Carolinas 2023 Fall Retreat

Illustration Track Syllabus

The Illustration Track is designed to help illustrators navigate the publishing world in terms of making work and selling work. We will take a focused look at career specifics, and work with two art directors to help us understand what it is about our styles that make us unique and marketable.

Attendees may add on a Friday morning intensive from a different track, but will not be able to cross tracks through the rest of the retreat. Attendees may also add on a Career Consultation, Manuscript Critique or Portfolio Review.


Please see Itinerary for full retreat schedule.

Friday, Nov 3rd

9:30 am – 11:30 am Intensive for Author/Illustrators with an Jen Keenan An Introduction to Children's Illustration - We will spend time exploring what an AD looks for in a portfolio, visual character building, illustration style, how to start a PB dummy and what is needed to pitch a dummy to a publisher. Intensive will include a character sketching small-group workshop.

Prerequisite: Come up with a character you would like to visually explore. Bring a sketchbook, chosen art supplies and/or tablet. For more advanced students: Bring samples from your current dummy or characters-in-progress to continue development based on things we cover in this session.

Class size: 10 participants This intensive is an optional add-on to your retreat ticket

Saturday, Nov 4th

9 am – 10:30 am Session 1 with Jen Keenan and Tracy Shaw From Passion to Profession - Using creative passion projects to get future work. Getting out of an artist rut, finding inspiration, improving your portfolio.

1 pm – 2:30 pm Session 2 with Tracy Shaw How to Get Your Foot in the Door: Combining the power of positivity and practical portfolio prep - etiquette, best practices both before and after getting hired, building your network and staying current, continually working and creating, networking, breaking out of your comfort zone, and not being afraid of failure, How to best showcase your work, from in-person reviews to websites and social media.

2:30 pm – 4 pm Lab Hours: Attendees may gather to work on works-in-progress or other goals, or choose to explore onsite activities. Lab Hours will be attended by Tracy Shaw and Jen Keenan. This provides a great opportunity to have your work process observed by our industry professionals. 

4 pm – 5:30 pm Session 3 with Jen Keenan Journey of an Illustration Career - Once a book is acquired what happens in house? What can you expect? We will demystify everything from editorial rewrites, to art notes, design, marketing, approvals, to proofing. We'll discuss general processes/best practices, and figuring out what to do after your first book.

7:30 pm – 9 pm Portfolio Showcase & Pitch Party attended by all faculty members. Come prepared with a portfolio of your 10 best images, and a stack of postcards for viewers to take as they make their way through the showcase.

Sunday, Nov 5th

9 am – 10:45 am Session 4 and Practicum with Tracy Shaw and Jen Keenan PB Dummy Workshop - Applying the techniques we’ve touched on throughout the weekend to our dummies, attendees will receive peer-critique with guidance and input from Tracy and Jen. We'll explore visual character development/visual storytelling, the importance of feedback and research, and common pitfalls we sometimes don't notice when staring at our own work for too long.

Prerequisite: Bring a full PB Dummy or rough sketches for a story idea that shows character development/visual plot points. Artists who aren't ready to make a full dummy can instead bring a passion illustration project or character sketches.

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