Stories give us more to be human beings with.
~ Gary Schmidt, author
This post highlights the events that encouraged me and I hope they will do the same for you, too.
Laurent Linn, Art Director for Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers and Paula Wiseman Books, taught an illustrator intensive, Bringing Your Characters to Life. He also taught a workshop on Trade Illustration vs. Mass Market. The following are [my] main takeaways from each:
- A character needs PURPOSE.
- Ask yourself - What is the purpose of what I am illustrating/writing. What is the purpose of the book?
- Don't compare yourself. No one else is doing what YOU are doing.
- Create a character that people care about because that character will stay with you.
- Picture books are "controlled" content that allows children to explore the world in a safe way.
- Everything is part of the character: light and shadow, clothing, background. For example, a tree, or cloud, can be drawn with emotional characteristics.
- Color is part of the character. Use color to connect character to rest of scene.
- Emotions can show through hair, clothes, posture, etc.
- The main character tells you how to feel through eyes, facial expression, body language.
- Clothing/costume - what does it say about your character?
- Stay away from cliché gestures.
- Social Media - no one should feel obligated to share their work on social media. Ask yourself - what is the purpose of your social media platform.
- Your website is your portfolio.
- Animals - anthropomorphic - the sky is the limit on marketability.
- Understand your audience.
- Books for young children - Use sparse backgrounds. Characters are prominent.
- Examples of character driven books: I'm Bored by Debbie Ridpath Ohi; Little Cloud and Lady Wind by Toni Morrison and Slade Morrison, illustrated by Sean Qualls
- (Side note: Read the book On Writing by Stephen King)
Gary Schmidt, two-time winner of the Newbery Honor and a Prinz Honor winner, opened the conference with an inspirational keynote. The following are a few highlights from his talk:
- There are 91 million functionally illiterate people in the United States.
- 40% of schools have no librarian.
- We know the damage - the effects - of certain situations - and we accept it anyway.
- His uncle wrote for the children's TV show Captain Kangaroo.
- The story of Elisha and Naaman (2 Kings 5:1-19).
- Books show the complexity of our world.
- Books show us empathy and teach us about other people.
- All art should ask hard questions. What's the matter? What can I do?
- Show up despite the brokenness of this world.
Keep showing up.
Keep doing what you do best...YOU!