Saturday, August 27, 2016

COSCBWI Meeting August 2016

This month's COSCBWI meeting in Columbus featured illustrator Joe Sutphin.  Joe creates illustrations for middle grade novels, including the Doctor Critchlore's School for Minions series and the forthcoming Word of Mouse.  He shared his publication story and gave the group a behind-the-scenes look at how internal art is created for children's novels.

Joe's path to publication was long and winding.  When he realized he wanted to illustrate children's novels, he read widely to study different art styles.  The Spiderwick Chronicles especially appealed to him, so he contacted the illustrator of the series, Tony DiTerlizzi.  As Joe practiced his craft, Tony became a friend and mentor.  He encouraged Joe to submit his work to publishing houses, and in 2012 Joe was contacted by Simon and Schuster to illustrate a piece in a John Carter of Mars anthology.  Joe attended the book release in New York and took the opportunity to meet with art directors at various houses.  Although the trip didn't result in immediate work, it allowed him to make professional connections.  He stayed in touch with these art directors over the years, and eventually Abrams came to him with the Dr. Critchlore's School for Minions project. 

As Joe got more books under his belt, more opportunities came his way and he signed with an agent, too.  He took the leap and decided to become a full-time illustrator.  His big surprise came when he learned that two artists recommended him for a book they each couldn't take on.  The publisher was Jimmy Patterson Books, and Tony DiTerlizzi was one of the artists who had recommended him for the job.  The book, Word of Mouse launches in late 2016.  Joe feels lucky to get to do what he loves and can't wait to keep illustrating books!

Joe shared some interesting facts about the illustration process for middle grade and chapter books.  His contracts state how many illustrations he is required to create per book, but he usually gets to suggest where he thinks the pictures should go throughout the text.  The art and editorial teams either approve or give alternative suggestions, and he creates the art from there.  He almost always illustrates the cover first since publishing houses need it for catalogs and promotions.  The art creation is a surprisingly collaborative process, too, and he often speaks with the editors (and even the authors) so he can be sure to draw the details as accurately as possible.

After giving the group a peek at the illustration process, Joe shared a few words of wisdom including:

-Make all the contacts you can.  You never know where  a relationship will lead!

-Be tactful and kind when reaching out to professionals.  Be the type of person you would want to work with.

-Don't shy away from opportunities, even if they seem small.  Projects you accept early in your career will give you practice for bigger opportunities down the line.

A big thank you to Joe for sharing his story!  You can find out more about Joe and his art at

If you want to learn more about COSCBWI, be sure to visit the group website at  I hope to see you at the next meeting!

Note: Cover image is from

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