get it and  he’s not seasoned enough to deal with a call like that then it’s embarrassing for us.  Our job is trying to  match qualified art buyers with qualified illustrators. If they don’t match, we’re not doing our job.

If the illustrator is too amateurish or hasn’t developed his  ‘voice,’  he’s not ready for our program.
We don’t want artists spending money for a program they’re not ready for.

We’re not the vehicle to ‘break in’ with.

I’ve turned so many people away, but with generous insight. Part of the consulting I’m doing is guiding these artists. Most want honest feedback, some idea of how they fit into the industry.

If someone wants a discussion prior to investing in the directory or any kind of marketing  program — I can consult with that person and help them out a lot.  When I work with an illustrator, I make recommendations depending on the artist, trends and many criteria. I don’t tell someone what to do. I guide them, and send them back to the drawing board again and again.

She offers one on one consultations  — usually  in the summer months.
Illustrators are welcome to contact her by e-mail at:  joannmiller@serbin.com
She recommends that they send a short introduction and an image or two ( jpgs or a site link.) And she encourages all artists to check out the Directory of Illustration website .  “There’s a lot to be seen there,” she says.

Painting by Lisa Falkenstern
Painting by Directory of Illustration artist Lisa Falkenstern

Don’t forget two big Texas conferences!

Austin SCBWI comes first with Destination Publication set for Saturday, January 30, 2010.
The one day event features  a Caldecott Honor Illustrator (Marla Frazee) and Newberry Honor author Kirby Larson. The lineup also includes the wonderful  illustrator Patrice Barton doing portfolio reviews, Mark McVeigh an agent who represents authors, illustrators and graphic novel creators for the adult and children’s markets, and editors Cheryl Klein, Lisa Graff and Stacy Cantor (who did work on all of the Harry Potter books!)
Read more about everyone here. Get the the registration form here.  Hurry, the event and only a few portfolio
review sessions are left.

Houston SCBWI has set its conference for Saturday, February 20, 2010.  Headliners include  acclaimed author of short stories, funny picture books, Native American fiction, and YA Gothic fantasies, Cynthia Leitich Smith, Creative director at Henry Holt Books for Young Readers Patrick Collins and editors  Ruta Rimas, Alexandra Cooper and Lisa Ann Sandell.  Download their bios, conference info and a registration form here.

P is for Pinata
P is for Pinata
by Tony Johnston and illustrated by John Parra,
courtesy John Parra and The Directory of Illustration.

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Check out the great drawing instructional videos by Matthew Archambault at Drawing-Tutorials-Online.com

Mark Mitchell teaches children’s book illustration at the Austin Museum of Art Art School and online The next semester of classes begins at the school’s Laguna Gloria campus next month, with Children’s Book Illustration I, January 27 – March 10, 6-9 p.m.

Children’s Book Illustration II March 23  — April 20,  6-9 p.m.

Mark teaches an online course on drawing and painting for illustration “Make Your Splashes; Make Your Marks!” that is self-paced and starts whenever you’re ready. Learn more here.

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Have you drawn an animal today?

Knowing as we do that drawing children, people and  animals is the stock in trade of the children’s book illustrator, let’s draw a difficult animal subject today.

We’ve brought in guest instructor Jon Gnagy to help walk us through it.

Gnagy was the best drawing teacher (maybe the only drawing teacher?)  on television.  He taught Andy Warhol and millions of other American kids to draw during the 1950’s.

I can’t say that he taught me exactly, though maybe he did, but he was a little advanced.  I was all of three years old when my mother (a painter) and I would watch his show together.

But I think he planted lots of seeds and questions in my unconscious. I remember even at that tender age being flabbergasted by his demos. “How does he know  this stuff?” I remember asking myself.  I still wonder about that.

‘Old School’ drawing doesn’t seem to go out of style.  It doesn’t matter if it’s in a courthouse mural by Thomas Hart Benton or a children’s book illustration by Marla Frazee or Tasha Tudor or Robert McCloskey. It just always stays cool. Ask any kid.

The graphic images Marla Frazee renders with such assurance resemble the classic book illustrations of — well, the Jon Gnagy days, the 1950s. They don’t feel  ‘dated’ because they bring us kids, people, animals and landscapes that kids (and the kid in us) can relate to. These subjects when rendered capably seem only to accrue in value.

For a better look at Marla’s work, here’s an animated trailer for All the World,  a picture book illustrated by Frazee and penned by poet Liz Garton Scanlon.

Liz Garton Scanlon

Liz Garton Scanlon addresses the Austin chapter of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) on a packed second floor of Austin's famous independently owned bookstore, BookPeople.

Yes, I know that both of them and the book and Jon Gnagy, too have been on this blog before. (Good subjects deserve repeated mentions. )

Scanlon and Frazee are scheduled to talk about their work together at the Austin SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) annual conference Destination Publication on Saturday Saturday, January 30, 2010.  Caldecott Honor artist Frazee will deliver the keynote for illustrators  and also reviewportfolios, as will talented  illustrator Patrice Barton.

Find the full conference  lowdown and registration form here.

Henry Holt Books for Young Readers Creative Director Patrick Collins will review portfolios a month later  at the Houston SCBWI  conference.

Mark your calendars for  Saturday, February 20, 2010 and download information and a registration form for the Houston conference  here.

Liz Garton Scanlon
Liz Garton Scanlon speaks on intuition at the November 7 meeting of Austin SCBWI.
Liz Garton Scanlon
An editor told Liz that she had “an eye for observation and an ear for rhyme.”
So she focused on these strengths to produce her picture book poem All the World that is now garnering great reviews and making all the right 2009 book lists, including most recently a Parents’ Choice Gold Medal.
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Author-illustrator Mark Mitchell hosts this blog. Mark 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.


ck Collins of

Art and Letters

So many colleagues from the Austin children’s and YA writing community spoke on panels and signed their new books at the 2009 Texas Book Festival this past weekend.  I always enjoy this 2.5 day party on the state capitol grounds.  But I could not go this time because I was on an illustration deadline.

So Saturday afternoon while looking for music on You Tube to ink my drawings by,  I stumbled upon “Foreign Letters” by Israeli singer, composer-arranger Chava Alberstein.  Here’s her performance at a Berlin concert with the Klezmatics.  (You have to click on the “Watch on You Tube”  link.  It’s  worth it.  She’s a spellbinder.)

“Oh, how beautiful. I love foreign letters,” she sings. “They are like drawings. They are like secret signs from magic places, from different worlds.”

Alberstein’s music is typically ravishing.  For her though, it’s about words and language.  She says so herself in songs and interviews.

Chava’s song and the book festival happening downtown got me thinking about the graphic statement of the written word —  of how text =  images and the  alphabets of the world derive from pictures.

On Monday I was reading  a new blogpost by comics creator and teacher Scott McCloud discussing the presentation of text in graphic novels. McCloud linked to an interview with Todd Klein, the graphic artist who did the lettering for Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman series, which required Klein to invent a different font for each character! You can read the interview here.

I thought of children’s author Charles Ghigna, aka Father Goose who posts a new poem on his blog each week full of word pictures for “teachers, librarians, parents friends …and kids.

I found myself reaching for Liz Garton Scanlon‘s resonant new picture book All the World with illustrations by Marla Frazee that happened to be lying by my computer.  Publishers Weekly has just named it to its list of  Best Children’s Books of 2009.

9781416985808

"All the World" by Liz Garton Scanlon and Marla Frazee

Yes — it was as I remembered!
Her poem text was rendered in
pencil.

Or else set in one very
cleverly executed font.

I contacted Liz to find out which.
She’s one of the leading lights in our Austin SCBWI chapter.

Did Marla Frazee hand letter the text?
I asked her.

“Yep,” she replied.

One more celebration of letters on the page!

“…Letters that are the beginning of everything good and bad in this world. With letters you can create anything you want. You can create disasters.  And you can create hopes and dreams — good dreams.” — Chava Alberstein

Two other authors from the  Austin SCBWI gang have books on PW‘s list of best children’s books of the year.  The Day-Glo Brothers: The True Story of Bob and Joe Switzer’s Bright Ideas and Brand-New Colors by Chris Barton, illus. by Tony Persiani (Charlesbridge) and The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate, by Jacqueline Kelly (Holt.)

This just in: The New York Times releases its “Best Illustrated Children’s Books of 2009” list tomorrow (Saturday, November 7. ) Yes, you’ve already guessed it:  All the World, by Liz Garton Scanlon with illustrations by Marla Frazee  made the list (and it’s a pretty short list.)

Have your portfolio reviewed by Caldecott Honor illustrator Marla Frazee or the wonderfully talented Patrice Barton at the Austin SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) annual conference Destination Publication on Saturday Saturday, January 30, 2010. Find the full lowdown and registration form here

And have it reviewed a month later by Patrick Collins, Creative Director of Henry Holt Books for Young Readers  at the Houston SCBWI  conference Saturday, February 20, 2010. Download information and a registration form  here.

Mark Mitchell, who wrote this post,  teaches children’s book illustration at the Art School at the Austin Museum of Art and online. You can learn about his online course here and receive some free drawing videos and a lesson.

example of Glagolitic alphabet

The Glagolitic Alphabet in action: Codex Zographensis from Medieval Bulgaria

One Illustration Reverie; Two Real Deals

What does this short animated clip have to do with John Singer Sargent or children’s book illustration?

A quoi ca sert l’amour,  a short animation by Louis Clichy, with thanks to illustrator  and animation/game artist Amanda Williams for finding this.  She called  it “brutal and adorable.”

If a child-friendly story had illustrations with these lines — and visual characters as memorable as these  and color the way John Singer Sargent used it in his painted scenes, it would be some picture book, right?

I’m assembling a fantasy football — I mean  illustration project  — team here.

So, starting with the cartoon:  What makes these stick figures tug at your emotions as they do?

The honesty of the emotions depicted?

The “simple” (oh-so-sophisticated) graphics with their varied perspectives and 360 degree “camera revolutions”?

All the fast cutting and the surprise transitions?

The song?  Edith Piaf’s and Theo Sarapo’s singing?

The subject?

Could some of this aplomb be translated into picture book illustrations?

OK,  so let’s add some color and texture.  John Singer Sargent had a knack  for such things. Thanks to Chicago based painter Raymond Thornton for finding this.

I know.  Sargent is the painter who gives all other painters inferiority complexes.  We don’t know a lot about how he made his palette choices. (We know that he looked carefully.)

So enough with dream teaming. We’ve got some news today.

Two power chapters of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) have announced their 2010 pow-wows — both set for early next year.

It’s Time to Mingle in Texas

State Capitol in Austin, Texas

State Capitol in Austin, Texas

Awesome Austin

Austin SCBWI comes first with Destination Publication featuring  a Caldeecott Honor Illustrator and Newberry Honor Author, along with agents, editors, more authors, another fab illustrator, critiques, portfolio reviews and parties.

Mark the date — Saturday, January 30, 2010,  8:00 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.  Get the full lowdown and the registration form here. Send in your form pronto if you’re interested — more than 100 people have already signed up. Manuscript crtiques are already sold out. But a few portfolio reviews are still open at this writing!

Destination Publication features Kirby Larson, author of the 2007 Newbery Honor Book, Hattie Big Sky and Marla Frazee, author-illustrator of A Couple of Boys Have the Best Week Ever, which received a Caldecott Honor Award, and more recently All the World penned (all 200 words of it) by Austin’s own children’s author/poet Liz Garton Scanlon.

Frazee teaches children’s book illustration at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, CA.  She and Scanlon will talk about their collaboration on All the Worldt. You can read each of their stories  Behind The Book at a Simon & Schuster webpage here.

"All the World" by Liz Garton Scanlon and Marla Frazee

"All the World" by Liz Garton Scanlon and Marla Frazee

The  one-day faculty also includes:

Cheryl Klein, senior editor at Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic.

Lisa Graff, Associate Editor at Farrar, Straus and Giroux Books for Young Readers.

Stacy Cantor, Editor, Bloomsbury USA/Walker  Books For Young Readers.

Andrea Cascardi agent with Transatlantic Literary Agency (and a former editor.)

Mark McVeigh another former editor who represents writers, illustrators, photographers and graphic novelists for both the adult and children’s markets.

Nathan Bransford, agent.

The conference  will also showcase authors  Sara Lewis Holmes, Shana Burg, P. J. Hoover, Jessica Lee Anderson, Chris Barton, Jacqueline Kelly, Jennifer Ziegler, Philip Yates and illustrator Patrice Barton.

Read more about everyone here.

Happenin’ Houston

Houston SCBWI has announced a still developing  lineup for its conference just three weeks after Austin’s:   Saturday, February 20, 2010.  Registration has just opened.

Headliners here:

Cynthia Leitich Smith, acclaimed author of short stories, funny picture books, Native American fiction, and YA Gothic fantasies. Faculty member, Vermont College of Fine Arts.

Ruta Rimas, assistant editor Balzer & Bray/HarperCollin.

Rosa

Rosa

Patrick Collins, creative director at Henry Holt Books for Young Readers. Collins art directs and designs picture books, young adult novels and middle grade fiction (Baby Bear, Baby Bear, What Do You See?, Old Penn Station and Rosa, a Caldecott Honor book.)

Also featured: Alexandra Cooper,  senior editor at Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, Lisa Ann Sandell,  senior editor at Scholastic Inc., and Sara Crowe, a New York agent with Harvey Klinger, Inc.

Download their bios, more Houston conference info and a registration form from this page. No, you don’t have to be Texan to register for either of these “big as Texas” events.

Mark Mitchell teaches children’s book illustration at the Austin Museum of Art Art School — and online. Learn the best drawing secret free here.

Illustrators and the conference

Massive, and I do mean massive blog coverage of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) National Conference in Los Angeles at  The Official SCBWI Conference Blog.

The team-blogging effort was led by Alice Pope, who edits the Children’s Writers and Illustrators Market, the annually updated directory published by Writer’s Digest Books.

I also recommend Diandra Mae’s blog Taking Flight for her attentive,  fun  coverage of her experience as an attendee of the four days of panels, workshops, talks and socials .

Before we  get into the blogs,  though, here’s a clip of the great picture book artist and creator Tomie dePaolo being interviewed by SCBW National Executive Director Lin Oliver about the “art of the picture book.”  No, the video’ was not part of the conference but part of an SCBWI “Master Class.” But these are two personalities who loom large over the org.

If you’ve not yet heard of SCBWI or know much about it, here’s an interview from the SCBWI website where Executive Director (and prolific children’s author and producer of movies based on children’s books) Lin Oliver does a good job of speaking for the now global organization.

D’s a talented illustrator in the Houston area — a former 7th grade teacher now active with the  Houston chapter of SCBWI .  Her posts put you in the shoes of someone packing her bags and heading out to Los Angeles for the big event.

She catches many good quotes and observations in her blog  Taking Flight, like David Weisner’s remark in an illustrators’  Q&A:

“…He did mention that with all of these portfolios he is asked to view at art schools around the country, he’s noticed that there is a serious lack of drawing ability that often hinders brilliant and wonderful ideas. ‘Take a figure drawing class for goodness’ sakes!’ He reminds us that this ”is not about making precious drawings, it’s about learning the craft’ because ‘observational drawings are at the heart of everything we do.’ ”

I  enjoyed reading what she says about the first ever Illustrators’ Social at the national conference. D writes,“What a wonderful concept! Cecilia Yung, David Diaz, Priscilla Burris were there to facilitate the chaos of portfolio sharing, card swapping and chatting. They talked a little about how we illustrators were only 15% of the attendees, and we needed to band together for support.”

So here are her reports:  Day One , Day Two , Day Three,
Day Four
. Thank you, Diandra Mae  for some wonderful reporting.

The SCBWI LA Conference team blog includes the  Golden Kite Awards/2009 Conference Portfolio Awards along with art from the winners of the SCBWI New York Portfolio Exhibition and the Tomie dePaola Award.

Alice Pope on her own Children’s Writers and Illustrators Market blog (on August 12) includes  a transcript of her own tweets throughout the four days. They’re entertaining  even if you’re not familiar with all of the authors’ and editors’ names.

You can read all tweets from all persons who tweeted in real time on  the event at this Twitter site. (Or you can pull them up on your own twitter page by searching for:  #scbwi09.)  The tweets are nano-quotes from the artist/writer/editors/ agent panels and talks,  breadcrumb trails of “kid publishing” thought.

Team blog carries reportage on talks by the wonderful (Caldecott Honor) illustrator Marla Frazee, Dan Yaccarino,  Scholastic Executive Art Director Elizabeth Parisi (on book dummies), Golden Kite Award winner for illustration (for Last Night,  Farrar, Straus and Giroux) Hyewon Yum — and more from David Weisner, like how, for those  lily pad piloting frogs of  his Caldecott Medal winning-Tuesday,  he found frog skeletons to study.

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