Saturday, October 17, 2015

9th Annual SCBWI Illustrator's Day at the Fort Mason, San Francisco - PART 1 of 2 posts

Hi everyone - I wanted to share this very belated post on an incredible one-day workshop/conference I attended in September as frankly, it was one of THE BEST events I've ever attended. I had missed the last two Illustrator day events, but I knew I must attend this one as two incredibly gifted and hard-working giants in the industry would be presenting: Molly Idle & Kelly Light! Kelly Light & Molly Idle!  

This post will be the first of 2 posts as I wanted to share some of the wonderful content we experienced, and the 2nd will be my personal quest to get to the event and share some of the portfolio I presented and such....stay tuned for part 2 this week.

Woohoo!, what a wonderful day! Here's what we had in store for us: 

Creating Captivating Characters and Storytelling in Picture Books
Join us for a wonderful day on the San Francisco Bay to learn more about illustrating children’s books. Are you ready to be inspired? We’ll pick up new tips and tricks, not to mention hear the latest about the industry, meet and reunite with other children’s book illustrators, and – most of all – have some fun.

We are fortunate to have two incredible author/illustrators to show us how they work and help us all to create winning, captivating characters. They will also demonstrate how illustrations can enhance and enrich the words in a picture book, making it a delightful story telling experience. This Illustrator's Day will include interactive and productive drawing time with our speakers. 
Illustrator Day Faculty:

Molly Idle Caldecott Honor Winning Author/Illustrator
Molly Idle is the creator of the Caldecott Honor-winning, wordless picture book, Flora and the Flamingo. She is also the creator of some books that have pictures and words in them, like Tea Rex, Camp Rex, and most recently, Sea Rex. And sometimes, she creates pictures for books with words that other people write, like Zombelina. Molly lives in Arizona with her fabulous family, where she can be found at her desk, scribbling away with a pencil in one hand and a cup of espresso in the other. Visit for more information.

Kelly Light Author/Illustrator
Kelly Light is the creator of the Louise series of picture books from Balzer and Bray, an imprint of Harper Collins. The first book Louise Loves Art, came out Fall 2014, with the next book Louise and Andie, coming out Spring 2016. Louise has recently been made into a doll by MerryMakers and will have her own leveled reader series. Kelly has illustrated Elvis and the Underdogs and Elvis and the Underdogs: Secrets, Secret Service, and Room Service by Jenny Lee, and the Quirks series by Erin Soderberg for Bloomsbury.

Kristine Brogno Children's Design Director, Chronicle Books
Kristine Brogno is an award-winning art director and designer and is currently the Design Director of Children's Publishing at Chronicle Books in San Francisco. She’s had the great honor of working with a broad range of children’s artists — from first-time book illustrators to seasoned veterans, including Carolyn Conahan, Ward Jenkins, Calef Brown, Tom Lichtenheld, Andy Rash, Melissa Sweet, Jen Corace and Meilo So, among many others. When she’s not reviewing sketches and looking for the perfect typeface, you can find her exploring the Bay Area and beyond with her two young sons.
Paid Portfolio reviews offered by:  
Molly Idle Award-Winning Author/Illustrator, Kelly Light Author/Illustrator, Kristine Brogno Children's Design Director, Chronicle Books, John Clapp Professor of Illustration, San Jose State University, Abigail Samoun Agent – Red Fox Literary, Simon Stahl Art Director - Creston Books, Dana Goldberg Freelance Children’s book editor – Exploratorium, Julie Downing Author/Illustrator and children’s lit teacher, Mira Reisberg, Ph.D. Children's Book Academy 

The morning started with the incredible Kelly Light! Her presentation entitled "Continuity of Character" gave us insight about what makes a character great and memorable. Continuity of character means that "if you draw the character, the character will always look the same, feel the same, and convey it's personality through the ages."
She asked us to close our eyes, and think of Snoopy, his manerisms, his "voice", the way he moves, think about Bugs Bunny, tall, lanky, his swagger. Think of Mickey, his smile, his happy tone, the shapes that these characters convey all come into play to convey specific attributes of their character and personality. 

Kelly spoke of Chuck Jones' great question: What do you WANT to do? Speaking from her personal experience, Kelly told us of her background from dreaming of working for Disney, to working for the animation and cartoon merchandise industry, to her path to creating characters all of her own and making books and characters that tell her stories.

A few notable quotes:  
"Find what is unique about a person or an object."
"Think AS the character, not OF the character."
Kelly's love of animation, especially the animation of decades ago and her personal story of how much she loved cartoons was infectious and I thoroughly enjoyed seeing her convey how that love of cartoons as a child has brought her to the joy and love of what she's doing now, creating characters all of her own. It's incredibly wonderful and so fitting that Kelly is an International Ambassador of Creativity for The Chuck Jones Center for Creativity.

After Kelly's great presentation, throughout the day, we were able to view other's portfolios and chat with friends old and new about our paths in this industry. One of the BEST things about these events is to get to see wonderful people I've come to know as great creators and great people in their own right, including Joy Steuerwald, Casey Girard, Susan Rankin-Pollard, Laura Zarrin, Tracy Bishop. It was also great to meet fellow artists/cool cats: Fuzz E. Grant, Sarah Anderson, Maile McCarthy, Pamela Goodman, Ruth Korch, Josh Nash (so great to meet you in person), and so many others! I wanted to give a giant THANKS to Laura and Tracy, & Lea Lyon and her fabulous crew (Naomi Kinsman, Tim McCanna, Kristi Wright (Lea, let me know if I've missed anyone and I will update this post!) for bringing this fantastic duo to San Francisco. 

Two great presentations followed the break, one titled "Friends of a Feather Publish Together" by Molly Idle and Kristine Brogno. The two spoke of their challenges while working on the Flora series of books (Flora and the Flamingo, Flora and the Penguin, Flora and the Peacocks). They spoke of challenges describing how the book's flaps would work, the book format itself, issues about a wordless picture book, their desires to create something librarians could keep in libraries without worry of flaps disappearing or being too flimsy, and how it was sometimes far easier to Skype with each other than email so that they could see inflections in their faces as they came upon questions or issues about the book. It was great to see how closely they worked with each other and how throughout the entire process, Kristine stated that if there ever was a question they needed answered about the story, they would always resort to: "What would Flora do?" Character was, and is, key.

Molly & Kelly gave a wonderful presentation titled "Character Design" in which they described various aspects of how they view a story/picture book to be, and how they both compare it to film-making. It was fascinating! Truly fascinating when Molly showed images from classic movies and directed our attention to how the masters of film have very purposefully composed shots for us, the viewer to see and understand quickly. The film director/art directors designed their films with attention to lighting (Gone with the Wind), and incredible composition (Casablanca). She stated that she viewed her books as film features. Kelly spoke of various aspects of a book that were very similar to film in that your characters were the cast of your get to design them, create visual cues that tell their personality, and ways to do this, like creating model sheets. Here are some great quotes:
"Draw until you get the essence of the character that is appealing." 
"Think about how your character holds a pencil, how they sit..."
(Kelly describes getting down on the floor and drawing, just like her infamous Louise, drawing on the floor, to get the right body positioning.)

"Do all of the expressions, not just the easy ones! Try suspicion, sadness, curiosity...
the tough ones."
It was at this time that we were very fortunate to see Kelly and Molly sketch LIVE in front of all of us for different tasks during the workshop - 30 second gesture poses and Kelly demonstrated the "turnaround" (a term in animation). 

quick "turnaround" but I didn't have time to draw the "back" view.
The entire day went by too quickly, for there was much to be heard, viewed, and enjoyed. Discussions of the industry, time-management, personal journeys, and wonderful presentations that left us wanting for more filled the day. I had a wonderful 20 minute review with Molly (I'll share more in the next post), who beyond her enormous artistic talent, is incredibly generous, funny, sincere, and so full of encouragement that her words lifted me up upon hearing them. It was awesome to see Kelly again (I had the wonderful opportunity to visit her on her Louise Loves Art book tour). Kelly is as amazing as she sounds from her blog and posts, and her drive and honesty, perseverance and true passion for the industry is infectious as well as so heartfelt. Seeing the two women speak of their process, their history, their both having worked at Disney stores :), and their passion for the industry and their craft were true gifts they gave that day.

I personally learned so much from all of the speakers and am so grateful that the opportunities that the SCBWI offers each year, continue to inspire me on this journey.

Stay tuned for part 2. Thanks for reading! ~ Shirley


  1. Oh my goodness! Obviously you listened to the lectures because Hopkins is awesome and captivating. I am looking forward to the plush version of Hopkins so I can hug him. Tsup!!!

    1. A very belated but heartfelt thank you, Ces!! You will get the one of the very first stuffed Hopkins if he comes to fruition! :) Tsup!!

  2. Wow, sounds like an amazing and energizing day! Thanks so much for sharing this, Shirley. You always get me pumped up for art. :DDD

    1. OH, Bella, it's such a treat to attend these events, and it's my pleasure to share them with you! I'll need to share the stuff I showed to Molly soon..where does the time go?! Thank you so much for visiting!!

  3. Some day I'll get to one of these events. In the meantime, it's nice to see it through your eyes. Thanks!

    1. Linda, I hope you do! If I'm not mistaken, there's an SCBWI group out near you, right? I think the Cleveland area even has a regional conference..something to think about. :) Glad you stopped by!!


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