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Credentials to Send in Illustrations with MS?

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Sarah C. Pilon
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I am currently working on a PB MS and was wondering what sort of credentials I need to send in illustrations with it?
I have read a lot of books and they all say not to send in illustrations unless your a professional. Throughout highschool I took art so I understand the concept of good composition and all that sort of stuff. I am also what I would like to think of as a decent artist.
I have a Wacom tablet and have created characters and used a style that I feel fits my PB. However I dont have any credentials behind me such as art school or anything like that. Is this a big issue?
If I decided to send in a dummy with my MS would this be a bad move, even if in my cover letter I stated that I would be willing to seperate the two? :stars

Any experience or advice would be great

Thank you:)
#1 - February 02, 2011, 10:27 PM

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you don't need a degree, there are plenty of self-taught artists. you just need to be confident that your illustrations are of professional quality. are they comparable to current published PB illustrations? if they are, an agent/publisher isn't going to care about the credentials...

good luck!!
#2 - February 03, 2011, 12:46 AM
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Sarah C. Pilon
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Thank u Arthemesia.
That is the most encouraging thing I’ve ever read about sending out illustrations with an MS.  :snoopy
#3 - February 03, 2011, 05:06 AM

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I think the biggest reason that writers are told the illustrator has to be a professional is because illustrating a picture book is not as simple as just making a pretty picture. A professional fine artist, even being a professional is not a professional picture book illustrator. The skills needed are much different.

Undertaking the illustration of a picture book is a huge project, most books take many months to a year to illustrate.

Good composition and 'all that stuff' are only part of the requirements when illustrating a picture book. There is also technical specifications like bleed, gutter, page break and flow and story continuity. Character development and consistency is huge. Can you draw the same character repeatedly, in many different poses, and have it look like the same character for the length of a 32 page book? These are the 'qualifications' a publisher is interested in.

I suggest you do some research about what constitutes good picture book illustration creation. It's not something to just jump into.
#4 - February 03, 2011, 10:10 AM
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Totally what Lyon said. There are indeed more things to consider when illustrating than when doing a fine art painting, but I do believe these skills can be learned/developed without a degree if you have the commitment to do it. Study lots of picture books, practice every day, drawing the same characters in different poses, with different emotions and from different perspectives. Definitely read books on the subject. Uri Shulevitz's Writing With Pictures is fabulous. Some of the technical aspects are out of date (at least in older editions, not sure if it's been updated recently) but it's one of the most complete guides out there as far as the core of illustrating goes. Yellapalooza has a great article on creating a PB dummy

http://www.yellapalooza.com/tutorials/dummies.html 

and of course, places like this board where professional illustrators are most willing and gracious in sharing their knowledge and giving support are invaluable.
#5 - February 03, 2011, 11:18 AM
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Sarah C. Pilon
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Thanks to the both of you! :)
I definitely understand that I have a lot to learn and that a ton of work will be needed.
I have already been doing a lot of reading and research. I have actually already read Uri Shulevitz's Writing With Pictures. It was definitely one of the better books I’ve read about illustrating, but your right there are some parts that are outdated.
Also, Thank you for the link to the article.
#6 - February 03, 2011, 11:30 AM

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I would add the whole way your work comes on paper- with CYMK printing - way better to "learn" working with an art director in little projects- like magazines-greeting cards, etc then in a 32 page PB-
I agree great illustrations are a must but not so much your creds- but having some experience under your belt-
#7 - February 03, 2011, 01:19 PM

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Here is a good link to check out when thinking of illustrators, and their backgrounds.
http://ink-spells.blogspot.com/2010/08/art-appreciation-week-artistratorwriter.html 

Debbie Ohi wasn't thinking of entering the portfolio display at all as she was focusing mainly on writing, and guess what? It's important to be able to illustrate well and carry off characters. As Artemesia said, if you've been honing your skills for some time and have studied the market, can carry a character through emotions and actions from different perspectives and situations for more than thirty pages, it's very possible.

I found Debbie's story inspiring. It's truly not the norm, but if an editor/agent/art director connects with your work, good things can happen.
#8 - February 03, 2011, 02:58 PM
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Julia K, ~ I’ll definitely look in to doing some smaller projects for experience, I really like that idea.  : )

Cynthia Kremsner ~ I read Debbie’s story and it was wonderful, very inspiring! Thanks for sending it my way.


#9 - February 04, 2011, 03:02 AM

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I would also suggest having a website up with other samples of your work.  In my reading I have found that agents ask for an online portfolio to peruse more than they ask for school, or even publishing, credentials.  Let the work speak for itself someone smart once told me;)

If you are interested, I'd be happy to take a look at your samples.  Feel free to email me.

Cheers,

M
#10 - February 05, 2011, 10:05 AM
« Last Edit: February 05, 2011, 10:10 AM by ladylind »

Sarah C. Pilon
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Thank you so much for your generous offer! The computer that I draw on is actually having some issues right now, so I sent it out for repairs. I always back up my writing on a USB, I wish I would have done the same for my drawings. Oops. They said it might be a few weeks, hopefully its back sooner then later. When I get it back though, if your offer still stands, I’d absolutely love some feedback. : )
#11 - February 05, 2011, 03:00 PM

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Well FYI the reason publishers say not to send illustrations is because so many people don't really understand guidelines or what they are supposed to send. You get people hiring their own illustrators or sending in pics their kids drew...
#12 - February 05, 2011, 05:41 PM

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Too true, Wonky. There are a lot of people who think they are REQUIRED to have had their ms illustrated before they submit it. I'm sure this happens less and less now that the internet gives such easy access to information, but there are still people who don't do any research before submitting.
#13 - February 05, 2011, 06:02 PM
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KUNG POW CHICKEN 1-4, Scholastic 2014 :chicken

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Thank you so much for your generous offer! The computer that I draw on is actually having some issues right now, so I sent it out for repairs. I always back up my writing on a USB, I wish I would have done the same for my drawings. Oops. They said it might be a few weeks, hopefully its back sooner then later. When I get it back though, if your offer still stands, I’d absolutely love some feedback. : )

 :sorry your computer went down. I hope all your work fares well with the repairs. Off topic a bit, have you tried an external hard drive? They can be picked up pretty reasonably . . . under fifty dollars and many of them store more than the old towers. I thought I'd lost one of my externals once and I went batty looking for it as so much illustration work was stored on it.

Okay, back on topic, a website is really a good way to go. If you have digitized your dummy, you can put it on a private blog our journal page for submission ease.
#14 - February 05, 2011, 08:24 PM
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ladylind

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Thank you so much for your generous offer! The computer that I draw on is actually having some issues right now, so I sent it out for repairs. I always back up my writing on a USB, I wish I would have done the same for my drawings. Oops. They said it might be a few weeks, hopefully its back sooner then later. When I get it back though, if your offer still stands, I’d absolutely love some feedback. : )

Anytime! 

Ditto on the external hardrive...I have one for my mac and I don't have to do anything but plug it in.  I don't know if it is the same for PC's, but the Time Machine on Macs is the bomb.  It doesn't take very long either because it just updates new info instead of copying everything again. 
#15 - February 06, 2011, 03:04 PM

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This is a suggestion by a non-illustrator, so take it with a grain of salt.  I was wondering you might get a lot of questions answered by going to an SCBWI conference and getting a portfolio review by a professional art director. I know that the corollary, a manuscript review by a professional editor, really gave me a good idea of how close my manuscript was to publishable level.  :goodluck
#16 - February 06, 2011, 06:43 PM
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This is a suggestion by a non-illustrator, so take it with a grain of salt.  I was wondering you might get a lot of questions answered by going to an SCBWI conference and getting a portfolio review by a professional art director. I know that the corollary, a manuscript review by a professional editor, really gave me a good idea of how close my manuscript was to publishable level.  :goodluck

I've never done this myself, but it's actually a very good idea.
#17 - February 06, 2011, 06:58 PM

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In all the conferences I've attended since 2006, I have never had the opportunity for a professional art director portfolio review. So while, in theory, this is a great idea, I don't know how practical it is in real world application.

If illustrators are SCBWI members, there is a down loadable portfolio review worksheet in the members area.
#18 - February 06, 2011, 08:40 PM
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A portfolio review by an Art Director is as good as a manuscript critique by an Editor. It helps you know what's working and not working with your illustrations. If the AD thinks you have potential, they can ask you to send them art samples. I went to a workshop once where an AD critiqued one piece of work from all the people in the workshop . . . and there were quite a few participants. I learned as much from the critiques of others' works as I did my own.

If a conference is offering a portfolio display, many artists bring their dummies with, or instead of a portfolio, as they tell of the abilities to carry a story and that the artist is dedicated and knows what it entails to create a picture book.
#19 - February 07, 2011, 07:21 AM
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Sarah C. Pilon
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This is all very helpful! I will definitely look into getting an external hard drive. I think that’s a brilliant idea.

I also really like the idea of a digitized dummy. I have actually seen this page on a couple of illustrator’s web sites. Usually a page named dummy and you need a password to access it.

Thanks everyone for all your ideas and advice!
#20 - February 08, 2011, 07:38 PM

ladylind

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I just ran across this blog post from Edtorial Anonymous suggesting (actually more like demanding) that an illustrator needs a website. 

http://editorialanonymous.blogspot.com/2008/08/10-things-i-hate-about-your-web.html

She's got lots of posts for illustrators that touch on credentials too.  It would definitely be worth your time to check it out.
If you select the theme illustrator from the right side bar it will bring them all up at once.

Good Luck,

M
#21 - February 10, 2011, 09:16 AM

I highly recommend getting face-to-face time with an art director.

We have two Illustrator Intensives here in NJ every year. You have the opportunity to do an assignment for one AD (illustrating a spread, sketch to final with AD comments) and a portfolio review with the other. The ADs also give presentations which tell you a lot about their houses. They cost money (believe me I know) but I see it as an education... the ADs learn about you and you them, and networking.

I wouldn't do it until you have about 15 pieces. Show your craft skills, voice/POV, connecting with your audience, age appropriateness, hooks, storytelling and lots of expression/emotion and impact.) If you are working on a concept book prepare a dummy. If you write your own stories prepare a dummy.

You have a short but realistic deadline which you will work under. I don't know about you but I work best under pressure and deadlines.

(You may even get a strong portfolio piece out of it.)

If anything you will learn a lot about book illustration and get tips from an AD (what they look for and craft pointers).

(I had a request for a portfolio drop-off from one. Before I had a website.)

I am really looking forward to our intensive in June. It is also a great motivator to get projects and new stuff done.

Maybe I'll see you there!

(Oh, and terms of credentials, all that matters is your portfolio and professionalism). :)

#22 - February 12, 2011, 05:39 AM
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I just ran across this blog post from Edtorial Anonymous suggesting (actually more like demanding) that an illustrator needs a website. 

http://editorialanonymous.blogspot.com/2008/08/10-things-i-hate-about-your-web.html

She's got lots of posts for illustrators that touch on credentials too.  It would definitely be worth your time to check it out.
If you select the theme illustrator from the right side bar it will bring them all up at once.

Good Luck,

M

This is great. I think the one about "your own style" is important. And be consistant! Don't fill your online portfolio with lots of random stuff, especially school assignments. No need for filler. Show the AD what your work will look like if you are hired.
#23 - February 13, 2011, 11:18 PM

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Hi Sarah,

I think it's great that you have artistic ability and wish to illustrate your own PB. I also gather from this thread that you lack commercial illustration experience? Is this true? Not to put a damper on your plans but I think that commercial standards are very different from fine art and creating illos for books esp. PB's is a specialty in itself. While confidence in one's ability is important, there are a host of technical, aesthetic and storytelling considerations, as well. And competition is high. Even seasoned editorial illustrators are known to create a new portfolio to get work in the children's book market. With all that in mind, I encourage you to focus on creating a portfolio. The process of doing so will teach you a lot and this knowledge will carry into your book dummy, final samples, etc. Once your portfolio is created then you'll have something to put on a website. Just my two cents.

Good luck!
Edna
#24 - February 14, 2011, 12:57 AM
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I don't think anybody's suggesting that you can be an illustrator without knowing anything about illustration. I think the point some us are trying to make is that you don't need formal training if you have the talent and also the commitment to learn the industry and the craft. I think I learned the most by joining a PB critique group with 3 others who write and illustrate. A member of my group was just offered representation by a top agency and she has no formal training, but she's worked very hard to learn the craft. I think the OP understands this. She's come here to ask for advice, she's been doing research on her own, I think that shows she is taking it seriously. I'm not saying that formal training is a waste of time, I wish I'd had the opportunity to have had formal illustration training, I just think there is more than one way to learn. I've put as much time and effort into learning illustration as if I'd had formal training, so either way, it takes hard work and commitment.
#25 - February 14, 2011, 11:04 AM
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I seem to have missed the OP's comment on putting in the hard work in the craft of children's illustration~sorry, my bad! (Thanks for pointing out, Artemesia...) The main thing an illustrator starting out needs is a *portfolio.* While some of the PB book dummy finishes could wind up in the portfolio, it's a good idea to display one's best work, in the style that represents your voice.
#26 - February 15, 2011, 02:37 AM
author/illustrator of HONU AND MOA (awarded 2019 Aesop Accolade) & poet contributor of THANKU poetry anthology

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Thanks everyone, this is all so helpful!

I am actually considering applying to take Animation (ANPG) at college.

To answer your question ecm no I don't have commercial art experience and ladylind I did get my computer back, but they had to dump my hard drive and that included my drawings : (  I’ll never not back up my work again that’s for sure!  But thanks again for your generous offer! :  )
#27 - February 16, 2011, 05:02 AM

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Nice way to put it ECM

just remember a Picturebook = @15 full page spreads or combo of upwards of 30 ish illustrations- that have to be consistent in tone, color, character and style- not an easy task-

so here is a question- those on the board who have published a PB or are working with a publisher- did you have experience with other smaller jobs - greeting cards, graphic design jobs, magazine or packaging work- before diving into picturebooks or is this your first "gig"?

I have a few publishing credits in magazines, calendars. etc- and am just now thinking I could handle dozens of illustrations like a PB- but I also have to photograph my work and am perfecting that process too-

curious about others path to the fun job of PB work?
#28 - February 16, 2011, 06:10 AM

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Sarah . . . :gaah :cry2 I'm sorry you lost all that work. If you both start and end with digital, it had to be a dissapointing revelation that they wiped out everything to fix the computer. As I mentioned before, I thought I'd lost my external that I keep my work on. and instead of just batty, I was close to tears . . . And I begin with traditionals, so there is something to go back to as I would have only lost about a third of my work time. But, for all digital, well . . . I feel for you. Thos external's are the best though and then backing the work up on CD once it's done.

I hope you find the animation course to be beneficial and it's great that you are considering it.

Julia . . . sounds like the makings of another topic starter. :cool

#29 - February 16, 2011, 06:57 AM
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Terrible to hear you lost your HD!!  I have onlyy started working completely digitall on my Cintiq and I'm always worried about a crash. I just finished working on 8 board books and all the way through the project I would not only have time machine backing things up but also stop and add new stuff to a memory stick. Paranoid?:)
To Julia's question. I started my PB career after thinking I would be a cartoonist. Tried Greeting Cards and magazine illustration  as well and through this, found out my passion was PB's.
I have no art training, so no, it isn't nessecary to have credintials. An animation course might be great for you but guard that  you don't come out of the course drawing like every other student. Make sure your own style shines through the "Disney" look, otherwise why would the publisher pick you over any other animation graduates:)
#30 - February 23, 2011, 03:27 AM
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