Last Thursday, I had the pleasure of attending the 30th Annual Society of Illustrators’ Original Art Show opening reception! It was a crowded, swinging party full of the best children’s book illustrators of the year, plus the editors, art directors/designers, friends and family who support them.
I’m not gonna lie – I was a little nervous about being there with so many people I admire, but don’t actually know. But I wasn’t nervous enough NOT to go, and I’m so glad I did! There were quite a few Penguin people there, so I wasn’t without my fellow assistant-types. But the cool part was getting to briefly meet some awesome Putnam illustrators, and put faces to names for industry folks who were wandering around the event. From the moment I ran into Eric Carle on the stairs (within 2 minutes of being there), my mantra of the evening was turning around, only to look at someone’s name-tag and go, “Whoa, I’m two feet away from ___________!”
The awards ceremony filled me with pride for being in the children’s book community. All of the winners were excited to be recognized by their peers, and there wasn’t one speaker who didn’t seem like a lovely, humble person. Silver medalist Dan Santat, especially, seemed touched by the award and reminded us that this is one of the few occasions where illustrators, usually holed up alone in their studios, get the chance to be validated for the great work that they do. Aw.
The Gold medalist, Renata Liwska, is a huge illustrator-crush of mine, and I’m so glad that she won the top award of the year for The Quiet Book! Her adorable animals are just up my alley, and I can’t wait until her book with Philomel, Red Wagon, comes out this winter. The cutest! Check out some of her sketches (believe it or not, her finishes are digital) on Amazon as well.
The highlight of the evening, hands down, was getting to hear Eric Carle accept his Lifetime Achievement Award. At 81, Carle is a champ for coming all the way down to NYC. Though his “senior moments” came out just a bit when he mixed up a few of his own life details (he has had quite a lot of experience!), his wisdom was more than clear. The laughs came when he mentioned that he “never really thought of himself as an illustrator” – says the creator of the most famous picture book ever. But I thought it was so interesting how he described the relationship between his graphic design/advertising background and the way that he composes his illustrations. Carle said that every picture book spread he makes, he designs as a poster. Bold color, clear compositions, graphic shapes. Isn’t that incredible?
The award that hits closest to home is the Founder’s Award, which is given to an up-and-coming talent in the field (this year, it was Hyewon Yum). Now, here’s how I feel about awards: they’re nice to get, but they don’t really matter. With so many equally talented people out there, awards like these are full of out-of-your-control factors like the tastes and predisposition of the judges. So don’t bother thinking about it, because there’s really not a lot you can, or should, do to “try to win” an award.
That being said. I WANTSSS IT. The Founder’s Award, I mean. I have too much competitiveness in my bones not to want that award someday (at least a little). And with the board books already published, that means I have one chance to win it. In short, my picture book debut better be smashing.
But enough about awards.
It was way too crowded to check out all of the books and art displayed at the Original Art Show, so I’m going again with the rest of the Putnam crew in a couple weeks. I’ll report back on my findings later!