Annie Tipton made up her first story at the ripe old age of two when she asked her mom to write it down for her. (Hey, she was just two—she didn’t know how to make letters yet!) Since then she has read and written many words as a student, newspaper reporter, author, and editor. Annie loves snow (which is a good thing because she lives in Ohio), wearing scarves, sushi, Scrabble, and spending time with friends and family.
Thank you for joining us today, Annie. Can you please start off by telling us a bit about yourself? When did you first get bit by the writing bug?
I’ve been a writer my whole life (almost literally!). My mom likes to tell a story about when I was two years old and I asked her to write down the words to a story that I made up. I remember writing scripts for plays that a friend and I acted out on the playground in early elementary school. Third grade was the first year I entered a story and was selected to represent my class at a conference for young authors. I always (well almost always) enjoyed writing school assignments and essays and I did lots of extracurricular writing—the school newspaper, a middle school writing contest called The Power of the Pen. Professionally, my first paying gig was some freelance work in high school when I wrote a few articles for a teen magazine put out by a Christian publisher. That was a pretty amazing experience to make a few bucks for doing something I absolutely loved!
I have a communications degree (with an emphasis in journalism), and my first jobs out of college were newspaper reporting. I wrote all kinds of stories—local politics and government, crime, business, healthcare—but my favorite articles focused on people and their stories. Now in my day job I work with words every day as an editor at Barbour Publishing.
I consider whatever writing talent I have as gift from God Himself. That’s not to say that I haven’t worked on honing the skill over the years, but He gives me the words. And my prayer is that readers will see Him on the page—even in some small way.
Why did you decide to write stories for children?
One of the main reasons I wanted to write a children’s series is because I am simply a kid at heart! Some of the first chapter books I read as a kid left a lasting impression on me, so I know firsthand the power that memorable characters and stories can have.
Do you believe it is harder to write books for a younger audience?
I’ve actually been surprised at how easy it is for me to revert to “kid mode” while writing this series. I generally have a simple and optimistic view of the world and I tend to see humor in everyday life, so my own point-of-view lines up with kids well. Many scenes from my childhood—particularly memories I have of my younger brother—pop up in the storyline of the series, too. Because of all of this, I think children’s fiction is probably the least-challenging fiction that I, personally, could be writing.
What is your favorite part of writing for young people?
I have really enjoyed walking down memory lane and reliving the big-sister-little-brother dynamic that EJ and Isaac have. Kids want to read about authentic experiences on the page—not something idealized or preachy—so it’s been a great challenge to constantly evaluate whether or not the story and the characters are ringing true. Plus, kids love goofiness, and it’s fun to let the characters really let loose sometimes, knowing that it just might be a reader’s favorite part of the book!
Can you tell us what your latest book is all about?
Diary of a Real Payne: Church Camp Chaos picks up about 6 months after the end of book 1 (True Story). Summer vacation is just around the corner, and EJ is more than ready to be done with Ms. “Picky” Pickerington, CoraLee McCallister, and the fourth grade. Hello sunshine! Hello 11th birthday party! Hello. . .CAMP!
It’s EJ’s first summer to spend an entire week at Camp Christian—complete with friends, bunk beds, games, campfires, s’mores, and even a gigantic zip line. From dining hall cooks dressed up in costumes (Is that a giraffe from Noah’s ark serving mashed potatoes?) to a stickler of a counselor named Gene, church camp is full of colorful characters and fantastically fun things to do. And, as always, EJ serves up even more marvelous adventures for herself with her vivid daydreams. Nothing. . .not even her annoying little brother’s appearance for day camp can spoil EJ’s fun!
But when EJ sets out to conquer her fears—some big, some small—will she learn that God is big enough to handle anything?
What inspired you to write it?
I grew up in a family that is very involved in summer church camp. My grandfather was the camp manager, so my mom grew up (literally) at camp. My first summer jobs were working on staff at camp, and it’s always been a big part of my life. So having EJ go to her first week of church camp in book 2 was great fun for me!
Where can readers purchase a copy?
The Diary of a Real Payne series is available where all books are sold.
What is up next for you?
The third and final book in the series—Diary of a Real Payne: Oh Baby!—releases in September 2014. I’m looking forward to seeing the completion of EJ’s adventures!
Thank you for spending time with us today, Annie. We wish you much success.
By Janet Veitch
On Saturday, 8 March, we celebrate International Women’s Day. But is there really anything to celebrate?
Last year, the United Nations declared its theme for International Women’s Day to be: “A promise is a promise: Time for action to end violence against women.” But in the United Kingdom in 2012, the government’s own figures show that around 1.2 million women suffered domestic abuse, over 400,000 women were sexually assaulted, 70,000 women were raped, and thousands more were stalked.
So, why is there violence against women?
The United Nations talks about a context of deep-rooted patriarchal systems and structures that enable men to assert power and control over women.
In a nutshell, this means that men’s violence against women is simply the most extreme manifestation of a continuum of male privilege, starting with domination of public discourse and decision-making, taking the lion’s share of global income and assets, and finally, controlling women’s actions and agency by force if necessary.
Throughout history and in most cultures, violence against women has been an accepted way in which men maintain power. In this country, the traditional right of a husband to inflict moderate corporal punishment on his wife in order to keep her “within the bounds of duty” was only removed in 1891. Our lingering ambivalence over the rights and wrongs of intervening in the face of domestic violence (“It’s just a domestic” as the police used to say) continues more than a century later. An ICM poll in 2003 found more people would call the police if someone was mistreating their dog than if someone was mistreating their partner (78% versus 53%). Women recognise this culture of condoning and excusing violence against them in their reluctance even today to exert their legal rights and make an official complaint. The most recent figures from the Ministry of Justice show that only 15% of women who have been raped report it to the police. And when they do, they’re likely to be disbelieved: the ‘no-crime’ rate (where a victim reports a crime but the police decide that no crime took place) for overall police recorded crime is 3.4%; for rape it’s 10.8%. All this adds up to a culture of impunity in which violence can continue.
And it’s exacerbated by our media. When the End Violence against Women Coalition, along with some of our members, were invited to give evidence to the Leveson Inquiry, we argued that:
“reporting on violence against women which misrepresents crimes, which is intrusive, which sensationalises and which uncritically blames ‘culture’, is not simply uninformed, trivial or in bad taste. It has real and lasting impact – it reinforces attitudes which blame women and girls for the violence that is done to them, and it allows some perpetrators to believe they will get away with committing violence. Because such news reporting are critical to establishing what behaviour is acceptable and what is regarded as ‘real’ crime, in the long term and cumulatively, this reporting affects what is perceived as crime, which victims come forward, how some perpetrators behave, and ultimately who is and is not convicted of crime.”
When do states become responsible for private acts of violence against women?
The UN Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) says in its General Recommendation No. 19 that states may be responsible for private acts “if they fail to act with due diligence to prevent violations of rights or to investigate and punish acts of violence.”
Due diligence means that states must show the same level of commitment to preventing, investigating, punishing and providing remedies for violence against women as they do other crimes of violence. Arguably, our poor rates of reporting and prosecution suggest that the UK is not fulfilling this obligation.
What are some possible policy solutions to eliminate violence against women?
The last Government developed a national strategy to tackle this problem and the current Government has followed suit, adopting a national action plan that aims to coordinate action at the highest level. This has had the single-minded backing of the Home Secretary, Theresa May — who of course happens to be a woman. Under this umbrella, steps have been taken to focus on what works — although much more needs to be done, for example on the key issue of prevention –changing the attitudes that create a conducive environment for violence. Research by the UN in a number of countries recently showed that 70-80% of men who raped said did so because they felt entitled to; they thought they had a right to sex. Research with young people by the Children’s Commissioner has highlighted the sexual double standard that rewards young men for having sex while passing negative judgment on young women who do so. We need to rethink constructions of gender, particularly of masculinity.
What will the End Violence Against Women Campaign focus on this year?
End Violence Against Women welcomes the fact that the main political parties now recognize that this is a key public policy issue, and we’ll be using the upcoming local and national elections in 2014 and 2015 to question candidates on their practical proposals for ending violence against women and girls. We need to make sure that women’s support services are available in every area. And we’ll be working on our long-term aim of changing the way people talk and think about violence against women and girls — starting in schools, where children learn about gender roles and stereotypes — much earlier than we think. We hope Michael Gove will back our Schools Safe 4 Girls campaign. We also look forward to a historic milestone in April, when the UN special rapporteur on violence against women makes a visit to the UK to assess progress.
On International Women’s Day this year, what is the most urgent issue for the world to focus on?
As Nelson Mandela said: “For every woman and girl violently attacked, we reduce our humanity. Every woman who has to sell her life for sex we condemn to a lifetime in prison. For every moment we remain silent, we conspire against our women.” While women across the world are raped and murdered, systematically beaten, trafficked, bought and sold, ending this “undeclared war on women” has to be our top priority.
Janet Veitch is a member of the board of the End Violence against Women Coalition, a coalition of activists, women’s rights and human rights organisations, survivors of violence, academics and front line service providers calling for concerted action to end violence against women. She is immediate past Chair of the UK Women’s Budget Group. She was awarded an OBE for services to women’s rights in 2011.
On 22 March 2014, the University of Nottingham Human Rights Law Centre will be hosting the 15th Annual Student Human Rights Conference ‘Mind the Gender Gap: The Rights of Women,’ and Janet Veitch will be among the experts on the rights of women who will be speaking. Full details are available on the Human Rights Law Centre webpage.
Human Rights Law Review publishes critical articles that consider human rights in their various contexts, from global to national levels, book reviews, and a section dedicated to analysis of recent jurisprudence and practice of the UN and regional human rights systems.
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Image credit: Crying woman sitting in the corner of the room, with phone in front of her to call for help. © legenda via iStockphoto.
The post International Women’s Day: a time for action appeared first on OUPblog.
By Jenny Offill
Illustrated by Chris Appelhans
Schwartz & Wade (an imprint of Random House)
On shelves March 11th
The sloth is not a noble animal. Few people spend time contemplating their heroic qualities and distinguished countenances. Had I an Oxford English Dictionary on hand I’d be mighty interested to learn whether or not the term “sloth” as in “a habitual disinclination to exertion” was inspired by the tropical, slow-moving animal or if it was the other way around. Perhaps it is because of this that we don’t see them starring in too many picture books for kids. Sure you’ll get the occasional Lost Sloth by J. Otto Seibold, A Little Book of Sloth by Lucy Cooke, or even Slowly Slowly Slowly, Said the Sloth by Eric Carle, but unlike other animals there is no great slothian icon. When you say “sloth” to the average person on the street, they don’t instantly think of a famous one. Sparky! may come close to changing that. Tongue planted firmly in cheek, the sublime and subversive Jenny Offill pairs with first timer Chris Appelhans to give us a subdued but strangely content little tale about that most classic of all friendships: a girl and her sloth.
“You can have any pet you want as long as it doesn’t need to be walked or bathed or fed.” Our heroine’s mom probably regrets telling this to her daughter but it’s too late now. The minute she said it the girl headed straight to the library and there, in the S volume of the Animal Encyclopedia, she learned about sloths. In no time at all one appears via Express Mail and she names him Sparky (thereby giving away the fact that she harbors impossible sloth-related dreams). Her know-it-all neighbor Mary Potts is not impressed, so our heroine determines to show off her pet in a “Trained Sloth Extravaganza”. Naturally, this does not go as planned, but even after everyone has left and it’s just her and Sparky, she can’t help but love the little guy. With a quick tag to his claw she makes it clear that he is it. “And for a long, long time he was.”
I was talking with some folks about picture books earlier today and in the course of our conversation I discovered something interesting about the way I judge them. While art is definitely something I take into account when I decide to love or loathe an illustrated work for kids, it’s the writing that always tips the balance. I’d read some of Offill’s picture books before and while I liked them fine they did not inspire in me the kind of rabid fan response I’ve seen other librarians profess thanks to 17 Things I’m Not Allowed to Do Anymore. Sparky! is different. Here, the book cuts to the chase right at the start. Our heroine (who remains unnamed throughout) makes it clear that her raison d’être is to have a pet. When Sparky arrives she pours herself into his care, never mind that he’s about as needy as a houseplant in this regard. There was something so enticing about her cheery demeanor, even in the face of cold hard facts. Her mother right from the get-go also has this world-weary air that suggests more than it tells. As for the repeated lines of “a promise is a promise”, it’s a line that clearly reflects our heroine’s worldview. The combination of wordplay and story definitely made this one of the more interesting picture books I’d seen in a while.
Illustrator Chris Appelhans comes to us from the world of animation, having worked on such films as Coraline and The Fantastic Mr. Fox. Comparisons to Jon Klassen, another animation escapee, are not entirely out of left field either. Like Klassen, Appelhans prefers a subdued style with a limited palette. He knows how to get a great deal of humor out of a character’s lack of movement and emotion. The sequence where the girl plays everything from King of the Mountain to Hide-and-Seek with Sparky would not work particularly well unless Appelhans utilized this technique. Add in the funny little story and I’m sure you’ll hear a lot of folks comparing this to Extra Yarn or something equally wry. That said, Appelhans is his own man. Emotion, for example, is something he alludes to beautifully. Note the bags of worry under Sparky’s eyes. I’ve never quite known what to call these, but they show up periodically in books and comics for kids. They’re great character reference points. The kind of bags that Charlie Brown would sport. Here, they suggest more about Sparky’s state of mind than anything else.
Note that Publishers Weekly was not charmed by Sparky! In fact, Publishers Weekly was pretty much bummed out by the whole experience of reading the book at all. Talking about it, they dowsed their review with words like “glum”, “lonely”, “miserable”, and (my personal favorite) “burdened with pathos”. A reading of this sort happens when you walk into the book expecting it to cater to your already existing expectations about what “pet” books should do. Where PW found the book depressing, I found it smart and serious. Yep, Sparky looks mildly perturbed for most of the book, but that’s only when he’s taken out of his natural environment. The very last image in the book of him finally getting to lie in his tree next to his girl is the only time we ever see him smile. As for the girl herself, she knows perfectly well what she got herself into and why her dream of getting him to perform fell through. And she’s a happier person than the seemingly self-assured Mary Potts, that’s for sure, having a fair amount in common with Calvin from Calvin & Hobbes. As such, this isn’t the downer fare you’d necessarily expect.
The School Library Journal review, for that matter, did a small bit of hand wringing over whether or not children would come away from this book with the clearly misbegotten understanding that having a sloth for a pet would be fun. Since this is a work of fiction (and the underground sloth procurement market remaining, for the most part, elusive to their needs) I hardly think we need fret about whether or not kids will take the wrong message away from Sparky! After all, it makes sloth ownership look just about as appealing as whale ownership in Billy Twitters and His Blue Whale Problem. Sparky is awfully cute but as our heroine is quick to learn, he’s not about to do much of anything he doesn’t want to do. The only time he does something the heroine suggests, it’s when he munches slowly on a cookie she’s offered him (and then proceeds to take back when it’s clear he’s going to take all day with it).
It’s a much quieter picture book than those full of glam and glitz, cluttering up our shelves. Like its color scheme Sparky! suggests that pet ownership is not a predictable path. Or maybe it’s saying that imposing your will on others, particularly the barely sentient, isn’t the way to go. Or maybe it’s just a funny book about a funny sloth. That works too. However you look at it, there’s no denying that though it’s a silly idea (telegraphed by the silly contrast between the title and explanation mark and the cover image) with a slow, steady feel and delightful premise. You read into the book what you want to read into it. For me, that means reading into it a great story with beautiful art (that final sunset is a doozy), and likable characters. What more need you in life?
On shelves March 11th
Source: Galley sent from publisher for review.
Like This? Then Try:
By: C. C. Gevry,
Elisabeth Alba live and work in New York City after moving here in 2006 in order to complete my MFA in Illustration as Visual Essay at the School of Visual Arts. Before then, I had received my dual degree BA in English (with a focus on children’s literature) and visual art studies at the University of Florida. I’ve traveled a lot, which has led to an obsession with history and an interest in other cultures throughout the ages. I’ve always loved children’s literature and film, especially fantasy and historical fiction.
Clients include Scholastic, Simon + Schuster, Oxford University Press, Henry Holt Books for Young Readers, Small Beer Press, AAA Traveler magazine, and MTV Books. I’m the illustrator of Diamond and Fancy, both published by Cartwheel Books, an imprint of Scholastic, and part of the Breyer Stablemates easy-to-read series. Recently illustrated I am Martin Luther King Jr., I am George Lucas, and I Am Cleopatra, all written by Grace Norwich and published by Scholastic; and I contributed illustrations for The Shadowhunter’s Codex by Cassandra Clare, Simon & Schuster.
Here is Elisabeth discussing her process:
I had just read Richard Burton’s translation of One Thousand and One Nights and was inspired to do an illustration of Scheherazade. I decided to make it a scene, with the Sultan in the background.
I used my usual, watercolor and acryla gouache. It’s fairly large for me at 12.5×17.5. Trying to work bigger… but it’s hard with the small space I have to work in.
After working on a few thumbnails I knew right away what I kind of wanted, so I took some
photo reference of myself! (and my fiance, but he’d prefer I not share him in lady slippers)
This is a quick sketch using the reference working it all out.
After doing a real pencil drawing and scanning it I began working on it digitally, getting the tones and lighting right, working out the pose a little more.
The final sketch with color test. You can see I moved the hand and gave her more of a tilt. I usually bring my color compositions to an almost finished state (if they were digital paintings), just to make sure I’ve figured it all out before painting.
I print out the digital drawing. It was too big for my printer to print directly on the watercolor paper. I then traced the image using graphite paper to transfer it to the watercolor paper. Then I started blocking in a base color.
More blocking in of base colors.
Don’t have progress photos from after that, but I continue to layer watercolor and get darker and darker, then I seal it with matte medium before continuing to add color with acryla gouache. I then varnish and scan and do any digital touch-ups.
Final image. It’s darker than the actual painting, because it just looks better that way on a computer screen.
Above and Below: Where an assignment during my mentorship with the art director for the Harry Potter books (he was a guest). We had a different art director critique us each month and he assigned us the first book!
How long have you been illustrating?
I’d say since 2006, when I moved to NYC. I had done some small work before but it wasn’t very interesting to me. I didn’t consider myself a professional until 2006 at the earliest. Though I was also in grad school at the time so couldn’t take too much on.
I see you attended the University of Florida to study both children’s literature and visual art. That makes me think that in high school you had an interest in writing and illustrating for children. How did that idea of a career develop with you?
I loved writing and reading but also loved art, so I wasn’t sure which to pick as a major. I started as a BFA art student, but because I was mostly doing fine arts as a student, and wanted more illustration experience, I decided to switch to a less work intensive BA so that I could double major in English as well (and I concentrated in children’s literature).
How did you decide to attend the University of Florida?
I went to high school in Florida. There was a great scholarship for Florida students called the Bright Futures Scholarship. If you got a certain GPA and SAT or ACT score, and you completed a certain amount of community service hours, you received 100% tuition to a Florida college. My sister and brother were both at UF already, so I wanted to join them. I wasn’t ready to go too far away to an art school, and I knew UF was considered a very good school.
What type of things did you learn in college that you still use today?
I had a chance to experiment with a lot of art materials, so that helped me to settle on what I liked best. I think the best stuff I got was writing skills though. I had to write sooo many critical papers in my English classes (as well as art classes, actually), I read hundreds of children’s books, and I wrote a lot of short stories. And I had fantastic English professors. I have a wonderful day job in communications at a private school that I wouldn’t have gotten without my writing skills, and it has helped support my burgeoning illustration career.
Did you immediately decide you want to get your MFA or did you get a job right out of college and then decide to continue your education in illustration?
I moved to NYC to start my MFA program right out of undergrad. I had no idea how to go about finding illustration work, since, as I mentioned, my art classes at UF were all fine arts, and I needed to be in an art school environment.
What made you decide to attend the School of Visual Arts in NYC?
At the time there were only three grad programs in illustration. SCAD, SVA, and AAU. I applied to and was accepted to all three. I only had a chance to visit SCAD and SVA. I planned to visit AAU, but as soon as I visited SVA and met the chairman, Marshall Arisman, I knew I found the school for me!
Did you have any favorite classes?
So hard to choose! They were all different. We had a location drawing class that was super fun. We got to visit the circus, a boxing gym, the botanical gardens, the zoo, and many other cool places, so it was great for someone who had just moved to NYC. Sightseeing while at school!
What specifically does an MFA in Illustration as Visual Essay teach you that just an MFA in Illustration doesn’t?
I don’t think there’s a difference. It’s still an MFA. Illustration as Visual Essay is just the name of the program. The ‘visual essay’ portion had to do with finding your own voice, and there was a lot of writing involved – we had a creative writing class, and we also had to write papers about gallery shows in a fine arts class and comics in a comic history class.
Did the School help you get work?
They certainly helped, but it’s not the school that gets you work, it’s the amount of time you put into bettering yourself and actively keeping up with contacts as well. Work’s not just going to drop in your lap (sometimes it might… but don’t count on it)! I worked on some concept work while I was still student for SpotCo after meeting the art director on a visit to the offices and having one of my teachers recommend me. I also interned with illustrator Brian Pinkney since he contacted the program for help (he was an alumnus). My thesis advisor, Brett Helquist, also hired me after I graduated for various projects. And I made a lot of connections through classmates (which resulted in my working with Scholastic). SVA also has a career services department that seemed pretty great but I never needed to use it.
Do you feel the classes you took in college have influenced your style?
Not really, actually. I always just did my own thing. My professors at UF let me do my own thing, thankfully, because they knew I wanted to be an illustrator not a fine artist, and they were open to me making children’s book work. SVA was more of the same, just concentrating on working out what I wanted to do, and my style. I guess my classes also helped me to see what I didn’t want to do, in terms of style and genre.
What type of work did you do right after you graduated?
I graduated in 2008. I continued doing concept work for SpotCo – I was helping ‘storyboard’ musical theater posters for Broadway, so they would tell me what actors I had to portray and what was going on, and I’d come up with some ideas. They would then show my ideas to the clients and take the final photos based on our ideas. I also taught kids that summer after graduating at an after school art program. And I got my day job at the private school, which I’ve had since.
Above: Final mentorship project with Rebecca Guay. The assigned by Irene Gallo, art director at Tor Books to create an illustration for a short story.
What was the first art related work that you were paid?
I’d been paid for drawing since my freshman year as an undergrad, when I would draw fanart commissions. I also had a few small local assignments in Florida. I’d say my first real paycheck came when I was in grad school and did some work for author Rick Yancey (my favorite english professor at UF, Dr. Cech, knew him and recommended me) for a manuscript he was working on. It was never picked up by a publisher, but he’s been writing some marvelous books that came after! My first publishing job was a cover for Farrar Straus & Giroux half a year after graduating from SVA… but unfortunately the job was killed.
Above: Done with watercolor, colored pencil, and acryla gouache. 10″x12.5″
Do you have an agent or artist rep.? If so, who and how did the two of you connect? If not, would you like to find representation?
I don’t. Whenever I’ve contacted them they usually tell me my work is too traditional or realistic. But I haven’t needed one so far. Sometimes I think about looking for another, but I’ve heard mixed reviews, and I just haven’t needed one yet.
Sketch to final for self-published book, Brendan and the Beast – an alternative retelling of the classic fairytale.
When and what was the first children’s book that you illustrated?
I guess I would say Diamond, written by Suzanne Weyn, one of the Breyer Stablemates books published by Cartwheel Books/Scholastic. That was in early 2009.
How did that contract come about?
One of my classmates became a graphic designer at Scholastic. She recommended me. They needed someone who could draw horses, and she had remembered that I drew some at SVA. I had to paint the cover first, to show that I was capable of drawing a horse and just good enough in general, and they went with me!
Above: Watercolor/acryla gouache/some digital touch ups.
Do you consider that book to be your first big success?
For sure! It was the biggest paycheck I ever got. Went directly to my student loans.
Have you tried to write and illustrate a children’s book, yet?
I have written and illustrated two of my own books while at SVA. I showed them to a few publishers but nothing came of them. One was a book about the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, called Amytis’s Garden. The other was a book called Nico’s Journey, about a boy searching for the best paella in Spain. They were fun to work on and great learning experiences!
Above: From Amytis’s Garden
What type of work have you done for Scholastic?
I did two books for the Breyer Stablemates series, Diamond, which I mentioned above, and Fancy by Kristin Earhart. I also did a map for 39 Clues, a map for Infinity Ring, and three biographies for the I Am series, on Martin Luther King Jr., George Lucas, and Cleopatra.
Same two questions again for Henry Holt Books for Young Readers.
So far I’ve only done one job for Henry Holt Books for Young Readers, and it was very recent. I illustrated two maps for the upcoming book, The Last Days of Jesus, which is a middle grade adaptation of Killing Jesus by Bill O’Reilly. The art director, Patrick Collins, has in-person portfolio reviews with illustrators if you contact him beforehand by snail mail to set up a time (See here: http://us.macmillan.com/Content.aspx?publisher=holtbyr&id=375). So I sent him a postcard and a few months later we met!
It must have been exciting to be asked to do some illustrations for Cassandra Clare’s book, The Shadowhunter’s Codex. How did that come about?
It was fantastic. That was a dream job, because I don’t often get fantasy work from publishers and it’s what I really want to do. I was in a mentorship with illustrator Rebecca Guay (http://www.smarterartschool.com/) which was the best thing to happen to me in my illustration career since grad school. She is a fantastic teacher and my work has really developed since the mentorship. I made many new contacts too. It’s all about networking. Anyway, she knew the art director working on The Shadowhunter’s Codex and he was looking for some new illustrators. I submitted samples based on text he had sent. He ended up hiring me!
Do you feel living in New York City helps you get more work?
It has definitely helped, because it’s easy for me to go in for portfolio reviews and go to amazing illustration shows and lectures and events here. The Society of Illustrators is one of my favorite places. Meeting people face to face definitely puts you a step up, I think. It’s a huge community and you get to know so many people and mingle. Illustrators are generally pretty nice folks. I’ve gotten work thanks to them, and I have also passed on jobs to them as well. It’s just a friendly giving community.
What illustrating contract do feel really pushed you down the road to a successful career?
Hard to choose, but I guess the Scholastic one since they have hired me multiple times!
It looks like you exhibit your work at conventions? Can you tell us about that and has it been helpful in making contacts and getting you more business?
I’ve been to a lot of conventions, but the first one where I had a booth was Gen Con 2013. It is a gaming convention (board games, roleplaying games, etc), and it has a wonderful art show that my fiance has been a part of for a few years. I’d tag along and decided I wanted to exhibit at the art show too. I’d like to try to get some gaming work, and I am also breaking into the collectors market—that is, people who buy prints and original paintings. You can meet a lot of art directors at conventions. They stop by the booths, but sometimes they have portfolio reviews that you can sign up for. And it’s just more exposure in general for people who might want to collect art. Gen Con was a pretty successful first convention for me, a lot of sales!
How did you get involved in illustrating maps?
I worked on a private commission for an author who is self publishing her novel online (www.whyismud.com). She needed a fantasy map. I’d never done one before, but it was actually super fun. That single map was all I needed to get more map work.
Have most of the maps you’ve done been for educational publishers or more for fantasy books?
A mix. For publishers it has been educational, and for private clients who are self publishing it has been fantasy.
Have you done illustrations for any children’s magazines?
What materials do you use to paint your color illustrations?
My favorite materials are Dr. Ph. Martin’s Hydrus liquid watercolors and Holbein acryla gouache. Sometimes I use ink too, FW acrylic sepia ink or Dr. Ph. Martin’s Black Star matte ink. Sometimes I use a little bit of colored pencil. I also like working with pencil when I work in black and white.
What types of things do you do to find illustration work?
So much! Half the work is promoting yourself. I keep my website updated, my facebook artist page, tumblr, just started using twitter, selling on Etsy, various portfolio sites like Behance. I carry around business cards and attend a lot of illustration networking events. I make promotional postcards and greeting cards and mail them to a list of art directors from the SCBWI market guide, and to my contacts that I already have. I also email samples to my contacts and to any companies that accept email submissions. I attend conventions to meet more art directors and artists.
What is the one thing in your studio that you could not live without?
Probably my computer…. I do so much research on it, and keep all my reference images on it, and I do a lot of stuff digitally… It’s just so dang useful.
Do you try to spend a specific amount of time working on your craft?
I try to work 2-4 hours Monday-Thursday after my day job, and I get most of my work done Friday-Sunday. It depends on what I’m doing socially or how much illustration work I have. Sometimes on weekends I work from morning to late night, but sometimes I let myself off by dinnertime. I’d love to work even more but the day job makes it difficult!
Do you take pictures or do any types of research before you start a project?
All the time! Since my work is more realistic I like to make sure my anatomy is correct and that my poses are actually doable. I also research historical clothing, architecture, plants, animals, etc.
Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?
Definitely. It’s great for promoting and networking, and that mentorship I mentioned with Rebecca Guay was all done online. If you’re not on the internet promoting your work or with a website than I can’t imagine how you would get work now…
Do you use Photoshop or Corel Painter with your illustrations?
I’ve used Painter in the past and would like to relearn it. I use Photoshop all the time though.
Do you own or have you used a Graphic Drawing Tablet in your illustrating?
I have an ancient Intuos II tablet. Should really buy a new one because it’s starting to act wonky! I do a lot of my sketching on Photoshop with my tablet. Also make my color tests digitally. Sometimes I work entirely digitally, but I prefer traditional media. It’s very useful to know though.
Do you have any career dreams that you want to fulfill?
I would love to get more fantasy work from publishers. My dream job would be to do covers and interior illustrations for a middle grade or YA fantasy book/series, like Harry Potter or Series of Unfortunate Events. Someday I might like to write and illustrate a book, but right now I’m just concentrating on getting more clients and building/improving my portfolio.
Above: Scholastic’s Fancy, part of the Breyer Stablemates book series.
What are you working on now?
I gave myself time to work on a personal project – I have a booth at MOCCA in April, a comic convention here in NYC. I wanted to make a comic sample to share, so I am working on that all this month. I am also working with a private client on her self-published fantasy book – a map and book cover!
Do you have any material type tips you can share with us? Example: Paint or paper that you love – the best place to buy – a new product that you’ve tried – A how to tip, etc.
I love Dr. Ph. Martin Black Star matte ink. Sometimes it’s hard to find. I had to order it online last time. It’s completely waterproof and flows wonderfully. I also love working with layers of acryla gouache. My mentor, Rebecca Guay, recommended them. They flow like watercolor but dry like acrylics, so they don’t wipe away. Also, if the paper I’m working on isn’t too thick and it’s not too big, I print out my drawings directly onto the watercolor paper so that I don’t have to redraw it!
Book Cover for SVA thesis book, Nico’s Journey, watercolor and ink.
Any words of wisdom on how to become a successful writer or illustrator?
Don’t get discouraged. Do everything you can to keep improving. It is a lifetime of learning and practicing! Do what you love, not what you think gets work. You’ll end up making better work.
One of my interior illustrations of a young George Lucas (he was actually very handsome!) working on a draft of Star Wars, surrounded by reference material.
Thank you Elisabeth for sharing your process, journey, talent, and expertise with us. It is easy to see how you have managed to be so successful. Please make sure you let us know about all your future successes. We’d love to have you share them with us. You can see Elisabeth’s work at:
Please take a minute to leave a comment for Elisabeth. I know I would love it if you did and I am sure Elisabeth would enjoy hearing from you. Who knows she could someday illustrate your book.
Filed under: authors and illustrators
, Illustrator's Saturday
Tagged: Elisabeth Alba
, MFA in Illustration
, School of Visual Arts
, University of Flordia