Ah! Can you feel the Southern Breeze? I sure did!
This weekend, I attended the Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI) Conference in the southern city of Birmingham, Alabama. I always enjoy being around other people who are like me. People who haven't quite grown up, who still live half-way in the real world and half-way in their imaginary one. Most of all, we are people who are children's book junkies. We love a good story. Tell us one and you'll have our attention for life!
This weekend, I met women who wear outstanding hats, men who are unashamedly animated characters and hot-peppered, southern-seasoned, flavorful writers and illustrators from all over the south - each bringing their own stories for why they were at the conference. Some of us need a little nudge to navigate the book industry. Some of us came back to see good friends. But all of us came because of the story.
And the beauty is every story that we bring has value. They often times spring up from our childhood memories, and ironically, we find out that we really aren't so unique. Our story is also our neighbor's story. There is beauty in seeing your mirror in someone else.
I love being outdoors and hiking. The opening artist session was held at the Ruffner Mountain Nature Preserve so I was in heaven! It was my immense pleasure to attend the Illustrator's Intensive featuring R. Gregory Christie on the opening day. Artists, of all levels, were able to have a seat at the table to receive valuable information from Mr. Christie, who has worked on numerous children's books during his career. He gave us tips on art and the industry; he inspired us to think of new ways to do what we love to do - CREATE GREAT ART.
"YOUR ART REPRESENTS YOU IN PLACES YOU CAN'T GO"
-R.Gregory Christie, Artist
This statement resonated with me because just a few short years ago, I was scared to let "my babies" (i.e. my art work) go. I also was trying to find out where I fit in as a creative person. Like most sensitive souls, when I create something it is done from a place of love. We want others to appreciate, respect and value our work. Christie's statement reminded me my main job is to do the work. The work will find a home with those to whom it speaks. But an artist's primary job is to create. When we do, our gifts will go out into the world to show others who we truly are. It will find a home with whom it belongs.
Birmingham showed me it's beauty this weekend with its natural landscapes, rich history and architecture, and its growing community of hipsters and cool kids. As always, I enjoyed the interaction and information received from publishers, agents and editors. Every year the Southern Breeze WIK Conference brings its southern charm and aims to please.
A last word to all of you who love kids lit and want to write or illustrate:
If you are not a member, you should be. If you are, I'll see you soon.
Until then, I have lots of childhood memories to remember, stories to write and a great imaginary world of pictures to paint. Until next year....
I was recently accepted to present an art exhibit with C4 Atlanta (yeah me!). If you haven't heard of C4 Atlanta its a non-profit arts service organization whose mission is to connect arts entrepreneurs to the people, skills and tools they need to build a successful artistic career in metro Atlanta. I have benefited from the information, exhibits and networking opportunities they provide to artists and I look forward to presenting this exhibit.
I have been collecting ideas before i knew about the opportunity to exhibit. But in todays blog i want to speak on inspiration.
Everywhere I go, I see. It's the curse and blessing of being a visual artist. I see people alot because that is what I like to draw. But especially when I travel I am more aware of seeing architecture and landscape changes. People, places, things all become a part of what you see in my work.
In July I travelled by van from Georgia to Arizona with family and a little children (geesh!!). It was indeed an experience. I got to experience a piece of Navajo culture, see the landscape changes of our beautiful U.S., and at a distance see the borders between us and them (Mexico/U.S.). I say "us and them" because of debates in recent news reports. I personally believe in a universal "we" - but i digress....
Anyway, the image here came to me in a dream....just the feet. The series I am working on is underdevelopment, but i am often lead by my dreams. This is just something that I saw while I slept and it will likely be worked over to become a part of the whole.
It's gonna be a lot of work this year, but i can't wait.
In light of recent negative events in the news, particularly over the last 6 months all over the world, I started thinking again about the power of an artist to create social change. We all have different skills sets no matter what you are in to. Creatives are especially in tune with how to express the emotions that are processed during times of change. They also have the power to be a catalyst for inspiration. Add the internet and social media to the mix and you now become a walking journalist that even news reporters call on for inspirational stories (i.e. ALS Challenge).
A recent example I found in social media was in Mary Engelbreit, a visual artist, who created a piece in response to the incident in Ferguson, Missouri. In an effort to raise money for the Michael Brown Fund she examined her skill set and probably asked herself, "What can I do?" That is actually a hard question to ask yourself. It challenges your sense of power and resolve; it puts you in a position of accountability. Criticism may be waiting for you as you decide to create change. There is external work, even harder internal work, that must be done to get things done. It isn't an easy road, but oftentimes it is a necessary one.
Mary is not the first person to use their talents to make an impact. Still, she was a good reminder to me that even in what I do as an artist there is power of influence. But you first have to decide what you stand for, what is important to you and what is worth you representing. Basic questions like:
What am I good at?
What do I love to do?
What do I really care about in this world and why?
What can I do to help?
These are just a few questions to consider. And once you decide....make a plan and get into action.
Until we meet again, live long, be happy and make something or be forgotten.
I am a control freak - and if you are reading this, I bet you are too!
Recently I was asked, "Why do you work with self-published authors?"
At first I paused, because I really never thought about it. But when I did, I realized it was because in my heart I am one.
Writing stories was something I started doing at an early age. I always enjoyed a good story - whether in books, plays or movies - and I will dissect it for its meaning and merit. You would hate to watch a movie with me, because if it doesn't make me believe it, I ain't buying it!
In adulthood I wrote my first book for my oldest daughter. It was so simple and is still unfinished in its "dummy" state. But that story is what sparked my interest in producing books. I had a story to tell.
As I learned that about myself, people also started telling me they had a story to tell. I decided that my gift to see the images in the words is how I could help them bring their personal stories to the marketplace.
But I am also a control freak. I think many serious, business-minded authors who decide to produce their own work want to do it on their own terms. They want to build an experienced and professional mastermind team to support them in editing, illustration, design and marketing. They want to be in control of how the product is produced and promoted. They love their project so much that they want to reap more of the benefit. They also realize that that benefit comes with a lot of work and they are ok with that.
Most of all they love the work they do. They love to write good stories.
So here I am today! I love children's books, graphic novels and sequential art and I enjoy helping other authors create their stories. Many people are inspired by their own lives or that of a family member. There are stories everywhere and in everyone. We all have one.....what is yours?
I appreciated this so I figured I would post to my blog. What a rallying cry: Book People Unite!
Check out the video on this link:
I go into schools to work with children and involve them in the creative process of creating illustrated stories. Providing this service feels significant to me because it encourages children to create, to speak, to collaborate and engage. Even more importantly, I feel it empowers them because they can tell their own story - as we each all have one. Every individual has a unique perspective in this world. God has given them a mind and a voice to express that perspective. To tell your story, from your true perspective, is an expression of freedom.
This Spring, I attended SCBWI's Illustrator's Day here in Atlanta. One of the charges for the illustrators, based on an industry need, is to create stories and images that represent the diverse perspectives of the world. Quality work is always most important, but a continued theme of inclusion and diversity is prevalent in the industry.
When I heard the talks that were given, it reminded me of a thorn in my heel that I try to ignore. I always ask myself, But what about the other stories that haven't been told? I am an African-American female. That is obvious by looking at me. I do appreciate the fact that historical stories about African-Americans are on the market for public consumption. Yet, as a children's illustrator (and occasional writer), I know that there are so many stories that are not being told.
During the after-hours mingle, I got up the nerve to ask a publisher about this very concern. She stood back on her heels, put her hands on her hips and looked me square in the eyes and said:
Well then, why don't you write the story?
I told her I wasn't a writer (only because I'm developing my confidence to be one). Then she said:
If you don't write it, then who will?
I had to admit, she had a very good point.
I had previously taken a powerless route to believe that just because I was an illustrator that I could not also be a writer. That is not true. It is true I must hone my skills at both if I want to do it well. Still, I should write the stories that other people need to hear. I should write the stories that I need to hear. Someone else probably needs to hear it too.
So now I confidently take the charge. I am seeing that my place in this process is very important, just as important as anyone else's. My stories may not hit big markets. I may not get a billion dollars. Neither of those are important in the big scheme of things. All I am required to do is to do the work. I encourage to you to do the same. Tell your story today and, one day, someone else may retell your story too.
Take a look at this blog for more information about the diversity movement in the children's book industry.
I wanted to drop in an image that I did recently to show the process I go through with sketches to finished piece (although I still have a little bit I think I want to work on for this one).
I was inspired by one of my favorite characters. She is a natural Rock Star (and my should you hear her voice!). But I think the picture is worth a thousand words.
ENDLESS inspiration! Started with Air Guitar and went to blue lines...adjusting the image
Solidifying the lines - figuring it out on paper then moving to the computer to tweak....
Finally get to a point where I want to stop....there's always more to make it come alive but this is a B&W image I did. Tried to keep the energy of the inspiring model while adding a little bit to it....I think she's a rocker with a southern flare.
I have decided to participate in C4 Atlanta's Blogathon (http://c4atlanta.org/blog/). This is gonna be fun!
I have an old blog that I abandoned for a while but I have decided to revamp it. My Creative Spark Blog can be found at http://temikatheartist.blogspot.com/ and I am really gearing it towards creative women of any craft who seek inspiration on the blogosphere.
See you on the net!
When I graduated from Georgia Tech umpteen years ago, I thought I was finished with school! Whew! I got out and I wasn't interested in grad school. I just wanted to work, make my little salary and rest. I know it sounds lazy but I was exhausted.
I quickly got into my life of work and family. But being an engineer and coming from a family of teachers, I loved to learn. I slowly began to get back to creating. That creative energy intensified after my first child was born. I returned to my drawing, painting, writing and sewing. As she got a little older I began to make jewelry too. Back then my primary resource for information, before the internet, was books.
Learning from books, investing in art workshops, viewing art, and attending drawing sessions all contributed to me becoming a better artist. But I sucked at running an art business. I didn't understand many of the basics to business set up, marketing, dealing with clients, amongst a host of other things. I am still learning every single day, but I make the effort to learn by seeking learning opportunities.
A few of the ways I have done that in the past year have been to:
My point in posting this blog today was to ask you:
What are you passionate about and how are you increasing your knowledge base TODAY?
We live in a world where information is highly accessible and often free, if we only take the time to seek it out. WYSIWYG is the digital mantra of Ask and Ye Shall Receive. There is a plethora of educational videos, community programs, rental facilities and equipment and innumerous ways you can do what you want to do. Cost need not be an excuse. Often, time is a lame excuse. I encourage you to invest in yourself, invest in your personal development and take care of the who you want to be.
Until next time, I'm signing off. Be blessed and find your spark!
Just in time for Black History Month, Jamilah Tetterton and I have collaborated to bring you a children's book showing how two curious children retrace a piece of their family's history.
Reading Level: Grades K-4 Publisher: Amazon (January 2014) Language: English ISBN-13: 978-1494389703 ISBN-10: 1494389703
I am an artist, arts advocate and artrepreneur here to share my journey with you in hopes that you will be inspired.