Saturday, July 8, 2017

Lucy Ruth Cummins: Best Practices of Working Illustrators

Lucy Ruth Cummins is a writer/illustrator, and full-time art director of picture books, middle grade books and young adult novels for Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers and Paula Wiseman books. She is the art director for numerous New York Times and international bestsellers. She is both art director and illustrator for Stuart Gibbs's New York Times best-selling middle grade mysteries. Lucy made her author/illustrator debut in 2016 with her picture book A Hungry Lion, or A Dwindling Assortment of Animals.

Lucy's breakout session was as charming as it was informative – she's hilarious, and shared tons of advice for illustrators about communicating with their publishers about schedules and ways to use their tools to help their storytelling.

Some of her great advice:

  • Limiting your hues can create unified, refined-looking work regardless of technique
  • Use materials "legibly" (allow pencil to look like pencil!) and consider working smaller and scaling your work to a larger size if you want to enhance the textures of the analog materials you're using.
  • When (not if?) you're running late on delivery to a publisher, communicate with them about it. 
  • Make a physical, page-turning dummy of your book at every step -- seeing it as a tangible object will inform how you move forward on the next draft.
  • Read books aloud - yours and others'.
  • Keep a running list of book ideas on your phone.
One of my favorite parts was when Lucy shared how she uses digital processes to rework her sketches, to plan for her final art. The evolution of her sketches to final was incredible to see.

Her breakout was packed with countless tips for illustrators and authors, both. It culminated with an emotional, perfect slide of her and her son as a reminder of the very reason we're here making books (Is someone cutting onions in here?).

Oh, and she had a secret to tell all the illustrators:

I just loved this breakout with Lucy Ruth Cummins!

Catch more of the conference highlights this year through blog posts tagged #LA17SCBWI or as-it-happens on Twitter.

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