I attended the SCBWI Winter Conference this weekend. It started this Friday, when I submitted my illustration portfolio for their showcase. My only goal for the conference was for people to take my postcards, and I didn’t reach that modest goal. Apparently 350 people looked at the showcase, but just 37 took my postcard. There may be 3 reasons for this: they saw my work but didn’t like it, they didn’t see my work or skipped it, and the last reason which I find unlikely is that most of the people were not in the business of working with illustrators. Considering I paid over $400 to be at the conference and show my work, I hope it wasn’t because they skipped my portfolio or that very few art directors and reps attended it. That would mean I completely wasted my money…which leaves us with the idea that maybe my artwork isn’t meant for children’s books.

While I was pondering the question, I did notice that a lot of the artwork I saw at the conference was either cartoony or “primitive”. I wasn’t born in America, I wasn’t raised with Dr. Seuss and Maurice Sendak, so I don’t have an affinity for that type of artwork. The children’s book artists who inspire me lived over a 100 years ago. Guys, like Arthur Rackham and N.C Wyeth who drew “realistic” pictures, and that’s what I strive for. While I could always get better at drawing, the fact is I’ll never draw cartoony or abstract pictures, so am I wasting my time marketing myself to the children’s publishing world?

Overall I didn’t get too much out of the conference. The panelists are very good public speakers and seemed nice. They also served free food. But I didn’t learn anything new to improve either my marketing or illustrative skills. Not to mention that the bulk of the presentations were more specific to writers than illustrators.


  • I hear what you’re saying about realism being out of style. All of the cards I collected were by realists and none of those illustrators were picked by the portfolio judges. Your work does have a French accent, but the Brooklyn Bookmakers Dozen panel had a three Europeans and a realist in it, so neither factor is a lockout. Your work is solid. It’s a matter of perseverance.

  • I was wondering if maybe realist picture books don’t sell as well as the cartoon ones, which would explain why that style is so prevalent. How many realist illustrators did you see?

  • I was also at the conference and had maybe 5 cards picked up, so 37 is pretty darn good in my book. I’m also a realist, but more fantasy style. And you are absolutely correct. Most of the classes are geared towards writing and not illustrating. I don’t know if it is because illustration was just added, or maybe the artists don’t really consider us in the equation yet. Which is silly because they wouldn’t be as popular without the images in the book. If you attended the “illustrator social” you know how they feel about the illustrators by giving us a living room size place to stuff over 200 people. Just hang in there, though. If we can all stick together, maybe we can help bring about change…which is desparately needed.

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