Why getting involved is so important!

  • SVS OG

    There have been posts and threads on here in the past regarding the value of becoming involved in SCBWI. I started attending meetings two years ago (we have a monthly SCBWI Illustrators Network (Chicago Area)) and have had nothing but positive things to say about these meetings since. I have also attended Illustrator intensives and conferences held in the general area and always find some bit of helpful info or a new networking connection or something at each thing I participate in.

    Today was the monthly meeting and our coordinators had Jordan Kost - Art Director for Albert Whitman come speak to the group. She was absolutely wonderful and had a really nice presentation she gave that highlighted how she approaches Art Directing and what it is like for illustrators who get the chance to work with her on projects.

    First she discussed working with Illustrator Mariano Epelbaum on the cover and character design work for My Rotten Friend by Stephanie J. Blake.

    She shared his original sketch of the cover and talked about how the "rotten" friend who is a zombie was a bit too creepy for a kids book (show in this photo I took here).

    2016-02-20 12.34.13.jpg

    And she shared the dialog and revisions until they arrived at the final design shown here:


    She went onto discuss/show sketches and images that were created for an upcoming book Next To You by Lori Haskins Houran and illustrated by Sydney Hanson.

    next to you.jpg

    She shared the direction notes she gave to Sydney and the sketches and final pieces that are going on some of the pages of the book.

    She also talked about how there are many times she may love an illustrators work and be able to see the vision of how that illustrator would be perfect for a book project. But when she presents the portfolio samples from the illustrator to the non visual (non artists) types in the planning meetings - they can not always see it. So she said it is very worth you while as illustrators to have work that can showcase your characters designs to show you can do many different characters, or environments show some interiors and some pieces with exteriors, or some pencil sketches and some fully rendered pieces with color. A variety of your work is always helpful she said.

    Next she went on to talk about working with an illustrator (I apologize I don't have the illustrators name in my notes) who did a book cover for a high middle grade novel. She shared all of the notes that she pulled while reading the novel (as she does not expect the illustrator to read the full 250 page book). She gathers up all the key details about characters, setting, recurring symbols or visuals in the story and so on.

    She showed us the original piece this artist sent her (and noted this illustrator typically does not do pencil sketches so the work is sent more full colored etc) but that is not her requirement at an early stage. She would rather you do what is easiest/fastest for you so that if/when changes are required its minimal effort and reworking on your part if its caught in the early sketch/design stage.

    And then she showed us the final image that is now the cover of the book Night on Fire by Ronald Kidd

    night on fire.jpg

    After her presentation was over, she was generous enough with her time to provide everyone who attended with a critique of three of pieces of their work, and we all got to listen in and learn from everything that was shared. Talk about a very valuable experience and today's meeting is no cost to anyone attending. The public is welcome so folks do not even have to be SCBWI members to join in. Today if you were a non SCBWI member and we were running short on time, your work would have been held until the end for review to allow members the first chance - but Jordan made it through all 27 of us in attendance today. And her feedback was really good.

    Finally - and here is probably the best part - not only did she just get a chance to interact with each of us individually for the critique, and see our work first hand but she also took postcards from each of us as well - should she want to follow up with us in the future based on what she saw today!

    Maybe that leads to something for one of us, and maybe not - but what a massive opportunity this meeting provided to us today.

    So I would say - look up organizations in your area like SCBWI chapters and find out what they are up to and how you can get involved. I think it is so worth it!

    Finally everything she was sharing/talking about - lines up with what Will, Jake and Lee are helping us with month in and month out here. So I can not thank each of them enough for getting us prepared for days like today where opportunity is knocking!

  • SVS OG

    Thanks for sharing all that @Rich-Green - very interesting and glad you had a useful & positive day ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Thanks for sharing Rich! I'm thinking of joining SCBWI very soon when i'm ready with my work! Glad that many positive things have been heard.

  • SVS OG

    Thanks for sharing. I am an scbwi member but rarely am involved. I went to a couple of book store neetings but I have to say that that meeting gave me the opportunity to meet an author who asked me to do some little illustrations for her YA series ๐Ÿ™‚ Her name is Marie Sontag. So, I still have so much to learn. Another friend had me illustrate a book for her that she has kind of indie published. It's sold in the bookstore I went to (Hickelbees in San Jose). I've been a little overwhelmed by scbwi but I am really enjoying learning here at svslearn on a smaller scale. The forums are helpful and the classes are great too. I realized, by coming here, that I have SO MUCH to learn! Not sure I'm ready to be called a full blown illustrator but my non artist friends don't know any better ๐Ÿ™‚ I am reminded that I shoudl revisit scbwi and try to be more involved there too. Thanks!

  • SVS OG

    I wish there were a local SCBWI illustrators group I could go to. I've been going to the local SCBWI writers meetings (I do want to write and illustrate my own stories, so its still relevant) but I feel kind of weird being the only illustrator. I feel like with every picture book manuscript I read I tell them the same thing, "You know you could cut half of this and put it in the illustration notes, don't you?" haha.

  • This sounds so wonderful! What a great day and a positive experience! I'm a member, but sadly no meetings near me and I'm unable to start a chapter in the area... Though it would be interesting! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • I would love to go to this since it's so close to where I live but $300? And I'm not a member so I'd have to pay the $85 membership fee on top of that. Why is it so much money for these? I could have gotten a ticket to see Adele for less than that!


  • SVS OG

    @gimmehummus A few things:

    First the next SCBWI Illustrators Network (Chicago area) meeting info is as follows:

    Saturday, March 26th, 9:30 - noon at the Des Plaines Public Library, Des Plaines IL.

    "Guest Speaker โ€“ Jacob Grant, illustrator/author of Scaredy Kate and Little Birdโ€™s Bad Word, was recently recognized with an Honorable Mention for his portfolio at the SCBWI NY 2016 conference. Join us as he shares his journey from picture book development to publication as both a writer and illustrator."

    A Link to Jacobs Work

    As a reminder these monthly Illustrator meetings are FREE and open to the public (meaning you do not have to be a member of SCBWI to attend).

    In regards to the Wild Midwest event - it is a 3 day event full of breakout sessions, optional intensives and portfolio reviews as well as an illustration first look type contest among other things. So it should be full of all kinds of learning and info, a great chance to network with all different folks from the industry and just maybe get your art seen by those folks who could impact your career in the future.

    As for the cost - its all relative I suppose but with it being so close to where I live and this being a career I so badly want to gain momentum in, I think it is well worth it and I signed up the day it went on sale. After all we are freelancers and therefore we are our own business so you do have to put some money into your business at times as well as yourself.

  • SVS OG

    I agree Rich--I'm going to a slightly shorter/smaller conference close to where I am. I'll still have to stay at a hotel (it's not THAT close--and, oh yeah, I'll also be hugely pregnant) but I think it's really worth it. I enjoyed the National conference in NYC but I feel there is an advantage to these regional conferences since they're smaller and you won't get as lost in the crowd--which, since many artists are introverts, is rather a good thing ;-). The editors and art directors speaking at the national conference said multiple times, "You're doing the right thing and you're in the right place. Conferences like this are where we look for our new talent."

  • I know I know I know. I can take part of the payment I'm getting for a book and put it towards the conference. I'm just wary of spending that amount of money and then maybe only walking with with something I could have heard online. I'm horrible at approaching people I don't know to ask for things. If it's all unstructured mingling I'll run for the door! I really want to go but I don't know what I'm in for.

  • I registered for the midwest event a couple weeks ago and I'm really looking forward to it. I also signed up for a portfolio review. This will be my first time at one of these things so I'm not sure what I should bring with me. Do any veterans have advice? Would it be best to bring a printed portfolio and postcards?

  • SVS OG

    @gimmehummus Hi Lydia - per the info they sent out they recommend you bring the following:

    • WHAT TO BRING: Costume (if you are attending the costume party), Art Show piece (postcards, easel), portfolio if you signed up for a review or want to show it to friends, business cards and/or brochures, paper and pen, cash/check/credit card for bookstore.

    They included more info if you plan on participating in the art show it says:

    • ART SHOW: SCBWI member illustrators attending the conference are invited to exhibit one unpublished illustration suitable for childrenโ€™s books on their own small tabletop easel (or book stand) along with postcards (we recommend bringing 75 - 100) or business cards. Each illustrator is limited to a tabletop space 18โ€ wide. The displayed illustrations will be judged by the faculty and a winner will be announced at 8:30 pm during the Art Show on Saturday and again during lunch on Sunday. The winner receives an onsite face-to-face portfolio review by the two art directors at the conference.

    And then since you have also signed up for the portfolio review, yes you will need to bring your printed portfolio with you to your review as well. For any portfolio review I have read it is wise to have some specific questions you would like more info on to ask the reviewer. They will provide you with overall feedback but if you want to know something specific about your work, feel free to ask them so they can give you their point of view on your areas of concern.

  • Oh duh. Thanks Rich. I think I read all of that last month and then forgot. I had been wondering if I could bring my portfolio on my tablet so I'd have less to carry around but the printed versions would look better.

  • SVS OG

    @gimmehummus You are quite welcome! I am glad to see that you decided to attend - I know you will get some great info out of it, even though it can feel a bit nerve wracking your first time around. I have found people to be so nice and helpful at these types of events, so I know you will be just fine!