Many years ago I attended a conference in Findlay, Ohio at the Mazza Museum on the lovely Findlay University college campus. This museum has the largest collection of original children’s illustration in the world.
I have seen the elephant!
It is a phenomenal treat to walk into a space and see the original paintings or collages that are from your favorite children’s books. The friends you grew up with. I saw an original Beatrix Potter, Kate Greenaway, so so many treasures.
One night I joined a casual dinner at a local restaurant. There was one seat left. I knew not a soul at this event and to even attend alone was a stretch for me. As I sat down I looked around the table to find myself sitting next to Ed Emberly and across from one of the speakers. I was panicked. What was I doing here? I was a librarian from a small school in Florida who had painted for years. No credentials that made me a brilliant dinner companion.
All of my worries instantly dissolved. I had found “my tribe”! There was not an unkind word spoken. These creative gentlemen were just that.
Creative and kind.
A eureka moment!
It has taken years to wind through jobs and obligations to be full time at my drafting table and computer creating my own illustrations and books.
A month ago I sent an illustration to a Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) competition. It was to illustrate a poem called The Sneeze by Tomie Depaola. He would judge the entries. I did not win, but I put my pen to paper and created this.
Another competition sponsored by SCBWI in our Southern Breeze region I did actually win. If you are a long time reader you have seen this one.
Last year I was part of a mentorship program overseen by the brilliant Mark Braught. The assignment was a self portrait using visuals from different times, places and adding some interesting animals.
This year as the Spring Mingle conference approaches I am participating in a mentorship with the wonderfully generous Loraine Joyner from Peachtree Publishers. I am learning so much from this experience. It has been filled with experiments, research for facts and images, and putting self in chair and pencil in hand and drawing scenes from a pre-Civil War era. It is a dark time in our history, as far from my dear Melvin Fine Mouse as is possible. A stretch and a challenge I am enjoying every day.
Thank you SCBWI and the wonderful world of children’s illustration for another transformative experience.