Saturday, February 12, 2022

Q&A With SCBWI Illustrator Advisory Committee

SCBWI Illustration Advisory Board
Last event of today: Q&A with the SCBWI Illustrator Advisory Committee: Peter Brown, Priscilla Burris, Pat Cummings, Laurent Linn, Cecilia Yung and Paul O. Zelinsky. They also invited two Illustrator Coordinators to join in: Dana Carey (Global Illustrator Coordinator) and TeMika Grooms (U.S. Illustrator Coordinator).

One of the frequently asked questions was to how illustrators could submit their work to Laurent and Cecilia, and Laurent gave specifics during the session as well as posting info in the chat.

Some of the other topics discussed:

Topic: Is it ok to submit a picture book as an author-illustrator team rather than separately?

Cecilia said that while most art directors and editors prefer finding their own illustrators, she says it's fine to submit as a team. However, she points out that if they don't like either the art OR the writing, you're more likely to get a rejection. Also, be wary of coming across as too controlling, which may turn off potential publishers.

Topic: Is it ok if I post multiple art styles on my website?

Priscilla says it's ok to show multiple styles on your website as long as it's well organized.

Cecilia says she only wants to see things "that you're really really good at." Be honest with yourself about your strengths and weaknesses re: techniques and styles. She points out that if you're unable do this, then an art director may wonder if this would affect your work while illustrating a picture book.

Laurent advises illustrators against trying to emulate styles that you think others want to see. "You be you." Paul Zelinsky strongly agrees. He says that if you try to be like everyone else, you're less likely to be satisfied in your career down the road.

Topic: How do I find out which specific people at a publisher who might like my work?

Pat advises looking at current books that you LOVE, then you have a better chance of finding an editor and art director who might have the same tastes. Pat says  The Original Art catalog may help track down this info.

Topic: If a publisher is closed to unsolicited submissions, does that also apply to art?

Laurent says not necessarily. He points out that he welcomes postcard samples at any time, for example. 

Topic: Where can I find critique groups?

TeMika Grooms encourages illustrators to reach out to their regional groups and get involved with their local critique groups. She also says to check The Book (mentioned in next paragraph) for useful info as well.

Other takeaways:

Dana Carey strongly recommends illustrators check out The Book: The Essential Guide To Publisher For Children, available as a free PDF (for members) on the SCBWI website. The Book has a TON of essential info covered in the Q&A, critique groups, publishers, etc.

TeMika Grooms: Stay the course. Make sure you keep work on improving your craft. Remember self-care. Take breaks, but don't let the breaks go too long.

Paul Zelinsky: When you feel stopped or discouraged, try some new art material. Even if you're not planning to use it for your book illustration work, it can help jumpstart your creativity again.

Pat Cummings: Find your community. She also encourages illustrators to attend regional conferences, which could be a great way to meet people in the industry you want to work with. Do what you love, put it out there, and believe in yourself. 

Priscilla Burris: If you're blocked, try putting on some music you loved from your early teen years (or earlier!); sometimes this can help bring out a different part of you that you've forgotten. Don't be predictable. Be you. Let the characters speak to you as you sketch daily. Let them move you.

Peter Brown: Don't be too precious about your work. Remember that publishing is a business. Be able to take constructive criticism. Be an idea factory. It won't be as painful if you're rejected if you have lots of ideas.

Cecilia Yung: Remember that the eyes are the windows to your soul. Eyes, eyebrows, eyelids, directionality. Squeeze as much emotion as you can from the eyes. If you're having a challenge, then you should rethink how you draw eyes.

Laurent Linn: It all comes down to purpose. What do you have to say, and why do you want to say it? That is what is going to make your art stand out. 

And that's a wrap on today's programming!

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