Weekend of a Lifetime!

So this past weekend I was able to travel to Los Angeles for the 40th annual National Conference for the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. And BOY - was it a conference!! I left full of information and inspiration...

Among the numerous and talented authors and illustrators that were there, legends walked all around. I was inspired by Jerry Pinkney (2010 Caldecott Medal Recipient & 5-time Caldecott Honor Recipient), moved by David Small (Caldecott Medal & Honor Recipient), laughed with John Scieszka, amazed by Gary Paulsen (3-time Newberry Honor Recipient), and my breath was taken away by Richard Peck (Newberry Medal Recipient). Within all of this great talent was a surprise visit from the Queen of Children's Literature - Judy Blume!!

It was an amazing weekend filled with great speeches, good information, and a few fun gatherings including a big party on Saturday night with dinner and dancing...

...plus a lovely lunch on Sunday where we had the best dessert - a Chocolate Mousse treat in the shape of a book!

Monday, however, contained the best treat of all. This year the SCBWI added the "Illustrators Intensive." And it was INTENSE! We had the privilage of observing demonstrations by 7 amazing and award winning illustrators. We started in the morning with Paul O. Zelinsky showing us his oil/watercolor technique. I found this particularly fascinating and it got me thinking of playing a little bit more with my medium.

Next we observed the great Marla Frazee with her delicate and precise watercolor/gauche/prismacolor technique. I learned how to breathe a little more, and how important developing those characters are.

After Marla, we embarked on a journey with Richard Jesse Watson. I also was able to receive a great one-on-one portfolio review with him - so lucky! He demonstrated a really cool egg tempera technique along with some gold leafing. I loved that he was messy like me!!

Next we observed Kadir Nelson doing a classic oil painting. His energy was absolutely calming and kind. His work was just beautiful.

Then we had lunch (whew!)

After lunch, we were delighted by Denise Fleming and her pulp painting technique. I was thrilled to see another messy artist! (yeah!). Her humor and uplifting spirit really shows in her her work. The complexity and discipline that this process involves was amazing. At the end, her work looks fresh and lively - like a breath of fresh air.

David Small gave our next demonstration, doing gesture drawings, a self portrait, a pen & ink sample, and rounding it off with some sketchbook work. I was blown away at his speed and control - resulting in beautiful work.

Last but certainly not least - was Jerry Pinkney.... and wow. We watched him paint a beautiful watercolor of a turkey vulture as if he were tying his shoes. I was mesmerized by what seemed to be an effortless technique but knowing that every decision he made was precise and carefully executed. Just great.

At the end of it all, there was a panel discussion with all of the artists at once.

So much information & inspiration!! Here are a few bits of what I learned...

  • Breathe.
  • Sketchbook, sketchbook, sketchbook
  • Find your identity
  • You are your own best publicist
  • Play
  • It's not the technique, it's how you use it
  • Voice is a part of you and only you can find it and release it
Of course these are all mere snippets of the advice that was flying around the room. But what an amazing weekend! I went to LA a little tired & burnt out, but now I've returned recharged and ready to go! I'm excited to put all of this advice to work and dive into painting, creating, and playing again. :-)


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