Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Dear Lynn, Rosie and Lori,

I'm really looking forward to getting to know you all and to starting a hopefully rewarding and engaging discussion about arts education. I've been involved in arts education with an emphasis on arts integration for many years, starting first when I was the Studio Program Curator at the Children's Museum/Museo de los Ninos downtown.One thing I've learned is that I glean as much or more information and inspiration from my students and fellow teachers as I hope to impart! I'm eager to learn more about your experiences as artists and arts educators and am honored to be working with you.

I'd like to use this blog as a means to share ideas among each other and to function as a project journal for all of us. If you can each create a blog or send me to a link to your own blogs, we can keep track of our ideas and document this adventure together!

I've posted a link to an inspirational video! I hope it gets us all in the mood to be creative and continue to believe in what we've dedicated our lives to. Please take a few minutes to watch the clip and post some thoughts in response. 



1) Set up blog at blogspot.com – design your page and create a profile for yourself. Please comment on this blog post with the url of your own personal blog.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Candid Taylor, a writer who has a blog called, Children Kissed by the Sun, contacted me not too long ago because she had written about Colors of Me on her blog. www.childrenkissedbythesun.blogspot.com

Her blog is dedicated to African American children's literature and she does a very nice job highlighting titles, authors and illustrators connected to this slice of the bookshelf. In our correspondence, I became aware of the significant role she played as an intern for Sleeping Bear Press in getting Colors of Me to print. I was curious and asked her a bunch of questions! I think her answers shed some light into how random the process  can be for getting a book in print!

What inspired you to seek an internship at Sleeping Bear Press? http://sleepingbearpress.com/

I was an elementary teacher for two years and decided that I didn't want to be in the classroom anymore, but I wanted to be connected to education. I decided to get my Masters in Children's Literature in order to figure exactly what I wanted to do. During my program I decided that I wanted to work in publishing and write. I did an Internet search for publishing companies in Michigan and found Sleeping Bear Press (SBP). I contacted them and inquired about  internship opportunities. Three or Four months later, I received an email from the publisher asking me to come in for an interview. I was with them for a little over a year. I loved it there. It was such a great experience. The entire SBP staff was so gracious to me and allowed me to be hands on and experiment. I learned so much from them. I will never forget my experience there.

How did you come across the manuscript for Colors of Me?

One of my graduate courses was a writing class for children. Brynne Barnes was in that class with me. It was in that class, I first read Colors of Me (which was originally called Blinkurpelloween) during a peer review.

Can you describe your role as an intern in seeing that title come to print? 

I approached one of the editors with the manuscript and she agreed to look at it. She liked it and decided to take it to an editorial meeting. From there all the editors liked it and decided it should go to the acquisition meeting. It was my job to pitch it at the acquisition meeting. I had to research the comparable titles, price points, and the potential market. It passed acquisition which was the biggest hurdle.From there the editor took over the project and a contract was offered. Obviously she accepted! It was a very exciting moment for both of us!

How was the decision made to seek a collage artist to illustrate the story? 

 The editors wanted something different for this project. They wanted a style that was not typical for  SBP. One of the editors was familiar with your work and collectively agreed that you would be great for the project.

Do you see certain styles of art being more accessible to particular market segments in particular books dealing with multiculturalism?
I don't believe there is a more accessible style of art for books dealing with multiculturalism. I believe that we (adults) should expose children to a variety of styles so that they can become appreciative of different art forms. I believe it is important for an illustrator for multicultural picture books to be true to their art form as well as authentic and accurate.

What authors or illustrators you encountered as a youngster stand out in your memory?

When I was younger, I liked book(s) by Eric Carle, Ezra Jack Keats, John Steptoe, Patricia McKissack, Beverly Cleary, Maurice Sendak, and Verna Aardema. Probably more but those are the ones that stand out.

Do you think the current market does a better job in offering books that speak to our diverse population? 

It could be better. But the publishing industry has come a mighty long way in offering diverse books for children. It's definitely getting better but there is still a disparaging gap. According to Cooperative Children's Book Center, they received 3,400 books that were published in 2010 and of those,
156 books had significant African or African American content
102 books were by Black authors and/or illustrators
22 books featured American Indian themes, topics, or characters
9 were created by American Indian authors and/or illustrators
64 had significant Asian/Pacific or Asian/Pacific American content
60 books were created by authors and/or illustrators of Asian/Pacific heritage
66 books had significant Latino content
55 books were created by Latino authors and/or illustrators
Just to give you an idea of the gap :)

Any words of advise for aspiring illustrators from the perspective of an intern? 

My advice would be to make sure you have a website that displays your artwork. It was so helpful to be able to go to illustrators websites, see their versatility and their artistic style. Editors want to know if your artwork can translate into illustrations and if your versatile they will keep you in mind for other projects. Learn the industry and make sure your outreach to publishers meet industry standards. Once you have been contracted, stick to the deadlines set for you. A delay on the illustrations can really effect the entire process. Get out there! There are so many conferences, go to them and network. You will be surprise who you may come across.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Kitchen Table Art

 A few nights ago, my eight year old son, Alexander and I were painting together on the kitchen table. Normally, Alexander makes images of sailboats, trucks, cars or his dog but this time, he choose to copy the owl I was doodling. Although he wasn't too sure that he liked his final painting,  I prefer his version of the owl so much more than my own. The thick lines and unsteady brush handling has SO much more appeal to me. What is it about children's art that is so satisfying?
Alexander's Owl

My owl

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Another Book Signing!

At the Mingei International Museum in Balboa Park on Sunday, December 18th from 12-4 p.m., I will be facilitating the December Family Day Celebration! Family Day is a wonderful opportunity for visitors to participate in a hands-on art project as well as explore the amazing exhibits at the Mingei. http://www.mingei.org

I will be helping visitors create collages- the same medium I used to illustrate my latest book, Colors of Me. The collage project is appropriate for artists of all ages and levels of experience. We will be using catalogs (all those Holiday catalogs are coming in handy this year!), colored paper, fabric and other found materials to create portraits, landscapes, patterns or whatever designs you can imagine. I will also be signing copies of Colors of Me (and juggling burning torches too if they ask).

Please come and help me make good use of the catalogs now clogging my mail box! Or check out the link below to see the book.


Friday, November 18, 2011

A Great Challenge!

During the "First Impressions" portion of the SCBWI event, "The Big Picture of LIttle Lit," three of my more recent collage illustrations were reviewed by two art directors, Scott Magoon of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books and Susan Sherman of Charlesbridge Publishing. 

They both had some very encouraging words about the images as well as constructive suggestions to improve them. 

I've attempted to make those improvements digitally as a way of testing out various solutions before pulling apart the collages to make the final art.

 The above image was seen as too cluttered with foliage and point of the illustration unclear. (By way of background, this image is one of three I created as an exercise. Each image focuses on a Viking girl who discovers a dragon's egg hatching and befriends the hatchling. There's no actual story...yet!  Also, Scott and Susan thought the twist of the blond girl's neck was too awkward.
Here I reduced the foliage around the window to focus the eye into the window. I darkened the background of the window to give more contrast to the two figures. Also, I adjusted the blond girl's arm, neck and hand to seem more natural in addition to taming down the texture in her face. I also played with the edge of the image mostly just for fun. I think I need to keep working on the revision.....there is still too much green!

They liked this image but suggested that I remove the tiny section of text visible to the right of the nest (it is the label part of the old manila folder I used in the collage). They also suggested that I tone down the figure's cheeks as they are distracting. 

Here's the revised image! I think the revisions help the viewer (or at least me) focus on the scene at hand without so much visual noise. 

Here I go a-blogging!

Welcome to my blog! My name is Annika M. Nelson and I'm an artist, illustrator and educator. I'm leery of promoting myself but recognize the need to get with the times and join the adventure. I thought it was sufficient to have a website but apparently, there's so much more artists need to do to remain relevant and on publishers' radars. If you do want to see my website, it is annikamnelson.com

Although I've illustrated seven books, I've been needing a refresher on some of the basics to strengthen my style and marketability and went last week to a very informative SCBWI event, "The Big Picture of Little Lit." It was a very worthwhile use of a Saturday.The speakers, Scott Magoon of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books and Susan Sherman of Charlesbridge Publishing among others, were encouraging, constructive and willing to share very practical advice for illustrators of every level. 

In fact, I started this blog inspired by Susan Sherman of Charlesbridge Publishing. She encouraged the illustrators present to start blogs so that art directors could have a glimpse into our process as illustrators. It is helpful for them to see how we interpret text, how we sketch, revise and produce final art. 

So here I go a-blogging and hope you come along! 

Below is a sketch for the final page of my latest book written by Brynne Barnes, 
COLORS OF ME, published this year by Sleeping Bear Press. The Art Director, Felicia Macheske urged me to pack the scene with kids holding art in the final illustration.

This is the final art. I did the main part of the illustration while my son (then 7 years old) and his friend drew the crayon drawings.  

To see the book, follow this link to COLORS OF ME's page at Sleeping Bear Press.