This is the blog home of #kidlitart, a live Twitter chat Thursdays at 9:00 pm Eastern, for children's book illustrators, picture book authors, author/illustrators and friends. Check back weekly to read transcripts, comment on previous chats and suggest topics for upcoming chats.

Friday, December 30, 2011

#PBDummy is back!

Yep--the Second Annual Kidlitart Picture Book Dummy Challenge kicks off next week!

Watch this space for a special introductory post and #PBDummy success story from the lovely and talented Greg Matusic, followed by a breakdown of the challenge schedule.

Wendy and I wish a Happy, Happy New Year to the entire #kidlitart community: may all your kidlitart wishes come true in 2012!

Transcript: 12/29/11

TOPIC: Have you made your art resolutions for 2012? #kidlitart 12-29-11

Transcript: 12/22/11

TOPIC: What were your biggest career accomplishments in 2011? What went RIGHT this year? #kidlitart 12-22-11

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Transcript: 12/8/11

TOPIC: How do you keep on track during the holiday craziness? #kidlitart 12-8-11

Friday, December 2, 2011

Transcript: 12/1/11

TOPIC: How best to spend your time/money promoting yourself online.

#kidlitart 12-1-11

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Transcript: 11/17/11

TOPIC: How are you incorporating new tech to stay marketable?

#Kidlitart 11-17-11 Revised

Transcript: 11/10/11

TOPIC: It's time to start a wish list: share your favorite picture book(s)--classics and new releases.

#Kidlitart 11-10-11 Revised

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Transcript: 11/3/11

TOPIC: It's Picture Book Month! Share your favorite pb boosters.

#kidlitart 11-3-11

Monday, October 31, 2011

Transcript: 10/27/11

TOPIC: No naked ladies allowed. How do you make sure your portfolio is #kidlitart appropriate?

Thanks to some much needed advice from writer/illustrator Brooks Jones, who hosts #storyappchat Sundays at 9 pm Eastern, we're going to give transcripts another go. The process I had hopes for in August was still requiring about an hour of formatting to get the captured transcript in shape to upload. Brooks has given me some tips that cut the time down to about 15 minutes. Thanks for the help, Brooks! 

So, with fingers crossed but no guarantees, here is last Thursday's chat, in which we start out talking about one thing and quickly morph into something else! :-)

#kidlitart 10-27-11

Friday, August 12, 2011

Transcript: 8/11/11

After a long hiatus of dealing with wonky (at best) or absent (at worst) transcript generator services, we've found one that seems to work with minimal tweaking. No guarantee that this current service will be available next week (!), but in the meantime, enjoy this roundup of tips gathered at the 2011 LA SCBWI Conference.

TOPIC: Tips from conferences, workshops, #LA11SCBWI: share 'em if you've got 'em!

#kidlitart 8-11-11

Thursday, June 30, 2011

And the winners are!

Bonnie and I are pleased to announce the name of the Secret Agent and the winners of the professional critiques.

Drum roll, please! The #PBDummy challenge winners:

-Pippin-Mathur/little princess whose little brothers are dragons

-Lewis/Katrina penguins relocate to Monterey Bay aquarium

-Matusic/pirates go shopping

The below is a direct quote from the agent, Jennifer Mattson, of the Andrea Brown Literary Agency.

Please let the chatters know that it was a difficult decision - I was really impressed by the nice breadth of topics and the refreshing absence of old-hat, familiar storylines. Kudos to the participants for taking the bull by the horns, and kudos to kidlitart, in general, for creating this terrific and needed community.

Please help us congratulate the winners.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

#PBdummy Wrap Party!

It's a wrap!

We've come to the end of our six-month picture book dummy challenge. Wendy and I have learned a lot, putting together the introductory posts and researching links. We've also had a great time discussing the highs and lows and, most of all, gaining inspiration from the fantastic community of kidlitart followers.

Whether or not you finished with a submission-worthy dummy, we hope you've had fun and been inspired, too, and that the experience of talking through the process has been a valuable one.

We've saved the best for last: the 15 pitches posted during Pitch Fest have been reviewed (favorably!) by Secret Agent; winners of the detailed dummy critiques will be announced during the #kidlitart chat on Thursday, June 30 (9 pm Eastern)!

Join us to congratulate your colleagues and share what you've learned on the #PBdummy train. And thanks to all for taking the journey with us!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Pitch Fest!

As mentioned in yesterday's post, we've arranged for an agent to review #PBdummy pitches left here in the comments section, between now and midnight Eastern time on Saturday, June 25.

The agent (whose name will be revealed at the close of the contest) will pick her top three. The winning author/illustrators will be invited to send her their dummies for detailed critiques. Awesome!!

Don't be shy. Ready, set . . . GO!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Pitch

Drumroll, please.

It's time to introduce your exciting story concept to the world. After all this work, there's one more thing to do: you must come up with a dazzlingly witty and irresistible sentence or two to grab that agent or editor and let them know you have got A WINNER on your hands!

Think of how you'd describe what you've been working on to your best friend, then polish it till it shines. You should be able to encapsulate the characters, conflict, and at least hint at the resolution in the time it would take an elevator to travel a couple of floors. That's because, the next time you find yourself at a conference, that might be just the opportunity you're given.

You to famous editor: "I enjoyed your keynote. And I agree that exciting days are ahead for the picture book market."

Famous editor: Thank you. Are you a picture book author or illustrator?

You: "Why, yes, I am."

FE: "What are you working on?"

This is where you keep your wits about you (don't hyperventilate!) and produce the above-mentioned dazzling sentence. (Good manners require you to wait until asked. You do NOT, under any circumstances, ambush an agent or editor at a conference with your sparkly pitch uninvited--you will be labeled unprofessional at best, creepy and stalkerish at worst.)

Or perhaps you're interested in submitting to a house which accepts queries only. Your pitch is the nucleus of your query. In essence, you're providing the editor or agent with your marketing hook. You know the text on the jacket flap, or the back cover of a paperback that makes you want to buy the book? That's basically a pitch to the consumer; you want to be just as engaging with your pitch to the publisher or agency.

Here is an article about pitching in general--not specifically for children's books, but the rules apply. Of particular interest are the six tips at the end. Note the refinement of the term "elevator pitch": http://publishingperspectives.com/2010/11/pitchapalooza-2010-tips-for-perfecting-your-book-pitch/

Shhh . . . #PBdummy secret!

So, those of you following along for the past six months may recall that when we started this challenge, we said the finished dummy would be its own reward. This is still true. If you've completed a picture book dummy to submit, congratulations! Quite an accomplishment, huh? Seriously--dummies are hard work.

We hope everyone has gotten something out of the challenge, and we expect to hear of exciting submission news from some of you! But we thought maybe you intrepid dummiers (I'm sure that's not a real word) deserved a reward for sticking with it.

Accordingly, Wendy has secured a special surprise for #kidlitart chat folks, or those following the blog: Starting tomorrow (June 23) and continuing through Saturday, June 25, we're asking you to post a pitch for your dummy project. An agent Wendy contacted has expressed interest in what we've been doing with the challenge, and has agreed to review the pitches, pick her three favorites, and offer a detailed critique of each of the three winning dummies!

Exciting, yes? Feedback like this from an agent who regularly deals with picture book manuscripts and art is invaluable. I am personally extremely bummed that I did not complete the challenge, and have no dummy to throw in the ring. :-(

The rest of you, polish those pitches!

Share your perfect pitch in the comments section of tomorrow's post for your chance at one of three professional critiques.

And join us Thursday, June 23, at 9 pm Eastern, to further discuss tips for showcasing your work in 20 words or less.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

GUEST BLOG: Targeting Your Submission June 16th Chat

Please welcome guest blogger, Carolyn Kaufman. She'll be answering your question via the comments section below.

Now that you know what goes in your submission packet, it’s time to target your submissions!

You have two main options if you want to pursue the traditional publishing route: submitting to literary agents or submitting directly to publishers. While it may seem like a no-brainer to cut out the middle-man (or, in most cases, -woman), an agent provides you with some important benefits.

First, a good, reputable literary agent is well-connected. She not only knows acquisitions editors at both big and small publishing agencies, the acquisitions editors know her. Even better, they trust her judgment, because they know that the only way a literary agent gets paid is if she chooses to represent strong projects that consumers will want to buy. In other words, rather than ending up in a mountainous slush pile, your project lands directly on the desk of someone who has the power to make buying decisions.

Your agent will work to negotiate the best money possible for you. In other words, she knows what your project is worth and how to get publishers to increase advance and royalty payments if you’re being offered less than your work is probably worth. She may actually pay for herself very quickly this way!

So how do you find good, reputable agents?

My top recommendation goes to QueryTracker.net, a website that will not only help you figure out which agents represent projects like yours – it will also help you track your submissions. There are other websites that will help you find agents, but only QueryTracker vets each and every agent that’s listed. If an agent has ever done anything disreputable (such as asking for money upfront), she is not listed. (Full disclosure: I blog for QueryTracker, so I’m not unbiased – on the other hand, I am very careful what I put my name behind, and I stand wholeheartedly behind QT. It has also been recognized by Writer’s Digest as one of the 101 Best Websites for Writers every year since 2008.)

Now it's time to find information on past sales, likes and dislikes, and so forth. Writers should subscribe to Publisher's Weekly to track who's selling what, to QueryTracker to find advanced reports on things like who reps whom, and to Preditors and Editors to find out who's a crook.

To use the QueryTracker site, choose the genre you’re targeting (e.g. Fiction – Children’s) and Search. Clicking on the name of a listed agent will give you links to the agent’s website and any social media the agent uses. You should always follow these links to gather details on what the agent is looking for, as well as her submission guidelines. If you get a premium subscription to QT, you will also have access to “Quick Click Tools” that will take you to other agent-search websites that will give you additional information (the best ones, in my opinion, are AgentQuery.com, Publisher’s Marketplace, and Preditors and Editors).

As I mentioned at the beginning, you can also submit directly to publishers if you wish. In these situations, you will want to thoroughly research the publisher online, most notably through the publisher’s website. Caveat: Particularly if you choose to research agents through non-vetted sites like AgentQuery and Publisher’s Marketplace, or if you want to submit directly to publishers, be sure to double-check Preditors and Editors, which tells you which agents and publishers to avoid like the plague.

In any case, you'll want to identify your book's niche in the market. My personal experience has been that I (as a writer) need to be able to identify a hole in the market and then explain how my book fits that niche, why there is no other book like it, and so on. While that is obviously going to give me some ideas for publishers (and I am fortunate to have an agent who is open to my thoughts), many agents see it as their job to identify and target particular publishers. Certainly, I need to find an agent who's into my kind of stuff,

In most cases, you will be sending a query letter, which introduces you and your project, either before you send your submission package or with that package (again, check the individual agent or publisher’s submission guidelines to find out what to send). The query letter, sometimes referred to as a cover letter, includes a brief, catchy description of your book, as well as your credentials (if any) for writing it (e.g. previous publishing credits).

Best of luck in finding a great agent and/or publisher for your project!


Carolyn Kaufman is a writing coach, a psychologist, and the author of The Writer’s Guide to Psychology: How to Write Accurately About Psychological Disorders, Clinical Treatment and Human Behavior. She regularly blogs on writing and publishing for the QueryTracker Blog, and on psychology and writing for Psychology Today. If you have a writing and publishing question, feel free to contact her through the QueryTracker Blog; if you have one about psychology for your story, you can contact her through the Q&A form on her ArchetypeWriting site.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

#Kidlitart Chat June 9 2011: What is expected in the submission packet?

We’re coming down to the bottom of the challenge! Have you been keeping up? I hope so. I think one thing we’ve all learned in the past 6 months is how labor intensive creating a picture book dummy can be.

The writing of the text and development of characters, the deciding on format and creating story flow with thumbnail sketches, the concentrated effort on tight pencils and preparing the dummy for delivery all culminating an exciting (and we hope salable) picture book dummy.

So the book dummy is done now. Are you ready to submit it to agents, art directors or editors? Not quite yet. Don’t moan at me, you knew this was coming!

While it’s true as illustrators we don’t have to include quite as many things in a submission packet as a writer, we do need to include something.

The best place to find out what the person you plan to submit to wants from you at their web site or blog. Find their submission guidelines to make sure you are sending them a complete package.

In general there are several things to include in your submission packet:

  1. The picture book dummy (well duh!)
  2. A cover letter that contains your current address, phone number, and a brief description of your project. Often cover letters become separated from manuscripts, be sure to include your name, address, and phone number on the dummy as well.
  3. A hard copy of the text of the picture book dummy. This should be typed and double-spaced. (You might want to mention in your cover letter you are open to consideration of text and art being considered separately to double your chances of acceptance.)
  4. Do not, under any circumstances, send original art.

The cover letter usually has three parts and is one page long. Besides your contact information, most publishers like to receive a synopsis or pitch (brief description of the book) and your previous publishing credits (if any).

Remember at the beginning of this challenge how we stated there were no prizes and the only reward was the completion of your book dummy?

Yeah, we do, too. But things change.

We have a secret. It has to do with your book dummy pitches.

We’ll be asking you to post your pitches on this blog between our June 23 and June 30 chats. You’ll have 48 hours to get your pitches posted. Only pitches posted on the blog between June 23 (9PM eastern) and June 25 (9PM eastern) will be considered. You’ll want to have your pitch ready.

During the June 30th wrap up chat we will announce the secret. It’s big, it’s exciting. We can’t wait to be able to tell you!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Dummy assembly

It's that time, folks--time to put it all together into a neat package. What you're striving for is to look professional (you ARE a professional illustrator, even if unpublished), but not to get so elaborate that an editor or art director is going to think you're some sort of artistic diva. No matter how well-thought out your proposal, the text of your story will most assuredly undergo some editing, and that will mean rethinking layouts, adding or deleting characters--whatever it takes to make a viable property for a publisher. You want to demonstrate that you know what you're doing, but also that you're flexible and willing to make changes.

This is a fine line--in the end, you have to be happy with the way you present yourself. I've heard some people say minimal presentation is best, and there's certainly NOTHING WRONG with standard typing paper folded in half, with text and copies of illustrations taped (neatly) into place. An experienced publishing professional has the imagination to fill in the gaps and see what you intend.

True confession: I thumbnail and storyboard up a storm, but I've only produced one dummy in my career so far. (Yeah, yeah, I know!) For my one, I chose to do a slightly fancier job, because I wanted something to keep in my portfolio. My process is outlined below. If you're looking for suggestions, this is ONE WAY to do it--and I do think the dummy helped to sell the manuscript in my case. I submitted both for a conference critique, and got a request from an editor (yay!) . . . but she also said (apologetically), "You wouldn't necessarily expect to illustrate this yourself, would you?" LOL!

So, with that caveat in mind:

STEP I: Choose a convenient size for mailing and display.

I knew my page width would be 7" max, because legal-size paper is the largest my printer will accommodate. I played around and discovered that between 5.5" and 5.75" worked well, proportionately, for the other dimension. This gave me a finished book size that would fit easily into a mailing envelope (more on what should be in a submissions packet next week!), and would also fit nicely in the front pocket of my Itoya portfolio.

STEP II: Gather your tools.

Here's what I used to produce my dummy:

legal-size paper for printing spreads
110-lb. cover stock for front and back covers
quilter's needle
waxed dental floss
pushpin (for making pilot holes for stitching)
clear adhesive shelf liner

STEP III: Print your spreads.

I used Photoshop--you can also use a layout program like InDesign. Figure out the imposition (i.e., the way individual pages print when bound into a book). For a traditional 32-page picture book, you'll have eight sheets folded in half, printed front and back.

Here is the imposition for the first sheet of paper. (My story starts on page three, with pages one and two for title and copyright info.)

I composited the images and text, using Times New Roman as a "neutral" typeface. Mine worked out to be 14 pt. for my page size.

STEP IV: Assemble the printed pages in the proper order, including a blank spread for "endpapers."

Fold all nine sheets in half. Along the center crease, punch five evenly-spaced holes. I stitched the pages together using a simple technique, a quilter's needle (one with a large eye) and waxed dental floss.

Here is an excellent tutorial, using three holes instead of five (it doesn't matter how many holes, as long as it's an odd number).

STEP V: Print your front cover and back cover.

I chose to print mine separately and glue to the endpapers, because I wanted to print a full bleed, which would not have been possible with my printer and legal-size paper.

STEP VI: (Optional) "Laminate" your cover with clear self-stick shelf liner.

I figured this would hold up better for repeated handling. Also, my printer inks are not waterproof, and I didn't want to run the risk of having the dummy arrive smudged or water-spotted.

STEP VII: Fold; crease as well as you can, then trim edges neatly.

Use a paper cutter or a craft knife (which I forgot to include in my tools photo).

And, voila!


Back: I used my "elevator pitch" as jacket copy.

Inside spread: Yep, those are my pencil thumbnails, blown up.

The hastily-done color spread (NOT recommended, given the editor's comment!):

And the dummy at home in my portfolio (to get an idea of scale, my portfolio is 8.5" x 11"):

In the end, I think it accomplished what I wanted to do--which was to demonstrate the flow of the story and how the page turns would work to reinforce the pacing. Also (I think) it shows that I understand the picture book format. What wasn't so successful, obviously, was the presentation of my skills as an illustrator!

The point is, there are MANY ways to produce a dummy: better and easier ones, I'm sure . . .

Join us at #kidlitart Thursday, June 2, at 9 pm Eastern, to discuss your favorite dummy assembly techniques--and if you have a tried-and-true method, please feel free to share and/or leave links in the comments section below.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Transcript: 5/26/11

TOPIC: How do you get illustrations ready to deliver?

Full transcript below:

#kidlitart 5-26-11

Friday, May 20, 2011

Transcript: 5/19/11

TOPIC: What's your color? Choosing the proper palette.

Full transcript below:

#kidlitart 5-19-11

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Choosing color – the trick of the proper palette.

May 19th #BPDummy challenge chat 9 PM eastern

We’re coming to the end of the creating final art section of the challenge. By now you should have decided on a style and a medium. The last thing to consider is the color palette.

As illustrators, we’ve discussed how our art needs to add to the story put down in the text. We were talking about the drawings, the characters and the story inside the story. In case you never thought of it this way before, did you know that your color is another layer in story telling? Another character, as it were?

That’s right. The colors you choose, the way you use them help to tell the story.

A story that takes place mainly at night will be cool muted colors, shades of blues, purples and greens. Tuesday by David Wiesner is a perfect example of this. http://www.amazon.com/Tuesday-David-Wiesner/dp/0395870828/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1305732734&sr=1-1

A story like Red Ridinghood would have colors that help depict the storyline of danger and deceit. Reds, bright purples and shocking oranges might be included in such a pallete. http://www.amazon.com/Little-Riding-Caperucita-Bilingual-Fairy/dp/0811825620/ref=sr_1_4?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1305732945&sr=1-4

When deciding on a color palette keep in mind the mood of your story. Is it funny? Scary? Historical? Does it take place at night? Inside? Underwater? IS your style realistic? Or is it more stylized?

It is also a good idea to check out color theory as it relates to fine art. The practices of using tone and complementary colors to highlight the center of interest also translate into picture book illustration. The job of an artist is to lead the viewer’s eye around the art. As a picture book illustrator, you have to do that as well as lead the viewer out of the right hand page so they will turn the page. All this can be accomplished with thoughtful use of color.

And the last thing you have to keep in mind has to do with the final product, the printed piece. The colors you use, whether you paint traditionally or digitally have to be reproducible. Pale yellows and blues in watercolor, while lovely, will most likely leach out in the scanning and reproduction processes. Those bright tones you see on the computer screen are RGB while the printing piece uses CMYK. Make sure the colors you choose will reproduce in the book the way you intended by avoiding non-printing colors.

So what’s holding you back? Go paint already!

Some suggested links:






Friday, May 13, 2011

Transcript: 5/12/11

TOPIC: Do you go traditional or digital for final art?

Digital vs. traditional chats are always fun, mainly because there's no "right" answer. Everyone has an opinion and tips to share on both sides. This chat was no exception: if you sift carefully through the transcript you'll find advice on the best paper for drawing and painting, creating custom brushes in Photoshop--and which coffee roast packs the most powerful punch of caffeine.


(Note: We're still working on the bugs in the new transcript service. Because of the more complicated formatting, some tweets are offset and appear above or below their authors' icons.)

#kidlitart 5-12-11

Monday, May 9, 2011

Transcript: 5/5/11

TOPIC: How do you develop and nurture your personal style?

So, the transcript difficulties continue--we were able to recover only the last half of this chat--but we think we have a system for ensuring that we get the entire chat next time. Stay tuned!

Oh, and for those of you keeping count: there is no transcript for the April 21 chat--that one's gone forever. :-(

#kidlitart 5-5-11

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Final art!

Having sweated through writing, editing, thumbnails, layouts and full-size sketches for your dummy, it's time for the hard part: producing samples of the final art that you envision for the book.

Opinions vary on how much final art to produce. I personally think two spreads is enough to let the art director or editor see how you handle the characters, and whether your style suits the tone of the text. If you submit much more than that, you run the risk of appearing to be too locked in to your original concept--keep in mind that once accepted by a publisher, your book will probably undergo many revisions, so it's best to demonstrate your flexibility and willingness to adapt early on.

But back to that "hardest part" comment: many illustrators, newcomers and veterans alike, find it extremely difficult to define themselves in terms of style. Maybe you're one of the lucky ones who developed a signature style right away, but more likely you've struggled with this issue before. Those of us with backgrounds as freelancers sometimes get into the habit of suiting the client, and while it's great to be versatile, too much facility with different styles can make it harder to discern your own visual voice. Or sometimes you just get weary of a particular style, and have a hard time breaking out of the mold you've so carefully established for yourself.

Whatever your issues with style, they will all rise up to confront you at this stage, so be prepared to fight your way through. It's one thing to be a competent draftsman--now you've got to take your excellent blueprint of a sketch and clothe it so that it looks like you.

Join us at #kidlitart on Thursday, May 5, at 9 pm Eastern, to share how you've arrived at your own, unique style . . . or not.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Transcript: 4/28/11

Thanks to Wendy's perseverance, we now have a viable alternative for transcripts. There are limitations to this new service: only 500 tweets can be recovered per session--which means that we will miss chunks of the livelier chats. But this is certainly much better than the alternative (no transcript at all!). And I really like the addition of the icons. :-)

Thanks, Wendy!

TOPIC: How do you check your art for consistency through every page and spread?


#kidlitart 4-28-11

Friday, April 29, 2011

Archive for April 28, 2011 chat

We are still looking for a good alternative for wthashtag archives. The best replacement only provides a pdf file.

Please bear with us as we work out the kinks. :)


Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Consistency is the topic for Thursay April 28 chat.

We've reached the end of the full sized sketches phase. Now is the time to look at all your drawings and make sure the tiny details add up.

There is a good article about character consistency for comic artists here: http://www.helium.com/items/949706-drawing-your-comic-characters-with-consistency Many of the points the author discusses are also relevant for picture book illustration.

Find someplace to spread out all your art so you can see every spread all at the same time. I use the floor of my bedroom. Other artists use a huge cork board on a studio wall. No matter how strong an artist you are, this step CANNOT be skipped. Big things to check for are:

• Facial features - does you character look like the same character from page 1 to page 32?
• Proportions - is you character the same size throughout? How about compared to secondary characters?
• Clothing - if your character has a costume, are all the details in the same place?
• Environment - is your background and supporting imagery also consistent with character and story line? Has your setting undergone any changes? Should it have?
• This is also a good time to double check your page turn and story flow. Are the images working to move the story forward as you intended in your thumbnails?

There may be a spread (or even two) you decide isn't working and will want to revisit them. In one book I was working on, my main character's skirt and hair grew longer. Since the story time elapse was a single afternoon, this was not a natural occurrence and needed to be fixed before any color was added. Such details are not readily observed unless all the art is set side by side.

These are the full size pencils being approved at Puffin: http://thepuffinblog.typepad.com/.a/6a00e5501c1be888330115705ac655970c-pi

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Lost your mojo?

We're a little over halfway through the #PBdummy challenge, and some of us (stop looking at me like that!) have lost momentum, hit a slump, thrown in the towel, started wondering why we ever thought we were illustrators in the first place (maybe that's just me).

So, how do you power through the dark days? One of my favorite Disney illustrators (and I can't remember which, but it was one of my favorites, because they're ALL my favorites) said his personal breakthrough cam when he realized that periodic down times were just part of the process in any project. Hmmm . . .

How do you stay motivated?

Join us Thursday, 9 pm Eastern, to share tips on keeping the creative juices flowing.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Transcript: 4/14/11

TOPIC: Are you mining your art for hidden gems?

Full transcript below:

#kidlitart 4-14-11

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Adding a subtext to your sketches

The #PBdummy sketches are coming along nicely . . . right? As you’re refining your layouts, enlarging from your thumbnails, you might find that the art is suggesting little tangents to explore, secondary plot lines, a background character who suddenly steals a scene, an opportunity to tuck a personal reference into the story. Go for it! This is why YOU are illustrating the book and not someone else.

Listening to an art director speak recently about what an illustrator brings to a picture book project, something finally clicked: it’s not that as illustrators we “get” to add these little personal touches—it’s our obligation to expand and add layers to the story. This same art director told about a famous author who, upon viewing the art for her latest picture book, commented (with delight), “I had no idea I had written that story!”

Just because YOU are the author of this picture book for which you’re now creating the dummy doesn’t mean you are relieved of the duty to enrich the story beyond the written text. An adult will be reading the words—the child will be “reading” the pictures. Give that child something to notice—some special knowledge that comes ONLY from the pictures: a fox peeking sneakily out from behind the henhouse while the chickens are planning a picnic; a mouse scurrying away with the last piece of the jigsaw puzzle; an unmentioned puppy who stays to comfort the main character during a thunderstorm.

Some artists have developed signature “Easter eggs”—tiny objects or characters hidden in each scene. (My daughters loved finding Lowly Worm on every page of a Richard Scarry book.) Other illustrators plan an entire “subversive subtext” to play out in the illustrations . . . or turn a familiar story on its ear (David Wiesner’s The Three Pigs is a prime example).

Join us for #kidlitart at 9 pm Eastern on Thursday, April 14, to discuss how to let your illustrations take your story in a completely new direction.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Transcript: 4/7/11; Special Guest Tara Larsen Chang

#kidlitart 4-7-11

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Kidlitart welcomes Tara Larsen Chang!

As we continue to work on full-size sketches for our picture book dummies, we have a special treat for you: illustrator extraordinaire Tara Larsen Chang will be joining us at chat this week.

Tara is a triple threat: equally at home illustrating contemporary children, animals and fantasy creatures. Her client list of leading publishers as well as all the major children's magazines is a testament to her versatility and talent.

Bring your questions and plan to be inspired!

Join us Thursday, April 7, at 9 pm Eastern.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Transcript: 3/31/11

TOPIC: What's your worst perspective nightmare?

#kidlitart 3-31-11

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Moving right along . . .

Continuing with the full-size sketch phase of our #PBdummy schedule, we're focusing on perspective this week.

Perspective, for an illustrator, is like those 7th grade science lessons--if you can manage to remember what you learned way back then, you can amaze your friends at parties: "Yes, the Coriolus effect does determine the rotation of adjacent isobars on a weather map!"

Unlike the Coriolus effect, however, perspective plays an essential part in your layout. Even if you decide to deliberately abandon logical perspective for effect, you must have a thorough knowledge of how it works, or your subjects may appear not to be grounded properly, the anatomy of your figures will be off (foreshortening, anyone?) and your layouts will, literally, lack depth.

The good news is that there are lots of resources and inexpensive aids available. My favorite desktop reference is a slim paperback I picked up at my local art supply store, appropriately (and exhaustively) titled, Perspective: An essential guide featuring basic principles, advanced techniques, and practical applications, by William F. Powell (one of the Walter Foster Artist's Library Series). Books on animation and comics, such as the ones by the often-mentioned Scott McCloud, are also excellent resources. And some artists swear by perspective templates, sketching sheets with grids and sightlines laid in. (I've lost the link--so if anyone knows how to get their hands on some of these, kindly leave a message in the comments section.)

A quick trip to Amazon yields the following titles:

Creative Perspective for Artists and Illustrators, by Ernest W. Watson

Perspective Drawing Handbook (Dover Art Instruction), by Joseph D'Amelio

Perspective Made Easy, by Ernest R. Norling

Join us Thursday, March 31, at 9 pm Eastern, for a #kidlitart chat on the problems and perils of persnickety perspective.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Transcript: 3/24/11

TOPIC: What are your composition conundrums? Share tips and tricks.

#kidlitart 3-24-11

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Full size sketches - Week Three - Composition

We have our characters down, the text has been written and edited and if you are at all like me, rewritten and revised again as you’ve begun the pencil sketches for your picture book dummy.

Last week during #kidlitart we talked about backgrounds and environment.

This week we delve into composition.

Picture book pages are not just simple paintings, but have to take into account such elements as text, bleeds and gutters, and page turns. Basic rules for good composition that work for a fine art piece or a photograph, also apply to book illustration, but the illustrator needs to incorporate the above items.

For an oldie but goodie list of links on composition go to http://www.animationarchive.org/2006/11/education-fundamentals-of-composition.html which has 20 in depth lessons on page illustration fundamentals. The first lesson makes a comment that art should be completely logical.

That makes a lot of sense when combining text and image. Even though each part may showcase a different idea, the disparate parts need to mesh and make sense to the reader. Are your illustrations logical? Could a non-reading child turn the pages and follow the story? Will the story still make sense when mom or dad reads it?

When illustrating a picture book, the artist is orchestrating a play. Characters enter and exit, there are scene changes and lighting effects. It doesn’t matter how stylized or realistic your art style, the page layout has to have some field of depth to make sense to the audience.

Composition, when done well, can enhance the affect of the story. Is the character feeling small and afraid? Illustrate from a bird’s eye view with sharp edges and dark corners.

For an excellent book on this concept, a must have for any serious picture book illustrator is Molly Bang’s Picture This: How Pictures Work. The book breaks storytelling composition down to its raw and essential form.

Another excellent book is Writing with Pictures: How to Write and Illustrate Children's Books by Uri Shulevitz.

Try this one for inspiration Illustrating Children's Picture Books: Tutorials, Case Studies, Know-How, Inspiration by Steve Withrow

More composition links which are helpful:

There are a myriad of good articles on composition. Remember to keep in mind the specific needs of a picture book image. Text, gutter and bleeds are all part of the image. Remember, as an illustrator, you are a visual storyteller. Is your spread telling a story, or is it just a pretty picture. If there is no story, you need to push the envelope. Your illustrations can add so much to the text, make sure you’re using all the tools at your disposal to capture the intimate details the printed words leave out.

Join us at #kidlitart on Thursday, March 24, 9 pm Eastern DAYLIGHT time, to discuss problems and solutions for creating pleasing composition.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Transcript: 3/17/11

TOPIC: How do you make your backgrounds shine?

Full transcript below:

#kidlitart 3-17-11

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Full-size sketches, week 2

So, how are the full-size sketches for your picture book dummy coming?

As you deal start dealing seriously with composition and layout, one of your first concerns, and one that you may not have considered before now, will be to place your main character(s) within an environment.

Many of us, I suspect, treat background as an afterthought, but it should (as my esteemed colleague Wendy keeps reminding me) be given the same status as your secondary characters. After all, the backgound has a pretty large role to play in your story. It establishes setting (obviously), and also mood. Your backgrounds help focus attention where you need it to be within a scene; they "ground" your characters within a specific time and place, help define the action of a sequence--and, no small feat, carry a lot of the detail that you therefore will not have to include in the text. This is critical for a picture book.

So let's give backgrounds and setting a little love.

Join us at #kidlitart on Thursday, March 17, 9 pm Eastern DAYLIGHT time, to discuss problems and solutions for conquering backgrounds.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Transcript: 3/10/10; Guest Dani Jones

TOPIC: Welcome tonight's special guest, illustrator @DaniDraws!

The following is an excerpted version of the chat in Q&A format (minus digressions into ice cream and Oreos). Questions/comments from chat participants are in bold; Dani's responses are in italics.

Hi, Dani! So happy to have you here to kick off eight weeks of sketching!
Ok, #kidlitart is on! I'm open to questions and discussion about picture books, illustration, or whatever. For those who don't know me: http://danidraws.com

Can you tell us a bit about the mediums you use? I love your style.
Almost all my illo work you see is digital in Photoshop.

Wow, do you make most of your own brushes in photoshop?
I make or download them. Then customize with textures.

You sketch traditionally, though, right? Then . . . what--scan in?
I sketch both traditional and digital.

I'm curious if you have any tips as to what an illustrator who wants to do #kidlitart should put in their portfolio?
Kids, animals, multiple scenes with action showing a series of moments.

Re: Series of moments and storytelling ~ Would this be akin to sequential art? Or in one illustration?
Multiple illustrations showing same characters. Yes, sequential art.

What would you suggest to some1 who is interestd in comic format BUT doesn't use the computer?
Comics don't need to be done on the computer. Use what your comfortable with. But still educate yourself about technology. You'll still need it.

What kind of projects are you focusing on this year? Comics? Picture books? Something new?
I spent a lot of last year working on comics. I'm trying to get back to picture books.

How is your own PB dummy coming?
I've been stuck doing other work (taxes, ugh), but I'm gearing to work more. I've gotten characters down for my #PBDummy. I'm heading into refined sketches.

Do you bother with thumbnails, or go straight to full-size sketches?
Oh, thumbnails are a must for me. With full-size sketches, I get too worked up about details.

Are you finding that the work on comics is helping your picture book process?
Before comics, I never wrote a lot before. It's helped me get started. Picture books are tough for beg. writers. Not that comics are NOT tough, but you know. ;)

Did you ever work anywhere on staff as an illustrator?
Nope, I started freelance illustration right out of school.

What are your thoughts on the children's publishing industry right now. esp with the economy, etc?
Economy is tough, but now is the time to be innovative. Esp. with new tech and opportunities cropping up. There's always room for high quality art and stories.

I've seen you draw streaming. Do you use reference? b/c it looks like the sketches are coming right from your brain.
Those quick sketches on Ustream pretty much are just my brain. A lot of that is me just playing around.

Is there a market for traditional work being that it's slower process & have you used anything other than computer?
Yes, I think traditional mediums are very important to going digital. There's room for any medium as long as the work is good.

Would having too much of a subject theme in your portfolio be a hindrance?
As long as you don't have a problem getting work in that subject for the rest of your life. If you want to draw picture books, then your portfolio should have . . . picture books. Go ahead and illustrate a whole story. Don't just show off pictures. There's so many out there with drawing skill. A lot less can illustrate an entire story. Show that.

What was your big break into children's illustration? Comics?
My "break" was a picture book called Elfis. I didn't start comics until last year.

Do you publish the comics or are they through a publisher?
My comics so far are self-published. I still consider myself very "new" to the comic scene.

Do you ever feel the need to tame your sense of humor w/your comics?
Not really. My sense of humor isn't that wild to begin with.

How did you get your first job?
I made an appointment and went and showed them my portfolio. I'm not sure how often that happens anymore.

How many art directors did you do that with before you got hired?
2 or 3. I was VERY lucky. And besides the book, I didn't get a lot of other work for another year or two.

How do you find the time to do everything? Are you very disciplined throughout the day?
Hahahahahahahahahahaha! I'm the WORST procrastinator. But seriously, if something needs doing, I do it. I don't miss deadlines. I might procrastinate, but I get it done. I learn to work fast. And I learn to concentrate when I really need to.

I never procrastinate on paying deadlines, but I'm terrible with my own projects.
Another thing artists need to learn - personal projects are JUST AS important as the paying ones. They drive your future work. I juggle my personal comics, book dummies, websites, etc., but I do my hardest to keep them on the same level as my client work. Work on your personal stuff every day, even if it is only for an hour or a few minutes. Get something done. Move forward.

Yes and personal projects usually give you clues as to what you are passionate about.
Yes! Exactly.

If you could give advice to a 19 yr old you what would you say?
Experiment as much as possible with your art. Go to school. Take advice. Work your butt off.If you're not getting a lot of work, don't waste time. Make your own projects and illustrations. ADs like to see you can produce.

Everyone please give @DaniDraws a big round of applause for being in the hot seat tonight.
Thanks for the invite. :)
Thanks to all who chatted at #kidlitart! I had fun.

Full transcript below:

#kidlitart 3-10-10

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Special Guest Dani Jones!

Please be on hand at tonight's #kidlitart chat to welcome special guest, illustrator Dani Jones (@DaniDraws)!

Many of you know Dani from her tutorials, live webcasts, or her popular webcomics: Frosty the Gourdman and My Sister the Freak. Dani has also illustrated books published by Price Stern Sloan and Raven Tree Press.

We're so happy to have Dani with us to kick off Step 5 of the #PBdummy challenge. Join us at 9 pm EST (TONIGHT, March 10), and have your questions ready!

Step 5!

We've arrived at tight pencils: creating (traditionally or digitally) the full-size sketches you'll use as templates for your finished art. We're devoting the biggest chunk of time in the #PBdummy schedule to this stage (eight weeks), because this is where you'll work out all your layout and composition issues, and because these will be the drawings that comprise your dummy--and sell the project.

No pressure!

By now you should be thoroughly familiar with your characters and have a sense of the flow and what needs to go on each spread. You may not have given much thought to the settings, yet. And you'll need to start grappling with the mechanics of the layout: text placement, margins, gutters and bleeds, oh, my!

So there's lots to cover, lots of drawing and second-guessing and general agonizing ahead. But lots of fun, too. You might find it helpful to browse your collection of favorite picture books, to remind yourself of the amazingly diverse art and design solutions used by successful illustrators.

Here are some other sources of inspiration:

Illustrating Children's Books: Creating Pictures for Publication, by Martin Salisbury

The Encyclopedia of Writing and Illustrating Children's Books: From creating characters to developing stories, a step-by-step guide to making magical picture books, by Desdemona McCannon, Sue Thornton and Yadzia Williams

Illustrating Children's Picture Books: Tutorials, Case Studies, Know-How, Inspiration, by Steve Withrow and Lesley Breen Withrow

Show and Tell: Exploring the Fine Art of Children's Book Illustration, by Dilys Evans

Artist to Artist: 23 Major Illustrators Talk to Children About Their Art, compiled by The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art

And three from the immortal Will Eisner:

Graphic Storytelling and Visual Narrative

Comics and Sequential Art

Expressive Anatomy for Comics and Narrative

Join us at #kidlitart Thursday, March 10, at 9 pm Eastern for a chat on refining your layouts: what are your biggest issues?

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Thumbnail storyboards, week 2

We're giving thumbnail storyboards another week because things change.

This is where you begin to see how the pictures and text will interact; where you see just how each spread propels the reader visually. When you look at all the spreads together (and by spreads, we mean two facing pages, which may or may not contain a single, full-bleed image), you should notice a rhythm that suits the text: close-up and choppy to build excitement, maybe . . . or pulled back a bit, with smoother transitions for a calmer feel.

You should also notice passages where there's not much happening--no real need for a change of scene . . . or passages where too much is crowded into one scene. You will probably be able to delete text, allowing the pictures to carry more of the story.

Things change!

Join us at #kidlitart Thursday, March 3, at 9 pm EST, to share how your storyboards are changing your story.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Transcript: 2/24/11

TOPIC: How does your story flow? A 32 page map.

The first of two chats on storyboarding your picture book--enjoy!#kidlitart 2-24-11

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Whoosh--it's #PBdummy, Step Four!

Step Four already? Wow--chats fly when you're having fun! :-)

So, now that we've got our picture book text in acceptable shape and we've developed a unique look for our characters, it's time for thumbnail storyboards.

The purpose of the storyboard is to view the entire sequence of pages at once in order to judge the flow: you will see at a glance how the scenes are distributed, the balance of spreads vs. single pages, the movement of the action (always forward), how the focus shifts from one scene to the next.

Start very simply--maybe with notes on what you expect to happen on each spread--and gradually refine your thumbnails as you work out the composition of each illustration. Final storyboards don't need to be finished masterpieces, but should be clear enough that someone unfamiliar with the text can read the action--and you should have some idea of where the text will fall when you're done.

Since this is (we're assuming) the first time you've considered how the text and illustrations will interact, now is a good time to brush up on the basics of how a (printed) picture book is put together. One of the best breakdowns is provided by our friend Tara Lazar in this popular post from her blog, Writing for Children While Raising Them. And here is a storyboard tutorial from an acknowledged master, Uri Shulevitz.

Once you understand the space you have to work with, you can create your own template, scaled down proportionately from whatever page size you choose, oriented horizontally, vertically or . . .um ... squarely.

You may run through several generations of storyboards as each set reveals strengths and weaknesses in your layout.

Join us Thursday, February 23, at 9 pm EST, to begin the process by discussing how to make the traditional 32-page format work for you.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Transcript 2/17/11: Special Guest Ward Jenkins

Here is an excerpted Q&A version of the chat. Comments and questions from chat participants are in bold; Ward's responses are in italics. Enjoy!

Welcome to #kidlitart. Thank you so much for being our guest for evening!
Good to be here! Now what do I do? ;)

Tell us everything you know!

Tell us about the character set here. Is this typical of the way you approach character design?
Ah, yes. This was for an animated project. Typical? I would say yes, with reservations. Meaning, first and foremost, you need to know who your audience is. And if you go through the series, you can see that I originally had the girl much too older. Dunno what I was thinking...

Good point--I'm assuming animation is more "all ages" than pbs?
Actually, I don't think so. Both have specific groups they want to address.

Who was your audience?
My intended audience was for ages 4-8.

So who defines your audience for animation? The client?
Yes, pretty much. It's also known to aim older. ALWAYS.

You mean animation clients skew older?
Yes, but I think the same can be said for pb's as well.

I think there's a need to skew a tad older than your actual audience - kids always want to read up (slightly).
Yes, I agree. I think that's what clients would like to see. Esp in animation.

So, skewing older with illustrations means more complex in color, detail, etc?
No, mostly with subject matter, more sophistication. No necessarily more complex.

Do you find that certain markets let you get more adventurous with character design than with others? Asking because my experience has been that educational markets tend to stay safer/more conservative, for example....
Yes. Some come to me BECAUSE of my different way of looking at things.Most want a different take on some characters. Like the Michael Phelps book, for instance. They liked my b-boy series.

So how do you plan differently for a picture book?
I tend to go more flatter in my look-flattened perspective, etc.

What process do you go through with your characters to get their personalities to come to life?
I go through lots of research. My research phase is extensive. As for personalities, that's just something that I love to do. I've been drawing char stuff since I was a kid. I feel that with character traits, etc. the best advice I can give is to be observant. All the time.

Where do you do your research?
Since I'm majorly influenced by midcentury art/design and kid's books, I have a big library of that stuff Based on what I'm feeling, I'll grab a big stack of books, mags, etc. & just start sifting. I'm also a big fan of Google Images..

Because of my nod to midcentury stuff, I've often been labeled as "retro." Curse? Sometimes.

Why is that a curse?
I've had some people that my stuff looked "too retro." For those who're interested, check out The Retro Kid: Flickr group I started of midcentury artwork & books.

Do you design your characters with shape in mind? There can be some fascinating mental cues w/r/t shapes/features...
Sometimes, but I try not to let a particular shape become THAT THING I MUST incorporate, you know?

How long have you been doing PB's. And what was the biggest adjustment from animation?
My first picture book was done in late '08 and released the following year. I've been animating since '96. Biggest adjustment has been layout of the pages and spreads. Animation & pb's are actually a lot diff than I thought.

How are they a lot different?
There's a tendency to go very stylized in anim: char's backgrounds, layout (comps, etc.) PB's, I've learned to pull back a bit.

When I first started illustrating there was a huge bias against "cartoony" looking characters.
Yes, in fact, I had to cut back on the "cartoony" eyes I had for the Mama Hen in Chicks Run Wild! Originally, I had eyes with pupils, but editor wanted something a bit more subtle. I was fine with that change.

So you find there is still some bias. To me the art today looks much more cartoony than it used to.
I wouldn't want those artists to pull TOO much back on what they're working on, but it's just something I've noticed. Interesting thing, I do see more and more animation artists doing picture books these days.

So what about clothing animal characters? good/bad? when do you NOT do that?
Ha! Well, I was drawing an animal that walks on all fours, and when I put clothes on him, he looked hunched over.

Do you prefer kids or animal characters--which has greater range?
My stronghold is people. Honestly, if you can create & develop BOTH humans & animals very well, you're in it to win it. I'm finding that I don't have much animal designs in my portfolio, & I'm having to do more animals for the (potential) next book.

Are you developing any of your own original pb ideas?
I have two pb dummies, and a few other ideas, but in conceptual stage now.

Noticing any differences with yourself as client?
I'm my own worst editor. ;)

Who are your character design idols? The ones that get you excited every time?
Oh! So many. Where to start... JP Miller, The Provensens, Tom Oreb, James Flora, Aurelius Battaglia, Ben Shahn, Secret of Kells folks..

Nico Marlet is just about the best- imo.
YES. He's amazing.

Some anim artists have that Little Golden Book look down so well, they'll do fun stuff like this.

I've still yet to see Secret of Kells. I really need to get around to checking that out..
It's truly amazing. Be sure to check out The Blog of Kells.

How does color come to you? Do you do a rough color study on ps?
Color is big for me. Sometimes I can just sense what colors I want to see put together.

Thanks @wardomatic (and everyone else too), very interesting.
You bet! Thanks for your questions. Good stuff.

Full transcript below:

#kidlitart 2-17-11

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Special guest: Ward Jenkins

We're very excited to welcome animator, director and children's book illustrator Ward Jenkins (@wardomatic) to #kidlitart tonight.

Ward's most recent book, Chicks Run Wild, by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen, hit the shelves just last month. His credits also include illustrations for How to Train with a T.Rex and Win 8 Gold Medals (co-written by Michael Phelps), extensive editorial illustration for magazines, as well as character design and film direction for national advertising accounts.

Ward's blog The Ward-O-Matic is an excellent resource for all things art and animation-related. He also contributes to the mega-popular, often-bookmarked blog, Drawn!

Check out some of Ward's recent work in character development HERE--and get your questions ready!

We'll see you tonight (Thursday, February 17) at 9 pm Eastern.