This past weekend I attended the SCBWI Austin Writers and Illustrators Working Conference. This was only my second conference. Last year at this very conference I was awarded the Emerging Voices Illustrator Mentorship and thanks to my mentor, Marsha, I was much more prepared this time around.
The out of town speakers on the Illustrator track this year were Giuseppe Castellano and John Hendrix. Giuseppe is an Art Director for Penguin and John Hendrix is an amazingly talented author/illustrator. I had really helpful portfolio reviews with each of them. Both Giuseppe and John gave really fun drawing workshops. John's workshop was based off of his book Drawing is Magic which you might want to check out. One of our local illustrators, the amazing Jeff Crosby, gave an excellent presentation about why you should use maquettes as part of your illustration process. I have heard this advice from James Gurney, but somehow I felt more inspired hearing it from someone I know. I have a bag of sculpey clay that I took home from the presentation that I am anxious to form into a character of some sort, hopefully sometime this week.
I also attended the networking dinner this year which was really fun. It was great to get extra time hanging out with conference peeps and it was nice getting to know a few of the presenters as "normal people."
There were some common themes that kept coming up during the presentations. Here are some big takeaways from my notes:
- On self promotion: Choose the method that is most authentic to you, otherwise it won't land. If you hate Twitter, don't use Twitter. –Tara Dairman, Author
- Don't chase a market because you know it's going to sell. Do it because you have a genuine interest. –John Hendrix, Author/Illustrator
- On We Need Diverse Books: Don't throw in characters of different ethnicities just because. It has to make sense and come from a place that is natural. –Giuseppe Castellano, Art Director
- Stop thinking that you have to be "children's booky." The best art for children's books is the kind that doesn't necessarily look like art made for children. It just looks like beautiful art you would want on your wall. –Giuseppe Castellano, Art Director
- The best way to work is the way that feels best to you. If there are certain times of the day or seasons where you don't feel as creative, don't force yourself to power through. Honor your natural cycles. -Kendra Levin, Editor and Life Coach
- Create now, Edit later. –John Hendrix, Author/Illustrator
- Turn off your inner editor. You cannot revise what's not on the page. –Caroline Leech, Author
- Ideas come from actions, not thinking. Anything you can draw will help you get to the next thing. It's easier to edit than it is to create. –John Hendrix, Author/Illustrator
Failure and Suffering are Required
- Everything in life worth doing is going to cause you suffering. –John Hendrix, Author/Illustrator
- Embrace failure. You are going to fail. There is good failure and bad failure. Failing because you didn't show up is bad. Good failure is when you try your hardest and still learn something from the process. Failure is learning in disguise. –John Hendrix, Author/Illustrator
- Iteration is essential. Eventually you will forget to worry about making a bad drawing and make a good one by accident. –John Hendrix, Author/Illustrator
- Bring a sketchbook everywhere. Don't be afraid to let people see you try. –John Hendrix, Author/Illustrator
- It's ok to be in process. Don't wait until you've arrived to put yourself out there. –John Hendrix, Author/Illustrator
Love the Work
- Your sketchbook is a compass. A sketchbook can unlock new ideas through a very simple notion: If you find what you love to draw, you'll find your visual voice. –John Hendrix, Author/Illustrator
- Treat your sketchbook like a playground and it will turn into a treasure map. –John Hendrix, Author/Illustrator
- Professional goofing off is essential. Don't prioritize accuracy over enjoyment. Trust your imagination. The slavish desire to be accurate can be crippling. –John Hendrix, Author/Illustrator
It was a great conference! Thank you to all the presenters, volunteers and support staff who made it possible.