Right around this time last year, I attended a Creative Mornings SF session that invited audience members to reflect on creative lessons learned and goals posed for the year ahead (2013). I'm not a fan of public speaking so, naturally, my fingers were crossed that I would not have to get in front of that room. Three groups of three attendees' names were randomly pulled from a hat and, surprise surprise, my name was among them. Ugh. To add to my intimidation, Lisa Congdon was sitting in the front row. Like me, Lisa is a self-taught Bay Area illustrator who realized well after college that she wanted to pursue an art career. Other than the fact that we are both obsessed with Iceland, that's probably where our similarities end. She's worked with major clients that many of us only dream of, has multiple book projects to her credit, runs a thriving Etsy shop, undertakes fine art projects and exhibits in galleries. (Here's a really cool short film about Lisa.) She's rad. Needless to say, I was nervous.
My group was last to speak; we were invited to discuss our visions and hopes for the future (more specifically, for 2013). When the mic was handed to me, I started jabbering about how I intended to do a children's book in the new year. I didn't actually have a concrete plan or apparent opportunity to do a children's book, but it's been my primary illustration goal all along, so those were the words that tumbled out of my mouth.
In the summer, I attended the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators conference in LA. It was hugely overwhelming and inspiring. I participated in the Illustrator Intensive, Portfolio Showcase, and had a consultation with Mela Bolinao of MB Artists, the agency that represents one of my favorite children's book illustrators, Jannie Ho. (I also attended workshops put on by Jannie herself!) I came home motivated and excited but also with a sense of how massive the crowd of talent aiming to work in children's books is, how talented these people are, and how limited the opportunities seem to be.
A few weeks after the conference, as I was contemplating how presumptuous it was for me to get in front of that Creative Mornings crowd and announce that I'd be doing a kid's book before year's end, I received an email from an illustration manager at Teacher Created Materials, an educational publisher. He found my work at SCBWI and asked me to create a series of board games for elementary-aged children. Fun! For me, children's toys, games, activities & novelty products are second only to children's books on my illustration project dream project list. And I love projects with an educational bent. So I spent a few weeks creating the first children's products to bear my name. Here's one of the board games, called Under the Sea, and a detail shot.