Well, I just got home from a whirlwind week in New York with SCAD. It was insanely busy and tiring, but I am so, very very glad I decided on a whim to go. I got so much out of it, I don't know if I can really fit it all in a blog post. But I'll sure try! It was scary and uplifting, eye-opening and humbling, inspiring and surprising. And most of all, it was extremely motivating! I am so ready to put together a killer portfolio now. I want to knock everyone's socks off with my illustration!
A lovely scene in New York!
First, we went to Illustration House-- Walt Reed is the founder, and also author of many illustration history books. This is the home to many renowned illustrator's works. It was a joy to hear all the stories of the illustration greats from such a respectable man and his son/business partner.
Illustration House gallery.
Next stop was the home and studio of children's book illustrators Ted and Betsy Lewin. His style is very realistic, and hers loose and lively, but somehow they have found a way to collaborate and create books together, based on their love of the animal kingdom and travel. They have gone on a trip every year since 1970 to visit every continent, but Antarctica, to watch the animals and hear the locals' stories. Their home was just incredible, adorned with the treasures of their travel. Every wall is covered in their own beautiful artwork, and they have such an everlasting love, it's truly from a book or movie. They are both so proud of each other and supportive, and they love recounting the stories from all their adventures. I just loved Ted and Betsy, and their eclectic studio. I want so badly to have a life like theirs! They are content, creative, and found a way to incorporate everything they love into one profession: each other, art, animals and travel! I would give to be so happy. It was truly inspiring.
Betsy's work on the wall.
Ted's work on the wall.
The incredible studio!
Ted showing us his book dummies.
Betsy giving a demonstration.
Our last stop of the day was at Harper's magazine. Thanks to our professor Talon, we had an assignment to illustrate a previously-published article, in which we will be contacting them through the sketch process, just like a real job. It will be a great opportunity to learn how the process works, and to gain a connection with Harper's. My article is about Broadway, and was originally written in the late 1800s. It will be an exciting challenge that I can't wait to take on! It has been requested that I work in my relief printmaking style for this assignment, so I have a good deal of work ahead of me. But I can't wait! More updates on that soon.
The next day we spent at the Society of Illustrators. It feels just like home to me! Tons of books and famous illustrations on the walls. We were spoken to by Holiday House, a children's book publisher, and got a good insight into the business, with advice on how to present our portfolios, contact publishers, and specifically what to adjust in each of our books. My portfolio review went pretty well, she asked me a few questions about my choice of media and such, but didn't say too much. She was very nice, and even had another person from Holiday come by to see our portfolios again. Overall, it was pretty successful, if I don't say so myself!
One of many bookshelves in the Society of Illustrators.
We also were visited by both Yuko Shimizu, who spoke to us about editorial and advertising illustration, and Murray Tinkelman, who discussed self-initiated projects and the importance of continuing to work even when the phone doesn't ring. Both were just lovely people to listen to, and it was nice to hear perspectives from illustrators who have been successful in the business for some time.
The third day started off with a visit to the New York Times. We spoke with the art directors from several sections of the paper. The insight into editorial illustration was really helpful, and they were a fun and relate-able group of people. I got some good feedback on my work and presentation of it, which I will most certainly be applying to this summer's projects. I really liked the way they worked with us, being personable so that the critique wasn't painful, and having both positive and negative feedback. It was motivating and made me want to put together the most impressive book I can. That's the plan for the next few months, anyway!
Next, we visited two SCAD graduates at their home and studio. Zelda Devon and Kurt Huggins work primarily in sequential, and just broke into the field. What they told us was eye-opening and slightly intimidating, but after a little scare, it made me even more passionate about illustration. They really emphasized how difficult it truly is to be an illustrator and to get work. You have to be very diligent and motivated to get your name out there. No matter how good you are, no one will see you or hire you if you aren't networking. As much as I love SCAD, (the program is wonderful and I have gotten so much out of it), it made me realize how cushioned we are, as students, from the outside world. I am definitely a big fish in a small pond, as they say, and it was pretty bewildering to see what the real world is like. But I know I can do it, and I want this more than anything. Zelda and Kurt's talk pumped me up to get out there and show the illustration world what I'm made of!
©Zelda Devon and Kurt Huggins
The last stop of this day was at 3x3 Magazine, a publication for illustration. We spoke with Charles Hively, the publisher of the magazine, who is notorious for a hard critique. I have to admit my heart was pounding going into that meeting! Mr. Hively is clearly very passionate about illustration. He told us about the decline in the public's interest in it, and therefore illustrators get paid less and less. His goal is to get illustration's good reputation back. This talk made me want to become active in his fight for our field. He had some very good arguments about how people who accept jobs for way too low of pay harm not only themselves, but also the rest of us. Doing this allows clients to take advantage of us. Hively talked about how photography was replacing illustration because it's "faster" and "easier." He said that illustration is "in Wal-Mart" and needs to get out. We shouldn't be looked at as the last resort for an image in editorial publications or books. His critique was pretty hard, but it will make me grow to hear the worst. He wasn't fond of a lot of my work, and said my portfolio is nowhere near consistent, which is a big problem. He seemed to like my woodcuts alright, and he had some good tips for book presentation. It was hard to hear, but completely necessary. I'm grateful for the experience.
Our second-to-last day was much easier on us! We went to Friend of a Farmer for breakfast and lunch with two children's book illustrators, Melissa Iwai and Kristen Balouch. Hearing them talk was very refreshing. They are both happy with their jobs and lives, and are doing quite well for themselves. Both are very talented women, and I really enjoyed getting to see their processes behind each book. I'd love to be in their shoes one day, talking with students about how to make it!
Friends of a Farmer
Mark Smylie from Archaia Studio Press, who creates children's comic books. It is not specifically an area of illustration that suits me, but he was a very nice man and had some more great feedback on how to enter the creative field.
We wrapped up the day at Nancy Stahl's apartment. Her studio was just amazing! She had shelves and shelves of books (it appears this is a requirement for an illustrator, which is fine by me!) and lots of little oddities from thrift stores and garage sales. A lot of it seemed to be from the '40s and '50s, and it's inspiration shows in her work. It gave me some great ideas of how I'd like my studio to be one day! I am so excited to no longer work in a dorm room.
Her awesome studio! This picture doesn't do it justice.
Our last day was another great one. We started off at Penguin Group, and met with people from both Dial Books for Young Readers and Dutton Children's Books, both of which are housed under Penguin (in total, three people: one for each). My portfolio review went really well with them, and it was so relieving. They told me my style was very European and "hip," and even pointed out a specific character from my children's book that they liked a lot. Steven Meltzer, the associate publisher and executive managing editor for Penguin, said he would love to hang my "Cat" piece in his house! He said my gouache work was very 1960s retro, which is a good thing, since it's coming back in style. I was ecstatic with this review! These are people I hope to be working for someday. And they liked my stuff!
We wrapped up the trip back in SOI with Steven Tabbutt, another SCAD graduate who has incredible fine art illustration, and David Guertin of Insomniac Games and Creature Box, who does a lot of character design for games. Steven's work was really interesting to see, because he even showed us original works. It made me proud to be a SCAD student! David was a really funny guy, and also emphasized how hard you have to work to remain relevant in the business, but how it's also very much worth it. Anyone interested in character development should contact him for some advice. He is a really nice man and gives great tips. We went to Toy Story 3 with the group and then said our good-byes. It was such a great trip. I completely recommend it to any SCAD students (although Talon won't be your professor for it, because he is sadly leaving the school! I am happy for him and his new opportunities though).
Whew! Exhausting, huh? Oh, and we also got to see some famous murals. Dean Cornwell and Maxfield Parrish! I was so glad to get to experience these huge paintings in person.
And so concludes a fantastic trip to the Big Apple! Rest your eyes from all that reading!