Back to the story…
Turning one’s direction from strictly “fine art” making to “illustration” (why we have to make a distinction, I’ll never truly accept), has led me to join the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI http://www.scbwi.org/). A remarkable organization in itself, the SCBWI hosts two national conferences a year, the winter conference in New York, and the summer one in Los Angeles. All manner of folk from the publishing industry are in attendance. Artist and author Tomie DePaola, to whom we all probably owe much of our bedtime favorites read to us as kids, and whose work we now share with our own, sponsors a yearly SCBWI competition. The award, which he personally funded for many years, allows one promising illustrator to attend the winter conference free of charge. All expenses paid!
Now, that’s not the only cool thing about this competition. What really heats up my hammy is that he sets a piece of text from a children’s story for us to illustrate. So you have basically two months to come up with one illustration. No portfolio review, no pitch, no client list, just one image. (see http://www.scbwi.org/Pages.aspx/Tomie-dePaola-Award for details).
I came upon the competition a bit late in the current year; but that’s life, isn’t it?
For my students and friends, I hope this blog entry will show you not only the process behind this illustration, but also some vital links for any of you interested in the market.
Here is the text Tomi DePaola set for this year’s competition. I’m taking this straight from the site.
“Chicken Licken” by P.C. Asbjörnsen
So they went along and went along until they met Turkey Lurkey
“Good morning, Goosey Loosey, Ducky Daddles, Cocky Locky, Henny Penny,
and Chicken Licken,” said Turkey Lurkey, “where are you going?”
“Oh, Turkey Lurkey, the sky is falling and we are going to tell the King!”
“How do you know the sky is falling?” asked Turkey Lurkey.
“Ducky Daddles told me,” said Goosey Loosey.
“Cocky Locky told me,” said Ducky Daddles.
“Henny Penny told me,” said Cocky Locky.
“Chicken Licken told me,” said Henny Penny
“I saw it with my own eyes, I heard it with my own ears,
and a piece of it fell on my tail!” said Chicken Licken.
“Then I will go with you,” said Turkey Lurkey, “and we will tell the King!”
Alrighty then. Straight away I pictured a ruckus of fowl, eager to blame the impending world’s doom on their fellow yard birds. And simultaneously, I couldn’t help but imagine my 5 year old daughter’s dance class.
Not to diss my tiny dancer, but a gang of four and five year old girls’ first foray into dance does curiously resemble an anarchical barnyard. This is particularly true when they first don their recital costumes, all sparkly, feathery madness. The story of “Chicken Licken” is also popular with school drama performances. So with my little urchin in mind, I started sketching tiny primadonnas in fowl garb:
Next I thought how do I place them on stage? And what sort of stage? I immediately went to the master of all things art and dance related, Edgar Degas. His work, particularly of the dancers warming up and just hanging out rocks socks. My little tator tot dancers, while not nearly as professional as the royal French academy, nevertheless deserved a fabulous stage in my piece. And what better place for such farcical fowl antics than Louisville’s Palace Theater.
Have you ever been to the Palace Theater? If not, you should go. It is a fabulously ridiculous concoction of Rococo/Moroccan architecture combined with a Roman statuary. It is an impossibility; perhaps The Impossibility.
I scheduled an appointment, took a few photos in the dimly lit theater, learned of the local spirits that haunt the place, twirled about on stage, and went home. Here are a few horrible photos of the theater from the angle I was seeking and my preliminary sketches.
So this last is what I submitted. Now, she has some problems, a thousand little issues. And I see them all.
But, overall it was a great little challenge, taught me loads, and allowed me to get a behind the scenes look at the Palace.
Do I expect to win the challenge? Nah. But I’ll be at the conference anyway, if I have to draw for my supper. And after I get there, I might just do another twirl on the New York stage! (or at least in Rockefeller Plaza)