The SCBWI portfolio showcases have been the anchors that hold me steady in the crashing sea of fear, doubt, and distraction. That’s right, trying to be a children’s book author/illustrator is an EPIC journey at sea.
Long ago I understood that being an artist/illustrator, was going to be a life-long venture. It would take lots of dedication, patience, and of course discipline to make things happen. For me, this is where the conferences came into play. I began attending SCBWI conferences in the fall of 2010 and have been attending ever since.
Early on, I found out how useful and informative the conferences were and have held tightly to them. The portfolio showcases at the conferences and the opportunity to share my work with many like-minded individuals is, for me, the most valuable piece of the “building a strong portfolio” puzzle.
I was fortunate to discover the SCBWI shortly before graduating in 2011. So I began to attend the conferences and I tried to soak up every little comment I heard about my work. Along the way I’ve collected comments and guidance for my work by many great, established illustrators, agents, editors, art directors, and many, many fellow illustrator friends. I can remember at least one thing in each person’s critique of my work. I also have all my written notes, all in little books, stored away like precious treasure maps.
After the conference, I do what we all do: go over my notes, reconnect with people online, and start new, hopefully better illustrations for a new portfolio. I always come out of the conferences tired, inspired, excited, and Oh, SO motivated. I feel like I can reach the farthest points of my journey, like I can reach the stars, all so close.
For the past five years, I have used the SCBWI showcases as my constant yearly goal line where I get to reevaluate my work. Having the physical evidence of my past portfolios gives me confidence as I move forward. I can see how I’ve grown, and each time I reach a little farther. Always reaching for those masterful levels of craftsmanship that we all admire and sometimes fear never being able to reach.
This has been the process I’ve used to help me grow as an illustrator. This may not be the way it works for everyone. But I can say, enthusiastically, that I have found many great friends and the start of what I hope will be a long career in children’s book publishing. So, go out there and find that vessel that will keep you afloat and moving into full sail illustrations one day.
Rodolfo Montalvo illustrated the middle grade novels The Contagious Colors of Mumpley Middle School and The Amazing Wilmer Dooley, both written by Fowler DeWitt ( Simon & Schuster imprint, Atheneum). He is currently working on his first picture book Dear Dragon, by Josh Funk (Viking Children’s books – Fall 2016).
For more of his work visit www.rodolfomontalvo.com