Last month, I started a new Discord author/illustrator critique group and in our first zoom meeting, the organizer asked which illustrators influence our style. I really couldn't answer at the time because there are MANY, so I was a bit flummoxed in my response. But lucky for me Pat Cummings came to my rescue!
Pat is an author/illustrator for over 30 years and while I have never met her in person, she is often a speaker and moderator at SCBWI events.
She was moderating an illustrator panel at this year's NY Winter conference, and during the Q&A, she made a plug for Society of Illustrators magazine "The Original Art - 41st Annual Exhibition."
One of the struggles I had when I first started learning about the publishing business was how do you get your work in front of the right people? Animation for all its difficulties in getting a foot in the door, is pretty straight forward in this regard. The studios are fairly visible and they all have recruiting departments. And the recruiters go to conferences and are fairly visible. And after awhile, you don't even need recruiters; your network becomes your calling card. Everyone knows everybody at various studios, and those contacts can get your work in front of the right people. And I should mention, nepotism is alive and well in animation, but if you haven't done the work it isn't going to go much further than getting in front of those people. An added bonus is animation artists are in high demand so if you are in the biz for any amount of time, you usually hear of studios needing to hire people word of mouth.
But Kidlit publishing is a bit different. There are five major publishers but they have dozen of imprints and the art directors are all over the place. I never knew how to find the names of the people or how to even do the research to find them. I would go to conferences, and I would ask more experienced illustrators and agents this question and the answer was always -Do research and start maintaining your "list." SCBWI puts out an annual called THE BOOK that has lists of publishers and agencies, but the format might as well be spreadsheet to comb through. I think part of the reason I have been so slow to jump on the query train was because this felt like a mountain to climb and I wanted to focus on the craft aspects of picture book making.
But enter Pat Cummings and thanks to her, for introducing me to this lovely magazine. In it, they recognize the illustrators whose work really stood out for the year. But as a bonus, it lists the books and the art director, the editor and what publishing house they reside from.
So for one purchase of a measly 28 dollars, I feel a little wiser. And what a surprise! The book just so happened to feature a current batch of illustrators who I feel are informing my style and where I am heading and where I want to go with my art.
If any of my books sat next to any one of these artists on a shelf in a book store, it is just where I want to be!