Monday, June 22, 2015

Are You Entering The SCBWI-LA Illustration Portfolio Showcase? Here Are Tips For Before and During the Conference - by Debbie Ridpath Ohi

Only a month and a half until the SCBWI Summer Conference in Los Angeles! I can't wait. Not only is it the conference that kickstarted my book illustration career, but I always come away super-inspired by the talks, sessions and chatting with other writers and illustrators.

For those of you entering the Illustrator Portfolio Showcase, here are a few tips from past SCBWI Illustration Mentees who have since gone on to win top prize in the overall Portfolio Showcase:


A Few Thoughts On Editing Your Portfolio - by Andrea Offermann (2013 SCBWI Portfolio Showcase winner)

Mentee Portfolio vs Grand Prize Winner Portfolio - by Juana Martinez-Neal (2012 SCBWI Portfolio Showcase winner)

Portfolio Comparison: What Made An SCBWI Winner - by Eliza Wheeler (2011 SCBWI Portfolio Showcase winner). Eliza is also doing a portfolio workshop on the Friday 4-5 pm in the Pacific Room; check your schedule for details!

Mentees Roundup: SCBWI Portfolio Showcase Tips - compiled by Eliza Wheeler

For more great advice, do browse other portfolio-related posts on and find out what Mentees have been learning about improving their portfolios.

And here are some of my own tips about what to do AT the conference...


Once you've handed in your portfolio, stop obsessing about it. Don't start making excuses for it, how you weren't quite sure about some of the pieces but put them in anyway, how you wish you had more time to work on it.

Learn how to take compliments gracefully. If someone says something nice about your work, learn how to say "thank you" instead of immediately lobbing back a "I wish I was as good as xxx" or "I totally suck at xxx." See above.

Do make the time to look at other illustrators' work. Not only is this a sign of professional courtesy, but you can also turn it into a learning opportunity. Some portfolios and postcards will immediately stand out for you; ask yourself why.

Try very, very hard to be inspired and NOT discouraged as you browse other illustrators' portfolios. As illustrator Heather Powers says, don't forget that everyone is at a different place in their creative journey. "Get excited - you are just starting out and have a fun path ahead of you! Learn from the best, they will be all around you during the conference!"

Don't be discouraged if you don't win an award. While winning awards is nice, of course, there are so many other benefits to being in the Showcase. Industry people are looking at your work. I have heard of illustrators getting work many months after an event because an art director or editor liked their work enough to pick up a postcard.

Remember the quote that "80 percent of success is showing up". Persistence is essential in this industry. I have heard art directors comment on how they could tell a particular illustrator was working on his or her craft because of the changes in their portfolio from a previous Showcase. The fact that you're at the conference and entering the Showcase already puts you far ahead of many others.

Come to the Illustrator Social on the Friday from 7:30-9 pm in Olympic I. It's a great place to meet other illustrators as well as some of the faculty. Bring your postcards! Plus do find me and say hello...I'd love to meet you. :-)

Good luck, and don't forget to have fun! And if you're nervous about attending the SCBWI conference for the first-time, these comics might help.

- Debbie


Debbie Ridpath Ohi is the author/illustrator of WHERE ARE MY BOOKS? (Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers, 2015). Her illustrations also appear in books by Judy Blume and Michael Ian Black. She blogs about reading, writing and illustrating children's books at You can find her on Twitter at @inkyelbows and Instagram at @inkygirl.

1 comment:

  1. I am planning to go to LA conference. Thanks for sharing great posts that what I should be aware of and what to prepare :)