Monday, October 8, 2018

Interview with Sara Gavryck-Ji, 2018 SCBWI LA Mentorship Award Winner

This interview series introduces the talented recipients of the SCBWI Mentorship Award at the 2018 Summer Conference. Please welcome Sara Gavryck-Ji to the KidLitArtists Blog!

About Sara Gavryck-Ji: 

 "Sara Gavryck-Ji lives and makes art in Berkeley, CA.  In her previous life she worked in US-China relations.  She lived in China for over 5 years, is fluent in Mandarin, and took many classes in Chinese calligraphy and painting during her time abroad.  She has two young boys who have filled her life with much joy and inspiration."

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 feedback I received gave me new direction and focus. Most of the mentors pointed out my illustration of a boy hugging a tree as one of their favorites in my book. This was eye opening— I had never felt it was one of my stronger pieces. They liked it because the character showed emotion and this was something the mentors felt I needed more of in my portfolio. Cecilia Yung suggested thinking about the difference between characters in children’s book art and figures in fine art as the difference between actors and models. In other words, a children’s book illustrator needs to show they can create characters with a range of emotions not just beautiful ones. This really resonated with me."

What kind of projects are you working on now?

"All the mentors suggested I add more narrative sequences to my portfolio. Many suggested I look at each of my portfolio pieces and think, “What happened before this moment? What happened after?”  In particular, my conversation with Laurent Linn about my illustration of the boy hugging a tree sparked an idea for a story. Now I am working on a dummy and several finished narrative pieces for that story."

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

"I would love to work on both picture books and middle grade covers and interiors."

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

"Persist. Don’t give up! I’m not there yet, but receiving the mentorship award was a wonderful validation that, yes, I can do this!"

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

"I found Eliza Wheeler’s keynote on the 7.5 stages of her creative process (Dig, Inspire, Collage, Simmer, Ignite, Refine, Assess, and a 1/2 stage for checking in) very insightful. In particular, in the “simmer” stage, she spoke about the brain science behind the creative process.  How it is important to stop, take a break, do the dishes, clean, pick a familiar chore and do it with enjoyment. When you are anxious or stressed your brain is in a linear mode and you are less likely to take a chance on creativity.  When your brain is in a meditative state, the great ideas come.

I left the conference with such an overwhelming feeling of gratitude to SCBWI and to the mentors for this opportunity to learn and be inspired."

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

"The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg, Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney, Thunder Cake by Patricia Polacco, and The Girl Who Loved Wild Horses by Paul Goble were some of my favorites.

I love finding books that I read and loved as a kid, re-reading them and channeling that feeling I had reading them as a child. I find this can be a great source of inspiration when I’m feeling stuck."
Where can we see more of your artwork? 

Instagram: sara.gavryckji
Facebook: Sara Gavryck-Ji

Thanks, Sara! Welcome to KidLitArtists!

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