Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Tales from the NESCBWI Conference

©2011 Russ Cox/Smiling Otis Studio
Well I survived another children's book conference. Most of last week was spent prepping for Friday and Saturday. The NESCBWI conference started at noon on Friday. My good buddy Hazel Mitchell and I drove down to Fitchburg which is a 3 hours trip. Our journey was a tad bit longer due to Google map giving us the wrong info and it printed out in reverse order. After many wrong turns and circling around, we made it to the Marriott. We registered for the conference but could not check in to our rooms until 4. By the way, we got moved to another hotel due to some air conditioning issues. No big deal. They ran a shuttle for everyone who had to relocate.

My first session was a meet and great with several other illustrators hosted by Jennifer Morris. Jennifer is a wonderful illustrator who wrote and illustrated the Alfie the Alligator series. We chatted about portfolios and promoting ourselves plus the general state of the industry. Many of us brought portfolios to share. I had a printed and digital version which was on my iPad.

The second session was about ebooks. There were only 4 of us in the group but it had a lot of information. One of the people in the group is a web/app developer who was a wealth of knowledge. Cards were exchanged and then it was time for the welcoming address. Several speakers including Jane Yolen, Lin Oliver, and Tomie dePaola gave humorous talks about when the New England branch of SCBWI was formed.

In between breaks, I got to meet and chat with several illustrators, writers and editors. You can definitely tell the illustrators in the crowd. We are the rowdy bunch. Plus there were not many of us to begin with. Speaking of a small group, the men there were very few. You had a better chance to spot Bigfoot than see one of us. Some of the wonderful people who I got to hang out with through the whole conference was Jennifer from the meet and greet and Katia Wish, who won the Tomie dePaolo award for her Heidi illustration. Illustrator extraordinaire Robert Squire who won the poster showcase last year and was a speaker at one of the breakout sessions. Andy Smith is an illustrator and author who also gave a presentation with Robert on illustration styles. Andy's style is so much fun and full of life. Another member of the crew was Melinda Beavers who actually won the poster showcase (congrats to Melinda). I got to meet Hazel's friend Harold Underdown who is an editor and a lot of fun to be around. Got to know Ernie D'Elia and Meiera Stern who are aspiring illustrators like myself. Also met Jim Hill who told me his son loves my robot and girl piece. He goes to my website all of the time to look at it. I should send him a print but maybe there will be a drop off on hits if I do.

After heading back to the hotel for a quick shower and a change of clothes, it was back to the evening events. The first event was a cabaret act put on by an editor, illustrator, and a few other folks about the birth of a book. It was done quite well and very enjoyable. Next up was the "Silver Anniversary" party. Everyone was encouraged to wear some silver. I painted a bow tie silver and added a silver band to a top hat. Hazel decorated the hat with some silver stars. It was fun mixing with other creatives but the big thrill was hanging out at the bar with Tomie dePaola. He is such a lovely person and the few people with him were equally as nice. We all laughed and chatted. There were about 4 or 5 of us, not counting the drunk person who would staggered in and mumble something once in a while. We finished the evening with some night caps and then caught a ride with Jim back to the hotel.

The next morning started at 7:30 with registering our showcase posters. The theme was to take a classic children's book and redo the cover. I picked Mike Mulligan And His Steam Shovel because it fit my style. You can go over to Pixel Shavings to see how I worked up the concept. Everyone mingled for a bit and looked at the posters before the first workshop started. I signed up for Donna Gephart's (How To Survive Middle School) quirky characters workshop. Her lecture gave me a whole new insight and approach to the story I am developing. The tips and little things we can do to bring out the personality of the character was worth the price of the conference. My second workshop was with Robert, Andy, and two others who spoke on developing an illustration style. Another good lecture with insight since many of us artist struggle with whether we have one or not. We had a break and then it was time for Jane Yolen's keynote speech. Jane talked about being rejected but you must keep trying, never give up. Very inspirational. After Jane's speech it was time to announce the winners of the poster contest. Our new friend Melinda Beavers won a couple of awards for her beautiful interpretation of Aesop's Fables. Hazel and I did not win anything but that is okay. Just having people look at and comment on the posters was enough.

The final workshop was illustration perspective. It was good but I knew the material. I should have read the course details a bit more. I thought it was more of an insight look at illustration. It was still nice to get a bit of a refresher in perspective. After the workshop, it was time to say goodbye and head home. Before I left, I gave my print to a little boy who was waiting in line to get some books signed. It turned out that he loves Mike Mulligan And His Steam Shovel and it is his dad's favorite book. It was meant to be. That was better than any award.

Hazel and I made it home safe and sound. I already miss the new friends I made but look forward to seeing them next time, if not before.

Until next time.

"One must from time to time attempt things that are beyond one's capacity." ~ Auguste Renoir


Clement said...

Sounds like a very very productive conference! Thank you for posting.

Russ Cox said...

It was Laura.

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