Saturday, February 7, 2015

Creating Picture Book Art with Denise Cronin

Excellent, excellent breakout from Denise Cronin, art director and VP of Viking at Penguin. Denise managed to give hints and tips for illustrators at all career levels. These are a few for beginners:

Observe, absorb, integrate:
Draw a lot! Participate in critique groups. Get your work critiqued by people that understand the children's book market and act upon the feedback that rings true to you and elevates your work.

Sharpen your skills:
Continue to draw a lot! Take classes, attend conferences, learn the language and vocabulary of publishing and book production. Understand and implement thumbnails, dummies, character design sheets in your own work.

When your work is the best it can be, it's time to start reaching out to editors, agents, and art directors. Denise thinks you should start with snail mail, not only to keep the post office in business, but because she prefers it. Twitter, Tumblr, online portfolios are all great, but most art directors stare at screens all day and have overloaded inboxes, so a mailed postcard is a great way to get in front of someone like Denise, who loves to go through all of the postcards she's received on Fridays.

Denise says you should maximize the impact of your card mailings, either by creative use of both sides of the card, or considering sending more than one card and having the cards relate together as a thematic set. Denise mentions taking advantage of styling and design, that your initial promo postcard could also have the same look and feel as a set of samples you mail upon request, and boy, will you look like a polished, design-savvy illustrator then!

Another great way to get your work seen is to get an agent. And by attending conferences and taking advantage of their accompanying portfolio shows, your work will be seen by editors, art directors, and agents. It's not unheard of to be signed by an agent nearly on the spot at a portfolio show like we have at the Winter or Summer SCBWI conferences.

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