Friday, January 18, 2013

Kidlit Art Talk and Exhibit at the Art Museum of Los Gatos

Last night, I attended a children's book illustration panel discussion at the Art Museum of Los Gatos in the South Bay. Titled Children's Illustration A-Z, the event featured Susan Jaekel, a kidlit illustrator, Gennifer Choldenko, a Newbery-winning author, Summer Laurie, a former editor at Chronicle Books for Children, and Heidi Long, a librarian at the Los Gatos Library.

The hour flew by fast as the panelists answered questions presented by both Heidi, who was the moderator, and audience members.  One of the questions: What's the best piece of advice you can give others? 

Summer talked about the importance of having rhino-skin- and certainly, writers and artists need a thick skin to survive the publishing industry.  Gennifer mentioned the late Norma Fox Mazer for her philosophy of feeling one's way through a project instead of thinking the way. Susan remembered an instructor she had in college  who encouraged her to just follow her passion.

Something Gennifer said really resonated with me: "I'm never lonely when I write. I have my characters with me." Sometimes when I'm writing late into the night, and it seems like I'm all alone at my computer, my characters actually keep me entertained. And I think Gennifer's statement speaks to a larger idea---we're never alone as long as we have stories inside of ourselves to share.

Although the panel discussion was a one-night affair, a children's book illustration exhibition, Draw Me A Story- A Century of Children's Book Illustration and Storytelling in Pictures: From Idea to Art, will be sticking around at the Art Museum of Los Gatos from now through February 24. So if you live in the area, you should check this out.

The exhibition is pretty cool. And there's something unique that distinguishes how each of the featured artists show their interpretation of the universe. (I avoid using the word unique because it's so overused- like epic, for example- so I only use this word when I really mean it, and I do mean it here.) Susan Jaekel's animals with personality, Bob Barner's edgy dinosaurs, Yuyi Morales' dreamy, rich brushwork, and Emma T. Capps and Thi Bui's enlightening graphic novel excerpts are just a few of the many things I saw.

As a child, I loved drawing- I used to win all these random poster contests and hang my prize ribbons and certificates up on my wall. Back then, I'd even  fancied being both a children's book author and illustrator someday. But as I got older, I got sidetracked with other stuff and put my art on the back burner. When I heard about this art talk and exhibit, I attended with the intention to learn a thing or two more about picture book writing. But once I arrived at the museum and saw all the  awesome children's book illustrations on the walls, I thought to myself...maybe, just maybe, I can rekindle this old flame someday.

How do your characters keep you company when you write? 

How many of you are both artists and writers? How do you balance the two things? 

Artists of the images shown here, from top to bottom: Bob Barner, Susan Jaekel, Emma Capps, and Thi Bui 


Joylene Nowell Butler said...

Strange you should ask... just the other day I was having this pity-party because it's winter and I'm isolated and lonely and tired of being stuck in the house... when all of a sudden (I sat down at the computer) I realized I have my characters to keep me company. And the best part, they adore me. Haha.

Seriously good post, Cythnia. And so spot on.

Yolanda Renée said...

I enjoy getting lost in the story with my characters unless they are the evil ones, then I have to go around the house locking all the doors and windows.

Yolanda Renée said...

Sorry, wasn't quite finished, but it published anyway.

My mother was the artist, she could draw anything! But for some reason she just stopped. That was something I could never understand. She was and probably still is so very talented.

Wonderful post.

Unknown said...

Cynthia, what a wonderfully thoughtful post. It was a delight to read.
I am embarrasingly fond of my characters--all. Only I know their most deep-seated ambitions and fears. Like my children, I mold and shape them to be complex, thoughtful and multi-faceted. Unlike my children they are totally of my creation. They are my company and confidants, taking on things I was never brave enough to do, saying things I only thought to say afterward. Living an adventure I could only dream to write about.
I wax nostalgic. I must be up past my bedtime.
~Just Jill

Anonymous said...

Great post, Cynthia. Things Gennifer said also struck home for me. Thanks so much for coming and for blogging.

Sherry Ellis said...

Enjoyed this post! Yes, those voices in my head always keep me company. ;)

Paul R. Hewlett said...

Very interesting and informative. Thanks for sharing. Rhino skin ~ I love that!

Paul R. Hewlett

Misha Gerrick said...

I love writing and art. Balancing them by painting or drawing whenever I don't feel like writing. :-)

Cynthia Heart Books said...

Joylene: Isn't it great to be adored?

Yolanda: Maybe you can encourage her to start drawing again.

Jill: Sometimes we can live vicariously through our characters, have them do things we'd never do.

Becky: Nice chatting with you at the event!

Sherry: And they sure keep us busy, don't they.

Lionel: Rhino-skin- great concept!

Misha: Great that you can balance the two things.

Tara Tyler said...

creating visual art is something i really admire in others! must have been awesome!

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