Hi Deb and Kirbi, thank you very much for volunteering to be the next SCBWI Michigan illustrator coordinators and for the following interview.
Please tell us a bit about your background.
K: My journey really began when I entered art school. I was very academic (still am) and was focused on learning techniques including oil, airbrush, watercolor, acrylic, mixed media, colored pencils and then in my last year started painting digitally. I have a great love for tech and paint. I set my focus on the publishing world. I went to tons of conventions and workshops around the country soaking up education to improve my work. That’s actually how I met Deb. I was making ends meet doing portraiture, design and teaching. Now, I work in a variety of genres doing cover art for middle grade, young adult, adult, comics and even some work for video games. I’m trying to write but it will be awhile before you see my writing on the shelves.
D: Unlike Kirbi, I don’t have a formal illustration education. Illustrating children’s books was not something that occurred to me until much later. I wanted to be a serious graphic designer and was for awhile. As I progressed in the field, my work got less serious and more playful - truer to my real self, I suppose. I designed theme park graphics and children’s toys. It was a perfect segway to illustrating and writing picture books. Being a designer informs my work and leads to a more dynamic layout that helps tell a story.
What is your favorite single illustration, created by yourself and why?
K: I’d rather gush about Deb’s work than my own. Here is a spread from IDEA JAR. I witnessed it go from sketch to finish. It communicates the idea of the text so simply and graphically. Deb’s colors are so always cohesive but she isn’t afraid to be BOLD either. This is a great example of that. You don’t have to take my word for it, it recently won a merit award in the picture book category from the annual 3x3.
D: And I absolutely love this painting Kirbi created for a card deck which includes fantasy prompts to inspire characters, stories and artworks from https://www.recklessdeck.com/. It’s a seemingly simple image, yet so full of mystery. The elephant is what first draws you in, with her fabulous markings and headdress. Upon a closer look, you start to notice some things that don’t quite make sense in a normal world, which makes it a perfect image for the game. Kirbi is a master of values and color and really uses those aspects to direct the eye and heighten tension. This illustration was also used as a cover for a speculative fiction magazine.
Why did you volunteer for this position?
D: The SCBWI community welcomed me when I was starting out. Seasoned writers and illustrators encouraged me and gave actionable suggestions for improvement. I found several critique groups through SCBWI and have participated in conferences and outings. I’d like to give other illustrators that same welcome and support. As a bonus, volunteering with Kirbi has been a blast. She has such an energy and passion that it rubs off! I learn a lot from working with her.
K: The feeling is mutual Deb. Being an illustrator certainly doesn’t come without it’s struggles, it can be a very lonely job. When I’m with a community of other creatives that’s when I’m learning the most. I’m excited about bringing people together to create this group that is social, supportive and educational.
What do you deem most important on the path to success as a children’s book Illustrator?
D: A willingness to constantly improve the work to tell a better story.
K: I couldn’t agree more. A really good compositional sense doesn’t hurt either.
D: YES! How would you suggest improving on that? I encourage people to look at good design and think about WHY it’s good.
K: …and HOW the design itself can help tell your story! This concept about composition changed my life when I got out of school and I’m pretty sure I’m going to spend the rest of my life figuring it out: http://www.muddycolors.com/2012/08/composition-basics-value-structure/
As our new illustrator coordinators, what is your vision for our group? How would your ideal SCBWI illustrator-world look?
D: To continue to provide a supportive community for our members. We’d like to increase our group’s diversity by reaching out to other communities, like art and community colleges.
K: Bringing introverted artists together is sometimes a challenge but whenever we get together, I know we all go back to our studios inspired and encouraged.
D: It would be wonderful to see a better connection between the writers and illustrators. Online and in conferences. The art making and writing process has more in common than we acknowledge.
K: When it comes to programming, there are many people in our region who have said they’d like to know more about photoshop, digital painting, animation, image scanning and color printing profiles so we are planning a webinar on these great digital tools.
D: Four out the Door postcard challenge has been our first program to provide encouragement and information toward the shared goal of sending out postcards and getting work. https://michigan.scbwi.org/2018/01/06/the-4-out-the-door-illustrator-challenge/
K: It’s been really fun interacting on our instagram with #4outthedoor program. You all might be curious to know we even have a few art directors following us. We’ll definitely be doing more to offer more exposure to our Michigan illustrators.
What’s the next event or workshop you’re planning?
K: Sunday, July 1st is our Plein Air day. Two locations on opposite sides of the state. https://michigan.scbwi.org/2018/04/12/just-for-illustrators/
Are you open to suggestions from your fellow illustrators? If so, how would you like to be contacted?
K: Absolutely. We have a private facebook page for Michigan members. It’s a safe place to talk shop, share successes, make suggestions and ask for help.
D: Yes! Please reach out to us to let us know what you want from this community. Email me at Michigan-IC@SCBWI.org, or Kirbi Michigan-IC2@SCBWI.org.
If a genie would grant you one wish for the illustrators in our group, what would it be?
D: I would love to have a group studio and resource space.
K: Friendships that can offer trusted critique, encouragement and artistic growth.
Thank you for the interview; we are looking forward to the good things to come!