Sunday, September 29, 2013

111 The audience enjoyed every minute... the puppeteers created magic.

Part 2: Yesterday was an amazing day at the Fort Mason in San Francisco!
The SCBWI Northern California chapter hosts their annual Illustrator's Day and for the past few years I've attended and have been so inspired by the wonderful speakers, panel critiques and optional portfolio reviews. I've learned so much from these special all-day events, as well as have met wonderful people in this fabulous community of ours...artists and writers who come together for the love of children's books. This year's special speaker was award winning author & illustrator, Melissa Sweet. She wrote and illustrated Balloons Over Broadway :The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy’s Parade, the 2012 Sibert Medal winner.  Melissa and author Jen Bryant have collaborated on two titles, A River of Words: The Story of William Carlos Williams, a 2009 Caldecott Honor book and more recently, A Splash of Red: The Life and Art of Horace Pippin.  Melissa’s newest book is Little Red Writing by Joan Holub. Her morning presentation gave me a feeling of awe as we listened to her creative process as she researched and wrote the book, Balloons Over Broadway. If you have not introduced yourself to this book, please do. It struck home to me as it's only within the past month or so, that my daughter took it upon herself to make marionettes (she calls them "marionades"). So as we researched marionettes and watched videos of puppetry, it just simply stunned me to hear Melissa say that she decided to make her very own puppets to understand Tony Sarg's process. Tony Sarg is the master puppeteer whom Macy's called upon to create their infamous parade balloons. Ms. Sweet also mentioned that she was good at creating "self-driven projects" which included a year-long 15-minute watercolor a day, and spoke of how much she valued doing such projects.

We then had a wonderful presentation by Isabel Warren-Lynch, Executive Art Director at Random House, who spoke of "The Emotional Connection" that readers have with illustration. She showed image after image of illustrations that evoke emotions from us still, as we reflect upon our memories of childhood. From Maurice Sendak, to Garth Williams, to E.H. Shephard's Winnie the Pooh. We then enjoyed a presentation which showed us the process of the book collaboration with Isabel along with Melissa Greenberg, the book designer who worked closely with Melissa Sweet on A Splash of Red: The Life and Art of Horace Pippin.

We then had a fun read-through, and then editing and design process of Little Red Writing, written by Joan Holub and illustrated by Melissa Sweet, presented by Melissa Manlove, Editor, and Kristine Brogno, Children's Design Director, of Chronicle Books. Wow, did I learn a lot about this incredibly multi-layered, fabulously written, and illustrated book!

In between talks, were breaks and a delicious lunch, and chances to visit portfolios in the viewing room..which is always a great part of this event. Picking up postcards, meeting other artists whom I've gotten to know via blogs, twitter and facebook are always highlights of mine. This year, I had the pleasure of meeting in person, Alina Chau (I've been such a fan of hers for many years and congratulate her on her most recent endeavor, Pickle-the little bird who doesn't tweet! I have followed Nidhi Chanani's art for years as well and it was fun to chat with the two of them in real life! Seeing Sansu each year is always a treat. And this year, I met fellow local artists Susan Rankin-Pollard, Brian Bowes, and Alison Farrell. It was great to eat lunch and chat with them about their experiences at the event and being in the industry. 

We were again, this year, asked if we would like to participate in a "First Look" panel in which the panelists were able to do a swift initial critique of a piece we chose for feedback. We were asked to pick something we might consider creating a postcard of. This First Look is always interesting and informative as their critical eyes were on our work. Interesting too was hearing Mira Reisberg Ph.D. Educator and children’s book illustration teacher, John Clapp, Associate Professor at San Jose State University, and Julie Downing Author/Illustrator  and teacher at Art Academy, discuss their takes on what they saw in our portfolios. Of particular interest to me is what was described as a lack of "obsession", or passion that could be pushed in our work. Mr. Clapp described looking at any of Sendak's illustrations and how his passion is present in each piece. Another point made was to stress the ability in one's portfolio to show a consistent character in sequence. Therefore a suggestion is to create two illustrations, or spreads showing the same character. This is definitely something I have to work on! 

I opted to pay an extra fee for a portfolio review, and I had a great opportunity to talk with Melissa Sweet. After such a wonderful day listening to her, learning from her, and feeling that excitement about illustration and art as she talked about her process and experiences with her art directors and editors, I was so honored to be able to talk about my work with her. She was ever-so-kind, and wonderfully encouraging about my work and gave me such fabulous suggestions on what to do next to push me forward in my career. I cannot thank her enough for the kick in the pants (and again, a huge thank you to Tracy Bishop, Laura Zarrin and Joy Steuerwald too) that I very much needed! I am eager to get crackin' at all of the hard (but fun) work ahead! Thank you SO much Melissa! This was truly the highlight of my day.

I'll leave you with a few pics and images from the day..and just say that if you ever get a chance to attend one of these events, please do. They get better each year, and I thoroughly look forward to this every year as it's one full long day of getting to enjoy all that is illustration with fellow artists and writers who love children's books. And, it's in the city...overlooking the Golden Gate and Alcatraz in September - the best month to visit. How much better can it get? :)

Jennie, by Maurice Sendak - note: black and white, and so full of emotion.

Bedtime for Francis, illustrations by Garth Williams...swoon! One of my all-time favorite books ever!

Winnie the Pooh, illustrations by E.H. Shepard - look at that body language.

In the Fort Mason Firehouse
lunch at the Fort

 Gosh, it's so late already..tomorrow I shall post pics of my latest postcard (First Look submission) and other items I brought to the event. Thanks for reading, and til tomorrow! ~ Shirley


  1. It sounds like you had a wonderful time and got a lot out of the experience. Good for you! Wishing you every success!

  2. It sounds to me like you are buzzing with enthusiasm and inspiration, which is just how it should be after such a fantastic event.
    You get going... we are all watching and cheering along.


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