Saturday, September 25, 2010

"Keeping It Fresh, from Sketches to Final Art" - Patti Ann Harris

Patti Ann Harris addressed Breakout Session II on Saturday 25 September to a lively group of attendees.   Patti Ann is the Senior Art Director at Little, Brown Books for Young Readers and oversees the design of the picture book list and the novelty book imprint, LB-kids.  She has experience working with illustrators of all levels -- from "first-time" to "seasoned."
Her presentation included sharing her experiences with Little, Brown and providing tips for keeping artwork "fresh" and interesting.
Her advice included the following:

  • Keep a sketchbook -  Shared sketches from The  Curious Garden picture book by Peter Brown as the book came together.  
  • Do your research.  It is important to go back to basics and understand how, for example, how a cat would hold it's paw.  Illustrator Steve James did research and used photos to capture anatomy of cat.   Showed initial sketches of cats and people from "Dewey: There's a Cat in the Library."
  • Create a character.  That is motivation for creating a book.  "Birdies Big Girl Shoes" by Sujean Rim, author and illustrator.  Sujean was in her fashion world and created the notion of a little girl obsessed with her mom's high heels, make up, dressing.  Used water color and collage.  Showed studies of Birdie loving the shoes.  Discussed layout of book and colors.  The sketches of Birdie create a really cute and fun character.
  • Retell a classic.  Focus on Jerry Pinkney's "Lion and a Mouse."  Pinkney played with the scale of the mouse early on.  The more he drew the more he understood the mouse was the hero of the story.  Revised the scale to emphasize that.  Multiple panels to show a sequence of time and space.  Showed initial sketch, experimenting with panels and characters.  Illustrator would make a face and look in the mirror to study facial expressions.  Uses pen and ink.  Sketches are free and explore the possibilities.  Can tell the stories through the expressions.  
  • Revise.  Revise.  Revise.  Revising is really such an arduous task but is where discovery takes place and raises the level of any project.  Book to highlight "The Very Fairy Princes" illustrated by Christine Davenier. Made studies of the characters.  She played with the idea and never got tired of revising who that character might be.  Work in progress.  Keeps lively line and expressive gestures.  Lay down water color and puts pencil on it.  Mixed media.  Always kept alive.  Showed various sketches and capture spontaneity instead of laboring over a piece until it was dead. 
Among the questions asked:
Q:  What kind of order is standard for submitting art?
A:  We like to see the whole thing at once.  Could be very rough thumbnails.  Give comments and feedback along the way.  Helps paginate the book.  Art notes are important to know what the images will be. Best to see the whole book at once.

Q:  Do most illustrators turn in final art?  Do you ask for final art?
A:  Christine Davenier sent jpgs of final art.  We could see and make suggestions prior to final art.  Tweeks might be necessary.  Illustrators must be open to this.  

Q:  Do you work with digital artists?
A:  We see traditional artist using media/digital to add.  Artists photographing their artwork then using computer.   Printers can scan files and do retouching as well.  

Q:  What percentage of established vs first time illustrators?
A:  Of the five books brought, 2 are illustrated by first-time illustrators.  We take time to meet with people at conferences and art schools (end of year shows.)  Great place to find new illustrators.

Q:  Typical timeframe from when you contact an illustrator and the final product?
A:  More like 6 months.  Dewey was done in 4 months.  We do a lot of products that have to be done quickly.  There is a range from sketch to final product.

Q:  What is process for choosing illustrator.
A:  We work with a lot of agents.  When we get a project in, the art dept and editor will meet and bring samples to that meeting.  There are a lot of different conversations that take place.  We have some in- house artists.  You have to develop those artists that you have worked with over the years.

Q:  Are new artists brought in through an artist representative?
A:  Yes, and through on-line portfolios.  We find people on line and contact their agent and sometimes to the artist directly.  Having a website is key.  Great way to bring new people in as well.

The session was filled with information.  The sketches that were shown on screen by these published illustrators were inspirational to all -- especially to me.  It is nice to know that large publishing companies are always looking for illustrators, whether established or just breaking in to the business!

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