Tag Archives: children’s book

From The Slush Pile: Great Animal Illustrators

Today was a more wackadoo day in illustrator submissions than usual, so I thought I’d give myself a pick-me-up by highlighting three great illustrators who draw some super-cute animals.  Enjoy!

1. CharrowMy first favorite recent find is Charrow, whose quirky illustrations exude a playful spirit and sense of humor.  Her light watercolor and drawing technique feels breezy, like she just jotted down some animals, and they happen to be hilariously adorable. She’s also a frequent contributor to They Draw and Cook. Her Etsy shop is down at the moment, but when I checked it out a few weeks ago, it was easily my favorite part of her portfolio… be sure to check back for it soon!

2. Stephanie GraeginProbably my all-time favorite illustrator submission ever is a little “mini portfolio” booklet from Stephanie Graegin.  Her Renata Liwska-style woodland creatures, accented by limited color and unlimited sweetness, had both design and editorial drooling. Crossing my fingers that I see a book with her name on it soon!

3. Lizzy HallmanIf illustrator David Catrow’s art proves anything, it’s that there’s a place in this business for a little ugly-cute.  And if my love of french bulldogs proves anything, it’s that I will always get behind ugly-cute!  Hallman’s characters may have wonky eyeballs, but they make their expressions unique and humorous. And her color treatment? 100% sweet!

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SCBWI 2011: Stand-Out Illustrators!

This past weekend was the annual SCBWI Winter Conference, a 3-day event, packed with speakers, panels and workshops, that brings authors and illustrators to Midtown from across the country.  I’ve always wanted to go, and finally had the chance to attend the Illustrators’ Intensive by begging offering to help out a bit.

Friday was all about children’s books and new media (more on that later), but one of the most fun perks was getting to see the showcase of illustrators that was set up for judging and industry viewing.  As I tried to have fun and not to get overwhelmed by the VIP cocktails and networking, I managed to grab a few cards of my favorites.

I was pleased, but not surprised, that Leeza Hernandez (above) won the Grand Prize at the showcase. She’s super talented, and has a friendly, approachable personality to boot. But I’ve been following her work for some time, so while she deserves much congratulations, she doesn’t count on my list of “new discoveries” . . .

1. Andrea Offermann /  It was so lovely to meet German illustrator Andrea Offermann, whose rich, detailed porfolio is breathtaking.  Her work is perfect for older, middle-grade readers – book covers, black and white interiors, graphic novels.  I won’t be surprised to see her art all over the shelves!

2. You Byun / Aww, how sweet are those characters’ faces?  And look at the lush range of texture!  And warmth of light!  When it comes to creating worlds, You Byun has it down.  And I’m seriously gushing over every single one.

3. Greg Pizzoli / Okay, this guy’s silkscreen prints are just too freaking cool. I’ve got major jealousy looking at his 32-page promotional zine, C’mon, Go!, and the hand-bound editions of his books are fine art, but could so easily be commercially reproduced.  His website is most effective too, with a fun, in-depth look at his process.

4. R.S. Posnak / We designers made a beeline for R.S.’s Oliver Jeffers-esque line work and letterpress business cards (we’re too predictable).  Turns out, she’s also a designer, and has an online portfolio with a healthy mix of sleek commerical projects (for adults) and vintage curios.  Hello, animal dioramas!

5. Brian Gerrity / On the other end of the spectrum, Brian Gerrity’s work is made for kids.  Fun, bubbly characters, with a smooth digital look, are perfect for little ones.  And what a whimsical sense of pattern… you can look back at the picture again and again, and still find something new.

New Artist Showcase: Christee Curran

Christee Curran

You’re about to enter your senior year at Pratt in the spring. Do you know what direction of illustration you’d like to go in for your final projects?

I’m definitely doing another children’s book, although I don’t know what yet! I’ll have to ruminate over winter break.  For my other senior project, I actually have no idea. I may just work on a series of promotional pieces to expand my portfolio, but I would like for the body of work to have a common thread. I know that in the Fall of 2011 I will be doing a lot of the characters that I’ve created in 3D, but not just yet for Spring! I’m really trying to find a way of working right now.

What kind of stories do you like to illustrate? Any favorite subjects?

I love to draw kids, especially in the classroom setting. I also love to play with drawing kids and animals together–except I put the animals on “human-level.” I think it makes a great story whenever humans and animals are nonchalantly interacting. I probably love to illustrate that subject so much because when I was a kid I wanted nothing more than to have some sort of animal who could converse with me in fluent English. That was everyone’s fantasy, right?

Who are some of your artistic heros?

Gosh there are a lot. Walt Disney and Pixar, for starters, not just for the art but for the amazing story and character developments.

Tim Burton’s animation, as well. As far as illustrators go: Norman Rockwell, Maurice Sendak, Chris van Allsburg, David Weisner, Mary Blair.  Two new favorites of mine are Suzy Lee and Peter Brown. As far as writer-illustrators, I will not ever respect any other poets as highly as I will ever respect Shel Silverstein or Dr. Seuss.

As a Peer Counselor, what career advice would you give to aspiring illustration students?

Well, I highly recommend that you take a class called “Self Promotion.”  Not only will it give you some really valuable information about getting jobs and internships, but it will force you to make a great resume, portfolio, and website. And you do NEED a website. I shouldn’t talk, because I don’t have one yet, but I will by the end of the semester!

While we’re on the subject of portfolios, make sure that every single assignment that you get in your classes is completed to a level of sophisticated finish. If that means that you don’t sleep for the night, that means you don’t sleep for the night. Trust me: when you are putting together your portfolio, and you have those great pieces, the bags under your eyes instantly become superfluous.

In addition, make sure that every single assignment that you do caters to your career agenda. Put it through your creative filter. Think of the assignment as a point of departure.

Do what you do. EVERYONE has a different “style.” Don’t get stressed. Look for patterns in the way you work or design a page. Sometimes just exaggerating these preexisting patterns can help you find your own visual language.  Stay more concerned with making each piece your best piece yet. You WILL be judged by the weakest piece in your portfolio.

Do NOT underestimate the importance of type. Take Type 3 or Graphic Design 1. Take it with a great teacher. You’ll go crazy during, but will be really happy you did afterwards. Seriously.

Make sure you know what’s going on at Career Services. The counselors are there to help you. Make connections with them and the teachers you love. Keep your eyes open for events posted on the bulletin boards around campus and friend “Peer to Peer” on facebook, because we totally keep you up to date on events you should be attending (like resume workshops, internship fairs, lectures from successful alumni, etc.).

Last one, I promise: This sounds weird, but always be friendly with people.  The kids in your major, the kids in other majors, the kids at other art schools. Strangers! Because guess what: A little kindness goes a long way and so does karma. Networking doesn’t start or stop at any specific time. NEVER cut off a potential connection. The person you flipped off on the way to your interview could be your interviewer.

What career advice would you give to yourself in the next year?

Dear Christee,

Hi, it’s yours truly! Don’t worry about sleeping, just worry about getting plenty of coffee and exercise. Keep pushing yourself and get an internship for this Spring. Focus on perfecting your portfolio and updating your website. Your getting really close to finding your personal voice; let it talk and listen to what it has to say, because then it will get stronger on its own. There are other things to keep in mind, but none that I can think of at the moment, except to keep worshipping Pat Cummings, and to believe in yourself.

Best,

-Christee

PS: Remember what E.L. Doctorow said (about writing, but it applies to careers in general):

“It’s like driving a car at night. You never see further than your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”

What’s Hot… And What’s Not: Current Trends In Children’s Book Publishing

Last night after work, I remembered to head to midtown for the latest panel put on by the Children’s Book Group of the Author’s Guild – and I wasn’t disappointed.  Author and chair Rachel Vail moderated to a packed crowd at the Scandinavia House on 38th St, to discuss “What’s Hot And What’s Not: Current Trends In Children’s Book Publishing”.  Aka . . . vampires.  

Authors and enthusiasts of all ages came to hear Kim Brown, VP of Merchandise, Barnes and Noble; Lisa Desimini, author/illustrator; David Levithan, author of Nick And Norah’s Infinite Playlist and Exec. Editorial Director at Scholastic; and Marcia Wernick, literary agent at Sheldon Fogelman.  With these bigwigs speaking, it’s not surprising that I picked up a LOT of good info.  Here’s what they had to say . . . 

Kim Brown got things rolling with a quick run-down of, literally, what is selling (and she’s buying!).  If it’s pink, purple, and sparkly – it’s selling.  If it’s dark, purple, and is a vampire book – it’s selling.  In a nutshell.

Lisa Desimini gave a refreshing, and to me, the most relatable, perspective.  She encouraged her fellow authors to not simply jump on every trend that is selling at the moment because, by the time you try to ride the wave, it’ll be over.  Instead, follow your heart and your taste, and just be open to new challenges (like her bestseller, Dog The Fire Dog).   But, speaking of vampires, she does the covers for the True Blood series.  

Next, lone male David Levithan took the publisher’s point-of-view, and spoke about where new media is going to take the industry.  Essentially, he was encouraging, because even though we are on the brink of major change (like the music industry, circa 2000), technology is not going to replace books – it’s going to give more options to the way that we read, write and learn.  And picture books aren’t going anywhere.  Phew.  

Marcia Wernick wrapped it up with the agent, aka. the middleman’s, story. She said that, regardless of trends, great content, powerful characters, and that magic “hook” will always start the next wave.  

Opening the floor for questions, the conversation turned to the NEXT wave – after vampires – the distopia.  I’ve heard of the book, Hunger Games, that represents that next fad for YA, and I think I better pick it up.  Because, as YA dominates, it crosses over with the trends of adult literature.  Example – 40 year old stockbrokers reading Twilight on the subway.  

Other tidbits of useful information for aspiring authors/illustrators:

1.  GET AN AGENT.  It’s a bunny-eat-bunny world out there.

2.  Make sure you know what rights you are giving away, because the contracts signed today will be the ones in the spotlight when major changes happen in the industry.

3.  Sales figures and awards don’t correlate – so don’t stress about winning Caldecotts any time soon. 

4.  Librarians are Twittering!!   And so is Mo Willem’s pigeon.  And after this talk, so will a lot of little old lady writers.  

5.  Teens rule.  

– ABE