Last weekend’s NESCBWI conference was amazing. I left feeling I had personally achieved more than in previous years. My personal focus for this conference was to improve upon my portfolio. I did as many activities as were possible to get other professionals to give feedback.
First was a peer critique lead by David Hyde Costello. He set up, in the fashion of speed dating, one on one portfolio speed critiques. All the participants sat at separate tables in pairs and then took 6 minutes to check out and critique each other’s portfolios. In our 55 minute session we were able to have 8 different people give advice on our work. I want this session to be a Friday staple year after year from now on. I am hoping next years conference picks it up and/or David agrees to run it again.
Then I had a one on one critique with an Art Director. I was terribly nervous going in, it isn’t much different from a job interview, basically because it is! However, it went very well. I got a good response on my less tight art style and feel more confident in pursuing this style and have new pieces in mind.
By Sunday I had eliminated 4 pieces from my portfolio and could see it was a stronger representation of my work, which was just in time for another brief critique by two Illustrator Academy faculty, Ann Stott and Matt Phelan. It went well and it sparked a thought that I have two looks to my work, the hand drawn and the vector digital. I link this with each being created with separate hands. So, my future endeavor is to set up my online portfolio to represent left and right hand studios. Keep a look out for the update.
My other focus for the conference was organizing the Illustrator Academy, bringing together Ann Stott-Art Director/Candlewick, Yolanda Scott(new name!)-Editor/Charlesbridge, and author/illustrators David Hyde Costello and Matt Phelan, for the theme-the process of making a book with an author/illustrator. In our slotted four hours we filled and smoothly went through three activities and two presentations. Thank you faculty, this all came together because of your enthusiasm and talent!
We started the session with an ice breaker, finding out that many attendees keep bizarre things in their freezers-dead animals not meant for consumption! Then Ann and Matt continued on with their presentation. Their relationship is Art Director to author/illustrator and writer to illustrator. Ann has written two books(Always and the other coming soon) and was able to see Matt illustrate them. The conference was the first time they met face to face. Matt talked about his process on Storm in the Barn, he begins writing getting that completely finished then he moves to the illustrations. His method comes from illustrating books for other writers. He sees himself as Matt the writer, then he feels free to be Matt the illustrator. Ann brought our two dummy books paired with their finished books from two illustrators that work from start to finish in completely different manners. Showing the gap between the ways in which you can put together a book.
Our three activities were a writing/illustrating exercise led by David, portfolio reviews, then a review of homework. I hope all the attendees felt they received good feedback.
Sandwiching the activities we had Yo and David wrap up the Academy with their presentation and show. Their current project together is David’s book, Little Pig Joins the Band. They took us through their humorous journey to its almost completed stage. We saw how they joined forces, his original dummy, and then how his text and illustrations changed at the same time to reach its current stage. With a few last thoughts they realized the best way to finish explaining the process of the author/illustrator was in a song. Their final performance gave a dashing touch, which earned them a standing ovation.
In the end we realize there is no right or wrong way to write a book, as unique as all of us our, so too are our processes. Although, I do believe there is no better guide than an incredible editor or art director to help guide you on your journey. It was beautiful to see the passion that Yo and Ann had for the growth in the art of David and Matt. We thank you for sharing this excellent information with us all. It was a pleasure to work with all of them for this Academy.
As a conference is a brilliant way to network and other networking tools exist for the in between times. Twitter is my new favorite. Throughout the conference I posted numerous pics, some behind the scenes ukulele playing! and now I am keeping up with some tweeps I met: @melinabeavers, @danidraws, and @johnlechner to name a few. Check out who I follow to learn about more amazing publishing people.