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SCBWI Conferences feedback for Illustrators

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Hello everyone, I would very very much like to attend the SCBWI Summer Conference in LA in August and as a children's book illustrator I was hoping to get some feedback from other illustrators who have attended previous conferences about what their experiences have been like? What is essential for me to do as a children's book illustrator at an SCBWI Conference? If I am financially able to go it will be my first SCBWI Conference.

On that note I know I may not be able to attend the Conference this year because of the expense so I was wondering what the Regional conferences are like for children's book illustrators as well. I'm assuming Regional conferences vary by region but is there anyone from the MD/WV/DE area that can comment on that specific region and their Conferences? any info for a first time-goer children's book illustrator would be very helpful! 

:thankyou
#1 - May 26, 2013, 01:38 PM

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Hi Amanda- this will be my fifth LA conference-
It is really exciting- and crazy, you are rubbing elbows with big publishers, editors, writer and illustrators- my advice, is if you are ready it is well worth it- if you are not ready it is a big waste of money.
Do you know the business of publishing and how freelance illustrating works, not a newbie anymore?
Do you have a killer portfolio both a book for the portfolio showcase and an online portfolio
Do you have business cards and postcards to hand out and for the portfolio showcase-an actual 8.5 x 11 portfolio, they are sticklers for the size- there will be over 100 portfolios at the showcase.
If so- then yeah the conference is totally worth it- if not, or if you haven't taken the time to research publishing, whose going to be there, then it is a really fun weekend but not  very productive.
There are new people who come just to checking out publishing and didn't do any research before hand and they must  be way richer than I was at that stage-
Also I think we illustrators are less then 10%, if that, of the attendance-
I really learned a lot at the regional conferences when first starting out- with the one on one critiques and workshops- that advice that I took home is what got be ready to go to LA- but if you do go- send me a message or ask more questions about specifics- I'll be there too!
#2 - May 26, 2013, 04:04 PM

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Thanks Julia!

I'm a recent graduate but I feel I have a good grasp of how freelance illustrating works and I'm currently doing a bit of freelance right now. I guess one of my biggest weaknesses is that I don't have the years of experience and actual work experience that most children's book illustrators have in the field. I could definitely stand to do more research as well and figure out where my work is best suited.

I think my portfolio is fairly strong but could still use some tweaking/new projects to show more strengths. I have business cards and am working on postcards. I have a website (that should probably be tweaked and made better) and portfolios on multiple portfolio-hosting sites. My portfolio can be printed to 8.5x11 so I know I can make that work (in your experience do people looking at portfolios prefer a simple portfolio with sleeves-type thing or do they also like seeing actual printed books of illustrator's work too?)

In the end I'm still probably 50/50 about going or not-it really is so expensive-but I will definitely take all your information and questions into account and work on what I need to work on for the future. There are always regional conferences like you said and the Winter Conference as well...we shall see!

#3 - May 26, 2013, 04:56 PM

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You will see everything at the showcase- from almost "art book" portfolios to just your basic black sleeve type 8.5 x 11 - basically you have a  11 " by 16 " space on the table , plus a stack of 50 postcards- art directors,agents and editors get a private look and then it is openned to everyone else.
#4 - May 27, 2013, 05:34 AM

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Many regions now have Illustrator Intensives that bring in art directors. Look at that option if you feel that going to LA will be out of your reach. I'm not an illustrator but I do book the illustrators and art directors for my region. Depending on where you live, you might be able to find illustrator events to help you build your portfolio before you go to NY or LA.

A couple of years ago we had Lucy Cummins from Simon and Schuster. She looked over the portfolio of one of our illustrators an suggested he crop it a certain way, put it on a postcard and send it out. She told him she was sure he'd get a contract within six months. She was wrong. It took TWO weeks. So going to a regional event can be every bit as effective as going to one of the big events. Plus, you will get more face time with editors, agents and art directors at a regional event.

Good luck in whatever you decide.

LindaB
Florida RA
#5 - June 02, 2013, 09:30 PM

If you can make it to NJ SCBWI or the NYC SCBWI Metro Area they have great ones! There is a July 14th Intensive (all day) in Manhattan if you want to check it out. I am planning on attending. Very reasonable.
#6 - June 03, 2013, 06:17 AM
What's for pudding, Mimmy?

Illustration website:

http://www.puddintanesbrain.com

www.puddersputter.blogspot.com

Amanda,

I went in 2007, right out of college and when they still had single day passes. I enjoyed it even then, but I definitely did not get as much out of it as when I went last year. I did the full conference last year, but NOT the portfolio showcase or the illustrator's intensive. I took a ton of notes on what people want to see in the portfolio, in order to give myself a year to prep for the portfolio. This year I'm doing everything I can, so I'm super excited and super nervous...and will be super tired but energized by the end of the conference.

Beyond the professional aspect, I've also met some incredible people who have become great friends in the past year. Hope that helps!
#7 - June 04, 2013, 04:48 AM

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Thanks, everyone!

I recently found out about regional conference illustrator intensives and I'm a bit sad I wasn't close to PA for the recent East PA Illustrator day. I would love to check out the NYC Intensive in July-it sounds fun! (i'm not a member of the NYC Metro region and live in MD so can I still register?)

I love your illustrations, Gail! so cute!  :love5:
#8 - June 04, 2013, 05:50 AM

Yes, absolutely. It fills up fast.
#9 - June 04, 2013, 05:59 AM
What's for pudding, Mimmy?

Illustration website:

http://www.puddintanesbrain.com

www.puddersputter.blogspot.com

Thanks, Amanda!
#10 - June 06, 2013, 06:52 AM

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Hi Amanda,

My children's book illustration career was 100% jumpstarted by attending the SCBWI Summer Conference in LA in 2010. It was my first portfolio, entered in my first portfolio showcase, and I had zero experience in children's illustration.

However, I had been drawing for fun for many, many years. I also was lucky enough to have an encouraging illustrator friend who helped me put together the portfolio. You can read about my experience here:

http://kidlitartists.blogspot.ca/2010/09/how-rejection-got-me-book-deal-my.html

At that conference, I was approached by a publisher at Simon & Schuster Children's (Justin Chanda), who asked if I wanted to illustrate a picture book...this was solely because of seeing my work in the portfolio showcase.

I won an Honor Award in the Overall Showcase (one of two runners-up).

I also won a Mentorship Award (Cecilia Yung, Penguin Art Director chose me) and have learned a great deal from my Mentors as well as my fellow Mentees. We launched our own blog and have each posted what we've learned as a result of the portfolio critiques from our Mentors: http://kidlitartists.blogspot.com

One of my Mentee friends (who ended up winning the overall Showcase last year) has a great blog post series about putting together a children's illustrator portfolio: http://juanamartinezneal.com/blog/

Julia is absolutely right -- do your research ahead of time and be prepared. Attend the Illustrator Social and the Illustrator Intensive (if you can afford it).

Many industry professionals browse the portfolio showcase. Even if you don't win an award, you may be contacted months afterward. My art director at Simon & Schuster Children's, Laurent Linn, is going to be speaking at the conference. If you attend and have a chance, DO attend his sessions -- he is INCREDIBLY KNOWLEDGEABLE and communicates well. Plus he's super-nice.

Another piece of advice: Don't expect to be "discovered" and offered a contract, or you'll likely end up disappointed. Learn as much as you can and MEET people. So many underestimate how important and rewarding the latter can be -- I'm not just talking about meeting art directors and editors, but meet other aspiring illustrators as well. Be friendly, be nice. Exchange info and encouragement. Make friends. Have fun.

Hope this helps!

Debbie
#11 - June 27, 2013, 07:16 PM
DebbieOhi.com - Twitter: @inkyelbows - Instagram: @inkygirl

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Added note:

I also know of quite a few illustrators who were approached by agents as a result of their work in the portfolio showcase. Before you sign anything, however, do your research to make sure the agent is right for you; there is excellent info is some of the pinned threads here: http://www.verlakay.com/boards/index.php?board=7.0

Make sure you have a good postcard to accompany your portfolio, and also bring biz cards (though I recall that you can choose EITHER postcards or biz cards for the showcase table; biz cards are good to have with you the rest of the convention), even if you're not yet published.

Be aware that people may only browse the first few images in your portfolio before deciding to move on, so make sure that your strongest pieces are at the front.

Also consider attending the SCBWI annual winter conference in NYC. I have heard that more art directors browse portfolios in NYC than LA (in fact, that was the advice our SCBWI-LA Illustrators Mentors gave us in 2010...to try to also attend NYC). However, I have no stats to back that up, and things may have changed since 2010.

Fingers crossed for you!

Debbie
#12 - June 28, 2013, 10:46 AM
DebbieOhi.com - Twitter: @inkyelbows - Instagram: @inkygirl

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Thank you so much, Debbie! your posts have been extremely helpful! I definitely need to start getting prepared and ready. I definitely plan to attend the NY Conference and thanks to your posts I have a better understanding of what to do (and what NOT to do).

Thanks so much again for your advice!  ::-) :love5:
#13 - July 07, 2013, 11:51 AM

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Good luck, Amanda!

I plan on attending the NYC conference, too. Hope our paths cross!

Debbie
#14 - July 18, 2013, 06:57 PM
DebbieOhi.com - Twitter: @inkyelbows - Instagram: @inkygirl

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I have another question for this thread in regard to portfolios at the Conference! based on my blog research I saw some portfolios with just the illustrated piece on a white sheet of paper and some that had the illustrated piece and a tiny description of the piece (like name and maybe what media was used) at the bottom of the page usually. I'm sorry if this seems silly to ask but based on past conferences is there a certain type that is preferred? In past portfolios I put the final piece, a sketch, and a description of the piece at the bottom of the page. I guess I'm wondering as a first-time conference goer what will make my portfolio look more appealing or if it really matters in the end...  :P just wondering.
#15 - September 13, 2013, 07:32 PM

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Hi Amanda.

I've seen quite a few portfolio displays at conferences and have not seen many, if any, with information on the media used, etc. If that's included anywhere, it's usually on the postcards. Most Art Directors have a VERY sharp eye and can tell what was used in a piece. I went to a workshop that was facilitated by an Art Director and one of the exercises was a power point presentation and we were to guess if it was traditional, digital, collage, mixed, etc. Some were easy. Some were not.

Things that make a portfolio stand out, I believe, are strong work first, pacing within the portfolio and a strong sense of story. The piece that was selected from my portfolio as a "star" piece, had a strong sense of action and story, many characters, and displayed the conflict to an extreme. However, the piece that was selected as strongest in one of my friends' portfolios, was gentle and had a softer emotion, but the character was well rendered and classic.

One thing I have noticed that gets attention, is having a book dummy attached to your portfolio. That really shows your ability to pace a story, consistency in character and how you use perspective to keep things interesting.

#16 - September 14, 2013, 10:24 AM
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