Society of Awesome

Two weeks ago I bit the bullet and went to the bi-annual international SCBWI Confernce at the Hyatt steps from Grand Central.

society banner artwork by David Ercolini
With the cost of the conference and the illustrator’s intensive (which I also sprung for) the bill came to a whopping $500. I can usually justify things like this by negotiating the fact that I’m a Brooklynite and that unlike people who travel for this sort of thing I am without housing or travel cost. The commute took me 16 minutes longer than it usually takes me to get to work. HOWEVER, the second I pushed the “purchase” button on the site I had instant buyers remorse.

HOW IN THE WORLD COULD ANYTHING HAPPEN OVER
3 DAYS THAT COULD BE WORTH THIS KIND OF MONEY?!

flash forward to the end of day two – where I realized that if Sunday’s half day of lectures resulted in not one single nugget of knowledge that I would totally feel like I got my money’s worth. Wild, huh?
So while this was my first conference it is most definitely not my last.


I’ll be blogging about it over the next week or so, and while I realize I missed my FOB blogging experience, I needed time to process. I wanted to start at the very beginning:

The Illustrator’s Intensive
I wish I could talk to you about the keynote on Friday morning. But I cannot. Why? Because it started at 8am. I am an artist, not a scientist, so I cannot tell you how it is scientifically possible to get into Manhattan prior to 8am. So with everything going on I only caught the tail end of the keynote. Everyone in the room seemed very fired up when I got there so I’magona assume it was great.
The day was broken into three main sections.

We started the morning off with a workshop given by Lisa Desimini.
I was really intrigued by Lisa’s journey because she like most author/illustrators started as an illustrator and slowly transitioned into writing her own books. So big deal, right?

Well that’s what you think until you read some of these books. My personal aesthetic is so very different from the style that Lisa uses in her work. At first, I didn’t feel like I got so much from her discussion that focused heavily on her artistic process. During a break I found myself out in the ‘SCBWI bookstore’ where I picked up a few of her titles and wandered through them. Her writing blew me away. It is sensitive but honest and poetic but practical. I readjusted my attitude and eased back into the session.

Here are my main take aways from her lecture:

  • Always do personal work
  • When it comes to the way you work and what you do don’t be afraid to break rules
  • Brainstorm with words
We were to bring a rough sketch of a birthday party for a character from snow white and the seven dwarfs.

During the second half of the workshop we showed our work and then brainstormed words. We made charts of descriptions that we associate with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. We brainstormed about birthday parties too. It was an odd experience for me because I NEVER work that way.

Afterward, Lisa had us brainstorm words by ourselves about the Wicked Queen. Instead of sharing those words with the group, we were told to take 10 minutes to create a new illustration using our brainstorming to show what would happen if a party for one of the characters was crashed by Snow White’s evil step mother.

Here’s what I came up with:

The words I mind-stormed were:
Apples, Poison, Deceit, Mean, Hidden, Hide, Costumed, Mean, Selfish, Conniving.

The things I thought my blog readers would really appreciate that I heard during Lisa’s discussion were:

  • Your style is like your handwriting, as long as you draw daily and work diligently, it’ll present itself.
  • Ask yourself about your art. Wonder if it should be curved, on a diagonal, if the perspective should be extreme or if the book can best be served with a simplistic line.
  • Put yourself into a book as much as you can.
  • A manuscript is like going to a party, enhance it without hijacking it.
And then she said one of my favorite things I heard over the weekend.
“If you don’t realize that every book needs a little bit of humor, you’re kidding yourself.”

By lunchtime my brain was swimming with inspiration and new ideas and now it’s a bit too much to blog about the rest of the day. In true Scarlet O’Hara fashion, I’ll think about that tomorrow. Check back to hear about Kevin Hawkes’ perspective later this week.

6 replies »

  1. Great recap, thanks! Loved this, “Your style is like your handwriting, as long as you draw daily and work diligently, it'll present itself.”

    I was just talking about that this weekend. Always nice to learn you might be on the right track with some things.

  2. well I'm having trouble deciding whether I'm just totally jealous that since you are a NYer you can just DO stuff like this (for a mere $500 + a swipe of your EZ Pass) or super grateful that you are sharing some of what you soaked in from the experience.
    Yeah, I'll go with grateful. And way interested, can't wait to hear about the rest.
    Am totally inspired just reading this. Thanks!

  3. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this post and seeing your sketches. I just put my pencil down after getting frustated with drawing (trying to draw)clothing wrinkles, I suck at it. You inspired me to pick that pencil back up!

  4. I'm so glad you're all picking your pencils back up!

    It's been pretty lazy here lately at She Sure is Sketchy. SCBWI gave me the pinch in the arm or the kick in the pants that I needed.

    I hope you'll get more from the other lectures I'll be blogging about this week!

    Jim, there were lots of gems like that given all week. I'll focus on making sure I get them up for encouragement.

    Diana, I wish you were there too! Maybe next time?

    Red, it was great meeting you too. Aren't the best days new computer days?

    Oh and Beth, I'm well aware that I'm a spoiled brat 😉

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