PODCAST FEEDBACK NEEDED
CatOnPaper last edited by
@Lee-White I imagine this could be a section of the podcast that bleeds out to other topics and brings vlback to previous discussed things yet is very strong related to this one.
I would like to hear your take on pricing/paying services based on where the artists are from. It is frustrating to even imagine there are talented artists charging the 100th of their worth just because they are from "poor countries"
A person who has had vast experiences in life and has interacted with various individuals can build up their creative bank account and thus be able to draw from that knowledge to create characters from all walks of life.
This is not rocket science.
Have I flown to the moon? NO. But I can draw from my knowledge (I teach at the high school Alan Shepard attended) and I can do the research. I
'm not a dog. But I can create all sorts of dogs based upon my knowledge, experiences and research on them.
We have allowed ourselves to be influenced by the outside world to impose their opinions on our creative problem solving and creativity in general. We do not create "by committee". If I want my humans to be all shapes, sizes, colors and abilities, I'm going to present that. If I want it to reflect what is currently sitting in front of me in my high school classroom, then I'll draw that. (Which by the way is 17 white boys and 2 white girls..some have glasses...and all are working in Photoshop at the moment.) THAT is my reality. If it's not your reality where you live, then YOU create what you see and be fine with it. If I want to represent more diversity then I will research to see what a "typical" classroom looks like in the midwest, the southwest, the northwest, etc. But here in NH, THAT is my reality in the largest high school in our state.
There are plenty of "old, white men" who draw beautiful characters of all kinds. And there are plenty of "old, white women" (like my 51 year old self) who can also draw beautiful characters of all kind. But I'm really with Will when it comes to children's books...I've been sticking with animal characters. I don't have the patience to deal with the obnoxious rants from people who are going to complain about the human characters I choose to illustrate. Or those who tell me I'm not "qualified" to draw someone who doesn't look like me.
If they don't like it, they can draw their own.
@mrsdion Totally agree with you Christine! We established that any pro illustrator can and should be able to draw any job. And do it well! We are painting a TON of stuff we don't know about. So we can and should draw things that aren't around us in our daily lives. We would not make a living at this if it was any other way.
But some of the more nuanced things we are discussing here are (note, I'm not attempting to answer any of these. Just noting they are worth discussing):
- Who actually gets hired for jobs? Is there a racial and/or gender bias and if so, why.
- If pro illustrators can draw any race or ethnicity, why are 90% of kids books about white kids?
- How does it affect someone growing up to not see themselves represented in books and media? (This is changing for the better thank goodness!)
- Do we have as many minorities that are being trained to actually be pro level and what obsticals do they face that maybe white people don't. Even just having people in your family that went to college is a HUGE factor in how someone will be supported in the decision to take on higher learning.
- In culturally sensitive books, should be book project be given to someone of that race/gender/etc. over someone who isn't that particular thing (talent level being equal of course)?
- How should illustrators prepare themselves for potential minefields when illustrating culturally sensitive material? (this is a huge topic, one that I've already experienced as a pro and you have to be ready for it).
All super interesting questions (in my opinion) and again, I am not attempting to answer them per se, (or even need them answered). I just think it's worth discussing. I don't think it's obnoxious to talk about this stuff. I think it's interesting. It's sensitive for a lot of people and since I am a not a minority and haven't has to deal with this issue, I'm just gonna listen for a bit and see what I can learn.
TessaW last edited by TessaW
@Lee-White I really like the summary of issues you've posted in this latest comment. There are issues you've listed that I initially wanted to delve into, but decided against because the first post seemed so focused on one particular aspect of the larger issues at hand.
@TessaW Thanks. I'm just starting to see the direction I want to take for this. Some bigger questions, but also some really usable ones for us as illustrators in today's market.
- How much diversity should I include in a book dummy and is that even necessary?
Let's use that as a hypothetical situation. @mrsdion said that she had 19 people in her class. 17 white boys and 2 white girls. Any illustrator is free to draw from the world around them. So say she does a picture book and the class in book has 19 white kids in it. She is drawing from what she knows and that is fine of course. BUT, if she submitted that to the big 5 publishers, would that stop her book from being sold? Publishers know that the current percentage of non-white kids in the US market is actually over 40% right now. So they know that a book with all white kids would be excluding more than 40% of the intended market (by next year minorities will actually be the majority of children in the US). Not to mention the typical 50/50 ratio of boys to girls. The other thing is if we market to the BIG 5 publishers, they are all in NY. In NY the diversity is WAY higher than most of the US. I can have up to 20 people at a publishing house looking at my work all at once in a meeting. If say, 70% of them are non white, my manuscript might be in trouble.
Now, this brings up a couple of interesting questions. Would they reject it for that reason? What if I do include diversity in my manuscript, is that pandering? Whew, it gets tricky real quick. But as illustrators we need to get a feel for this type of thing. It comes up A LOT in acquisition meetings when publishers are deciding on which books to make a bid on.
Interesting right!? And confusing!! I like @mrsdion's idea of only using animals from now on. It easily solves the issue! haha! : )
@Lee-White I absolutely agree with your exploration of the 7 questions you have posed. And you’re right, it’s good to have discussions about this. My statements below may open a WHOLE other can of worms....but it creates discussion. While my classroom reflects the reality in my high school (I have 1 black student out of approximately 90 students), if I were to illustrate my stories with people instead of animals, I would incorporate a wider diversification. But I have to keep in mind that when rendering ethnicities that aren’t “black” or “white”, the color choices used or the features to draw can cause even MORE problems...such as just how much “olive” or “yellow” or “light umber” do I put in the other ethnicities. Am I being “tokenistic” if I slant the eyes too much...or not enough??? Who gets to decide how much change needs to be done to my illustrations? If “Latinos” and “Blacks” don’t get along in one area of the country but they do in other areas, which version gets depicted? Is that boy Chinese or Korean or Vietnamese or Japanese?....the list goes on.
That being said, (and I may catch some disagreement here, but I’m “going there” because I think it’s the “elephant in the room”) there is another “diversification”. I will not illustrate books that delve into the controversial areas of “gender identity”. I am surrounded by it every day. I have a caring and open relationship with my students who will often confide in me what is going on in their lives. I have girls that want to be called by boy names; girls that are wearing chest binders; students who want to be referred to as “they”, boys that want to be referred to as “she” and who are taking medications to stop the normal hormones in their bodies. I love these kids and my heart breaks for them as I watch them struggle and I listen to their stories. It’s a “coming of age” that I certainly didn’t experience in high school. But it all started in their childhood.
Am I supposed to be illustrating those topics in children’s books? Am I supposed to be contributing to that mainstream narrative? I cannot be a part of what is causing these young teens to be in such turmoil. I see the end results of this social experiment. Many of these teens have grown up without honesty and stability in their lives. I want to illustrate stories for our children that show hope, love and stability within a family unit and not stories that are contributing to their turmoil or confusion. Another reason to stick with animals.
Then there are library story hours that are featuring “drag queens”, teaching children how to “twerk”. This is something I strongly oppose. They have taken the library, where the beloved children’s books that I grew up reading, the books that I would get lost in that had good and positive themes were found, and turned it into a dark and scary place. It is a world that no young child should be exposed to as they do not have the cognitive development or formal thinking skills to properly process the information in a rational, understandable manner.
Hence, another reason why I will stick with animals.
Your #6 question may be a reference to the “minefield” that is out there. I know that as an illustrator I will most likely be working through much smaller publishing houses. I’m fine with that. I am not putting all my eggs into the illustration basket and my multiple streams of income will continue to support me (shout out to Podcast #39 Starting an Online Shop.)
I’ve been teaching for 28 years. The world of children and why I got into teaching has changed into something that I do not recognize. I grew up with the survival/adventure stories of “Little House on the Prairie”. Good, clean, wholesome, family stories. I was a top winner in the annual “Read-a-thon” and read so many books. I had a passion for reading. I always chose the picture books to read for their beautiful illustrations (sorry Jake I had the Richard Scarry books and I hated the illustrations! LOL. Even though they were animals! They just weren’t “beautiful” in my eyes.)
When I walk into a major book seller and I peruse the picture book shelves, there are some wonderful choices. But too often I have to dig past the books pushing political ideologies or books focused on the mindset of the adult and not on the inquisitive curiosities of an innocent child, in order to find a book that takes a child on a wonderful journey into their imagination. I LOVED being transported in a story to a place that was simply amazing! I want my illustrations and my stories to take young children on that very same journey!
I may have digressed into an area you did not intend to explore. But when I saw the word “diversity”, and it comes to the public high school classroom, these days it means so much more than just skin color or abilities. These kids come to us with a LOT of baggage from their early childhood years. I have to take a stand on what I will promote in the illustrations I create because it will have an effect on the reader (as you were effected as noted in Podcast #18 The Life Cycle of a Children’s Book.)
bugeyefly last edited by
Please do press on and make this one Lee, it's tremendously important.
@mrsdion I wouldn't worry about that particular topic too much as a children's book illustrator. The chances of being offered a book like that is almost zero (even from NY publishers). In doing this for 20 years I've never been offered anything like that. And even if you were offered that, you could just decline it.
So that issue might be a like .01 % of the stories being offered to illustrators, the other things I mentioned above will affect a huge number of stories. Things like race, gender equality, and handicaps are going to be much more prevalent than the subject you were mentioning. Rarely will a children's book venture into anything having to do with sexual preference and identity. I'm sure that is out there too, but it's a very small percentage.
This could be a multiple part series. There may be too many points and skimming over them isn’t going to cover it in the quality you want. But hey, that gives you lots of topics. Will coveted this a long time ago with an interview on YouTube. Bring that guy back. He was great.
I happened to be at a bookstore right after reading this thread so I checked the Children’s book section. This is a large chain book store in upstate New York. The majority of picture books have animal characters or are based on commercial characters (e.g. Disney). Of the rest, most of them feature white people as the only characters or as the main character. (Sidekicks might be diverse but they are the sidekicks.) Interestingly, children of color when they are the main character tend to be in books that are deliberately “you can be anything you want to be” kinds of books or books that explore the character’s culture. It’s nice to see that effort to help kids see themselves in a variety of careers etc but I saw very few (less than .01%) that featured a child of color as the main character in a general audience storybook with a story line that is just meant to entertain not necessarily teach or “uplift.” When it came to gender, there was more of a balance - there were lots of girls featured as main characters even in adventure stories or silly stories.
As a side note, I was also made aware that lots of the people in this forum are waaaaay better illustrators than a lot of what’s out there
@demotlj Interesting observations! I also have to agree with that last sentence When in a book store I often look at the art and find myself thinking along the lines of "@Braden-Hallett would have done a better job" or "This would have fit @Judy-Elizabeth-Wilson 's art really well and her style is cuter" or "@Whitney-Simms does better watercolor" There really is an unbelievably high level here
@NessIllustration Ness, thank you. We have some great talent on the forum and with smart discussions and in depth thinking on topics such as this one, we will have so much to offer the world of publishing. Well, you are already there! I love your nativity illustrations you just did!
@Lee-White That’s a relief. It’s a topic that is thrown in our faces even to the point of having “teacher training” workshops and how we must (not “should”) handle it.
I’d love to know how to illustrate a disability that is not so “obvious”. Dechenne’s Muscular Dystrophy (my grandnephew has it...before they become wheel chair bound), depression, anxiety, diabetes, all of those “unseen” handicaps.
I believe @Whitney-Simms is referencing Tyrus Goshay. He and Will had a wonderfully spirited and insightful video where race was explored. Tyrus by the way is a wonderful illustrator who is black.
I’d also love to know how we get our work PAST the commercial characters that @demotlj was referring to. There is so much more interesting life out there besides Disney!