Monday, October 10, 2016

Interview with 2016 LA mentee, Katie Carberry

Katie Carberry was the recipient of the SCBWI Mentorship Award at the 2016 Summer Conference. Kidlit Artists would like to officially welcome Alison to the blog, and ask her a few questions about the Mentorship experience, and about what she is up to these days.

Did the feedback you received during the mentorship critiques either change or confirm the direction of your illustration?

The critiques were very constructive and helped me in two specific ways. First they helped direct me to areas that needed a little more attention so I can refocus my time are energy on those areas and allow me to be more efficient. Secondly, and most importantly, it gave me confidence in my work and helped show me where my strengths are and how I can showcase those even more in my illustraions. I was told how important it is to focus on consistency of style in all of my pieces but still allow myself to be playful and experiment with line work and texture. Taking these things into consideration will help me move forward as an illustrator and develop a stronger portfolio.

What kind of projects are you working on now?

I have taken the feedback from the mentorship critique and am working on expanding my portfolio. I have joined with a group of artists who all share a love of children's illustration and formed a collective called Puddle Jump Collective in which we just finished a collaborated project illustrating the story of Alice in Wonderland. I also have been doing illustration work for a new social media platform called In addition to the above projects I have been working on my own manuscripts and book dummies.

Is there any type of illustration (or other work) that you’re hoping for in the near future?

My dream is to write and illustrate my own children's book. I would also love to be commissioned to illustrate picture books, chapters books, and children's magazines. Another fun project would be to create artwork for a children's board game or card game.

Is there one really helpful piece of advice that you’ve gotten since pursuing illustration?  Any one piece of bad advice?

The best piece of advice I've heard is to never give up. I was told that children's book illustration can be a difficult field to get into but that I need to persevere and maintain the passion that drew me to this career choice in the first place. 

What was one of your favorite quotes or lessons from the SCBWI Summer Conference?

The most important message that I got from the conference was to always be true to yourself, your voice is what got you there and your voice is what the world needs. Don't get caught up in the idea of what others want to see but rather what it is you want to share with the world. 

What were some of your favorite books when you were a kid?

Books were a huge part of my childhood, some of my favorite stores were fairy tales especially Czech fairy tales that were sent from our family in Prague. I was drawn to the intensity and darkness, they showed a world that was scary yet exciting to read about. I love Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are, but am especially fond of the ones that my mother ready to me A Hole is to Dig and Open House for Butterflies. Other books that my mother read to me that inspired my young mind were The Frog and Toad Series by Arnold Lobel, Fortunately by Remy Charlip and Shel Silverstein's Uncle Shelby's ABZ Book. As I got older I enjoyed reading the Amelia Bedelia books and Roald Dahl's books, my favorite being Matilda.


See more of Katie's work on her website, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or on the Puddle Jump Collective.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Interview with 2016 LA mentee, Alison Farrell

Alison Farrell was the recipient of the SCBWI Mentorship Award at the 2016 Summer Conference. Kidlit Artists would like to officially welcome Alison to the blog, and ask her a few questions about the Mentorship experience, and about what she is up to these days.

Did the feedback you received during the mentorship critiques either change or confirm the direction of your illustration?

As a way to keep human characters distinct, I was told to consider what animal characters (for example, an elephant or a mouse) might look like as people. For me, this is a very mind-bending approach to drawing human characters!

What kind of projects are you working on now?

I am currently working on my debut picture book, Cycle City, which I am writing and drawing. Did I mention I love bikes? There are so many bikes in this book!

Is there any type of illustration (or other work) that you’re hoping for in the near future?

The book I am working on now requires lots of small details. I am hoping to change gears and work on something more character based, whimsical, graphic, fun, or funny. I am a sucker for silly, sweet books about friends like George and Martha or Frog and Toad, or charismatic characters like Calvin.

Is there one really helpful piece of advice that you’ve gotten since pursuing illustration?  Any one piece of bad advice?

Slow down, take time to find yourself in your work and discover what your interests are.

What was one of your favorite quotes or lessons from the SCBWI Summer Conference?

Jon Klassen, quoting Stanley Kubrick, "I do not always know what I want, but I do know what I don't want."

A fun exercise for discovering voice in your writing by Drew Daywalt: record conversations with friends/family and transcribe. This can reveal little quirks people have: coughs, little broken phrases pieced together, awkwardness.

What were some of your favorite books when you were a kid?

Miss. Rumphius, Roxaboxen, anything Chris Van Allsburg, Alice in Wonderland, The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, The Secret Garden, Calvin and Hobbes, Richard Scarry, George and Martha, There's a Monster at the End of This Book, anything Arnold Lobel, I would have considered myself a Roald Dahl aficionado, Lizbeth Zwerger's Wizard of OZ, The Snowy Day, Where the Wild Things Are.

A Beacon Hill Christmas was made by Barbara Westman, not very well known, but I adored it as a kid.

My grandparents had some seriously tattered Farside books that I would obsess over whenever I visited.

So many books! I could go on forever!


See more of Alison's work on her website, Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Palettes: on color combinations & experimentations

When proceeding to the final step in an art piece, it can be challenging to find the accurate colors that are needed to express a feeling for each illustration to create an emotional experience through color.

Here you can find some helpful tips for experimentation, as well as some images with colors that I find greatly interesting and inspiring! 

-Mixing colors
 Finding the right single color for a specific object is the first challenge, here are some mixes of color that I have found very helpful:

  • Emerald or aqua green + magenta = purple, depending on how much you add of each color it can be colder or warmer

  • Hostaperm blue (Phtalo blue) + white = royal blue close to cerulean blue

  • Red-orange (Pyrrole orange) + green-yellow (chromium oxide green + lemon yellow) + white = ochre

  • Hostaperm green (Phtalo green) + Lemon yellow = wild green

-Color combinations
We might say that we love a specific color, but sometimes we might actually refer to a color contrasting other color (or set of colors) which individually might not be as compelling, but when put next to each other are incredibly beautiful.

Example: blue and yellow during the blue hour. Image source: Shutterbug
(Thanks to my friend Beka for the inspiration on these colors) 

Here are some color combinations that might help you create an interesting palette:

  • Contrasting all colds against one warm color / contrasting all warms against one cold color


  • Colors that are very close in the color wheel against one contrasting color from the opposite side of the color wheel

    Source: Prismacolor color wheel, Pinterest
  • Triads. You can vary in saturation and value

    Source: Prismacolor color wheel, Pinterest
-Color charts

Cool  vs warm colors. Background vs foreground?

*All color results here were made with Indart acrylics and Liquitex white

Some helpful links on color: 

What are your favorite color combinations ? What are your color recipes?

Thanks for stopping by!

Ana Aranda writes/illustrates for children and creates murals.
You can find her work at 
these different locations:
Twitter: @anaranda2

Monday, August 15, 2016

Observing + Understanding + Respecting your Process

This August was my third SCBWI national conference in a row. Part of my planning for it involved making a new dummy, and I had about 4 months to pull it together.

The problem was that I decided I wanted to make a new dummy before I had a solid, workable story. So there was a cart. And it was in front of a horse. And I did a lot of thumbnails, sketches, and freaking out before I realized that I was not doing so well with that need-to-have-a-new-dummy cart standing in front of a story-that-isn’t-working horse.

This isn’t the first time I’ve done this. I’m great at rapidly generating a ton of ideas for stories and scenarios, and I’m not great at testing them to see if the story itself makes sense or feels cohesive. After a month, I had drawn out an entire 32-page dummy before I got the confirmation from a critique group: the story was just not working. I was very frustrated, and I wanted to drop the story entirely. But where had I gone wrong?

Instead of going back to the dummy for edits, I wanted to go further back, to the root of where I was working from. I wanted to look at my process. I wondered what would happen if I were to observe it, without trying to make any solutions or justifications. What would I find?

I came up with this process of self-reflection that I thought might be helpful to other kidlit people when doing long-term visioning and improving their creative practice. The process has four steps:

Step 1: Get it All Out 

I took out a sketchbook and wrote about how I work, and the “things” I was experiencing. It was important at this time to not self-censor (“that’s not relevant”) or try to immediately develop solutions (“what if I try x?”). I kept in the personal stuff (“I want to exercise more” and “call mom more”), because with creative work, personal and professional often bleed together.

This step in the process is all about unloading. You need to know what you are working with before you can start to work and understand it.

Step 2: Look for Patterns, and Identify Problems 

At this point I want to see everything at once and start to identify categories, themes, and patterns in the way that I work. Do I just sit at my drafting table and hope for the best? Am I working on a knife’s edge (deadline to send postcards, portfolio, etc. to the printer) so that even getting a flat tire on my bike would throw my entire schedule off?

Based on this writing, what large problems or issues are surfacing? Can you write them down? What gets lumped together? What needs to be teased apart?

Some other things you’re going to want to ask yourself: what are the implications of the way that I’m working? How are my patterns influencing my outputs, my relationships, my career, and my future goals?

You might also think about whether or not these behaviors, in context, are inherently “bad” or unproductive. I’ve noticed that there’s a trend and reward for artists with massive output, usually through social media. But you can’t always have the firehose going at full blast; you need time to process and learn, try different techniques.

Step 3: Small Interventions

So now you see that you’ve had some time pulling your work style out of your head, pulling it apart, looking at all the pieces, re-sorting it all, and identifying some key problems you're facing, what do you do? NOW is the time to develop little suggestions for yourself, based on the evidence you’ve collected.

What are the indicators of me about to fall into these patterns of work that aren’t so useful? How can I keep an eye out for these behaviors? Are there any tools I could try using to prevent me/alert me when I’m about to go down this path?

My big takeaways (after going through this process): I identified that I can generate story ideas well, but I need time to build/live with those stories before I can tell whether or not they can be capital-S Stories. If I understand that this is what I need to do to work well, I can prepare and plan (to the best of my ability) so that I don’t end up spinning my wheels.

It feels great to go through this process. But once you’ve reached this point, you’re at a critical time where you need to remember to regularly check on yourself. Which leads to...

Step 4: Reflect, and Repeat the Cycle 

After awhile, do this process again: write about the way you’re working, what’s going well, what’s frustrating. Identify another problem you’re coming up against (you will have them). Use this as a calibration tool; a repeating process to support your creative practice. Try to not wait for a crisis to realize that you should have been addressing these smaller problems all along. Then you really will have some work to do.

So why this is important for the field? 

There’s an interview with the poet Stanley Kunitz where he talks about how writing gets harder with age. "The poems are there, but they lie under the debris of the life. One has to dig for them very much harder than one had to at the beginning, when poetry is so largely, in one's youth, a glandular activity."

In his keynote at the LA conference, Jon Klassen talked about finding inspiration, and the danger of being inflexible. He stressed the importance of “taking care of your machinery.” I would go further with this metaphor, encouraging kidlit folks who plan to be in it for the long haul to understand their machinery. Observe it and see how it functions, where it works well, and what areas need special attention. And like machinery, different areas function differently in response to outside forces, so your machine is something that needs to be checked and tuned up regularly.

Particularly in the run-up to a national conference, it’s easy to get pulled into the frenzy of preparing dummies, working on stories, working on your portfolio, making postcards, submitting, and social media. The hard part that doesn’t get talked about much, is not just creating good work, but understanding the way you work, and cultivating your practice so that you’re making the best art/writing/output you are capable of making.


K-Fai Steele is a writer/drawer who lives in San Francisco. You can see her process on instagram, twitter, and snapchat @areyouokfai

Monday, August 8, 2016

SCBWI 2016 Summer Conference Tidbits

I have spent the last week or so trying to return to my “normal” life, after spending a long weekend at the SCBWI 45th Annual Summer Conference, which as we all know, took place at the Millenium Biltmore Hotel, in Los Angeles, at the beginning of the month. As usual, the talent, expertise, good will and cheer of everyone involved boggled my mind! It was wonderful to see old friends, and to meet new ones.

I learned so much as the weekend progressed, and became increasingly sleep-deprived and overwhelmed as time went on, but in a good way! I'm still pouring over my sketchbook, which I filled up with notes and drawings. From the scribbles, I have extracted a few inspired quotes to share with you, along with (very!) rough sketches of the speakers, who I drew while listening to their sage words. Enjoy!  

“Only your life can create your voice.”  ­— Drew Daywalt, author. His books include The Day the Crayons Quit and The Day the Crayons Came Home


“If you’re not struggling and frustrated and failing, you’re not setting your goals high enough.”  ­— Pam Muñoz Ryan, author. Her novels include Esperanza Rising and Becoming Naomi Léon

“Diversity is not a trend... it needs to be the norm.” ­
— Justin Chanda, Vice President, Publisher of 

children’s imprints, Simon & Schuster


“Trust criticism & revision, and allow yourself to learn from it.”  ­— Arthur Levine, Publisher and Editor, Arthur A. Levine Books


“Pick things you like, and things you know. You will get something you didn’t set out to do, but it will be yours.” — John Klassen, author/illustrator. His books include I Want My Hat Back and This Is Not My Hat


 “Know your premise before you start. It could be the most important 25 words you write.”
— Carole Boston Weatherford, author and award-winning poet. Her titles include Gordon Parks: How the Photographer Captured Black and White America and Freedom in Congo Square



“Be brave and listen. None of us know everything. All of us can learn more.”  ­— Mary Lu, YA author. Her titles include the Legend trilogy and the Young Elites series

“Be brave and spontaneous with your ideas. The more you use, the more you’ll have.”  ­­— Sophie Blackall, illustrator of over 30 books, including Finding Winnie, the Baby Tree and the ongoing Ivy and Bean series


Molly Ruttan
instagram: mollyillo
twitter: @molly_ruttan
FB: Molly Ruttan/MollyRuttan Illustration

Monday, August 1, 2016

Fear. Feeling Stuck. How to Overcome it.

Imagining about something and transferring those ideas onto paper is an enjoyable process but at the same time, it requires an abundance of energy. 

We may go through different processes with our rational thought and intuitive feelings.

This may not apply to everyone but I would like to share my past experiences which made me fear, stuck, and how I conquered those fears and what allowed to me to go on forward.

I am certain every artist has a constant desire to improve their work. However, when we try to make the right decisions and choices, there are times when we interrogate ourselves and it might cause us to become pessimistic, have fear, or become lazy.
If you really want to become an artist or an illustrator and if you want to conquer these negative feelings, here are some tips!

These are some points I have followed, which helped me to improve my artwork. I hope this helps some of you if you are looking for a way to improve.

1. Open your mind up for feedback or criticism from others. Think about a sponge that absorbs all external liquid, no matter what the liquid is. Similarly, you have to absorb all opinions regarding your artwork, either if it’s a positive or negative one. I think it’s important to hear about the audiences’ opinions. You should take all feedback or criticism and take them into great consideration, and analyze your artwork to determine why they said such things so you can improve. 

2. Find artists you like and contact them and ask for feedback on your portfolio piece. First of all, this will encourage you greatly because you are getting feedback from someone you like or look up to. Secondly, they might point out some critical aspects you have never thought about, and this allows you to see from a different perspective. 

3. Try using new medium. I try watercolor, acrylic, oil, gouache, markers, color pencils (even different brands) etc. Out of all the medium there are, find one or two that truly speak to you. For me, I found that working with digital medium is the most enjoyable and makes me enthusiastic to go back to my desk every single day. After you find your perfect medium, try to give yourself a challenge. My challenge was to find a traditional feel from digital painting.

Samples of my color study from life with pastel

Samples of my color study from life with oil paints

Create my personal illustration with digital 

4. Explore different style.  What's your taste? Again, find your favorite artists and try copying their style and analyze why it works so well in their work. Find your own way and apply to your work.

5.  Make it marketable. For me, my favorite artists mostly consist of artists that are working for the animation industry, children’s book artists, and independent artists. I think about their work and ask why it looks so appealing to me, and through the analyzing, I learned about the business’ perspective. If I was someone who wanted to publish a book, what kind of illustrator’s work would be best for to convey the feelings of the book to the world?

6. Learn from Life and develop yourself. Once you've gone through all the list and made it this far, now you might be able to view life in different ways. Every individual is unique and you as artist can bring your interpretation of life and your spirit onto the paper.

When these steps eventually become natural intuition to you, it will be much easier to solve problems. It might give you better answers and furthermore, the choice you make will feel comforting and like yourself in the end.

Nicholas Hong
Artist for Animation | Illustrator