Friday, October 3, 2014

Interview with new SCBWI mentee, Suzanne Kaufman

Suzanne Kaufman was the recipient of the SCBWI Mentorship Award at the 2014 Summer Conference. Kidlit Artists would like to officially welcome Suzanne 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? Are there any specific examples you can share? 

The mentors confirmed I was headed in the right direction and that was great to hear.  I was shocked that almost all of their feedback and critique were pretty much saying the same thing.  So I focused my questions on how they would approach revising.  It was great to hear how all these great artists would attack the same problems.

I attended the New York conference and was lucky to get an impromptu critique at the bar by the kind Giuseppe Castellano, Art Director at Penguin.  Coming from an animation background there was a ton I didn’t know.  He was so nice to let me ask a ton of questions. After we chatted I madly ran to the bathroom to write down the notes.  The big thing I got out of that and applied to my LA portfolio is only put in your portfolio work you still want to do.  I had some old pieces I kept because they were published, but since then my style had grown.  So I gutted my portfolio and only made new pieces that were for current book dummies.  I also attended Steve Malk’s Saturday morning session on portfolio and had my portfolio reviewed by conference roommate Andy Musser who helped me rearrange it starting with color and then ending with black and white.

What kind of projects are you working on now? 

I am revising a picture story for a publisher, revising my portfolio based on the mentor’s feedback, and cross your fingers I will be illustrating a book for a great publishing house this winter.  Thanks to Priscilla Burris I will continue to do a sketch of the day.  I am using daily paintings to try techniques and refine story ideas.

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

I live and breathe picture books so that is my first love.  I saw a great talk by Laurent Linn on middle grade and left inspired that this would be a great area to pursue in addition to picture books.  I'm hugely inspired by what my daughters read, so I love the idea of doing both as they are moving from picture books into middle grade in the next few years. 

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

Ok, this is so hard.  I've received so much great advice that I created a word document on my inspiration board.  But the one that I use the most is from Cecilia Yung, the Art Director and Vice President at Penguin Books for Young Readers.  She wanted me to think about these three things as I grow as an illustrator: action, reaction and interaction.  She jokingly recommended getting it tattooed on my wrist but I actually write it on my hand every day before I work. 

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

In Steve Malk’s portfolio presentation he kept on saying “Just slow down” and talked about giving yourself time to grow.  I left his talk feeling like it was ok to take your time to hone your craft.  Another great quote by my big inspiration, Judy Schachner, was “Creative Procrastination”.   This referred to her amazing process of creating these gorgeous character bibles for all her books.  I just started my own character bibles to “Creative Procrastination”.   They are simply brilliant.

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

I was a huge Curious George and Golden Books fan.  I still have a lot of my original books and look at them for illustration reference.  As I got older I still collected vintage Golden Books and exchanged picture books as presents with my then boyfriend, now husband.  He made me a big fan of Bill Peet and P.D. Eastman. 

Where can we find you online?   

You can find me at these different locations: 
 Twitter: @lilmonkeydraws
 Instagram: @suzannekaufman
 Thanks for stopping by, and I hope to see you around!


Thanks, Suzanne!

1 comment:

  1. Congratulations, Suzanne - I love your style!