Society of
Children's Book Writers
and Illustrators


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The Art of Business: Building, Expanding, and Sustaining Your Illustration Career


Instructors: Sophie Blackall, Christy Ewers, Rudy Gutierrez, Laurent Linn, Brendon MacDonald, Debbie Ridpath Ohi, Shadra Strickland, Cecilia Yung


Audience: Illustrators and writer/illustrators


Level: Those at any level ready to take their illustration career to the next level


Description: For many illustrators, from pre-published to well-published, the business aspects of children’s literature can be daunting, confusing, and overwhelming. In this Creative Lab we will not only explore in detail the many sides to building, expanding, and sustaining a successful career as an illustrator, but also help you discover what is best for your own goals and special talents in order to reach the next level.


Attendees in this Creative Lab will learn:

  • New understandings of what a career in illustration is beyond the art itself
  • How to find and work best with your career partners (agents, art directors, editors, marketing departments, etc.)
  • How to decide which of the many self-marketing/promotion opportunities and platforms are right for you and why
  • Ways to rethink creative goals to help make them happen


Attendees in this Creative Lab will leave with:

  • A fresh perspective of your personal goals, needs, and purposes in illustration
  • Behind-the-scenes insights into how agents and publishers work and can help you in your career
  • Steps for expanding professional connections and creating publicity that is right for you
  • Tools for maintaining the best work/life balance
  • Inspirations and ideas for next steps on your path that you may have not known about or considered before


Session One – Saturday, February 11
Building Your Career (with Christy Ewers and Cecilia Yung)

  • Defining your goals
  • Understanding children’s publishing
  • Assessing your portfolio
  • Finding your career partners

Aligning Your Work and Your Goals (Optional): At the end of this session, we will analyze a selection of attendees’ work and their stated career goals, and offer ideas for their next step.
Registered attendees will be invited to submit a link to their website or a one-page pdf thumbnail of their illustrations, as well as a two-sentence statement of their short-term and long-term goals by January 30, 2023.


Session Two – Saturday, February 11
Expanding Your Career (with Brendon MacDonald and Debbie Ridpath Ohi, facilitated by Laurent Linn)

  • Analyzing the evolving purposes and needs of your website
  • Breaking down the strengths, weaknesses, and uses of social media
  • How to best utilize marketing events (book launches, school visits, book festivals, podcasts, etc.)
  • What a publisher’s marketing and publicity departments can do for you and how to collaborate with them
  • Making important connections with librarians, teachers, and local bookstores


Session Three – Sunday, February 12
Sustaining Your Career (with Sophie Blackall, Rudy Gutierrez, and Shadra Strickland)

  • Maintaining a healthy work/life balance
  • How to stay motivated and creative
  • Exploring a variety of income streams apart from book illustration itself
  • How to be ready for what may come next



About Your instructors:

Sophie Blackall is an award-winning illustrator of over 50 books for children, including the New York Times best-selling Ivy and Bean series, the 2016 Caldecott Medal winner, Finding Winnie and the 2019 Caldecott Medal winner, Hello Lighthouse, which she also wrote. She is the four-time recipient of The New York Times Best Illustrated Picture Book Award and has worked with UNICEF and Save the Children, UK on global health and literacy initiatives. Originally from Australia, she now splits her time between Brooklyn, New York, and the Catskill Mountains, where she is building a retreat for the children’s book community called Milkwood Farm.
Christy Ewers is the owner of The CAT Agency, renamed in 2018 in homage to her mother, Christina A. Tugeau, who founded the agency in 1994. The CAT Agency is a boutique agency that takes a personal approach to representing a diverse group of children’s book illustrators and author/illustrators from all over the world. Along with colleagues, Senior Agent, Chad W. Beckerman and Associate Agents, Christie Megill and Aliza R. Hoover, Christy works closely with the entire family of artists, supporting long-term career growth for all creators. She leads in spearheading deals and promotion for CAT Agency illustrators, as well as working alongside the authors in the group to help craft their stories for young readers. For more information, visit
Rudy Gutierrez is an American artist/ Illustrator of Puerto Rican heritage. He received a BFA from Pratt Institute and his art has been published and viewed worldwide. Amongst his awards are the Dean Cornwell Hall of Fame Award, Distinguished Educator in the Arts Award, and a Gold Medal all from the Society of Illustrators, as well as an International Labor Communications Honor. His children’s book art has garnered him a Caldecott Honor Award, Pura Belpré Honor, Américas Book Award, Africana Book Award, Shining Willow Award and a New York Book Award. He is perhaps best known for the cover art for the multi-platinum smash hit recording, Santana “Shaman,” which was also used as a set design at the 2002 Super Bowl half-time show and for the United Postal Service stamp of musical icon Jimi Hendrix. His paintings were featured in the film Chasing Trane: The John Coltrane Documentary and as the curatorial spotlight at the Mesa Contemporary Arts Museum in Mesa Arizona in 2019. In addition he exhibited at a painting at the World Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa, and the Norman Rockwell Museum as part of the Unity Project Exhibition, 2020 (initiative of the museum dedicated to an inclusive America), as well as “Imprinted: Illustrating Race in 2022. Gutierrez has lectured extensively and taught at Pratt Institute since 1990.
Laurent Linn, art director at Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, collaborates on picture books, middle grade, teen, and graphic novels with both celebrated and new illustrators such as Rosemary Wells, Bryan Collier, John Parra, Raúl Colón, and Vashti Harrison. He is also the author/illustrator of the critically acclaimed young adult novel, Draw the Line. Laurent is on the SCBWI Advisory Council and is the artistic advisor for the annual Original Art exhibit at the Society of Illustrators in New York. Laurent began his career as a puppet designer/builder in Jim Henson’s Muppet Workshop, creating characters for productions including the Muppet Christmas Carol and Muppet Treasure Island films, and eventually becoming the creative director for the Sesame Street Muppets, winning an Emmy Award. Learn more online at or on Instagram and Facebook: Laurent Linn.
Brendon MacDonald is an associate director of marketing at Simon & Schuster, where he specializes in building new and growing brands for young (and young-at-heart) readers. He began his career at Scholastic creating wonderful things with Klutz Books, then joined the global brand team, going on to help shape the launch strategy for Dav Pilkey’s Dog Man series. These days, he has the pleasure of spreading the word about beloved creators like Jessie Sima, Christian Robinson, and The Fan Brothers, as well as captivating new series like Skandar and the Unicorn Thief and Barb the Last Berzerker.
Debbie Ridpath Ohi is the award-winning author and illustrator of Where Are My Books? and Sam & Eva (Simon & Schuster BFYR). Her illustrations appear in books by Judy Blume, Michael Ian Black, and Linda Sue Park, among others. Publishers she has worked with include Simon & Schuster, Random House, and HarperCollins. Her most recent book is I’m Sorry, the newest in the I’m… picture book series about emotions, written by Michael Ian Black and illustrated by Debbie. Debbie is currently working on a middle grade novel, a graphic novel, and a new solo picture book. Debbie was an SCBWI success story; she received her first children’s book contract from Justin Chanda at Simon & Schuster after Justin saw her portfolio at the 2010 SCBWI Summer Portfolio Showcase. Find more info at and on Twitter at @inkyelbows.
Shadra Strickland studied design, writing, and illustration at Syracuse University and later went on to complete her MFA at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. She won the Ezra Jack Keats Award and the Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Award for New Talent in 2009 for her work in her first picture book Bird, written by Zetta Elliott. Shadra currently works and teaches illustration at Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore, Maryland. She also developed an online picture book class at
Cecilia Yung is executive art director and vice president at Penguin Books for Young Readers, where she oversees illustration and design for two imprints, G.P. Putnam’s Sons and Nancy Paulsen Books. She is fortunate to have worked with some of the major illustrators of children’s books, but the highlight of her work is to discover and develop new talent. She is on the Advisory Council of SCBWI, as well as a member of its Illustrators Committee.