Friday, August 4, 2023

Q&A with SCBWI Illustrators' Advisory Committee


In this session, the members of the SCBWI Advisory Council's Illustrator Committee answered questions from attendees. The Committee reminded everyone of all the opportunities for illustrators (and writer-illustrators) through the SCBWI, including: Regional events, regional webinars, illustrator galleries, Awards & Grants For Illustrators, and other challenges.

They expressed huge appreciation to SCBWI Illustrator Coordinators.

Just a few takeaways:

Cecilia Yung relies on websites rather than social media to find illustrators because she wants to see how illustrators curate their own work. She prefers embedded images rather than links ("links can come with their issues, as you all know"). Do your homework before submitting your art to an art director, don't waste their time. She is seeking art with a narrative, that tells a story. One-off images are not useful. Can you draw a character in perspective? Can you draw a full body rather than just a head? Convey setting, mood, emotions?

When Paul O. Zelinsky feels stuck, he says he makes his hand do something it doesn't do. Try copying something (not for work, but to get your creative juices flowing again). Priscilla Burris adds that it doesn't matter where you are in your career, we all get stuck sometimes. She finds putting on music helps her. She says do what you need to free yourself, take off the pressure. Take time to have fun and play. Dana Carey says when she feels stuck, she plays around with different types of media.

Physical health tips: Take frequent breaks (not just your body but also your eyes). Keep moving. Do stretches. Priscilla Burris says that even if you're under a tight deadline, sometimes taking a break away from your studio will help refresh you. Dana Carey says there are 5- and 10-min exercises on YouTube that can help.

Do you want to present yourself as being professional? Meet deadlines, says Priscilla. Cecilia says to keep in touch, keep your art director in the loop, don't ghost them. If you have a problem, let your art director know. She also points out that art directors and editors talk to each other. if you get a reputation of always being late, then that will have repercussions.

Always keep learning, Cecilia advises. Stay humble. Learn to LISTEN. Never assume you have all the answers or know everything. Cecilia says she still takes notes at conferences.

Lots more great info and advice shared in this session, not just from the panel but also in the (very) active text chat!

More about the panelists:

Priscilla Burris, Illustrator Programs Consultant. Website:

Dana Carey, International Illustrator Coordinator. Website:

Laurent Linn, Art Director at Simon & Schuster, Author/Illustrator. Website:

Cecilia Yung, Art Director at Penguin Random House. 

Paul O. Zelinsky, Illustrator and Author. Website:


If 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 10th, 2023.

Also be sure to check out the Faculty Conference Bookshop and the Portfolio Showcase!

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