Illustrator Day 2017 kudos and take aways

October 04, 2017


     All in all, this was another fabulous SCBWI Eastern PA event!  Thank you to faculty member and host, library curator Chris Brown for arranging the beautiful venue at the Philadelphia Free Library.  Great faculty also included agent James Burns, art director Sarah Hokanson, and author-illustrator Jonathan Bean.  Illustrator coordinators past and present,  Adrienne Wright and Virginia Law Manning did a fantasic job.  Thanks to Merrilees Brown for this great photo! 

     I thought I’d share my own experience this year and a few key takeaways.  First, I need to get back to the basics and reminding myself to look at composition, contrast, and color.  Duh, right?  But seriously, it’s so easy for me to get caught up in my characters, expression, and making things bright and fun, the I forget to crank down the volume on the supporting elements and the background.  Where in the heck is my eye looking?  We had a pre-assignment from the art director, Ms. Sarah Hokanson, to show a character in four seasons, submitting 3 sketches and one finish.   This was a great chance to revisit a little dragon character named Sparky, that I developed a few years ago.  He was first created in pastel, but I decided to watercolor him for the summer scene.  Feedback on the assignment, posted here, was that the raft that little Sparky is riding on is too bright.  I was going for the ultimate contrast of green and red to make the dragon pop, but instead I’ve just drawn attention to the raft.  The orange fish needs to stand out more.  My intention was to leave the background white to provide room for text, and not get too busy, but the feedback was that it was just too white.  The suspense of the hungry gator at the bottom right added a fun element.  Regarding the fall, winter, and spring sketches- adding color made them appear too finished and that it may not be clear that these are sketches.  Adding color was an afterthought for these, as I wanted to clarify his little blue blanket and bear in the images.  I think that this probably depends on the situation and your relationship and conversations with the art director.


Sparky the dragon

     Secondly, sketches are important.  I need to put them on my web site.  I’ve spent a few days digging through my sketch books to begin a sketch gallery on my web site.  I need to make sure it’s clear that they are sketches and not finishes, but I want it to look organized.   Also, I am asking myself if the energy from my sketches is translating to my finish.  Do I want it to, or do I want to finesse it?  It depends, I guess.  I think when it “doesn’t matter” there is an expressive freedom that pours from the pencil, you know, when you think nobody’s going to see it but you.  When I know someone’s going to look, I tend to tighten up for the finish, which often feels like I’ve lost something.  Even these Sparky sketches above were revised and finessed sketches because I knew they would be up for public consumption.


           It was so nice to see familiar faces and meet some new friends all at different points on the same journey.  Every SCBWI event is a chance to learn, grow, and be inspired.  Truly, if you want to get into children’s publishing, and you haven’t been to one of these events, jump in!  You are among friends.  The smaller, local events are a special opportunity to get to know other artists in your area and meet like-minded, creative people.  Even if you are just starting out, and not brave enough to put that portfolio out on the table, GO!  Go and learn.  Go and evaluate how your work compares to your peers.  Go and meet like minded people.  Go and challenge yourself to look at your work with new eyes.  Go and be inspired to try something new.  For those who are ready, get that critique!  It is so important to receive feedback from industry professionals.  Not your husband, wife, kids, and usual cheerleaders.  Be open to that constructive criticism that is so essential to growth as an artist and challenges you to push harder.  Sometimes it hurts, but it almost always helps.  Just GO!  There was so much more inspiration and information gleaned from the presentations of all of the faculty, as well as viewing the other artists’ work.  It’s too much to write about here, but suffice it to say that it was truly a worthwhile experience.  I hope that sharing this inspires you to participate, no matter where you are in your publishing journey.


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I have become aware that many art directors are interested in seeing your sketches.  I personally love to see artist sketches but for some reason I haven’t thought much about sharing my own.  Too shy, perhaps?  Too worried that an unfinished idea would reflect badly on me?  Maybe it’s the perfectionist part of me that doesn’t want to show the process, only the finished effort.  I have come to understand, however, that it is helpful to see how someone arrives at their answer.   It kind of reminds me of when math teachers ask you to “show your work.”  Sketches are a window into brainstorming, and show the purest forms of visual thought process. 

I’m going to try to record these visual journeys, and assemble them for sharing.  I hope you enjoy them!


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I can now say “Yes! I am agented.”

August 03, 2017

     I’m thrilled to announce that I am now represented by Liza Fleissig, of the Liza Royce Agency.  Liza was my mentor at the 2014 Rutgers University Council for Children’s Literature One on One Plus conference.  I was not right for her at the time, and frankly, I had a lot of growing to do!  Since meeting, I have continued to hone my craft, attending workshops, scbwi events, and mentorships.  In the meantime, I’ve continued to send out post cards, and also kept in touch with Liza.  She offered me representation in June, and now that I am listed on the LRA client page, I can say, it’s official!  It is a huge boost to know that she has confidence in me and my work, especially as a pre-published illustrator and author, and I am filled with optimism and drive.  It means a lot to know that there is a person out there who believes in me enough to attach their name and reputation to my career.  I’m looking forward to good things to come!


     I want to say to my friends on this journey, first, thank you.  I can’t say how much your support has meant to me, and how much I have learned from experiences and critiques, both good and bad.  Secondly, and somewhat predictably, don’t give up!  I know that can sound trite, and it’s easier said than done, but it’s true.  If you keep moving forward, something good is bound to happen.  When your art is the best that you think it can be, put yourself out there.   Go to scbwi events, get critiques from industry professionals.  As scary and painful as they can be, it’s so worth it!  Reach beyond your comfort zone.  Do your best to make a good impression, be polite, and follow up.  While you’re waiting for a break, keep working on your craft, keep sending post cards.  In my seemingly constant struggle with my wardrobe, I liken this experience a little to weight loss.  If you get to the gym, and work hard, it will probably happen.  But, comfortably staying on the couch is a surefire guarantee that it will not!


Of course, although I am celebrating this milestone, I know my journey is far from over.  I still live in the land of “pre-published.”   However, I have always appreciated the potential of “pre-” and am looking forward to putting in the work so that I can reach the next milestone of “acquired” and then “debut.”    I feel purposeful, with fresh determination, kind of like this girl…



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Getting Ready for a trip to Highlights Foundation with SCBWI Eastern PA

April 20, 2017

It’s a fun and crazy time, getting ready for a long weekend at the Highlights Foundation.  I am looking forward to sharing my art, getting excellent professional feedback, great surroundings, fantastic food, and time with old and new colleagues and friends.  Illustrating and writing can be a lonely experience, well, unless you count your sweet dog who curls up at your feet!  It’s a great time to connect with likeminded souls.  

I continue to learn and grow as an artist, a mom, a friend.  I have come to accept that things will happen when they happen, and the best I can do is to do my best.  I’ll keep my feet pointed in the right direction and try to be ready when opportunity knocks.

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Back in the saddle again!

February 21, 2017

     Here I am, back home after a great SCBWI NY conference.  I come home inspired, and hopeful, and ready to hop back in the saddle, (otherwise known as my chair!) and get painting.  My brain is bursting with ideas and my brush is ready to go!  

     That so much talent can fit into one hotel, is amazing, and intimidating.  Whether the conversation is about writing YA novels, or drawing board books, the theme that resonates  with me is to be authentic, and have heart.  As my mentor once told me, “Feel it.  If you feel it, it will come out in your art, and the view will feel it too.”  I will try, E.B., I will try!

     Congratulations to the portfolio winners, and best wishes to all of my fellow pre-published authors and illustrators.  Keep your feet pointed in the right direction, and be ready with some great stuff when the opportunity arises.  When you get tossed around, like these “cowboys,” remember to “Cowboy Up!” and get back in the saddle for another try.

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SCBWI Mid Winter Conference NY 2017

February 03, 2017

The train ride to New York is not nearly as much fun as this, but I’m so excited to hop on Amtrak to attend the SCBWI Mid Winter Conference.  There is always so much great information, inspiration, and positive energy to absorb.  I plan to come home challenged and inspired.  Fingers crossed that my portfolio will catch the eye of an art director, editor, or agent this year.  I’m looking forward to seeing old friends and meeting new ones.  It’s going to be a fun ride!Callie practiced real hard

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Picture Book Dummy

November 03, 2016

I recently completed a picture book dummy workshop conducted by Annie Ericsson, through SCBWI Eastern PA.  All I’ve got to say is Wow!  What a treat it was to have her insight and thoughtful critique!  I am so grateful to have had the opportunity, and so excited to have finished with a fun story in dummy form.   It’s an admittedly silly story, with a lot of heart, the I can’t wait to illustrate!  Here’s a little post card teaser!

My critique group was essential in the process too!  I LOVE you all!

Thank you, everyone for helping to move my project along!





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May 24, 2016

penguin flight

Go, take a leap!

I so enjoyed the Highlights Foundation, and the SCBWI retreat.  I left challenged and inspired, and very enthusiastic about the feedback I received on this piece, as well as a story and dummy that I am working on.  The creative crew is so generous, and genuine.  Love being part of you wonderful people!  Goal today: brainstorming and sketching.  Tomorrow is a trip to the Philly zoo!  I wonder if I will catch sight of any flying penguins there….

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Looking forward to a great weekend at Highlights Foundation!

April 27, 2016

I am so excited to dive into the workshops at the Highlights Foundation for the annual SCBWI Eastern PA Poconos retreat.  The faculty for the weekend..Ame Dyckman, Zachariah O’Hora, Meg Medina, Erzsi Deak, Sean McCarthy, Leila Sales, and Lauren Rille.  I hope to get some great feedback on my portfolio and First Pages/First Looks submissions.  There’s always more to learn and room to grow!

This is not my first time at Highlights, and I am looking forward to the yummy nibbles, the beautiful setting, and truly, all of the great people.  Author/illustrators are a pretty nice group of people to hang with on a weekend!  SCBWI folks are always enthusiastic and encouraging, and honest.  We all can use a dose of that, right?

See you on the other side of what looks to be an awesome weekend!


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Who wouldn’t want to mess with that mane?

March 10, 2016


Who wouldn't want to mess with that mane?

Who wouldn’t want to mess with that mane?

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