The charming and talented Loren Long is imparting some wisdom about illustrating picture books. He tells the group to try to keep things simple. For him, that means keeping the technological interference in his process to a minimum.
He sketches, uses carbon paper to transfer his blown up sketch onto illustration board (therefore retaining that initial looseness and spontaneity), then paints, adding more detail as he goes on. Whether or not we as illustrators choose to use the computer—and in what way—is up to us, but it is always great advise to keep things simple and not get overwhelmed by the decisions we face when starting work on a book.
Loren advises us to simply start the sketches first, and worry about the format, exact pacing, shape and size of the illustrations once you have the first sketches done. This way you've dealt with the truly important decisions, like mood and tone, first.
An important element to master right at the beginning of the project is developing the character. Long says to give the character "as much heart as possible." This entails posture and mood.
We were lucky enough to get to view the sketches from Drummer Boy, and since Dan Santat was in the session with a copy of the book handy, we viewed the sketches and the final pieces side-by-side.
A great thing to remember when starting work on a picture book: The manuscript needs to resonate with you. And once you've chosen it, OWN IT! You are illustrating it, and you need to make it your own. Long says that an illustrator making a story their own is the highest compliment they can give a writer.