SCBWI AUSTIN RECAP
Back in May, on the weekend of my 33rd birthday, I attended the SCBWI Austin Working Conference. Twelve weeks prior to the conference, I got the crazy idea to leave the baby with daddy for the weekend and go. It was my first real time away from Tobias since he was born, so that alone was a little nerve wracking, especially because we are still breastfeeding and he's not super interested in taking bottles. Also, this would be my first SCBWI conference and although I didn't have a children's illustration portfolio, I felt that I needed to sign up for the portfolio showcase to get the full experience. No pressure.
Maybe if I were not chasing a crawling baby around all day long, 12 weeks would have been enough time to put together 8 to 10 pieces, enough for a respectable portfolio. But realistically I did not expect to achieve that level of productivity, and that was ok. I decided that if I only went with a handful of pieces in my portfolio, I could at least get my feet wet and would have a head start for next year.
Well it turns out, my method of rendering is very time intensive and working digitally was still new to me. I was able to finish 5 pieces in time for the showcase. I printed them up at Skyline Printing and then screwed them into a new Pina Zangaro binder. I felt good about what I had accomplished, but never considered that I might win something at the showcase. In fact, when they announced the winner of the mentorship and my name was called, I had to locate my shoes under the table before I could get out of my seat. That's how much I was not expecting to be chosen.
The conference itself was a great experience, but the mentorship was possibly the most valuable thing I could have walked away with. I'll have a year of one-on-one coaching and career guidance from the lovely Marsha Riti. Marsha has illustrated an impressive number of books including the Critter Club series and The Picky Little Witch. She is a member of an all female illustrator collective here in Austin called the Girllustrators, and is the wonderful mama to Maple, who is about 17 months old. Not only will she have great insights on developing a career as an illustrator, but she knows what it's like to do this type of work while taking care of a tiny human. In the brief time that I've known her it is apparent that she's an amazingly sweet and kind person. She is someone you can talk to for 15 minutes and feel like you've been friends with her for years. I'm very excited and honored that she chose to work with me and I intend to take full advantage of the opportunity. I hope that I can make her proud. Here's an article about the mentorship.
I've had a lot going on since the conference, but this month I am finally free to work on my first assignment from Marsha: make art every day.
This is an assignment that I give myself from time to time, but I tend to approach daily art making the way many people approach dieting, so this post is as much for myself as it is for anyone else who happens to be reading. So, dieting usually goes like this: you do it for a while and then you quit. Or let's say you normally don't partake in office treats, but one day you cave and eat some donuts that someone brought (that's donuts plural, that was not a typo). Then, after lunch you find out that there is birthday cake and you think, "well, I had those donuts so I might as well have some cake too. I'll take that big piece over there." Then, before you know it, 4pm hits and and you've become a sugar fiend. You find yourself going back to stick your fingers in the icing when no one is looking. On the drive home you remember you have chicken and vegetables to cook tonight, but you think maybe you'll have some cheesy noodles for dinner instead. And from there, maybe for weeks, you continue saying yes to any junk food or delicious carbs that come your way.
Everyone knows donuts are a gateway drug and everyone knows this dieting approach doesn't work. If you make a mistake and have a day of gluttony, the next day, you get back on track. If you want to be healthy, you have to make a healthy diet a priority for life. If you want to be a good artist, you have to keep making art. Everyday. Forever. If you don't get around to it one day, don't tell yourself that you'd might as well skip it today. You have to get up and try again. Even if you make a horrible, ugly drawing that you hate and you don't want to show it to anyone, just do it (and then burn it ... or post it on social media). Never stop doing it. Effort begets effort. They say that objects at rest tend to stay at rest and it's totally true. The more days that pass where I don't make any art, the more I avoid making art. But as Molly Idle said during her lecture at the conference, nothing will ever happen if you don't do anything. And Marsha reminded me during our talk last week that no one was ever recognized for doing good art because they made one good painting. You have to make lots of paintings. So make lots of paintings! (that was horribly paraphrased, but you get the idea).
And let's be real. Good habits are much easier to talk about than they are to implement. Sometimes life will happen. If you have a day that is busy and you just don't have time, forgive yourself and then get up the next day and draw something. The more times you repeat an action, the more likely it is to become a habit.
I started posting daily art a week ago on Instagram. You should do it too! You can follow me @kristinwauson.