Wednesday, September 15, 2010

SCBWI Illustrator's Day

I'm posting today, in place of Ali, who is working on some very tight deadlines. So when you see my art, don't want you to think that she has totally changed her style :)

Over the weekend I attended SCBWI's Illustator Day at Fort Mason in San Francisco. I'm a little embarrassed to say that except for attending the summer conference in Los Angeles several years ago, I haven't been to any of their local events. Well no more! It was such an inspiring day, and I met artists that I've followed on the blogs, but never talked to in person.
No, I didn't arrive by helicopter, but I must say the day was so beautiful. No fog as depicted in this photograph. It was warm and sunny and the Marina Green and a park bench was the perfect venue for lunch.

There were two wonderful and inspirational speakers: Barney Saltzberg, who lives in Los Angeles and is a children's book author/illustrator/singer/songwriter....and Christy Ottaviano who is the Editorial Director at Henry Holt & Company and has her own imprint of books. Today I'll talk about my experience with Barney and on Friday I'll blog about the great information I got from Christy.

As you can see from Barney's picture, he loves dogs! In fact, he even wrote and illustrated a book called "I Love Dogs." His talk was full of delicious little tidbits about being an illustrator. He showed slides of his projects in various stages, talked about what worked and what didn't and made every one laugh.

The key idea I got from him was that it is an illustrator's job to illuminate the writing with pictures, not to illustrate the text exactly. So important and not that easy to do. You must push beyond "solution A." So now I'm looking at children's books differently.

I found a beautiful example of how words and art compliment each other, rather than duplicate each other's statements, in the book Illustrating Children's Books by Martin Salisbury. In Quentin Blake's book Cockatoos, Professor Dupont searches for the elusive birds. Each illustration is constructed so that the reader is allowed to see the birds while they are obscured from the view of the hapless Professor. A little hard to see in this small image, each cockatoo is hiding behind a suitcase.

The text simply reads, "He climbed a ladder and flashed his torch around the attic. They weren't there."

SCBWI offers portfolio reviews at their events. Although there were only two speakers, there were other professionals from publishing houses to give critiques and review work. The "faculty" was given an hour to look at all the portfolios and pick one image that they thought would make a strong image for a promotional piece. I don't really have a print portfolio anymore, as everything seems to be digital these days, so I madly put something together the day before. This is the image that was most popular in my book:

©2009 Deborah Melmon

I was also lucky enough to have Barney Saltzberg give me a private portfolio review. It was very fun to have a chance to talk to him and pick his brain about my style and a book dummy that I was working on.

You can see all of Barney's work on his website and you must check out his latest book Beautiful Oops! which is clever beyond words.


Shirley said...

Super, duper post, Deb! So true re: Barney's presentation..I look at picture books differently now.

I loved your portfolio at the was one of my favorites, and so absolutely full of your bright, charming work! I hope to someday in person get to meet you - it went way too fast!!

Alicia PadrĂ³n said...

This is a wonderful post Deb! I say you should post instead of me every week! Hee.. ;o) Joking aside, thanks for being there for me and posting for me on my day. xo

I absolutely LOVE your dog and birdie illo!! The poses... and the moment.. you captured it perfectly.

Deb said...

Thanks Shirley! Next time we will meet for sure!

Aw Ali, I'd post for you anyday, but I enjoy reading yours more than mine, haha :)