The SCBWI AUS AND NZ site has a great series of reports on the conference, so I'm not going to write paragraphs about the fantastic hotel (which it was), or my wonder of Sydney (which I have), or my awe of creative people who get themselves out there (which are many)... I will however just point out a few key things I learnt as a 'first timer', which certainly pushed me to look at my work, networking, and passions more closely.
1. It's SQUIDDY... warm, fun, loving, conversational, passionate... these people love what they do, and they're not afraid to show it - from writers, to illustrators, poets, publishers, editors, singers, dancers....
As a bit of a back story: talking to my son on the phone whilst at the conference, he asked me how the 'squiddy' conference was going, and I think it stuck.
2. It's SELF AWARENESS: knowing who you are just as much as who everybody else is...
How many of us creatives can actually talk about our own work, I wonder. At the beginning I found myself being talked to by people who were looking for common connections and possibilities to work together. They would ask about what I prefer illustrating, what styles I enjoy, illustrators I follow, writing styles I prefer... sheesh! Luckily I have my favorite illustrators, but styles, and preferences? I felt like I was doing what I've told my students not to do: "Oh, I'll do anything"...
3. Grab a CARD, grab a SEAT, and never skip a chance to chat... For an even slightly socially challenged person, networking, is like making a squid climb a great big mountain... backwards...
It literally took me days to talk to people, which is potentially too late. So speak and ask, and meet and talk. It's the only way you get to spend time with people who actually do want to spend time with you.
4. Find friendly faces...
One thing I would say on that 'tho, there are always a group of like-minded people who are more socially adept: grab onto them, watch them in action, and LEARN how to network. Don't always sit in the back, grab a seat in the front, do have your cards on you at all times...
5. ALWAYS show and tell... in a way that suits you...
I saw some illustrators walking around with their portfolios under their arms all day, every day. Showing at the first possible moment. I decided not to do this... instead I had 8 different postcards printed, at no extra cost, so I was showing writers and potential collaborators styles I'm currently working in and they took the ones that appealed to them. That seemed easier.
6. Take originals - for continuing the conversation...
I wanted some feedback... critique I guess. So, I did take originals. I left them in the back of my portfolio, and whenever the chance arose, I did show them. I felt serious about the conversations I wanted. Some people asked whether I was afraid of losing a piece. Seriously, I don't mind. If one goes missing, that means someone liked it enough to take it... and of course it's good for people to to be able to see what the original looked like for production purposes. I had a good conversation about some styles not being able to reproduce because of exactly that. If you can't scan or photograph a style satisfactorily, like anything else, don't put it in your portfolio, because the publisher might think the same thing.
7. Be happy with what you take to show... accept critique and kind words
I showcased in the portfolio review, I showed my portfolio to professional artists, and I survived.
I took roughly 14 pieces - they weren't as diverse as I'd hoped. BUT off I went, got them looking as good as I could, and pretty much learnt to 'love' my own work. Critique is good, but possibly not just about being overly self-critical. It's tiring.
Instead, I spoke to professional illustrators with years of experience, and they pretty much confirmed what I should do next - which I already knew, I guess I was waiting for some sort of universal confirmation.
So, no throwing away and starting again, rather expanding on my current skill set. I do like most of my work... there I said it.
As always, some pieces I can't look at again, but that's ok, I'm just preferring not to think about those.....
There were illustrators Sarah Davis, Marjorie Crosby-Fairall, Bruce Whatley, Stephen Axelson, James Foley and more- AND they are human!!!
8. Draw, draw, and listen.
The caveat to being an illustrator and sitting still in a marquee for 1 hour at a time (55 minutes precisely, with five mins break), is that my mind wondered incredibly....I would start writing, and then listen, and then lose interest in writing, and then start doodling, until the illustration took over the page. P.S. to speakers, that means I was listening more than if I had been trying to feverishly notate. Anyway, the SCBWIANZNZ Roving Reporters were documenting every speaker, so I figured live and let live.
The only issue I see with this was when someone who couldn't make that event asked if they could copy my notes... um... "I'll type them up...''
9. Listen to people - and COLLABORATE
Everybody there is PASSIONATE about what they do. Listen. Find out where they see themselves (that old gem) and see whether you could work with this person. Let conversations happen. Feedback, discussions, ideas for books and other projects came out of listening. And HOPEFULLY collaborations too.
10. LOVE THE SQUIDDY
Be involved. Become a member. Leave your social hang-ups at home....
Don't say you can't afford to go, SAVE for it - at least once.
This was a fantastic introduction to the world of publishing, collaboration, illustration, and writing...
Don't be shy.
GALLERY OF DOODLES
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Tanya is a traditional and digital artist, living in Brisbane and inspired by all that is 'Art'.