Saturday, August 5, 2023

Keynote: Doug Salati

Keynote: Doug Salati

What a way to start off the second day of the conference! After the wonderful introduction by our Executive Director, Sarah Baker, Doug took us on his wonderful journey!

Doug's art is known for its beautiful line work, textures, and stunning visual narrative.

Having moved to NYC 16 years ago, Doug had NO idea what to do when he arrived but knew-

He wanted to tell stories.

So after moving in with a friend in Brooklyn (shoutout to BK! OwOw!), he promised himself one thing... figure it out.

Once, he dreamt that he was in his bed, but instead of pillows, he slept on a pile of dogs. It was the best night of sleep. So from that moment on, he decided to document everything.

A big fan of people-watching, and location drawing, Doug took inspiration from everything around him.

He got an office job at SVA, where he would doodle and draw on office memo pads, post-its--any paper he could get his hands on.

He was in a creative environment and wanted to capture it all.

Art is like a time capsule. It is a snapshot of where you were as a person, who you were artistically.

He soon enrolled in Continuing Education courses, a perk of working at SVA full-time, and began to experiment with storytelling and narrative...

Silk Screening...




He didn't know what he wanted his artwork to be like but explored, nonetheless.

"How do I make my illustrations into sequential imagery?"

He continued to experiment during his SVA courses.

"The power is in the doing! Make it, move on, try something different."

He continued learning and building community. He participated in fellowships, worked on his art, drew on location, embraced change, and pursued his Masters, all in the pursuit of bettering his craft. 

One day, while on vacation on a beach, Doug met Charlie, an energetic dog who was so happy to just be at a beautiful place on a beautiful day. 

On the train home, Doug drew some thumbnails of Charlie. Like his dream, he just wanted to document it.

After working on "In a Small Kingdom" by Tomie Depaola, and "Lawrence in the Fall" by Matthew Farina, Doug, with nothing yet on the horizon, decided to revisit, the then-titled, "Charlie and the Island."

"The first two projects help me learn what I needed to learn to be able to create this story. Without those, I couldn't have made Hot Dog"

While you are waiting, go back to your writing, drawing, reading, favorite movies and shows, etc. Get back into your creative habit. Work like you have something people are expecting from you.


Doug fleshed out the story.

He worked on textures, linework, shape, and form, refining his ideas.

He expanded the story and developed the relationship between the dog and his human.

Doug even returned to the beach to see what Charlie saw.

Doug ended with a quote from Marshall Arisman:

"You either follow what you do or you try to lead it.
And I stopped trying to lead it. 
I follow it.
I'll do anything to get rid of my rational brain. 
So I play these games in hopes that some other part of me will come out and talk for a minute."

"Instead of pulling, see if there is a way to follow your ideas in a giving, imaginative, and playful way."- Doug Salati

Doug's keynote was beyond inspiring. Being given the chance to listen to his story, see his beautiful artwork, but to also hear how much work he has put into his personal growth was something to behold! 

Congratulations to Doug and we can't wait to see what else you create!

f you want to view this session to hear the full content, along with the rest of the conference, register at Replays of the conferences will be available until September 10, 2023.

Check out the SCBWI Bookshop!

Doug Salati


Doug Salati is the author and illustrator of the 2022 picture book Hot Dog, recipient of the 2023 Randolph Caldecott Medal. His first book was In a Small Kingdom by Tomie dePaola, and his second, Lawrence in the Fall by his partner, Matthew Farina, was a 2020 Ezra Jack Keats Illustrator Award Honoree, a Society of Illustrators Original Art Show selection and Junior Library Guild Gold Standard selection. Doug graduated from the MFA Illustration As Visual Essay Program at the School of Visual Arts in 2014. He was a 2015 Sendak Fellow. He lives and works in New York City.

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