Thursday, February 28, 2013

Mentee Monday – A Day with the Tribe

On monday after the SCBWI conference David Diaz, one of the mentors of the SCBWI mentorship program, treated the mentees to a day with the tribe, with visits to publishers and important locations in New York that every illustrator should see. Here is a small recap of our journey:

breakfast at "Balthazar's" (photo taken by the nice waiter, even though no photos were allowed, thank you!)
1. Hunting:
After a lavish breakfast we visited legedary bookstore „Books of Wonder“, New York's largest and oldest children's book store to date, where a gallery features beautiful art work by renowned illustrators, events with authors and illustrators are held reguarly and, as I learned from fellow mentee Lisa Anchin, picture books are sorted by illustrator instead of by author! We hunted for beautiful books and got lost in the fantastic and well-curated selection of art work. I hope one day I will be in town at a time when they have one of their events!

in front of "Books of Wonder" (photo by David Diaz)

2. Gathering:
David Diaz had secured appointments for us at Abrams Books and Penguin Young Readers Group, to show our work, get to know the publishing houses and gather lots of information.

Creative Director Chad Beckerman shares very useful advice on promo cards (photo by Maple Lam)

First, we visited Abrams, where we met with Editorial Director Tamar Brazis, Creative Director Chad Beckerman and Associate Art Director Maria Middleton, who gave us an introduction to their publishing house, answered all our questions and gave us great advice on promotions and post cards.  It was very helpful to see which cards and give-aways were kept and why, and be reminded how important attention to seemingly small details can be. One example Chad Beckerman gave us: 

always make sure to spell names correctly!

on the subway with Jessica Lanan (photo by David Diaz)

Next, we took the subway to Penguin, where we set up our portfolios for everybody at Penguin to look at. Cecilia Yung, Art Director and Vice President at Penguin Young Readers, then received us and took us to a conference room, where Art Directors Giuseppe Castellano (Grosset), Lily Malcolm (Dial), Nancy Brennan (Penguin), Semadar Megged (Philomel), and Irene Vandervoort (Penguin Junior) generously shared the unique focuses of their imprints and told us what illustration they are looking for for their books and what the work process looks like for them.

setting up our portfolios at Penguin (photo by David Diaz)

Alongside specific information for each of their imprints, the editors shared their view on the current market situation, and many of them agreed that at this point in time author/illustrators are more looked for than before, with editors offering to help illustrators polish their story ideas.

Also, Semadar Megged advised us to look at publication dates when researching books and publishers, because the market has changed very much over the past years. According to her any publication that is more than 5 years old doesn't give an accurate impression of what the publishing house is doing now.

Cecilia completed the visit with an extensive tour through Penguin, showing us where all the magic starting with scanning and color correcting all the way to archiving and shipping artwork back happens and answering any and all questions we dared to ask.

hot chocolate and discussions at City Bakery (photo by Maple Lam)

3. Stories by the Fireside:
In between all these amazing appointments there was time to try fabulous hot chocolate with chili at the City Bakery, look at portfolios and discuss editing processes, constructive critique and etiquette at meetings, and make our very own mentee tribe t-shirts.

making our very own tribe t-shirts - David Diaz shows us how it's done

It was a fantastic day with the tribe, thank you to all the editors and art directors who took time out of their busy schedules to meet us, to Cecilia for arranging such a fabulous program for us at Penguin, and a superspecial extra thank you to David Diaz for setting it all up and making this such an unforgettable experience!

back in my work space in Germany - love my mentee tribe shirt!

I'm waving from across the pond and hope I'll get to spend some time with the tribe again soon!

Monday, February 25, 2013

How to decorate a window that is 4000 miles away...

I already shared a few pictures snapped of the window I decorated at the McNally Jackson independent bookstore in New York. I am so thrilled that everything came together and wanted to share a few pictures of the process.

working on the silhouettes for the window
When the bookstore asked me to decorate the window they sent measurements and photos for reference. I realized very quickly that it was a challenge to put together a decoration from so far away without ever having  seen the actual window. I ended up using a book shelf as a model for the window size (the measurements were about right) so I could get a sense of what the scale of the decorations would have to be.
the finished pieces for the window waiting to be packed
But I only started thinking of one of the biggest challenges very late in the process: getting everything there. When I had finally created all the pieces and figured out how I wanted to set them up, I got out my biggest suitcase, only to realize that I would not be able to fit the pieces in it. I ended up having to cut a few pieces in two, and putting them back together in New York, and I made a large slim packet to carry with me on the plane, thank you dear airlines for letting me do that!

Finally in New York, after quite a few hours of putting everything back together, twisting and tweaking and drinking lots of coffee, and with lots of help and encouragement from fabulous and incredibly generous author Kate Milford, here is what the window looked like from the back:

And a week after I set everything up I am happy to show proof and report that all is still up and looking good:
the window a week later
close up of the silhouette details
As I wrote before, the window is up for the month of February, so please go have a look! The bookstore also asked me to sign a whole bunch of books and put together a beautiful corner advertising them all:
signing, signing, signing... :)
Thank you McNally Jackson, it was a great adventure!
book display inside the store

Monday, February 18, 2013

Lessons from the SCBWI winter conference – be bold, avoid discouragement, let go of the outcome

I am so so happy that I was able to attend this years SCBWI winter conference, with incredibly inspiring speakers who shook my mind up and planted some beautiful ideas. It was an overwhelming experience and will take some time to let all the information sink in, but I would like to share a couple of thoughts that especially stayed with me:

Shaun Tan talks about meta style (photo by Debbie Ohi)

Shaun Tan’s idea of a meta style or deep style that comes from who you are and how you think more so than the way you draw or type of medium you use got me inspired to have more confidence in my way of solving a problem in my art and to take risks. Shaun Tan also shared his practice of creating a „bubble of delusion“, which you should carefully construct around yourself to give yourself time and space to keep critics voices out and allow yourself to be able to be creative.

Surround yourself with encouraging people, avoid discouragement.

In his second lecture, Shaun Tan spoke of internal migration, the journey within your mind rather than to exotic places, that will allow you to find inspiration in the smallest details. He pointed out that the world we live in is exotic, and we forget that. Artists work against this blindness, and show the „weirdness of the world“. He also shared that to him the truths that can’t be spoken about, can’t be communicated through words, are the most interesting. He said that in his stories he is not telling a story but setting the stage for the reader to come in and „do the thinking on his behalf“. I loved this.

I brought my copy of "The Rabbits" from Germany, now it has a beautiful drawing by Shaun Tan in it! :)

Barbara McClintock shared several bold moves in her career, e.g. how she cold-called Maurice Sendak to ask him how she could become an illustrator, or how she approached her agent to suggest a project to illustrate Natalie Merchant’s CD „Leave your Sleep“. Her advice was to

be bold

voice what you want and

keep trying.

David Ezra Stein shared a poetic metaphorical story about working yourself through an inspirational block and balancing your inner artist with your inner critic. He seconded the lessons the first speakers offered and added another two that I will definitely take to heart:

David Ezra Stein and his "inner artist" (photo by Debbie Ohi)
Take care of yourself.


Let go of the outcome.  

I loved his suggestion of putting a block in form of a question and then letting go of control.

Mo Willems finished the conference with a „step-by-step guide to writing a successful children’s book“. One of his remarks that might seem self-explanatory but rang very true to me was:

The writer should be invisible.

He also encouraged us to have big dreams, aim to have our work change the world, and, most importantly, write and illustrate books that will be some kid’s best friend.

listening to legendary Tomie dePaola

As I said, these are just a few excerpts from the many wonderful speakers we got to listen to. Throughout the tightly-packed conference there was still a little bit of time to meet writers and illustrators from all over the world, catch up with fellow mentees, meet the legendary Tomie dePaola at the illustrator’s social and look at the amazing portfolios at the portfolio showcase.

supercool mentee "band" photo by Debbie Ohi

And then, on top of all these fantastic experiences, I won the grand prize for my portfolio, what a huge honor! I was shaky with happiness and humbled by all the talented people around me! JessixaBagley and Lori Nichols were also honored for their portfolios, their work is magical, please check it out!

one of the portfolio showcases

Thank you SCBWI for the wonderful opportunity to come back to New York and share my work with art directors and editors! 

Thank you, Debbie Ohi, for this photo of super-shaky me receiving the grand prize!

And from the bottom of my heart a superspecial thank you to the mentors and mentees of the SCBWI mentorship program, the last two years have been amazing, I am so thankful that I got to know you all and learn so much!

mentee discussion after the conference with David Diaz, one of the mentors of the SCBWI mentorship program (photo by Debbie Ohi)

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Animal Kingdom - Opening at Gallery Nucleus this Saturday

I am excited to have two pieces in this fabulous group show opening Saturday at Gallery Nucleus:

If you are in the LA area, please drop by and check it out! You can also view the artwork online here.

Here are the pieces I am showing:

Sunday, February 03, 2013

A window for "The Broken Lands"

The fabulous McNally Jackson bookstore in New York asked me to decorate one of their windows. Here are some first photos of the window, with elements from "The Broken Lands", featuring new silhouette cuts of Walker and Bones. The display will be up for a month, if you are in the area, please check it out!