Tag Archives: SCBWI

Going Through Your Process: a, b, c…

Christian Robinson sent a delightful thank-you-note for sharing his work here at the Countdown last month on Harlem’s Little Blackbird (text by Renée Watson), along with answers to my nosy questions about his process. Hooray! — JC

An alphabet poster from artist Christian Robinson's Etsy page

Poster from Christian Robinson‘s Etsy page (right-click to enlarge)

Christian Robinson:  Oh my word! What a wonderful thing it was to wake up reading your lovely and very flattering post!
I’m really beside myself.  Thank you so much for the unbelievably kind words, and for shining a little more light on my work!

This whole children’s book illustrating world is still very new to me, so to think that someone might reference my art is still so unreal… it’s still so amazing to me to have folks interested in what I do.

Joy Chu:  The more I gazed at your art, the more involved [my examination] became.

Couple that with in-coming phone calls asking for portfolio consultations [for the upcoming SCBWI Conference].  Then it suddenly hit me:  I must share why your samples are so irresistible to my art director eyes!

Did you use cut paper for Harlem’s Little Blackbird? Or a combination of collage, ink drawing,  and scanning?

CR:  I used collage and acrylic paint for the original art;  then I would scan, and edit (color, lighting effects, composition) if needed.

JC:  Did you provide your own scans to the publisher?

CR:  Yes! I like being able to go in and correct colors myself — control freak here!

JC: Do you have any examples of your preliminary sketches, or thumbnails, or character studies of Florence Mills [the subject of Harlem’s Little Blackbird)?

CR: Here are images that shows the process I used:

(a)

Thumbnail sketches on post-its (a);

(b)

. . . color and shape exploration in Photoshop (b);

(c)

. . . then final art using collage plus acrylics (c).

More process examples:

(a)

(b)

(c)

JC: Did you draw many rough dummies?

CR:  Yes, I went through a lot of post-its  :O)

I had to make several edits so that the editor (Suzy Capozzi) and art director (Ellice Lee) felt confident with how the layouts were flowing and communicating. Read an interview about their collaboration here.

(a) sketch on post-its

(b) Photoshop rendering

(c) final art, using collage plus acrylic

Christian Robinson's studio

Christian’s studio

JC:  And did you apply pure pen-and-ink for your b/w illustrations?

CR:  You are referring to the Illustrations I did for the LGBT teen guide, Queer.  Those were digital rendering, drawn on my Wacom tablet into Photoshop.

JC:  Cheers, and many thanks again for sharing the fruits of your labor!

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Check out editor Suzy Capozzi‘s commentary on the book’s genesis, plus an interview between art director Ellice Lee and Christian Robinson on their collaboration at the R.H. blog,  Random Acts of Reading

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Read a starred review from Booklist

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Christian Robinson’s blog

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Christian Robinson’s portfolio

Awestruck by teaching, part 1

Glove cat and sock cat, created by Ella German
One of the bonuses of teaching at UCSD Extension is the diversity of the students themselves. It was a pleasure getting to know them through the work they produced in class.

For their final project, a 32-page book dummy, I gave my students the options of (a) working with their own original story; (b) re-illustrating an already published book; or (c) re-telling a traditional folk tale.

Here’s a peek into some of of the results…




"Pearl and Bear" , sock kittens created by Ella GermanFollowing a positive portfolio consultation with David Diaz at a SCBWI-San Diego One-Day-Conference, Ella German was eager to further develop the characters she drew from the sock kitten characters she created (right, and above top).

Ella brought her sock kittens, Pearl & Bear to class, plus a story outline. The manuscript went through several revisions. We discussed the motivations behind all the characters involved against the setting itself, and the theme of her story.

After numerous weedings, she rendered thumbnail sketches before moving on to her  book dummy, which she actively shared with multiple critique groups that formed within our class.

“Let’s visit the SCBWI Summer Conference in L.A.!”



Illustration by Anna Guillotte

Illustration by Anna Guillotte

Anna Guillotte's original illustration, "Le Petit Pessimiste"

Anna Guillotte's original illustration, "Le Petit Pessimiste"

Another participant was Anna Guillotte, an accomplished fine artist who brought her own story about “a little pessimist,” an anxiety-ridden little girl. Anna wanted to encourage children there are ways to rise above everyday situations they could be anxious about.

We discussed how her  story would need to spotlight a tangible challenge her character wants to overcome. And demonstrate how her “little pessimist” could triumph over her situation through her own actions.Getting ready for a math test

Anna decided to have her character face an upcoming math test (right), which became her character’s challenge. A secondary character, her favorite stuffed bunny, was created as her alter ego/reactor.

The little girl’s studies, on top of her own anxieties, envelope her on test day. On her way to school, she encounters a Math Monster….

Math Monster by Anna Guillotte

Here’s a book trailer Anna created to highlight her book premise:




Cover from "My Penguin Osbert", written by Elizabeth Cody Kimmel

Cover from "My Penguin Osbert"

Freelance illustrator/video game programmer Charles Eubanks chose to work on a story his own kids loved, My Penguin Osbert by Elizabeth Cody Kimmel.

Charles jumped into producing storyboards. Then he cut-and-pasted the text manuscript into a landscape format, marking page breaks. Corresponding thumbnail sketches  were placed next to each text block.

Preliminary text breaks for Charles Eubanks' book dummy

Ms. text breaks for Charles Eubanks' book dummy

character study - 2 by Charles EubanksCharacter studies were followed by a 32-page book dummy.

Preliminary character studies by Charles Eubanks

Character sketches by Charles Eubanks




Little Red Riding Hood by Andrea Zuill

'Little Red Riding Hood by Andrea Zuill

A needlepoint design by Andrea Zuill

Andrea Zuill displays and sells her work through Etsy and many craft fairs. In class, she’d regale us with stories about her world of hand-crafted art creators, online and in person. Threaded throughout her work is her sly humor.

Snow White by Andrea Zuille

Andrea's 'Snow White & the Usual Suspects'

sketches by Andrea Zuill

"Say Hello to Zorro" by Carter Goodrich

"Say Hello to Zorro" by Carter Goodrich

For her class project, Andrea chose to illustrate her own version of Carter Goodrich’s Say Hello to Zorro!.

Andrea Zuill's dogs for "Make Way for Zorro"
Andrea captured canine personality through close observation of her own dogs, rendering many sketches.

Andrea's dog, and its reaction to cats in boxes

Andrea's dog, and its reaction to cats in boxes




To be continued….