Jen Betton was the recipient of the SCBWI Mentorship Award at the 2012 Summer Conference. The Kidlit Artists Blog would like to officially welcome Jen as a contributor to the blog! Today we ask her a few questions about the Mentorship experience and about what she is up to these days.
Kidlit Artists: Getting such specific and direct feedback on your work, did you find the experience enlightening? Affirming? Confusing? Conflicting?
Jen: The mentorship has been such an incredible opportunity and blessing – both with the initial critique session with the mentors and with the community that I joined.
Initially, I was told to throw out some of the pieces that weren’t as strong, and to focus more on kids and series of images. The direction was very helpful, very specific, and I found the experience incredibly motivating. I went home with tons of ideas and thumbnails scribbled all over my notes!
Also, in my fellow mentees I instantly had this fantastic group of friends and peers to talk to and share work with. We've been setting up deadlines for each other, critiquing, and encouraging each other.
Jen: Over the last months since the critique session, I’ve worked on a narrative polar bear series, a nocturnal animal dummy book, and right now I'm painting a moon-air-balloon scene with adventuring kids.
Jen: I’m really excited for whatever is around the corner! I feel like I’m growing and learning even though I haven’t seen a big shift in my work yet. I'm also starting to write my own stories, which is something new for me.
Kidlit Artists: Is there one really helpful piece of advice that you've gotten since pursuing illustration? Any one piece of horrible advice?
Jen: In my very first illustration class I had a teacher who talked about how illustration is a noble profession: we are doing something truly good and meaningful by telling stories and creating beauty. That really stuck with me.
I also remember Jon Foster once also told a story about how being successful is all about perseverance. He is an amazing illustrator now, but he said that in school he was just mediocre (some of Jon's teachers even told him so!). He got where he is because he stuck with it when others didn’t, practiced a ton, and got to be really good. I found that story very heartening, because it shows that while natural talent matters, perseverance and hard work matter even more. It helps me keep going when I feel stuck.
Jen: Website: www.jenbetton.com
Kidlit Artists: Thank you, Jen!