Monday, November 28, 2016

Interview with Susie Ghahremani, SCBWI LA Mentee 2016!

Susie Ghahremani was the recipient of the SCBWI Mentorship Award at the 2016 Summer Conference. Kidlit Artists would like to officially welcome Susie to the blog, and ask her a few questions about the mentorship experience, and about what she is up to these days.



Did the feedback you received during the mentorship critiques either change or confirm the direction of your illustration?


I cannot overstate how special and useful the mentorship experience was to me as a mid-career illustrator. Some people think the mentorships are for newcomers only, but that's absolutely not the case. Once you're established, it's extremely rare to be offered guidance toward new strides in your work from such esteemed luminaries. 

Some of the critique confirmed strengths in my work -- like the consistency of my voice -- and others offered me insight on what I must continue to develop -- specifically creating theatrical moments.



What kind of projects are you working on now?

I'm currently writing and illustrating my second picture book for Abrams; creating artwork for one of my two solo art shows in 2017; and shipping a lot of holiday orders from my shop! (http://shop.boygirlparty.com)


Is there any type of illustration (or other work) that you’re hoping for in the near future?

I would love to try my hand at a character-based book; I love the quickness of short term assignments to balance out the long publishing assignments and to keep my work fresh. I like variety!




Is there one really helpful piece of advice that you’ve gotten since pursuing illustration?  Any one piece of bad advice?

The best piece of advice I got when I was 21 years old was from Ron Rege Jr. who encouraged me to say yes to every project that comes my way. That positive outlook toward accepting all work enabled me to take many, many risks in the formative years of my career. However, it later turned into the worst piece of advice because I had taken on horrible spec work and artist-unfriendly work-for-hire projects, overcommitted to too many projects, struggled to find my niche, and generally felt very worn down. It led to me learning the hard way about a LOT of things. 

Now I find a happy balance between asking myself if the project is fun or fulfilling or important, if it will compensate me fairly and set a good example of terms for others in my field, and if I have time for it -- and that's a much healthier way to determine what projects to pursue.


What was one of your favorite quotes or lessons from the SCBWI Summer Conference?

Not sure who said it at the conference, but "tune out the voices of 'what will be popular'." is a quote I've been tapping into daily ever since.

What were some of your favorite books when you were a kid?

My Father's Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett and The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry were probably my all-time favorites. Both hold up as incredibly special to me today. 

My parents worked a lot when I was growing up, so my sister and I used to spend full days at the public library. We would participate in a literacy program at our local library, challenged to read 300 books every summer. It resulted in us discovering an unbelievable range of books, many favorites I continue to rediscover.




---

See more of Susie's work on her website, Facebook, EtsyInstagram, or Twitter. You can also sign up for her mailing list.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Interview with 2016 LA mentee, Liz Wong

Liz Wong was the recipient of the SCBWI Mentorship Award at the 2016 Summer Conference. Kidlit Artists would like to officially welcome Liz to the blog, and ask her a few questions about the mentorship experience, and about what she is up to these days.


Did the feedback you received during the mentorship critiques either change or confirm the direction of your illustration?


Yes, the mentors generally agreed on which of my pieces were the strongest and which needed more work, technique-wise. The nice thing was that my oldest pieces were the ones that they tended to think were the weakest, which tells me that I’m heading in the right direction and that I can cut those older pieces out of my portfolio. Overall I came away understanding that I need to know the story behind the illustrations before I start, instead of approaching the illustration purely as a design problem, and I need to strive for more consistency in technique. David Diaz summed it up perfectly with his advice to “move forward in a thoughtful, purposeful way.”



What kind of projects are you working on now?

I’m currently working on my second picture book with Knopf Books for Young Readers, tentatively titled The Goose Egg. I’m revising the dummy and trying to whip the story into shape. I’m also working on some new portfolio pieces based on the feedback from the mentors.




Is there any type of illustration (or other work) that you’re hoping for in the near future?

I’d love to do more middle grade book covers and interiors. If there’s a spooky Victorian era boarding school story featuring multicultural kids, I’m your lady!

Is there one really helpful piece of advice that you’ve gotten since pursuing illustration?  Any one piece of bad advice?

The most helpful advice I’ve gotten is the importance of persistence. There’s so much rejection in this business and it can be a long road to publication. It’s easy to get discouraged and give up. I think a lot of us creatives compare ourselves to others and feel like we aren’t good enough, but you have to block out those thoughts and keep creating new work and keep improving. The other helpful piece of advice was to join SCBWI and go to conferences. I met some of my critique group at an SCBWI conference, made a connection that led to getting an agent at a conference and learned so much and made so many friends over the years. 

I don’t think I’ve gotten any bad advice. I’m so thankful for all the encouragement and the advice that I’ve gotten over the years. The children’s book community is so generous and supportive. I honestly wouldn’t have a clue what I was doing without SCBWI.



What was one of your favorite quotes or lessons from the SCBWI Summer Conference?

Neal Porter said, "Don't be afraid to play and get messy," and I'm trying to take that advice to heart.



What were some of your favorite books when you were a kid?

I was a big fan of folktales and fairy tales. My favorite picture book was Urashima Taro, which is a Japanese folktale about a young fisherman who saves a sea turtle and is rewarded by being taken to the kingdom of the sea princess upon said turtle’s back. I was particularly taken with the underwater illustrations. 

I loved fantasy as well - Charmed Life by Diana Wynne Jones, the Narnia series by C.S. Lewis, Lloyd Alexander’s Chronicles of Prydain. I also really loved the Trixie Belden mystery series. They are super corny but I think that’s partly why I liked them so much.



---

See more of Liz's work on her website, blog, tumblr, or Twitter.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Interview with 2016 LA Mentee, Sungyeon "Sansu" Joh

Sungyeon "Sansu" Joh was the recipient of the SCBWI Mentorship Award at the 2016 Summer Conference. Kidlit Artists would like to officially welcome Sungyeon to the blog, and ask her a few questions about the Mentorship experience, and about what she is up to these days.



Did the feedback you received during the mentorship critiques either change or confirm the direction of your illustration?


I gained a lot of confidence from mentors' kind words. It is hard for me to make a room for myself from my full time job and two year old son. I try to simplify my life and I tend to make simple images too. And they make me peaceful as well as excited. However, I sometimes doubt myself and worry if my art style is too boring. Cecilia Yung told me that she likes my simple images. Peter Brown and Priscilla Burris told me that I can just keep going what I am doing. 

It was just cool to talk to my picture book heroes and hear that they like my work. I joined a couple of groups of mentees and they have been really helpful sharing resources and tips. I think we really need to help each other, and we need colleagues and mentors. I feel very lucky. 

Neal Porter told me that he likes to make picture books because he enjoys collaborating with people. I tend to work by myself in an isolated environment and his words will stay in my mind for long time.



What kind of projects are you working on now?

I am working on a dummy book about a skunk who has a farting problem at his new school. I am working on another couple of dummy books about monsters and birthday parties. I have many story ideas and it is time to put them together.




Is there any type of illustration (or other work) that you’re hoping for in the near future?

I have been reading picture books to my son many times, and I feel bad for adults who have to read the same books over and over to kids. I would love to make adult picture books that kids may enjoy too. Beside picture books, I would love to do puppetry and personal animation. I miss my old school years when I spent days and days working on my independent animation.



Is there one really helpful piece of advice that you’ve gotten since pursuing illustration?  Any one piece of bad advice?

Rules exist to break. The artists that change perception, or break the conformity that are remembered. Artists that challenged the “standard,” setting themselves apart as not just artists, but visionaries. I am trying to find my own voice and remind myself what Billie Holiday said, “If I am going to sing like someone else, then I don't need to sing at all.”



What was one of your favorite quotes or lessons from the SCBWI Summer Conference?

"I only wanted to draw rocks and chairs" --Jon Klassen. I think that the children's book world is all about character-driven stories these days. Jon is not afraid to say what he doesn't like to draw. And his limitation is truly a unique gift to us. I love that his characters are stiff like rocks and chairs, and still tell wonderful fun stories without big actions and extreme facial expressions. Jon said that Maurice Sendak's dummy for WHERE THE WILD HORSES ARE had tons of horse drawings in it, but Maurice hated drawing horses and created WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE instead. I like to work within my limitations and turn them into something unique. I am so happy that Jon's work is appreciate and loved by the world.



What were some of your favorite books when you were a kid?

I love the stories written by Danish fairytale writer Hans Christian Andersen. I loved The Little Mermaid, The Fir Tree and Happy Prince even though my heart ached from the sad endings. I used to imagine my own version of happy endings and changed the stories.



---

See more of Sungyeon's work on her website, Facebook, Instagram, Etsy, Pinterest, Twitter, or Amazon author page.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Interview with 2016 LA mentee, Shahrzad Maydani

Shahrzad Maydani was the recipient of the SCBWI Mentorship Award at the 2016 Summer Conference. Kidlit Artists would like to officially welcome Shahrzad to the blog, and ask her a few questions about the Mentorship experience, and about what she is up to these days.

Did the feedback you received during the mentorship critiques either change or confirm the direction of your illustration?

I received a lot of encouragement which was amazing because I had taken so much time away from illustrating that I felt sort of like an impostor even attending a SCBWI conference. One wonderful piece of feedback I received was to "embrace your difference".



What kind of projects are you working on now?

I'm currently in talks with a publisher to illustrate a board book, which I'm very excited about, as well as working on a few projects of my own.




Is there any type of illustration (or other work) that you’re hoping for in the near future?

I feel very lucky to be able to participate in making books for children and so for fear of angering the picture book gods I wont mention wanting more! I will say, however, that I hope to be able to stay true to myself and remain authentic in my work. Whatever form that takes.

Is there one really helpful piece of advice that you’ve gotten since pursuing illustration?  Any one piece of bad advice?

The best advice i've ever gotten would have to be to do what YOU do best and don't force yourself to create anything that doesn't come naturally to you. When I was first creating work I was given a lot of "bad" advice about filling my portfolio with kids that were happy and smiling and because it didn't come naturally to me I ended up making work that wasn't very good and quite stale. The minute I decided to just draw what I draw, things fell into place.


What was one of your favorite quotes or lessons from the SCBWI Summer Conference?


"The only characters I can respect and draw are characters that look like they don't want to be there." --Jon Klassen




What were some of your favorite books when you were a kid?


As a child I absolutely adored anything by Roald Dahl. My favourites, though, were The Twits and Matilda. There were also a lot of Le Petit Nicolas books lying around my house, so I ended up pouring over them quite a bit as well, along with copious amounts of Beatrix Potter's work.


---

See more of Shahrzad's's work on her website, as well as the Catbird Agency Site.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Interview with 2016 LA mentee, Katie Carberry

Katie Carberry was the recipient of the SCBWI Mentorship Award at the 2016 Summer Conference. Kidlit Artists would like to officially welcome Katie to the blog, and ask her a few questions about the Mentorship experience, and about what she is up to these days.


Did the feedback you received during the mentorship critiques either change or confirm the direction of your illustration?

The critiques were very constructive and helped me in two specific ways. First they helped direct me to areas that needed a little more attention so I can refocus my time are energy on those areas and allow me to be more efficient. Secondly, and most importantly, it gave me confidence in my work and helped show me where my strengths are and how I can showcase those even more in my illustrations. I was told how important it is to focus on consistency of style in all of my pieces but still allow myself to be playful and experiment with line work and texture. Taking these things into consideration will help me move forward as an illustrator and develop a stronger portfolio.




What kind of projects are you working on now?

I have taken the feedback from the mentorship critique and am working on expanding my portfolio. I have joined with a group of artists who all share a love of children's illustration and formed a collective called Puddle Jump Collective in which we just finished a collaborated project illustrating the story of Alice in Wonderland. I also have been doing illustration work for a new social media platform called Imzy.com. In addition to the above projects I have been working on my own manuscripts and book dummies.



Is there any type of illustration (or other work) that you’re hoping for in the near future?

My dream is to write and illustrate my own children's book. I would also love to be commissioned to illustrate picture books, chapters books, and children's magazines. Another fun project would be to create artwork for a children's board game or card game.



Is there one really helpful piece of advice that you’ve gotten since pursuing illustration?  Any one piece of bad advice?

The best piece of advice I've heard is to never give up. I was told that children's book illustration can be a difficult field to get into but that I need to persevere and maintain the passion that drew me to this career choice in the first place. 




What was one of your favorite quotes or lessons from the SCBWI Summer Conference?


The most important message that I got from the conference was to always be true to yourself, your voice is what got you there and your voice is what the world needs. Don't get caught up in the idea of what others want to see but rather what it is you want to share with the world. 



What were some of your favorite books when you were a kid?


Books were a huge part of my childhood, some of my favorite stores were fairy tales especially Czech fairy tales that were sent from our family in Prague. I was drawn to the intensity and darkness, they showed a world that was scary yet exciting to read about. I love Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are, but am especially fond of the ones that my mother ready to me A Hole is to Dig and Open House for Butterflies. Other books that my mother read to me that inspired my young mind were The Frog and Toad Series by Arnold Lobel, Fortunately by Remy Charlip and Shel Silverstein's Uncle Shelby's ABZ Book. As I got older I enjoyed reading the Amelia Bedelia books and Roald Dahl's books, my favorite being Matilda.


---

See more of Katie's work on her website, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or on the Puddle Jump Collective.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Interview with 2016 LA mentee, Alison Farrell

Alison Farrell was the recipient of the SCBWI Mentorship Award at the 2016 Summer Conference. Kidlit Artists would like to officially welcome Alison to the blog, and ask her a few questions about the Mentorship experience, and about what she is up to these days.


Did the feedback you received during the mentorship critiques either change or confirm the direction of your illustration?


As a way to keep human characters distinct, I was told to consider what animal characters (for example, an elephant or a mouse) might look like as people. For me, this is a very mind-bending approach to drawing human characters!


What kind of projects are you working on now?

I am currently working on my debut picture book, Cycle City, which I am writing and drawing. Did I mention I love bikes? There are so many bikes in this book!

Is there any type of illustration (or other work) that you’re hoping for in the near future?

The book I am working on now requires lots of small details. I am hoping to change gears and work on something more character based, whimsical, graphic, fun, or funny. I am a sucker for silly, sweet books about friends like George and Martha or Frog and Toad, or charismatic characters like Calvin.


Is there one really helpful piece of advice that you’ve gotten since pursuing illustration?  Any one piece of bad advice?

Slow down, take time to find yourself in your work and discover what your interests are.

What was one of your favorite quotes or lessons from the SCBWI Summer Conference?

Jon Klassen, quoting Stanley Kubrick, "I do not always know what I want, but I do know what I don't want."

A fun exercise for discovering voice in your writing by Drew Daywalt: record conversations with friends/family and transcribe. This can reveal little quirks people have: coughs, little broken phrases pieced together, awkwardness.


What were some of your favorite books when you were a kid?

Miss. Rumphius, Roxaboxen, anything Chris Van Allsburg, Alice in Wonderland, The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, The Secret Garden, Calvin and Hobbes, Richard Scarry, George and Martha, There's a Monster at the End of This Book, anything Arnold Lobel, I would have considered myself a Roald Dahl aficionado, Lizbeth Zwerger's Wizard of OZ, The Snowy Day, Where the Wild Things Are.

A Beacon Hill Christmas was made by Barbara Westman, not very well known, but I adored it as a kid.

My grandparents had some seriously tattered Farside books that I would obsess over whenever I visited.

So many books! I could go on forever!

---

See more of Alison's work on her website, Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Palettes: on color combinations & experimentations

When proceeding to the final step in an art piece, it can be challenging to find the accurate colors that are needed to express a feeling for each illustration to create an emotional experience through color.

Here you can find some helpful tips for experimentation, as well as some images with colors that I find greatly interesting and inspiring! 

-Mixing colors
 Finding the right single color for a specific object is the first challenge, here are some mixes of color that I have found very helpful:

  • Emerald or aqua green + magenta = purple, depending on how much you add of each color it can be colder or warmer

  • Hostaperm blue (Phtalo blue) + white = royal blue close to cerulean blue

  • Red-orange (Pyrrole orange) + green-yellow (chromium oxide green + lemon yellow) + white = ochre


  • Hostaperm green (Phtalo green) + Lemon yellow = wild green


-Color combinations
We might say that we love a specific color, but sometimes we might actually refer to a color contrasting other color (or set of colors) which individually might not be as compelling, but when put next to each other are incredibly beautiful.



Example: blue and yellow during the blue hour. Image source: Shutterbug
(Thanks to my friend Beka for the inspiration on these colors) 




Here are some color combinations that might help you create an interesting palette:


  • Contrasting all colds against one warm color / contrasting all warms against one cold color

         

  • Colors that are very close in the color wheel against one contrasting color from the opposite side of the color wheel



    Source: Prismacolor color wheel, Pinterest
  • Triads. You can vary in saturation and value



    Source: Prismacolor color wheel, Pinterest
-Color charts

Cool  vs warm colors. Background vs foreground?


*All color results here were made with Indart acrylics and Liquitex white



Some helpful links on color: 


What are your favorite color combinations ? What are your color recipes?



Thanks for stopping by!




..........................................
Ana Aranda writes/illustrates for children and creates murals.
You can find her work at 
these different locations:
Twitter: @anaranda2