Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Illustration Intensives: Intensely Beneficial

Lauren Rille 
Hi there creative friends! I was at an Illustration Intensive this last weekend, hosted by the SCBWI-San Diego Region, featuring the the insightful, and totally entertaining, Associate Art Director,  Lauren Rille, from Simon and Schuster.

(You can follow her on twitter, and if you would like a sneak peak at her design savvy, check out her blog.)

I love going to conferences, but I especially love going to illustration intensives. The purpose of an intensive is to bring you back to art school (only the knowledgeable professor is replaced with an insightful art director). The assignment is suppose to replicate what working with an art director is like.

Months before the intensive, Lauren sent us the text to a picture book. She asked us to create a thumbnail dummy  (or teeny tiny drawings that map out the pacing of the book). From those thumbnails she asked that we send her 2 roughs (or more finished drawings) of the spreads that we wanted to illustrate. Once we turned those in, she would email us a critique. We were to bring the revised thumbnails and 2 final spreads to the intensive, to be critiqued as a group.

The text we got was a sweet and very young picture book called Baby Love by Angela DiTerlizzi and illustrated by fellow Mentee Brooke Boynton Hughes. I'll be honest, I pulled a few hairs out trying to think how I could illustrate the text differently, especially since Brooke did such a gobsmacklingly wonderful job.

After drawing what seemed like a million and two families with babies, I finally decided to put this family in space... going on a spacewalk, with them bringing their baby home to sleep at their colony on Mars. (Everything is better in space, right?! ;)

Here's what I sent in:

Stick figures in.... SPAAAAACE!!!

This is one of the roughs I sent in. (I do my roughs... extra rough.)

Doesn't this sweet face make you weep?!

Lauren responded with a very helpful critique. She mentioned one reason she had prompted our group with this particular text was because babies are so hard to illustrate; people often get the proportions wrong. So I decided to do some more "research" on babies and ended up waxing nostalgic, thinking of my kid's infancy. Something that I noticed is the lack of neck and the adorable potbelly. Lauren also said babies barely have any eyebrows or eyelashes.

So armed with a refreshed knowledge that babies are not  just miniature adults, I went back to the drawing board and sketched another million babies. 

I redid my thumbnails and revised my roughs.

My sketches are starting to get tighter here. 

Next, I scanned my drawings in, printed them out on Arches 140lb, and painted with watercolor. 

Then I scanned the watercolor in and painted in some digital layers.

Finally, after all our blood, sweat, and tears, we went to the intensive, and had our illustrations critiqued. This is what I submitted:

(You can click on them, to see closer,  if you have ancient eyes like me.) 

If you are not already a believer, I strongly urge you to start doing illustration intensives. (You can check out if there are any intensives in your neck of the woods here.) I've been to many of them in different regions, and I've always learned something about myself as an artist, or about how art directors interact with illustrators, or even whether or not my style is right for that particular art director or publishing house. You have nothing to loose and everything to gain.

Alrighty friends, thanks for dropping by and happy illustrating!



Interview by Meridth McKean Gimbel, a kidlit writer, artist, & champion taco cruncher who is currently building a time machine. They are also represented by Linda Pratt at Wernick & Pratt. You can follow their work at: