By Louann Brown
The SCBWI-IL Downstate Illustraton Network is a wandering group of (mostly) unpublished children’s illustrators honing their skills, amassing their portfolios, and tweaking their submissions. We come from diverse and interesting backgrounds: from working graphic artists to art teachers. (One of our members even works in a women’s prison!) A few of us are also writers.
The Downstate Illustration Network was established a few years ago, when Robin Luebs, Monty Mittleton, and Louann Brown decided they needed an illustration group closer to home. Alice McGinty, one of our Co-Regional Advisors, encouraged us to give it a try. Admittedly, many of us still drive a few hours to our quarterly meetings, but despite the rising price of gas, it’s worth the drive. We like to switch it up by meeting in different locations.
We rely on our members, who attend workshops and conferences, to bring back what they’ve learned. One of our most revealing presentations was given by our first published member, Robin Luebs, who brought in the dummy for her book complete with post-it notes from her art editor with suggested illustraton changes. (Inspired, we tried using post-its to critique but it didn’t work for us.)
Last year, we took a field trip to a popular children’s illustrator’s studio in St. Louis (think cherries!). We’re planning a trip to New Salem in fall of 2012 to sketch staff members in period costumes and a trip to Cedarhurst Center for the Arts in Mt. Vernon, IL, in the spring of 2013 to see the work of Salley Mavern, SCBWI’s 2011 Golden Kite Winner for Illustration.
We’ve started a small library of children’s illustration books. Meeting in area libraries and bookstores gives us the opportunity to see what’s new in the children’s departments. One of our favorite topics is media and materials. However, the main focuses of our group are critiquing one another’s work, offering encouragement and providing suggestions. Because of our great geographic range, members occasionally email the group an image for quick critique.
Once a year, the downstate group plans a sketch outing. We’ve been to the Scovill Zoo, the James Millikin Home in Decatur, a historic village near Champaign, and this year the Sugar Grove Nature Center, where Jill Wallace, one of our members, is on staff. Lunch is always on the agenda after our Saturday meetings … we never get tired of lingering to “talk shop” with fellow illustrators.
A few of our members have agreed to share a little about themselves and have included a sample of their work:
Louise Audrieth studied art and design at North Park College and painting and anatomy drawing with Tom Heflin from Rockford, IL. She has also worked with Don Lake, a celebrated watercolor artist in the Champaign area. Louise joined SCBWI to meet other artists and illustrators and to discover how to submit her work to children’s publishers. Louise’s current work includes all things aquatic. She sells paintings at local galleries and has participated in the Artists Against Aids benefit in Champaign for 8 years.
Cinda Bauman, of Mahomet, took every art class offered during her school years. “Like many people” she says, “I lacked the confidence to continue to study art in college.” Instead, she checked out library books to study on her own and discovered children’s illustration fit her really well. Now, she loves to write children’s books and illustrates them with cut paper sculptures. She also paints in oil and is currently writing a middle-grade novel. She continues to work on her dream of becoming a published picture book author/illustrator.
Jane Eccles teaches high school art in a high-poverty, high-minority, urban school district. Prior to that she worked for many years as a graphic designer. People have always been a favorite subject of Jane’s illustration, because as she says, “They are interesting to observe—especially children, who are so authentic.” While Jane loves doing illustration, she also tries to convey her freelance experiences to her students. Jane’s goal is to do more children’s illustration, including e-book covers, as well as illustrating children’s art activity books.
Jerry Barrett has been a member of SCBWI since 2009. He works out of his home studio in Urbana. Formerly a graphic designer for the University of Illinois, he now freelances on a wide variety of illustration and cartooning projects. Jerry’s latest project includes illustrations for several Illinois Urban Extension websites for 8- to 12-year-olds, including: Riding the Winds with Kalani: a Weather Adventure; Best of Friends: Kids and Dogs; and Where Your Food Comes From. Links to these websites and other samples of Jerry’s work can be seen by going to his website: http://www.jerrybarrettdesigns.com/portfolio3.html, or by visiting his portfolio on the SCBWI website. Jerry’s current illustration project is a book, “Wide Mouth Frog Goes to the Zoo,” co-authored with his wife, Nancy. Jerry’s favorite author illustrators are Dr. Seuss (Theodor Geisel) and Maurice Sendak.
Few things are more exciting to Kelly Roos than seeking out and discovering ways to share her passion for art, whether through her work as a graphic designer, painting a watercolor for a show, or teaching drawing to teenagers through the Champaign Park District. “Seeing someone’s face light up due to some knowledge or a technique I suggest is the perfect reward,” she says. She is the co-author and illustrator of the cookbook Anime Eats! which contains over 50 recipes for popular Japanese dishes that appear in popular Japanese media (animation and comics). Kelly is working on two children’s book projects with two passionate authors and can’t wait to see these projects come to fruition.
Monty Mittleman has been drawing cartoons for as long as he can remember. Any blank canvas, from napkins to the back of placemats and the margins of schoolwork, were and continue to be fair game for his work. His biggest influence has been Sergio Aragones of Mad Magazine fame, but he also can’t get enough of Gris Grimley and Bill Watterson. Monty’s preferred mediums are pen/ink and watercolor, but he loves to experiment with pastels, colored pencils, acrylics, and crayons. Monty has created and put up murals, designs t-shirts, is the gag cartoonist and illustrator for the Carp Anglers Group, and has created personalized art for clients. You can find a selection of his work at http://www.montysmonsters.com and at the Scovill Zoo and Johns Hills Elementary School in Decatur. His latest mural is in the children’s visiting area at Decatur Correctional Center.
Jill Wallace earned a bachelor’s degree in Biological Illustration from Iowa State University. After working as a graphic designer and a freelance illustrator, she turned her attention to environmental education, leading to her position as Environmental Educator at Sugar Grove Nature Center in Funks Grove, IL. Jill enjoys the diversity of her job—teaching people of all ages about the natural world, taking care of the exhibit/education animals, and creating displays, the newsletter, and other promotional materials. Currently, she has several projects in progress for Sugar Grove. In addition, she is excited to be revisiting the world of illustration and hopes to one day have a published children’s book.
Robin Luebs, one of the SCBWI-IL Downstate Illustration Network Co-Representatives, is the author/illustrator of Please Pick Me Up, Mama, a picture book for preschoolers released by Beach Lane Books/Simon & Schuster in 2009. She also illustrated the HarperCollins bedtime picture book How Do You Say Good Night? written by Raina Moore and chosen as a Book of the Month Club Main Selection in 2008. Her latest picture book illustrations can be seen in the 2010 Beach Lane/Simon & Schuster release Who Said Coo? written by her twin sister, Deborah Ruddell. Who Said Coo? was chosen for the Summer 2010 Kids’ Indie Next List. It was also recently named to the Texas Library Association’s 2×2 Reading List for children age 2 through grade 2. Robin lives in Urbana. Visit her online at http://www.robinluebs.com
Louann Brown is the other SCBWI-IL Downstate Illustration Network Co-Representative. As a former elementary art teacher, Louann credits SCBWI-Il with her growth and development as a writer, poet, and illustrator. She is also a member of the Springfield Scribes and the Southern Illinois Book Ends. Louann’s fine art has been shown in regional shows, galleries, and restaurants. Her illustration website is scheduled to launch in October 2011. Louann has sold writing projects to Highlights, Family Fun, Baby Bug, and Capstone Press. Her first book for children, How to Create Spectacular Halloween Costumes, was released in January 2011.
If you’re an illustrator closer to Champaign than Chicago, we’d love to see you! Email: email@example.com, or visit the SCBWI-Illinois website (http://www.scbwi-Illinois.org /Networks.html) for an update on where we’ll be meeting next.