Monday, February 11, 2013

NY 2013 SCBWI Conference - Part 1: Illustrator's Intensive

The NY SCBWI 2013 Illustrator’s Intensive had a ton of excellent and inspiring speakers. Here are some highlights from Friday’s Illustrator’s Intensive (Note: speakers are paraphrased unless there are quotes – I couldn’t scribble fast enough to keep up. Also, I don’t have notes for all the speakers. Sometimes I listened without taking notes.):

Shaun Tan: I was lucky to be able to see Shaun at the Illustrator’s Intensive and at the main conference. (Note: I’ve combined both of his sessions here.) His latest book, THE BIRD KING, a compilation of sketches, artwork, and commentary from Shaun about his work, was just released. One of my favorite things about his new book is some of the influences for his art and how that turned into characters for his books. His art is amazing and it was cool to see his process and hear him talk about creativity.

- Style emerges from visual experiences.
- Style is more about how you think and solve problems, that defines who you are, and less about medium and how you use it.
- Style is like personality.
- Stories that migrate are universal (TALES FROM OUTER SUBURBIA).
- THE ARRIVAL started as a 32 pg. picture book and was influenced by the work of Raymond Briggs (THE SNOWMAN and WHERE THE WIND BLOWS)
- Wasn’t into comics before THE ARRIVAL. He had to learn how to draw them while doing the book.
- Doesn’t ask if it’s a PB, GN, or short story. Just thinks it’s a good idea.
- You don’t need to tell a story to tell a story. Let the reader do the work.

David Ezra Stein: His new book OL’ MAMA SQUIRREL  is out in March – only a short time to wait! He talked about the process of creating the characters and book. Can’t wait to see it when it comes out!

- Only you can make art the way you do it.
- “The secret was getting the right nose for the squirrel.” (Talking about his new book, and how he did all the art over after submitting final art to the publisher. The old art was good, but the new art was great. And it has the new nose. It reminds him of a periscope, or a tater tot.)
- On re-doing all the art: he said that he should have kept going with the character sketches in the beginning instead of just picking a squirrel he kind-of liked.
- Listen to your ideas. Turn off the TV. Write the ideas down. Doodle!

The Brothers Hilts: After I registered, I forgot they were speaking at the intensive, so it was a fun surprise when they got up to talk about the book they illustrated, THE INSOMNIACS. This is such an awesome book. Amazing art and a great story (by Karina Wolf). They talked about the production process for their book and especially the problems they had with reproducing the dark colors in their original art.

- When working digitally, the ICC profile from the printer can be loaded into Photoshop to help you see what the printed art will look like. You also might have to turn the monitor down.
- The actual book itself is the art, not the painting or what’s on your computer.
- When the color looks bad (too bright and garish) it’s probably good (for printing). Or at least this was true for their art for this book.

Mark Teague: He’s one of my favorite children’s book illustrators. I love his art! He’s talented picture book writer as well. The book shown here, FIREHOUSE! is the book he talked about creating. He’s also known for the HOW DO DINOSAURS SAY … series (with author Jane Yolen), the LA RUE series, and my favorite, THE GREAT GRACIE CHASE (written by Cynthia Rylant).

- The work is the most important thing. (He doesn’t do book fairs, school visits, blog, etc. He says he’s a bit of a hermit.)
- “You can do anything, absolutely anything, as long as you can make it work.”
- On picture books for very little kids (like FIREHOUSE! which is a sequel to FUNNY FARM): The pictures do the work and the text is not as important. You need strong characters and a simple story.
- “One of the really most important aspects of a PB is when you turn the page.”
- Starts with acrylics for under painting, then paints layers of water soluble oils on watercolor blocks (so he doesn’t have to stretch paper) for the finished art.
- It takes him 3-5 days to do an image. The whole book (final art) takes 3-4 months. It takes about 6 months per project.
- Key in fantasy is you believe in characters, and the ordinary kid stuff and ordinary details make it more believable.
- As long as you can carry a story (art), you can create a PB. You’re storytellers. Take yourself seriously as a storyteller.
- Illustrators need to find their voice (presence, and something to say, and satisfaction as an artist), just like writers do.
- Think about your audience. “Don’t do dumb work. Do NOT be boring.” (On clichés and recycling ideas.)
- “The only cliché for illustrators that works is, Go Back To The Drawing Board.” Whenever your career, book, etc. not going well or you’re distracted, go back to the drawing board. The work will sustain you.
- Don’t forget it’s fun. Sense of fun will also help sustain you.
- Come to illustration with the mentality like you’re talking about doing something that’s going to get you in trouble.
- If you’re good at illustration, Bring It, and don’t worry about market as much.