Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Interview with Marcelo Verdad, 2019 SCBWI LA Mentorship Award Winner

This interview series introduces the talented recipients of the SCBWI Mentorship Award at the 2019 Summer Conference. Please welcome Marcelo Verdad to the KidLitArtists Blog!




Hola! I'm Marcelo and I'm a queer, Mexican author and illustrator. I graduated from Art Center College of Design and I like to tell important stories from unconventional perspectives. 

In college I fell in love with kids books and since then I see them as a sacred opportunity to give the tiniest ones important tools and a strong foundation to navigate this word in a more optimal way from an expansive, open, and compassionate perspective.

I live in Los Angeles, California with my dog daughter, Mini Perra. We love to drink strawberry milk together and make inter-dimensional travels across the whole Universe on our tiny spaceship. 


Did the feedback you received during the mentorship critiques either changes or confirm the direction of your illustration? Are there any specific examples you can share?
It was such an honor to hear from such wise and talented creatives. Everyone loved my stories and found a clear voice in my work. They highly advised –especially Peter Brown, a fellow ArtCenter alumni as well– to tell my own stories and keep expanding on what I have to share through my personal perspective. Arthur was profoundly encouraging as well and always a delight to talk to. Everyone received my work with open arms and that made me vibrate on a soul level. This opportunity clearly confirmed I'm in the right path.

What kind of projects are you working on now?
I'm an art teacher, so I'm still working with my amazing kids. Since the conference I was contacted by some people and I just signed with one of the agents I was talking to. She's a dream and such a kind and important soul. So that's been keeping me busy as well! We're currently working on some projects that I'm sure will be very well received and touch a lot of hearts when they're out in this planet!



Is there any type of illustration (or other work) that you’re hoping for in the near future?
I'm deeply in love with children's books AND teaching. I enjoy so much working for and with kids and I can't ask for more. I know what I'm currently doing is my mission in this lifetime.

Is there one really helpful piece of advice that you’ve gotten since pursuing illustration?
Two of the best advices I've gotten are: to always be kind to everyone, and to go deep within myself to find my voice and the stories only I can tell. 

I'm a firm believer that everyone has a story to tell, but also I've seen not everyone is brave enough to go that deep and tell it from an honest and vulnerable place. But once we do, magic becomes tangible in this dimension.



Any one piece of bad advice? 
I have two rules for the day:

Never skip breakfast.
Always be yourself. 

If I'm doing both, I'm good for the day. So bad advice: skip breakfast and be try to be someone else! Also, let a pigeon drive a bus.




What was one of your favorite quotes or lessons from the SCBWI Summer conference? 
I always get so touched by strong and important human beings who have important stories to tell. Two of the talks that still give me chills are from the loving Juana Martinez Neal and the magical Yuyi Morales. Both explored the depth within themselves and I could feel the importance and power in their words, how personal and raw they are, and how they pour their entire existence into their work. Their stories are reminders for me to stay authentic and to keep going deeper with the stories I tell.

What were some of your favorite books when you were a kid?
As a kid in México I wasn't very exposed or attracted to many books. But one of the first picture books I ever read and that still today informs my work is "How to Catch a Star" by Oliver Jeffers. SO magical and subtle.

Where can we see more of your artwork? 
You can find more of my work on Instagram @marceloverdad! Come join me, let's play! 


Monday, September 30, 2019

Interview with Neena Phan, 2019 SCBWI LA Mentorship Award Winner

This interview series introduces the talented recipients of the SCBWI Mentorship Award at the 2019 Summer Conference. Please welcome Neena Phan to the KidLitArtists Blog!




Neena Phan graduated from The New School with a degree in fashion design. Upon graduating, she realized that storytelling and illustration aligned with her skills and interest more so than fashion. Aligning morally, children’s books was the inevitable next step. And a happy and fulfilling step it was.




Did the feedback you received during the mentorship critiques either changes or confirm the direction of your illustration? Are there any specific examples you can share?
Receiving feedback from all of the mentors definitely confirmed the direction of my illustration. There were a couple of pieces in my portfolio that were liked universally by everyone. It helped me question what it is that I liked about those pieces and why they’re strong, and most importantly, how it’s unique to me. Lots of self-discovery haha!

What kind of projects are you working on now?
I’m working on a picture book based off of one of the pieces in my portfolio (the blue cabbage spread) and I’m also working on an illustrated novel. Both are personal projects.



Any one piece of bad advice you received regarding your illustration career? 
I didn’t receive any bad advice. I don’t really believe in bad advice to be honest. There is perhaps a very fine line between advice and opinion...and I’m still working on differentiating between the two! Funnily enough, I’ve come to learn that upon discerning what is advice and what is opinion for myself is also subjective in nature as well! So being subjective about something subjective can be quite tricky sometimes… or perhaps I just overthink things (pretty much almost always the case). 

Is there any type of illustration (or other work) that you’re hoping for in the near future? I am interested in illustrating a picture book written by someone else or perhaps making a stop motion animation short.


What was one of your favorite quotes or lessons from the SCBWI Summer conference?
Favorite lesson...Patience. Seeing all of these amazingly talented people speak and give lectures was so inspiring. But I had to step back and think for a moment to remember that all of these people got to where they are today with TIME. It can be exciting to hear their life stories in 45 minutes or less. But those 45 minutes are years in the making. Having that perspective was crucial for me.

What were some of your favorite books when you were a kid?I didn’t grow up with books. I suppose I’m sort of a late bloomer. ...the first picture book that I was simply amazed by was “Duck, Death and the Tulip” by Wolf Erlbruch.



Where can we see more of your artwork?
I put up my work on behance and I have a website: Behance.net/neenaphan and Neenaphan.com 



Monday, September 23, 2019

Interview with Vivien Wu, 2019 SCBWI LA Mentorship Award Winner

This interview series introduces the talented recipients of the SCBWI Mentorship Award at the 2019 Summer Conference. Please welcome Vivien Wu to the KidLitArtists Blog!




Hello! My name is Vivien Wu and I’m an illustrator and concept artist based in Los Angeles. I first started illustrating children’s books at Disney Publishing, and I currently do freelance concept art for various animation studios. In my own work I love creating humorous characters, or depicting a sense of nostalgia and fantasy.
In my downtime I enjoy unwinding through swimming and yoga, exploring Los Angeles for new places to eat, and watercolor painting!




Did the feedback you received during the mentorship critiques either changes or confirm the direction of your illustration? Are there any specific examples you can share?
The mentorship program was tremendously helpful and professional, and confirmed the direction I want to go in. The advice I was given will challenge me to grow artistically and bring my work to the next level.

Since I had a number of standalone pieces, a general consensus was to take some of those and form a narrative around them. Totally makes sense, since children’s books are all about storytelling! I also had a bit of a split portfolio, in which some sections were stylistically more “traditional storybook” and the other half more “commercial”. Rather than mixing them together, there should be a clearer divide, or just one consistent voice throughout. It’s an important thing to keep in mind especially when presenting work to a potential client.
Overall, the mentorship really made me look at my work with a critical eye and ask myself if every element in an illustration is working harmoniously and with a purpose.


What kind of projects are you working on now?
I have some ideas in the works, and am excited to share once I have enough material together! However, one of my main goals right now is to just keep things simple and explore more ways to draw people and children stylistically, since I tend to draw a lot of animals.


Is there any type of illustration (or other work) that you’re hoping for in the near future? 
I would love to one day fully illustrate a picture book. I’ve done various freelance jobs, chapter books, and Little Golden books (which was amazing), but nothing like a complete picture book.

Is there one really helpful piece of advice that you’ve gotten since pursuing illustration?
There’s so many, but a simple and great piece of advice that I personally need to work on is to keep a sketchbook / iPad at all times, and jot down ideas when they come to mind. It helps to not be too precious with any particular drawing, and you never know when inspiration may strike.

What was one of your favorite quotes or lessons from the SCBWI Summer conference? 
I was very inspired by Christian Robinson’s keynote in which he said that brick walls are not there to keep us out, but to show us how badly we want something. I’m sure I’ve heard that somewhere before, but it really resonated with me.



What were some of your favorite books when you were a kid? 
Toot and Puddle by Hollie Hobbie, Corduroy by Don Freeman, Frog and Toad by Arnold Lobel, Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein, and anything by Roald Dahl.

Where can we see more of your artwork? 
You can see my work on my website vivienwu.com or on my instagram at vivsketch!



Monday, September 16, 2019

Interview with Eddie Edwards, 2019 SCBWI LA Mentorship Award Winner

This interview series introduces the talented recipients of the SCBWI Mentorship Award at the 2019 Summer Conference. Please welcome Eddie Edwards to the KidLitArtists Blog!




Eddie Edwards is an illustrator, artist and designer from the San Francisco Bay Area, currently living in Santa Fe, New Mexico with her one-eyed cat and two-eyed husband. She graduated with distinction from the California College of Art in Industrial Design and spent many of her early years as a graphic, furniture and advertising designer in California. She has work in the permanent collection of the SF Museum of Modern Art as well as the Library of Congress and numerous awards in both graphic and architectural design. She is currently focused on adapting her illustration skills for children.


Did the feedback you received during the mentorship critiques either change or confirm the direction of your illustration? Are there any specific examples you can share?
"Yes, it confirmed that I could find a place for my point of view in the children's market."

Are there any specific examples you can share? 
"Most of the comments were similar to this one: "show us how you can expand the narrative". Also there was a lot of support for following my instincts. Forget about trying to please some imaginary standard because there is room for all kinds of quirky."


What kind of projects are you working on now?
"I have some editorial illustration and graphic design projects. But I'm really excited to get back to the portfolio and incorporate all the feedback from the mentorship program."

Is there any type of illustration (or other work) that you’re hoping for in the near future?
"Any illustration that is experimental, conceptual, or creatively challenging. I like nonsense poetry and fairy tales and anything a little out of the ordinary, funny or dark. I'm crazy about the children's illustration coming out of Spain and Poland."



Is there one really helpful piece of advice that you’ve gotten since pursuing illustration?
"Do some drawing, painting or illustration every dang day. No matter what."

Any one piece of bad advice? 
"I don't think I've gotten bad advice, but I've had some very harsh critiques! I try to weigh everything that is given to me because there is truth in it somewhere."


What was one of your favorite quotes or lessons from the SCBWI Summer conference? 
"There were so many vulnerable, generous and moving speakers that I am still processing everything."

What were some of your favorite books when you were a kid?
"Black Beauty, Bambi, The Snow Goose"

Where can we see more of your artwork? 
helloeddie.com and instagram @helloeddieillo






Monday, September 9, 2019

Interview with Rob Sayegh Jr, 2019 SCBWI LA Mentorship Award Winner

This interview series introduces the talented recipients of the SCBWI Mentorship Award at the 2019 Summer Conference. Please welcome Rob Sayegh to the KidLitArtists Blog!





From Rob:

Hiya! My name is Rob Sayegh Jr, and I am an author/illustrator specializing in children's media. I love creating worlds and characters that make people of all ages smile and giggle by combining humorous illustrations with playful stories. When I am not doodling or writing, I enjoy collecting vintage toys, being an official snack taste-tester, falling in love with every dog I meet, and exploring San Francisco where I currently live with my partner and two dogs Penny and Rigby.

My clients include:

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Scholastic
Fisher-Price
Hasbro
Disney Consumer Products
Nickelodeon
Spin-Master
and many more.

Did the feedback you received during the mentorship critiques either change or confirm the direction of your illustration? Are there any specific examples you can share?
"The mentors provided amazing feedback on so many things. One example I can give is that my styling is rather simple and it was commented that I tend to go so simple on human faces, that they all start to look the same. It could be a problem in a book that features lots of characters. It's a great point, and it could have affected me from being selected for certain projects."

What kind of projects are you working on now?
"I currently am working on several unannounced projects that I cannot wait to share with everyone in the future."




Is there any illustration (or other work) that you’re hoping for in the near future?
"I would love to write and illustrate my own children's book series."

Is there one really helpful piece of advice that you’ve gotten since pursuing illustration?
"BUTT IN CHAIR. It's something I heard at my very first SCBWI conference. It's really the most valuable thing anyone can do to help their career. I think it just keeps you always a student of your craft and builds great habits in creating work every day."

Any one piece of bad advice? 
"There is no such thing as bad advice!"




What was one of your favorite quotes or lessons from the SCBWI Summer conference?
"Several people said my favorite lesson. It was about how one should really own their literary voice and illustration style. Both Christian Robinson and Arthur Levine said this but from two very different standpoints of an illustrator and an editor. It fascinated me how powerful it was to hear it this way. Bringing the stories only you can tell not only help someone see who you are, but it allows you to stand out from others as a storyteller."



What were some of your favorite books when you were a kid?
"I was obsessed with Bunnicula. Harold is still one of my favorite literary characters today."

Where can we see more of your artwork? 
You can see more of my work via my website www.robsayart.com and by following me on instagram https://www.instagram.com/robsayart/



Saturday, August 24, 2019

What do you want to do?

Has there ever been an unusual class you have wanted to take? Or a drawing or writing challenge you wanted to participate in--or start? Enter a competition? Maybe learn a technique that is in a completely different style than how you work? Maybe travel? But then you hesitate and ask yourself, Why? You tell yourself that what you want to do has nothing to do with what you should do; that your time should be spent improving your portfolio or finish your story or revising the manuscript you have finished or sending out query letters so you can get something published; that these things are distractions and have nothing to help you further your goals and dreams.

GOALS. DREAMS. Those lofty ideals.

Here’s a thought: maybe that quirky woodworking class or script writing or #inktober, #fairytaleweek, #nanowrimo or any other #challenge is exactly what you DO need.

One of the pandas from my #100DayProject turned into a full picture book manuscript, Caring for Frank.


I have participated in #pleinairpril in 2017 and 2018. During this challenge, I’ve used pencil, pen and ink, and watercolor to draw one scene from life every day for a full month. These pieces are often stylistically different than my illustration portfolio. This challenge has pushed and trained my color mixing skills, allowed me to acknowledge my comfort and strength with linework, then pushed me beyond linework into abstraction of shape and blending forms together. I grew less timid in putting brush to paper, which is reflected when you compare a piece from my first year to a piece from my second year:

2018 



Many of these activities are parallel to your goals, if not a direct stepping-stone. These workshops, classes, and challenges can be seen as professional development--your way of continuing your education over the years. They often take you outside your comfort zone or push you in ways you may not push yourself on a daily basis. They open pathways in your thinking and can spark the excitement that gives you the energy to soldier on. They can help you relax and, you know, have FUN on your journey.

An unexpected benefit of PleinAirpril and some SketchCrawl events I have attended over the years has been the social aspect. I’ve been able to connect with other local plein air artists through Warrior Painters and have the opportunity to discover unexpected and quirky locations in my city that I would otherwise have known nothing about. I have been to a Krampus parade, a lotus festival, a Chinese New Years celebration, an OSTRICH FARM!!

How do you make it happen?

  1. Make your one-day list. Write down anything that you’re dreaming of participating in or attending. Categorize it and subcategorize it to your heart’s content. Colored pens for different types of activities might be helpful. Some categories may include: Workshops/Classes, #challenges, Conferences, Art/Writing Residencies, Applying for Grants/Entering Contests, Goals (like filling a sketchbook or journal) 
  2. Prioritize. It’s great to make the longest list ever, but you can’t do everything at once. What are the 1 or 2 activities that make you MOST excited? Start with these and set a goal: I’d like to attend THIS conference by THIS year. 
  3. Read the requirements. Some of the activities might be daily or weekly, or something you need to apply for in advance. Knowing this is important!
  4. Budget. And when I say budget, I mean both TIME and MONEY. We all have limitations and standing obligations in our lives. 
    • If you have a limited number of vacation days each year, figure out how much you would need to take off for the activity AND for some downtime between the activity and starting work again. Can you take one fewer day off during the holidays to give you the time for that summer workshop? Can you work a half day before a flight instead of taking a full day off? Can you barter with a friend to watch their kids during the week in exchange for them babysitting your children on the weekend of your event? Don’t forget to budget for that downtime! It gives you the rest you need as well as time to process the incredible experience you just had! 
    • Many of these events come with a significant cost. Determine how much you would need to set aside to cover the cost of registering for these activities, food, and lodging. If needed, get in touch with your inner child and start squirreling away money in a piggy bank or an envelope so that the money for your event is not lumped in with your monthly finances. Until you can save up, look for no- or low-cost activities that are similar to what you want to do, such as local meetups to draw, paint, or work on your craft. A little research can uncover a world of possibility! 
  5. Be Flexible! Life happens and things will arise that are outside of your control and will mess up your carefully laid plans. If the event or activity is recurring and you miss the deadline, adjust your schedule for the next time this event occurs. If you miss a speaker you really wanted to see or learn from, go online and see if they’ll be doing other events later in the year. Perhaps they are speaking at a smaller event that is less expensive but a bit further away. If your schedule is ALWAYS busy during your favorite #challenge, make your own and set it for your slow season!

For me, the one thing I’ve been wanting to do since reading Cory Godbey's blog post in 2015 is to attend the Light Gray Art Lab Iceland Artist Residency. This residency requires you to apply 1 year in advance of the workshop. I set my goal to apply in August 2018 for August 2019, but when 2018 rolled around, I realized that I had overbooked activities for 2019. Reluctantly, I knew that my timing was just not right so I held off on applying. When the application opened this year for 2020, I applied in the very first week, determined not to miss my opportunity again. I will know in about a month whether or not I’m accepted to the artist residency for next year. If I get in this year, I will be jumping for joy! IF I don’t, then I will find other events to fill my time in 2020 and I will apply again next year. WHEN I get there, I will fill up my sketchbook with drawings and memories of the trip and experience new flavors, smells, sights, and environments.

Travel sketchbook from India/Japan trip this year.


So ask yourself: What do YOU want to do?

Now go do it.
_______

© Cole Montgomery 
Gail Buschman is a graphic designer and children's book creator who loves to travel and explore new places.

More about Gail at her websiteinstagramtwitter, and facebook.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Awards and New Mentees!

First we want to say a big CONGRATULATIONS to our very own Andy Musser, who won this year's portfolio showcase at the SCBWI Los Angeles conference! His portfolio is gorgeous and you should take a peek at his website: www.andymusser.com/


The Honor awards went to Anna Daviscourt and Tenaya Lena, who also won one of this year's mentorship awards!


We also want to welcome all of the new Illustration Mentorship Award winners: the Kidlit Artists group is made up of illustrators who have won this award, and this year we welcome six new members:



Congratulations everyone!