A 24 Hour Comics Day album

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Disney bought Marvel.

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

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

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

Meghan Regis with her panels.

Meghan Regis with her panels.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Seraphine

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

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

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

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

* * * * *

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!
* * * * *
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.

* * * * *

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.

* * * * *

Read about the just announced  National Book Award finalists here.

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

* * * * *

Austin SCBWI  illustration chair

When is it OK for adults to criticize other adults? Answer: At a portfolio critique session, of course.

Members of the picture book critique group, \
Some members of “The Inklings” picture book critique group review their portfolios at a pre-conference “emergency session” at Austin’s Central Market Cafe in April.  One of many critique groups in the  Society of  Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) Austin Chapter, these “Inklings” were preparing to have their work examined by their peers and artists’ agent Christina Tugeau at the Austin SCBWI Spring Conference that Saturday. Left to right around are illustrators Martin Thomas, Diandra Schwartz, Amy Farrier, Austin SCBWI Illustration Chair Christy Stallop, Sarah Ackerley and Clint Young. 

 
Thumbs up, down or sideways?

It was the nonverbal language of the portfolio huddle. Christy Stallop, author, creator of humorous illustrations and the Austin SCBWI illustration chair initiated the Sunday morning “emergency session” review. It would be an RX for those with portfolio jitters before the regional Spring conference that was set for that Saturday.

All right, review may be too milquetoast a word for what came down at the cafe amid sleepy tables of taco breakfasters and laptop mullers. 

Thumbs up and thumbs down, of course, derived from the Romans deciding fhe fates of fallen gladiators. Thumbs sideways is Christy’s contribution to the vernacular. It means “Toss It.”  
 
“Get it out of your portfolio before it ruins everything !”

Sometimes she would say “Out” flatly while also gesturing thumbs sideways — a sort of combo-imperative.  (Christy is a very talented, “tough love” illustration chair.)

Great pointers from Christy and the group:                  

1.) Get a real portfolio at an art supply shop. It does not have to be large, but it should have pages with protective sleeves to slide your work into, like a photo album.  Never put original art in your portfolio. Only show reproductions — scans and transparencies are best. (See more on that below.)

2.)  Avoid a busy-looking portfolio with busy pages. I.e. Don’t stuff your portfolio — one piece per page is best. Then the viewer can actually see the artwork. Of course the corollary to that is the artwork you select for the page must have an impact and be unassailable. Ask yourself, “Is the piece good enough to stand on its own?”

2.)  Don’t worry too much about “rules” of portfolio presentation or format. Use your common sense.  But do find a way to present and organize your portfolio so that it makes good sense for your work. For example, have all of your art pieces lining up the same way in the album so the viewer doesn’t have to turn it this way and that way to examine pieces right side up.  

Grouping  is nice. It breaks things up in a nice way for a better read and gives the viewer a bit of a rest, too, going through. 

Christy suggested that I group my portfolio into two sections — one for color and one for black and white, with each section prefaced by a title page with some spot art (either B&W or color, suggesting what’s to follow.) 

3.) Get business cards professionally printed before an event such as an SCBWI conference. (Christy expressed this a little more emphatically  to me than that.) If you don’t have a print shop handy and you need the cards fast, try a place like Overnightprints.com They have plenty of templates on their website that you can use to hastily throw together your card — and still it won’t look like an amateur effort. Yes, you will pay to have the cards sped to your doorstep. 

4.) Yes you may include a few of your “tearsheets” or color photocopies of your published work. 
But carry some of your best original art to a print shop and have it professionally scanned there. 

If you’ve scanned your own artwork at home (make sure the resolution is nothing less than 300 dpi) bring your flashdrive or  CD to printshop to have the piece professionally reproduced.  Choose a matte rather than gloss finish. Yes, it is expensive to make these professional scans. If you must economize, use just a few as your portfolio showstoppers.

5.)  Remember you’re showing your art to editors and art directors in the children’s book industry. So consider this in your selections. Kids, animals, people — especially in action. are good. Duh.

Industrial art, however well done, should probably go.  Same with the techy-looking digital game art, graphic design, most cartoons, album covers, machinery, cars, monsters, sci-fi, architecture (real or fantasy), space ships, nudes from art classes… Thumbs sideways.

And now for something completely different:

The How To Be a Children’s Book Illustrator  blog is offering four months of free online instruction for anyone who clicks here  — and answers the survey question they see on the screen. 

Good deal, huh? The offer is only good through June.
So click now if you’re interested.
The first lesson goes out about the end of the month.