The Most Valuable Treasure of all

In 2011, after thirty years of design and illustration for agencies and corporate clients, my commercial art career was showing signs that it had reached its peak. I was feeling the crusty edges of creative burnout, and sorely ready for a change. By chance, I landed a gig illustrating a children's book—something completely fresh for me, and never on my radar before. Here at last, was a new path to explore and I ran towards it with both feet flying.

It wasn't long before I started finding references to something called SCBWI. I knew nothing about the organization, but I wanted to learn all I could about children's publishing, and the eighty-dollar membership fee seem like a good return on investment. Besides, freelancing can be a rather lonesome occupation, and I was starving for some community. I had my membership card by September.

I attended my first Southern Breeze event—Illustrator Day in 2012. I was so thrilled to be in a room full of other illustrators, I volunteered on the spot to help set up and break down the event.  Elizabeth Dulemba must have thought I was a little over the top in my enthusiasm. I felt like a kid at an all-you-can-eat pancake party. I was amazed by the depth and quality of the artwork I saw by fellow attendees. My own portfolio critique that day was deservingly brutal. It was the kick in the pants I needed.

The thing that impressed me most, and the thing that I continue to support and hold dear, is the sense of community that Elizabeth provided with every illustration event she helped organize. It open a world of ideas and opportunity that I would have only peeked at from the outside before. It held my head up so I wouldn't drowned in self-doubt. It gave me a safe place to play and be authentic without judgement, and it fostered professional and personal friendships I would not have had otherwise.

It is no small honor for me to step up to the position of Illustrator Coordinator held for six years by Elizabeth Dulemba. I owe a debt of gratitude to Elizabeth, and the community she fostered. I am certainly a richer person for it. I plan to continue what she established and build on it. She has done an outstanding job giving us a sense of place and purpose. She has given a bunch of sketchy illustrators community, and community is the most valuable treasure of all.

Prescott Hill
Illustrator Coordinator
SCBWI Southern Breeze