Illustrators' Day 2010 recap: Something to Sing About

On Friday, September 3rd was a workshop I had been looking forward to for a while-- the annual Illustrators' Day in Decatur, GA held at the Decatur Public Library and hosted by the regional chapter of SCBWI, Southern Breeze. I attended last year and got a lot out of the event, but I was really excited to learn that this year's event was extended to include a whole day's worth of activities centered around the craft and business of illustrating for kids!

The event kicked off with a discussion with two amazing, award-winning illustrators, Rick Lovell (a professor of mine at SCAD!) and Bill Mayer. They spoke about their experiences working within the children's book market, tips for navigating freelance business, pros and cons of working with an agent, tips for promotion, and copyright issues. These illustrators have so much experience between them, and every time I hear them speak I gain some new piece of knowledge about the illustration business.

Loraine Joyner, Art Director for Peachtree Publishers, spoke next about the grabbing an Art Director's attention with promotional material. She brought in a flood of mailers she had received over the past month, which ranged from the amazing to the not so amazing. It was interesting to hear about what grabbed her eye. She also gave some suggestions for resources to help develop our craft. Lastly, she went through a manuscript and discussed how an illustrator could interpret text and turn it into intriguing and memorable pictures.

New South Books' Brian Seidman spoke about book cover design and the opportunities for artists within that avenue. They hire both a designer and an illustrator to work on their books. New South had some really outstanding cover illustrations, and it was interesting to hear about the process of how they are developed.

Published illustrator Shandra Stickland, whose new picture book A Place Where Hurricanes Happen was recently released attended the event and reviewed portfolios and spoke a little about her work. Elizabeth Dulemba, organized the event, and also had some great tips about putting together a print portfolio.

Mark Braught was awesome enough to help the first 25 people who signed up for the workshop, and act as an Art Director/mentor while developing an image for the topic "Something to Sing About". This assignment was great fun -- I thoroughly enjoyed playing (and singing along to) my favorite musicals while I worked in the studio. Mark was extremely generous with his time in reviewing my work every step of the way. He had some great tips that will help when developing my work in the future. Below are some of my developmental sketches that Mark helped me with (final illo at the top of this post).

Sketch #2/Color Comp

Sketch #1

Initial thumbnail

All of these illustrators in one place was very inspiring, and it is always wonderful meeting new artists and see their amazing work. It also set a great tone for the Decatur Book Festival the next day! I feel refreshed going forward with some new work, and now I can't wait for the Wik '10 conference in Birmingham, AL next month...

Illustrations by Renee Rivas


  1. For me, seeing people in the thick of the industry walk through the process was so helpful. Loraine Joyner, for example, showed us a manuscript that is to be published and a template for story-boarding. The manuscript included committee notes on page breaks and illustration ideas.
    Renee, the use of space and movement in your illustration is fantastic. I can almost hear and taste this image. Kudos to everyone who took part in the day! I left feeling happy and exhausted.
    Kristen Applebee

  2. Thanks, Kristen! It was great seeing you (and more of your work!) at the wik'10 conference. Keep in touch!


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