This past weekend I sat cocooned in a large room of creative friends. I was one among over a thousand at the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators summer conference. I hoped to network and glean what I could from listening to numerous children’s book professionals talk about the industry. Here are some bits of advice I gathered:
- Marry rich. (well, so much for that one!)
- Take acting or storytelling classes. This is especially useful when making classroom visits as well as entering the internal life of a character. (I knew there was a reason for the theatrics of my youth)
- Take your art seriously but take yourself lightly. (I insist you pay me, but I insist with a smile)
- This one might seem like a no brainer, but this is hard: Your illustrations should tell a story. Story matters most. Illustrations should make you ask eagerly, “What happens next?”
- Create a reward system for yourself. (ice cream)
- The safest way to learn empathy is through a book. (this isn’t necessarily advice, but it reminds me why I like books)
- Art directors are always looking for a fresh voice. (I haven’t quite figured out what “voice” is yet–nor what my particular “voice” is for that matter–but I know what it is when I hear it or see it)
- White space creates natural quiet. (my designer friends should like this one)
- Play with the “drama” of turning the page. (more theatre parallels! yes!)
- Character. Character. Character. Character. Character. Character. Character. Character. Character. Character.
I got so much out of the conference, but number 10 took home the prize. I think I was reciting the word “character” in my sleep. Characters need expression. They need to be memorable. This is an area of illustration that I’m just starting to understand. My goal now is to focus on practicing characters with expression. This should be fun because, to stretch the theatre analogy further, I get to be much like a director prepping his actors for the stage.
More to come….