Illustrators, how do your stories grow?

Illustrators, writers, quite inspired, how do your stories grow? was the theme for the 2012 regional conference of the Houston Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) back in March. The weekend featured a most inspired and prolific storyteller-artist Dan Yaccarino along with editors, agents and one art director, Susan Sherman of Charlesbridge Publishing.

By Daniel Miyares for "Bambino and Mr. Twain" by P.I. Maltbie (Charlesbridge Publishing)

Front matter art by Daniel Miyares for “Bambino and Mr. Twain” by P.I. Maltbie (Charlesbridge Publishing)

Jennifer Rofe, literary agent with the Andrea Brown Literary Agency discussed The “So What?” Factor. Susan Sherman showed Pictures That Make the Words Work and Dial Books for Young Readers editor Heather Alexander walked the crowd through a document used by the department heads at Penguin’s Young Readers Group to evaluate if a dummy/manuscript is a go or no go in The Hard Sell: How Publishers Sell Your Manuscript In-house and Out. This all before lunch.

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Editors Jenne Abramowitz of Scholastic, Connie Hsu of Little, Brown Books for Young Readers  kept us awake all afternoon in their talks on writing and and book concepts. Kathleen Ortiz discussed author web sites.

For illustrators, this bracing counsel from Dan Yaccarino in his answer to a question from the assembly (and I’m paraphrasing): Don’t spend your time working for small presses or author self-published projects. Aim for the big houses, the major trade book assignments, the important work. ASAP.

Faculty for the Houston SCBWI regional conference 2012 art director Susan Sherman, agent, Kathleen Ortiz, editor Jenne Abramowitz, author-illustrator Dan Yaccarino, editors Heather Alexander and Connie Hsu, and agent Jennifer Rofé. Photo by Marianne Dyson, Houston SCBWI

Faculty for the Houston SCBWI regional conference 2012 art director Susan Sherman, agent, Kathleen Ortiz, editor Jenne Abramowitz, author-illustrator Dan Yaccarino, editors Heather Alexander and Connie Hsu, and agent Jennifer Rofé. Photo by Marianne Dyson, Houston SCBWI

InteractBooks contest winners created six new children’s books for the iPad

Congratulations to author Gwen Christie and illustrator Paul Wrangles of England for winning the 2012 Winter InteractBooks competition with their interactive digital book The Champion Hare. 

First Place winner of the InteractBooks Winter interactive digital book-building contest, "The Champion Hare" by Gwen Christie and (illustrator) Paul Wrangles of England.

First Place winner of the InteractBooks Winter interactive digital book-building contest, “The Champion Hare” by Gwen Christie and (illustrator) Paul Wrangles.

CEO Ezra Weinstein announced the first place through fifth place winners (there was a tie for third place) for the winter contest in a live webinar broadcast.

See the recording with news about the 2012 spring contest and an upcoming class series on building interactive books for electronic tablets, using the new 3.0 InteractBuilder software.

Check out the covers of all the winning books on the InteractBook Facebook page.

Behold the “e-Future”

A couple of years ago editor and publisher  Stephen Roxburgh put his thoughts together on the “e-Future”  — for a talk he was to give at the Austin SCBWI regional conference.

He’s updated it since then and in April Horn Book magazine featured his essay that offers a remarkable snapshot of the publishing industry at the crossroads.

If the topic of e-books interests you, you’re in for a great read.

Author-illustrator Peter Sis

Author-illustrator Peter Sis

Sis named 2012 Hans Christian Andersen book artist

In this interview by Takoma Park. Maryland librarian Karen McPherson, distributed by  the Scripps Howard News Service, Peter Sis, the winner of this year’s Hans Christian Andersen Illustrator Awardtalks about three phone calls that changed his life.

One was a collect call from Maurice Sendak who urged him to move to New York if he wanted a serious career as a children’s book author-illustrator. (Sis took his advice.)

A call from editor Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis at Doubleday led him to writing and illustrating a book about growing up in his native Czechoslovakia.

From the McPherson interview: “Sis remembers that, in communist Czechoslovakia, ‘we couldn’t talk openly… We all started to think and talk in different layers — protective layers,’ he said. Those “layers” became second nature to Sis, whose books and other artwork now are noted for their stratums of design and meaning.”

The third call came from the MacArthur Foundation to inform him that he’d been selected to receive one of the foundation’s “genius grants.”

Sis, who once made an animated films and later illustrated for the New York Times,  mentioned the three life-changing calls in his acceptance speech for the award.

The Hans Christian Andersen Awards were announced by the International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY) at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair in March. You can learn more about the awards and this year’s other winners here. You might also enjoy this short audio in which Peter Sis tells interviewer Susan Viebrock how growing up in a communist state has informed his books, themes and artwork. You can listen to the audio here.

Sizing up Sendak

As news of Maurice Sendak’s passing settles down it might be time to reflect a little on his scruffy, straightforward, exquisite cartoon art and what it’s meant to two generations. Here are some resources to consider.

Maurice Sendak, widely considered the most important children’s book artist of the 20th century, who wrenched the picture book out of the safe, sanitized world of the nursery and plunged it into the dark, terrifying and hauntingly beautiful recesses of the human psyche, died on Tuesday in Danbury, Conn. He was 83… ” the obituary leads off.

Nutshell Library by Maurice Sendak with "Pierre" featured on the cover

“…Roundly praised, intermittently censored and occasionally eaten, Mr. Sendak’s books were essential ingredients of childhood for the generation born after 1960 or thereabouts, and in turn for their children.”

How has the art of Maurice Sendak affected you in your life?

What’s your PB Dummy Challenge?

Chances are you’ll see your issue addressed in the Picture Book Dummy Challenge series that’s been going on all year over at the #KidLitArt blog.

You’ll enjoy this latest process post by Aaron Zenz on that critical stage of producing the final art for your picture book.

Illustration by Aaron Zenz

Zenz shows how he’s willing to re-do a painting or try a new concept — sometimes more than once —  if that’s what it takes to delight his editor, publisher, or client. The post is filled with ‘case studies’ and Zenz’s appealing artwork from these assignments.

Illustrators Bonnie Adamson and Wendy Martin do a great job riding herd on the #KidLitArt blog series.This could be a biased statement, because I also guest posted for the series (PB Dummy Challenge Step 5,  Creating Full Sized Drawings for your Dummy Pages.)

But I can vouch with complete objectivity for the #kidlitart chats that Martin and Adamson host every Thursday night (U.S. Time zones) and are open to anyone on Twitter.

Each chat is based on a theme important to children’s illustrators. Each chat provides a fine opportunity to hunker down with your picture-making colleagues, published and aspiring. If you miss a live session you can always catch the transcript archived on the blog.

And the learning never stops…

Austin, Texas sure likes digital storytelling for children.

Registration has opened for Austin SCBWI’s Digital Symposium II: Nuts and Bolts of Success, a hands-on technology workshop for illustrators and authors of all techie levels.  Set for Saturday, October 6, once again this year at St. Edward’s University’s Fleck Hall.  Read more.

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featuring illustrations by Charisse MellizaThree cheers for Charisse Melliza whose illustrations appear in the newly released Mama and Asha by Carolyn Rohrbaugh (Shapato Publishing)

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Then, there’s Mowgli and Baloo…

Yes, we’re exploring the art and cunning of the Disney animators over at the Illustration Course blog.

The latest video post shows how Walt Disney and his team turned the Rudyard Kipling stories sideways and added songs for their animated version of The Jungle Book. Part1 of an absorbing documentary.

* * * * * "Make Your Splashes Make Your Marks!" course modules

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Discover a way to righteously better drawing. These free videos show you the secret.

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A party in February

Erik KuntzAmy Rose Capetta and Nick Alter made this video of the Austin Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators 2012 Regional Conference, Something for Everybody. 

I get a kick out of how the thumbnail on YouTube shows me in the crowd, getting a hug from illustrator Marsha Riti. So of course I had to include it here.

Erik, our web designer and webmaster and Nick, our chapter’s social media strategist produced the video around Amy Rose’s wonderful portrait photography. They put it all together on the fly — while the event was still happening, in time to show the attendees at the day’s end.

You don’t want to miss hearing the Muppets in the video’s second half.

My own photos will never be as good as Amy’s — but they’re illustration-centric and include shots of the illustrators’ intensive session by Patti Ann Harris, senior art director for Little, Brown and Co.

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Yes, it was all back in February! But the experience feels fresh still. Highlights for me were a session Patti did with Random House (Golden Books) editor and author Diane Muldrow on the art director/editor relationship at a house  — and a special award that our chapter presented to two of its beloved members:  Authors Cynthia Leitich Smith and Greg Leitich Smith. The award recognized this married pair for being our chapter’s friends/mentors and Ambassadors for the Austin Kid-Lit Community to the world.

I loved how the Girllustrators organized the illustrators’ print and original art donations for the silent auction and ran herd on the portfolio room and portfolio competition (won by Jeff Crosby.) They represented our group splendidly.

Others’ thank yous were given out many weeks ago. But I’ll add mine now — thanks to the Girllustrators, our terrific guest faculty, especially author Lisa YeeDebbie Gonzalesour chapter’s regional adviser (RA) and assistant RA Carmen Oliver, also Meredith Davis, Shelli Cornelison, Samantha Clark, Sheryl Witschorke  and so many volunteers, and Sister Donna Jurick, Ramsey Fowler, PhD. and Rebecca Rodriguez of St. Edward’s University who allowed their beautiful campus to be our base for the second year in a row.

Girllustrators at the conference

The “Girllustrators” who coordinated the Portfolio Showcase and portfolio contest. Left ro right standing are Emma J. Virjan and Shelley Ann Jackson, seated – Divya Srinivasan, Marsha Riti, Patrice Barton and Amy Farrier — with Emma J. Virjan, Marsha Riti, Patrice Barton, Amy Farrier and Shelley Ann Jackson at the Mabee Ballroom at St. Edward’s University. Not pictured are Lalena Fisher, Tiffany Vargas and Amanda Williams.

A Crystal Kite for Patty

Austin SCBWI’s own Patrice Barton joins Michigan SCBWI’s author Shutta Krum in winning a 2012 SCBWI Crystal Kite Award for their picture book Mine!

The Crystal Kite is given by the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators each year to recognize the best books from 15 regional SCBWI divisions around the world. Peers, children’s book authors and illustrators in the 15 divisions, vote for their favorites.  Mine! was the winner for the Texas-Oklahoma Division.

Last summer we interviewed Patty for Marks and Splashes course students. In this excerpt from video interview Patty did for students of the Marks and Splashes course  she talks about working on the illustrations for Mine! 

 And remembering Maurice Sendak

Who brought many of us back to children’s books — when we thought we’d left them behind long ago.

Maurice Sendak — “A whole other story that you think is there.”

In this interview clip Maurice Sendak speaks as eloquently as you’ll hear on the roles of the children’s book illustrator and children’s book  illustration.

It’s from the DVD  “There’s a Mystery There: Sendak on Sendak: A Retrospective in Words and Pictures” produced by the Rosenbach Museum & Library in Philadelphia.

According to the press copy,  the DVD  “explores the masterful storytellers extraordinary career through his own words as the author talks about his favorite characters and the many influences and settings of his richest stories. Get the DVD at www.rosenbach.org.”

Sendak, author-illustrator of more than 100 books,  selected the museum to be the sole permanent repository of his artwork  more than 30 years ago.  The museum is said to contain 10,000 preliminary sketches as well as final drawings and Sendak’s original manuscripts.

Listen to the two Terry Gross interviews with Sendak on NPR’s Fresh Air. He really is full of perception.

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Is there a “magic secret” to drawing?

Yes, and I’m giving it away in the  latest  promotion for my online course on drawing and painting for children’s book illustration,  Make Your Splashes Make Your Marks.

The  “secret”  is the  “gesture drawing” of a  special kind pioneered by Kimon Nicolaides in the early 20th century.  I explain why I feel this way and present my take on the  “Nicolaides approach”  in five short videos and a  PDF lesson taken from the Make Your Splashes course.  Sign up at this  “drawing secret” page to access.

Wild Things

Before the movie fades from awareness, let’s look at some not so exalted celebrations of Maurice Sendak’s strangely theatrical Caldecott Medal winning-story, Where the Wild Things Are, opera for toddlers.

From Wikipedia:  “The original concept for the book featured horses instead of monsters. According to Sendak, his publisher suggested the switch when she discovered that Sendak could not draw horses, but thought that he ‘could at the very least draw ‘a thing.’  He replaced the horses with caricatures of his aunts and uncles, whom he had studied critically in his youth as an escape from their weekly visits to his family’s Brooklyn home.”

Children’s author-illustrators  influence our world.  Like a good ghostbuster I have video proof that I’ll share with you now. Monica Kelley posted this clip on her blog,  My Place For Art recently.

It got me looking at more of them.  So next it’s Jammin’s Crazy Chalk Drawings — the Wild Things’ island rendered on a blackboard.

And Max in his boat:

Here’s the Disney version, which luckily the public never saw.  It has Max in his wolf suit, chasing his dog.  Except he scurries around his home and room like one of the baby squirrels from Snow White.

This next one one has feet of clay.  I don’t know what the journalism school students were doing working on this project, but I hope they all got A’s.  I think they captured the true spirit of Max.

Of course the ballet companies pounced on Sendak’s tale that always seemed more suited to set backdrops and dance than words.

These are but a few of the many versions of Max’s odyssey on YouTube. They range in kookiness and fun. They demonstrate how an  artist’s idea can inspire creative interpretations and loving imitations  — in this case, 47 years after the book first rolled off presses at Harper & Row Publishers.

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We had fun at our group call last night in the children’s book illustration class, even if it was a call without sound. We saw some great work by students.  You can learn more about the self-paced online course, Make Your Splashes; Make Your Marks and see some “secret of drawing” videos at this link.

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Author-illustrator and Maurice Sendak admirer Mark Mitchell teaches children’s book illustration at the Austin Museum of Art Art School — and online.

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Paper Engineers!

Two members of our Inklings Picture Book critique group recently made a pilgrimage  to see the original pop-up art of Robert Sabuda and David Diaz in an exhibit “The Wizards of Pop-up.”  It was at the National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature in Abilene, Texas.

Austin author-illustrators Christy Stallop and Erik Kuntz basically spent the day with Sabuda, Caldecott Medalist Diaz, museum executive director Debbie Lillick and the Illustration Chair of the National Society of Childrens Books Authors and Illustrators, Priscilla Burris. They had dinner with Diaz .

Robert Sabuda and Matthew Reinhart are considered to be the  premier contemporary  pop-up book artists in the U.S.

Maurice Sendak tried his hand at 3-D moveable art with great results.  Mommy? released in 2006 by Michael di Capua Books/Scholastic was  a collaboration between him, author-playwright Arthur Yorinks and pop-up wizard Reinhart.

Erik and Christy’s field trip got me thinking how much I enjoyed pop-ups and  any kind of  “3-D” art as a kid.

Maybe because it broke the picture plane and added one more dimension of  “make believe.”

I once owned a reprint of a Turn of the Century pop-up book. It was  about  a Victorian family’s visit to a  zoo. I don’t   remember the title or the artist.

As you turned each page  you saw the same family and a different cage of animals come to life. The animals stayed behind the bars,  thank goodness.  The book gave you a charming experience of visiting a zoo.

One issue of “Jack and Jill” magazine, I remember ( I was a proud 10 year old subscriber), had a sort of 3-D assemble-it-yourself Dinosaur Diorama.

It featured Pteranadons, Brontosauruses and maybe a T-Rex.
You placed them into a primeval forest stage-set. Its curved backdrop gave depth to a world of  volcanoes, ferns, and Jurassic beasts.
(Of course the best dinosaur is a 3-D dinosaur.)

After doing my part in the assembly, I felt as if I’d done the whole mural myself.  It wasn’t like I’d painted the dinosaurs. I’d  just punched them out of cardstock and inserted them into their places in the scene.
But I’d helped to contribute to the 3-D effect!

Pop up books have been around since the Middle Ages — for kids books, since the 1800s. Here is Robert Sabuda and Matthew Reinhart’s List of “Top 10 Pop-Up Books” , according to Amazon.com.

And speaking of 3-D papercraft, Kids Can Press has re-released the eminently kid-friendly The New Jumbo Book of Easy Crafts by Judy Ann Sadler. A redesign and smartly graphic illustrations by Caroline Price keep176 pages of step by step procedurals from feeling  burdensome.

The New Jumbo Book of Easy Crafts by Judy Ann Sadler and Caroline Price

 

Mark G. Mitchell hosts the How To Be A Children’s Book Illustrator blog.