SCBWI Conference, Part I – The "Portfolio" Strategy

Okay, so an illustrator going to an SCBWI conference obviously wants to bring some artwork to show. The thing is, I don’t have a portfolio! It’s not that I’m too lazy to put one together, but it’s complicated because my work is stored in multitudes of sketchbooks, and due to my working style (and preference for conserving paper), there isn’t one drawing to a page which I could simply rip out and slap in a portfolio. Often I’ll have many drawings on one page, and this lends itself beautifully to being scanned, cropped, and showcased on… say… an online portfolio.

Plus, nowadays, with the prevalence of internet access, it doesn’t seem resourceful to divide one’s attention between an online portfolio and a physical portfolio — especially when a physical portfolio can only be viewed by one person at a time, while the alternative is available for everybody, all the time.

Of course, online portfolios aren’t perfect. Not everyone carries internet access around with them, nor would they be inclined to immediately check your site anyway. As I see it, the trick is grabbing someones attention, giving them a taste of your work, and leaving them something to remember you by. I decided to accomplish this with unique, hand-drawn business cards.

These are some of the cards I drew and photographed the night before the conference. On the back, it simply says: During the conference I displayed six of these cards at a time, along with a picture book I created (A Very Special Nut). These were displayed right next to the other illustrator’s portfolios, and while it may be true that I did not showcase the breadth of work as some illustrators, I certainly succeeded in standing out, which in events like this, is clearly important. Overall I’m pleased with the manner in which I presented myself and would do it again.

It’s funny, because it was after I began making these cards that I remembered a book I had read many months ago, called Ignore Everybody, by Hugh MacLeod.

If it can be said that someone invented original artwork on business cards, I guess Hugh would take the honor. That’s what he does, it’s his thing. So did I steal his idea? I dunno. Not consciously. Bit if you’re tempted to call me a thief, I have a card for you too.

Basis for a Boy

Hey, I’ve just had an epiphany! Since this blog purports to be about art, maybe I should post some!

Okay, I’ve been doodling children lately… err… wait… that doesn’t sound right. Let me start again…

Well, as you may know, I’ve been working on concepts for a children’s book, so lately I’ve been drawing children, especially boys, since a little boy will be the protagonist of my first book. There are so many different ways to draw a child, and it’s taken a lot of experimentation to find a character I feel happy with. A few weeks ago I was at work, when I rather absentmindedly drew him:

I’m not entirely sure what it is, but I love this drawing! Of the hundreds of little doodles I’ve made, this one stands apart. I find this boy visually striking (yet simple) and filled with personality.

“Personality?” you ask.

“Yes, personality,” I say.

“But he’s just standing there with a blank look,” you say.

“IDIOT!!” I scream!

It’s easy to draw an over-the-top character with some big, dumb smile; it’s an art to portray more nuanced emotions like indifference, world-weariness, or silent wonder. And this expression fits my character – it is my character – because he is the observer in a strange and wonderful world. The quiet witness of a bizarre cast of characters. He may look rather unassuming, but to me he’s alive.

The above drawing is my basis for a boy. He may change and evolve over time, but don’t we all? Just yesterday I got another favorable image of him (didn’t have paper handy, so he’s on the back of a greeting card), and already he’s changed. The main difference here is his nose. It’s more rounded and less crooked. I think I like it a little bit crooked. I’ll be working on this aspect.

The biggest challenge for me right now is learning to draw him consistently. Just because you draw a character once doesn’t mean you can replicate it with it’s original spirit. It becomes especially difficult when the character is in action poses or viewed from alternative angles.