Thursday, November 13, 2014

2014 Midsouth Fall Conference

Here are a few Illustrator highlights as noted by Midsouth Blogger Cat York

Lucy Cummins on Self Promotion: How to Get Work Agented or Not

Cummins.JPGLucy Ruth Cummins is the Art Director for Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers and Paula Wiseman Books. She works with artists from all sides of the technique map on everything from picture books to young adult covers.

Put a mailer together with your strongest piece that highlights your unique style and represents the style you'd be happiest to work in. Lucy gets 0-4 postcards a day. They go directly into her hand. The postcard should have your name, website, and email address on the back and a strong image with no distracting text on the front.

Tip: Lucy loves to get holiday postcards from talented illustrators.

Have an updated website and an active web presence. Lucy finds unagented talent online all the time. Some of the places she "lurks" are Twitter, Flickr, Behance, Instagram, Illustration Fridays and @sketchdailies. A website can be as simple as a blog on or a Tumblr page -- it's a place to feature your work.

Have a picture book dummy ready in case an art director likes your promotional pieces. As an illustrator you should be able to show you can tell a story in 32 pages and be able to defend that ability.

Should you send mailers to an AD who already has someone in their back pocket that has your illustration style?

"That person might be busy. Being someone's back up player is never a bad thing."

Portfolio peeks with Lucy and Rosemary

Lucy Ruth Cummins is the Art Director with Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers and Paula Wiseman Books.

Rosemary Stimola is the founder of Stimola Literary Studio, representing award-winning authors and illustrators such as Suzanne Collins, Jodi Lynn Anderson , and LIsa Papademetriou.

I tend to look for PB art that has a less “animated” feel (ie Disney). With more individual personality. - Rosemary

Great characters are important, but make sure your pieces have a narrative side. - Lucy

I always try to tell people: the more dogs the merrier. - Lucy

For whatever reason, anytime we try to put panels in a picture book, it’s hard to sell. - Lucy

Watch digital techniques so they don’t look so digital. - Lucy

The expressions here are worth a million bucks. - Rosemary

I love hand lettering. - Lucy

If the text is crummy, I might get distracted by it. Don’t include it if you think it takes away from your work. - Lucy

My go-to people have drafting that is untouchably good and they get things done on time. - Lucy

Timely delivery on the art is everything, without that, we can’t go anywhere. - Rosemary

Articulate where you’re stuck when working on a project. It happens to everyone. You have to find your confidence because we hired you for a reason. - Rosemary.

For me, my first response to a piece of art is does it touch me emotionally and what is the story there? - Rosemary

We do look for that one piece in a portfolio that tells a whole story. - Lucy

Lucy Cummins:  I want every illustrator to have a dummy.  If I have worked with you on a project I will be wondering if you have a dummy. 

Robert J. Blake: Rough Idea to Credible Sketch

Blake.JPGRobert J Blake is an award-winning author illustrator who travels the world to find his stories. He’s authored/illustrated over 30 books and has developed a messy but proven process for organizing and producing ideas.

“I’m a messy guy and I have a messy procedure. I really think that’s the best way to work. That being said, you can be wildly creative but later you have to be able to organize it. And the organizing is an art in itself.”

Robert has kept every one of his sketchbooks since grade school. Everything he's ever worked on, he can find in his "records". He likes to paint on location and talk to locals to get the energy and feel of the setting and the story he wants to tell. 

"When I start I get the worst ideas out of my head so they’re out. It’s just as important to the process. As you work, look for the rhythm and the statement that you want to make, don’t focus so much on the drawing. Keep your mind elastic as the concept takes shape."

Robert gave us a charming account of how he found inspiration for his book LITLE DEVILS on location in Tasmania. For a 40 page book he might have 15 spreads, and he does an action graph to map the emotional energy of the story before he moves to thumbnails and sketches. He'll do fifteen or more sketches for each drawing, considering all angles and perspectives. For this particular book, he did 8 dummies before he turned them into his editor. It might sound like a lot of work, but Robert believes you can't think of it that way. Illustrators have fun problems to solve. In our studios, we're the boss.

"It’s amazing that you can take something from your mind and show it to people -- show them what’s in your head. That’s the power we have as illustrators.”

Susan Eaddy: Beginning the Illustrator’s Journey
Susan Eaddy is the Illustrator Coordinator for the Midsouth SCBWI and the illustrator of over 80 books in the educational market. She was also an art director for 15 years and is a wealth of information for illustrators starting their career. 

“Being a professional illustrator takes time. Like many adventures and journeys, you never know what’s going to come next, so enjoy the process.” 

Build Your Portfolio

Choose your pieces appropriate for your audience. Remember you’re illustrating for children. Consider each piece for character, setting, perspective, expression, action, and story.

Get your work out there 

Susan feels one of the best ways to build and add to your portfolio is to enter the contests and intensives like the ones you’ll find at you local SCBWI chapter. You want people in the industry to see and discuss your work. Illustration Friday and Illustration Mundo are also great opportunities online. Art directors are looking at those sites.

Self promote

Create a mailing list from your SCBWI book and send postcards 3-4 times a year.
Susan believes postcards are the start of the AD/illustrator relationship.

Develop a website or a blog and make sure to keep it updated. You want your new work on there when an art director checks it out. There’s no end to the resources online for showing your work and networking with other illustrators.

Get work and keep clients by being professional and meeting deadlines. The children’s book industry runs on relationships. Always do your best work and word will spread.

Her words on rejection and developing a thick skin:

“You’re always growing. Nobody can do what YOU do. It’s scary to bare your soul, but you are not alone.”