Saturday, December 31, 2016

Children's Book Academy Class

Before this year draws to a close, I wanted to sneak in one more blog post for 2016.  (I've only meant to blog about this for months, but better late than never!)

During the fall, I was fortunate to attend an online illustration course offered through the Children's Book Academy called, "The Craft and Business of Illustrating Picture Books."  It was truly the highlight of my year.  Taught by industry professionals Mira Reisberg and Julia Maguire, the intensive online course went over all aspects of the children's book illustration process.  The format included daily lessons with interviews, demonstrations, and videos; weekly illustration assignments; and live group critique sessions with Mira and Julia.  There was also an amazing private Facebook group for all the students where we could share work and help each other out.  (A group that is still going strong and full of people I am honored to now call friends!)

Since I didn't go to art school, I've always felt like the lack of a formal education has been a bit of a black mark against me.  (During conference critiques, I've had some industry professionals disregard that fact as totally unimportant, while others have admonished me for it--sometimes before even opening my portfolio.  I wish I was exaggerating, but that's sadly the truth.)  Whether or not a formal education is important is obviously subjective, but the negative reactions have certainly left their mark on me and my confidence over the years.  So instead of letting that bring me down, I really wanted to do something to increase my knowledge and help fill in some gaps that I know I missed by not attending art school.  The Children's Book Academy was the PERFECT choice for helping me achieve just that.  (And so much more!)

The course  focused on a building-block approach to creating picture books--from thumbnail sketches and character design all the way to ready-to-submit dummies and color samples.  As an extra bonus, the online materials are available for students for many months after the course is over.  The friendliness of both the instructors and other students also made me feel completely comfortable asking my many "stupid" questions.  (I'm one of those people who would rather say something and look like a cotton headed ninny muggins than keep my confusion to myself and/or do something incorrectly.)  Most importantly, the course gave me the confidence to work on BLINK, my picture book idea about a little bat looking for a friend, that had been sitting in my mind for a very long time.

Rough Thumbnail Sketches
Character Design Sketches

Cleaner Thumbnail Sketches

Color/Portfolio Sample

There was also an opportunity at the end of the course to submit "Golden Ticket" work for industry professionals to see.  I wasn't picked by any of the professionals, but I'm happy the opportunity encouraged me to work hard and finish some new illustrations for my portfolio. 

Now that the course is over, I know I still have a lot to learn.  BUT, I feel much more knowledgeable and confident, and I'm very pleased with the progress I've made.  I'm so thankful to Mira for putting together such an amazing course, and I hope to take another class with her again in the future.  (Do check out the website at  There are loads of courses offered, and I highly encourage any of my blog readers interested in writing or illustrating children's lit to take one.) 

My little bat character, Blink, will also always be grateful that this course made me finally put him on paper.  I know everything I've learned through the Children's Book Academy will help me take him to the next level.  :) 

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