• SVS Team SVS Instructor Pro SVS OG

    @NessIllustration That sounds like a very cool class!

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    @Lee-White Oh yeah! I think it may be my favourite of the whole 4 years I was there!

  • @Lee-White Good article.

  • @Lee-White cheers Lee that was a good article, well worth a read.

  • I'd like to hear it. These issues have been important in my life. I've noticed significant progress in who and what is represented in mainstream American media in my lifetime, and it's because people are willing to be introspective, have conversions, and take some risks. You may ruffle feathers, but you guys seem sensitive and honest enough to have an interesting discussion which will help nudge us all toward more growth.

    What I'm most interested in hearing is how this topic currently relates to the publishers, editors, art directors, etc. What is going on behind the scenes when selecting authors, manuscripts, and illustrators as it relates to diversity, representation, and authenticity? What are some of the considerations they make and are there any obstacles they face? What are their priorities when selecting an illustrator? Does this mean minority illustrators need to market themselves as a minority and of a certain culture in order to be considered for projects related to their culture? How would the search be made for illustrators of certain minority groups?

    There's a book coming in February called "Ohana Means Family" by a Hawaii resident and as far as I can tell, and non-Hawaii resident illustrator, Kenard Pak. From what I can see of the artwork- it feels and looks very appropriate for a Hawaii rural setting. It looks beautiful. I've seen some of his work before and I'm stoked that it's now featured in Hawaiiana children's literature. I'd be interested to know what the process was like in choosing him to illustrate this book. Was a Hawaii illustrator even considered? Why or why not? Did he receive any sort of consultation for cultural representation or was the research all up to him? (it seems like it would be a simple research process, but what about for other projects where more cultural symbols are involved)

    From my limited perspective as an American who feels racially and culturally ambiguous- I just want lots of well thought out, high quality media that tells a diversity of stories and features all kinds of people. I want good storytellers working on these projects. I want storytellers to be free to tell stories from their own experiences and to tell stories outside of their experiences. I want people to be sensitive and thoughtful, but to not be afraid to make stories and represent other humans from all walks of life! I just want the work to be made. I think the more we get diverse stories out, the more access it can potentially give to minority voices in the future. Disney has been great in this area. To have such a huge platform role out movies like Pocahontas, Mulan, Princess in the Frog, Big Hero 6, Moana, and Coco is wonderful. Do they get it perfect and 100% authentic? Nope. Has it been meaningful to a lot of people? Yup.

    Thanks for considering this topic! I've loved reading through everyone's thoughts.

  • SVS OG

    @Lee-White I love the 3 Point Perspective podcasts and think this could be a great one - I think that ruminating on the subject for the podcast is not such a good idea though - my feeling is that you should have a very solid idea of what you want to add to the discussion and not do too much devil's advocate stuff. I think that talking about what we can and cannot draw would not be a helpful addition to this topic. Talking about and focusing on why we Are talking about it is much more helpful and important. What is at the root of this conversation is what is important and understanding this can help each illustrator make their own informed decisions about what they should be comfortable with.

  • SVS OG

    @Lee-White I know that I was toying with an idea for an alphabet book using sign language. I asked a friend who is hearing impaired and a involved in the deaf community. She told me that. If I were to do it, it would need to be with a deaf person. It seems important to have someone who truly understands that community-no outsiders.

    As far as race and gender, etc? I feel most comfortable with what I know.

  • I think it would be a good podcast to do, I'd listen. I'd be interested in hearing thoughts on the issues, from guest speakers. I'm glad to hear that it wouldn't just be the 3 of you. As much as I love the podcast it wouldn't be helpful to discuss diversity with just 3 white guys.

    Judging from most of the comments too it's something that people are interested in.

    I heard on a podcast before with Armand Baltazar where he talked about pitching his book 'Timeless: Diego and the Rangers of the Vastlantic'. He basically received feedback from publishers asking him to make the main character a white kid, the main character was based after his son, so this wasn't going to be a change he would make. He said multiple publishers had the same request. This was 2017 and publishers were still trying to white wash books so they would sell more. Their concerns were ridiculous as it would get picked up by Harper Collins on a 3 book deal and is also going to be made into a movie possible series of movies by Ridley Scott's company.

    That's slightly different to what you mentioned, however it does illustrate a bias in the industry with some publishers. Anyone who says there is no bias has blinkers on. It is an uncomfortable subject to discuss, but one that need discussion.

    I think it could be helpful to hear from a wide variety of people too (not just one guest speaker) not sure if that is possible on the podcast tho.

    Look forward to listening to it, if you do it.

  • I could learn a lot from a podcast or series with these topics, so yeah, I think go for it! And maybe someone already mentioned it, but I'd like to hear more about illustrators who are on the autism spectrum like myself. Are there any really successful illustrators that manage to balance getting through life with a career and autism both? Some days I feel like I can't possibly make it in my art business because of my challenges, but I also feel like we in the autism community have unique strengths like special interests or focus ability or something that gives us an edge. Would like to see that on the podcast or linked to an autistic illustrator in podcast resources for that episode, maybe 🙂

  • @Amanda-Bancroft yes that's a good idea. It would be good to get Stephen Wiltshire on the podcast. He's phenomenal.

  • SVS OG

    @Amanda-Bancroft Have you ever seen this interview? It is with Jorge Gutierrez of "Book of Life" fame - he did not know he was on the spectrum until he was an adult and he speaks of the strengths that it gives him in the interview - one of bobby's best interviews i think - i've watched it more than once myself https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zAkVOqn6MSs

  • I really think this is an interesting subject to tackle. I am currently working on a picture book as marketing tools for a big hotel in Japan(I, myself is a Chinese born and raised in Indonesia). When I did the character design, I did search for a Japanese little girl's clothes. I ended up making the character wearing a modern Yukata design that I found on the internet. But after I submitted it to the client, they requested something more casual and which most kids wear in daily life. Not only that, but I also made lots of mistakes like make the Yukata wrap in the wrong direction, draw totally not common breakfast on the table, etc.
    After lots of revisions and research, the sketches are done.

    I think the common mistakes which not intentionally done by an illustrator who draws stories/ characters which is not in their own culture are two: if it's not over showing it (like I draw the girl character in modern Yukata instead of general daily life clothes) then totally ignore it.

    For me personally, probably as long as the story is fiction and maybe not based on history, I would love to draw characters and stories from different cultures. Also, as long as the client/ editor/art director/ author discuss and help along the way, I do think it's fun and also give me lots of knowledge of other cultures.
    So, it's interesting to hear this topic from other's perspectives and opinions.

  • @lenwen Thanks for sharing your experience. very interesting to hear that.

  • @Lee-White

    Lee I get what you are saying but again I say this is being made overly complex for political correctness sake.

    If you or I or any of the amazingly talented people here were awarded an assignment from a publisher that involved a foreign culture, specific traditional dress, symbology, etc., of course they should perform some research and have an understanding of the topic they are illustrating. That should be expected for any work an artist is creating.

  • SVS Team SVS Instructor Pro SVS OG

    @jimsz Being able to complete a project, if hired, is only a very small part of this discussion. I know that most pro illustrators can do the job and probably do it well. But there are so many issues we are talking about here.

    I do agree with you that most pro illustrators are perfectly capable of doing a job. Otherwise they wouldn't be pro illustrators. But there are a lot of points that other people have made in this thread that go so much deeper into this subject. But, you are correct in the point you are making.

    One of the questions that I find more interesting than the one you are asking (which is "Should an illustrator have the skill to depict something from another culture and/or race?) is to look at what is currently available on the market and are we really being "overly PC" as you are suggesting?

    For example, If I walked into a children's book section of a library, and was blindfolded and asked to randomly pull books from the shelf, how many of those books would contain an african-american character? I would bet that if truly asked to do this, you would pull down hundreds of books before you happen to select one with an african-american character. Or, maybe you wouldn't even be able to randomly select one with an african american child as the lead.

    So a better question than the one you are asking is "If a professional illustrator can draw any race or culture out there, why are 99% of the books on the shelf only showing Caucasian kids? Why is there not more diversity to choose from? What should non white kids look at that shows them a version of themselves? These are much more interesting questions in my opinion.

  • SVS Team SVS Instructor Pro SVS OG

    PS, I'm trying to put my money where my mouth is and I included an african american girl as the lead character in my current book. The book is not about diversity or anything like that, I just chose to have her be the lead. This is how I like to think about including diverstiy in books. Not having the book be about race or anything overly political, but just showing other characters with different backgrounds. Something I hope to get better at as I go along. (here's a small cropped version of that character.)

    Screen Shot 2019-11-04 at 9.32.42 AM copy.jpg

  • Yes, yes yes please! This is a topic that needs to be explored.

  • Moderator

    This last month's SCBWI meeting in San Diego was a panel discussion about diversity and inclusion. They provided some interesting stats (see images here) and a wonderful video found here. The panel was primarily about writing children's books, not illustrating them.

    The biggest take-away that I got from it was the concept of "windows" and "mirrors". That as much as young people want to read about people like themselves, they also want to read about people who are different. Creating diverse books is sometimes about providing windows for children to look through at others who aren't like them, and sometimes about providing mirrors in which they can see themselves reflected back.

    Regardless of whether it's a window or a mirror, we have to have a basis of knowledge and research (some might say experience is stronger) from which to draw upon so we are actually being authentic and true in our stories.

    One of the panelists, René Colato Laínez, said something very interesting. He said he was given advice from an editor that he never forgot. She had told him that when writing stories about a specific culture or minority: if you can take the names of the characters and change them to a different culture (like making all the characters French instead of Latino) and your story isn't impacted or altered, you're not actually writing a story that speaks to the experience of that culture or minority.

    In my head, that meant: If you're writing a fairy tale that takes place in Russia, make sure you're using Russia on purpose and not just as decoration. I suppose the same thing can be said about illustrating: don't do something purposefully in, say, a Japanese style, for example, without knowing the why's and how's of the authentic style you're drawing upon. Otherwise you might be communicating information and mistakes you don't realize you're making... (I think that's the definition of cultural appropriation--using pieces of a cultural expression for your own derivative purposes without respecting or caring where it came from or what it might mean or what you might inadvertently communicate...)

    Not all stories fit that paradigm. But make sure your choice to include characters of varying ethnicities or cultures or whatever doesn't contradict itself. Do your research. Hire a Sensitivity Reader like you would an Editor for your work. Ask friends from those communities if your work rings true and is non-offensive. 'What we don't know' can inadvertently be a big deal.

    One other thing they did mention was the #OwnVoices movement and the inverted version of it that some seem to use against it: the idea that people of a specific minority are the only ones capable of writing stories or illustrating authentic characters from those minorities, and that given the interest in writing that embraces diversity (in 2015 fifteen publishing houses announced new imprints specifically for diversity titles), there is no place for white writers. That is simply not true. But if your goal as a white, 55-year-old male is to create a story about the experience of being a black woman, don't be naive and think your sympathy equates empathy. Respect your subject enough to strive to tell the best story in the most authentic way you can, and that means making an effort at hearing (and actively listening) to their voices and seeking out their expertise, perspectives, and impressions of your work.

  • @sigross thanks, I shall have to check out Stephen Wiltshire!

  • @Kevin-Longueil thanks I'll check out that video and learn more about Jorge Gutierrez!

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