On Sat I went back to Cambridge for the Beyond Picture Books conference. I did the summer school there two years ago (where has the time gone?), and it was really nice to meet up with some of the talented illustrators I met back then.
The conference was focusing on not just picture books but illustrated books in general – this included non-fic, graphic novels, long form books and much more. The overall emphasis of the day seemed to be:
Make what you are passionate about, even if it is just a personal project, people will hire you for the work you do.
There was so much discussed that I think this will be more than one post, but here goes:
Adam was great, he talked about his ‘weird and torturous journey’ into the career he has now. I think probably described how many of us have felt at some point – hating the day job, frustrated at not getting ideas out, needing someone to bounce ideas off.
Two great tips he shared were:
- Use post-it notes for thumb-nailing so you can easily reorder and replace without having to re- draw the whole grid.
- Try a plugin called BPelt to speed up colouring work in black artwork in Photoshop. It finds the white areas and makes them easy to fill with colour without tracing around them with the select tool or losing edge fidelity with the magic wand! Everyone in the room seemed excited by this.
I have followed Simone’s work for a while was so already totally in love with her, however, she is even more inspiring and funny in person. Her talk had us all laughing. Key things I took from her talk:
It is good to have an incubation period where you work on your illustration without too much interference from the outside world – you get to try your ideas and work out what you want to do and what you are interested in without the pressure of pleasing others.
People like to discover things for themselves – if you keep making and putting the work out there people looking for that kind of work will find you. Sometimes this is stronger than you sending it to them because they have got there on their own.
Simone also talked about how self-publishing was key to getting some of her projects off the ground, making things as zines and then grouping them together to make the books.
My favourite moment was Simone’s worm pictures, she said for a long time she kept painting worms mainly for her own amusement but eventually they fed into her work.
Beautifully illustrated non-fiction has seen a rise in popularity recently and Rachel Williams, from Wide Eyed Editions, is truly a champion of this art form. The mission statement Rachel gave was to create books that provide:
WONDER - DISCOVERY – INNOVATION
It was wonderful to hear about the effort out into the production quality of visually rich titles such as The Wonder Garden, with its engravings and rich colours, and Illuminature which has three colours of illustration and a special lens for viewing them.
They source illustrators who are great at their craft, who’s style can create an immersive look at the subject covered in the book. The illustrators may not have worked on picture books before but their work may already feature elements of what’s needed – animals, botanicals etc.