SCBWI – Illustrator’s Intensive: Kevin Hawkes

After the SCBWI Illustrator’s Intensive morning with Lisa Desemini, we all broke for lunch. In niceties I’d stood up after the session and heard my name being called. I joined up with Polly Beam and Grace Co (friends I had in college who’s work blows me away, but who I haven’t seen in years) It was so extra sweet with a cherry on top to catch up with them. You should amble over and check out their work, cause they rock.

The three of us wandered over to Grand Central where we all bought sandwiches at the food court before sneaking back to the Hyatt. In a side note, I really have to say that SCBWI picked such a perfect venue for this convention. The room for the intensive was so well organized. We had long tables to work on and while there were well over a hundred or so people in the room it seemed intimate.

I was naive enough to think that people that we had in the illustrator’s intensive were all we were going to have for the weekend and that it would just be a larger conference because we’d be with the people at the writer’s intensive. HA! Saturday morning I arrived to a swimming hive of activity. Apparently tickets for the intensive sell out. Statistically speaking, not to say a children’s illustrator or writer is ever a number ;), the weekend brought in
1,047 attendees, from 14 countries and 45 states.

I was shamed when they let us know that Hawaii was one of the five states not present. I wanted to raise my fist in my air ala my Mom at Falling Water (OMG funniest story ever) and shout that I was from HAWAII! I WAS FROM HAWAII!!! Alas, we all know that I am a Brooklynite to my core now. Did last week’s random girl asking us what we put on our skin to get it so pale teach us nothing? Hawaii is my past, but Brooklyn must have been a past life and at any rate it is the present. I sat quietly on my hands while humming ‘Little Brown Gal’ under my breath.

OK in a round about way that brings us to Kevin Hawkes‘ presentation at the illustrator’s intensive.

What? You couldn’t tell that was exactly where we were going? For shame.
Here is a diagram: What could be simpler? I’d like you to keep up from here on out.

The main point I learned from Kevin Hawkes‘ lecture about his career is that I want Kevin Hawkes‘ career.

There was one thing that I was really hoping would be answered at this lecture and I would have loved to ask it, but I didn’t know how to begin to pose the question without being rude.

I want to know how Kevin Hawkes propagates a career based on work that is soooooo wildly varied. My style always evolves – but when you look at my work I take pride in the fact that it usually looks like I did it. Kevin’s work is always different, always flirting with new style, new medium, new approaches. How fun would it be to let yourself be that kind of wild and make a celebrated living doing it?

Here are three books by Kevin Hawkes that I scanned from my collection:

Here’s ‘Weslandia
written by Paul Fleischman
I don’t know if you’ve had the pleasure of meeting Velma Gratch? Here she is with the way cool butterfly.
‘Velma Gratch and the Way Cool Butterfly’ is written by
Alan Madison
Here is my very very favorite Kevin Hawkes book of all time. This book is on my top ‘twenty-children’s-books-that-everyone-must-have-in-order-to-raise-well-rounded-children-who-love-books-and-people-and-who-would-never-kick-a-dog’ list. It’s something you should have sitting on your shelf.
‘Library Lion’ is written by
Michelle Knudsen
(read her blog it is funny and smart and it will make you giggle)
So here are three books that seem to be illustrated with three very different hands! I’ve always had my hand slapped whenever I veer away from my particular style. So how does he do it?!

Here’s what he said that kind of started to answer that question for me:

  • You will be successful doing what inspires and comes easily to you.
  • Listen to the book. Draw in the style that makes sense for that book. Don’t make the book fit your style, change your style to fit the book. (Personally I cannot imagine ‘Library Lion’ drawn in that bright high contrast style that makes ‘Velma Gratch so exciting. So I started to see what he meant a bit more)
  • Be yourself. You don’t have to try to be unique. You have to try NOT to be unique.

    So here’s what I figured out about Kevin Hawke’s wild styles of working. He picks books to illustrate that he knows are good. He picks books that he feels passionate about working on. He does art that speaks to those books and while the styles might be different, the illustrations are always honest and full of passion and concern for creating the best experience he can for his readers. AND SO…Kevin Hawke’s work is sought out because it is good. His cohesive style of the way he draws takes a back burner to the fact that he won’t rest until a book is “right”. As a result he’s always in demand because he illustrates books that sell because they are great.

    One of the many things I didn’t really know about Kevin Hawkes before this lecture, and that I really respected after this portion of the day, was that he truly thinks about his readers – children. I LIVE for that perspective. I work in children’s entertainment because I love kids. I find that often when it comes to the animation world children are not always the focus. I have worked with an abundance of animators and designers for animation who don’t care about kids, they care about what they want to make and if the market is children so be it.
    I was tickled at the fact that everyone at SCBWI seemed to really care about a child’s experience to their core. Kevin was my first real view into that shared passion and I think even if that is all you get from following next week’s posts on the conference that you’ll come away someone more in tune with their craft.

The art project that we did with Kevin was about unlocking illustrator’s block by starting with something unique and modifying it to make something that speaks to you. I’ll be back tomorrow to show you a video on how to do that the “Kevin Hawkes SCBWI” way. OOOOOOOOOHH WHAATT?! That’s right. WITH VIDEO. Word up.
Word up, readers.

listening to right this second: “in and 0ut of love” — bon jovi

4 replies »

  1. This was great. Ahh.. i always come away from your blog feeling so enriched. It is enriching.

    Julian needs to be with his auntie amber some more. sidenote: did you catch the latest Project Runway? Fun times.

    hugs.

  2. I thought it was interesting that most of the illustrators that spoke worked in several different styles. But all the advice from the publishers/ADs say you need to have 1 style. Maybe once you're established, you have more freedom. I sure hope so!
    Since your art and blog always bring a smile to my face, I have awarded you the Sunshine Award. Please stop by my blog to receive your award.

  3. What I like most about reading your blog is the sheer joy you convey to your readers about doing what you love. I find that very inspiring. Can't wait for the video, have you ever considered doing a Ustream broadcast? That would rock.

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