Monday, March 26, 2012

An Illustrator's Portfolio Critique

Topic: Guidelines for preparing a portfolio.On March 31st I'll be attending the Houston Chapter of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) conference.  It will be my first time to have my portfolio critiqued and on display.  I've been setting up my portfolio for months now.  It's been quite a process. 

Above:  Illustrations for my portfolio and business cards.  The first is pencil and ink with image manipulation (GIMP).  The center illustration is a graphic illustration using GIMP.  The last is pencil and GIMP.

 How to Set Up Your Portfolio for Public Viewing and Critiques*:                                    

     1. Choose your best illustrations (those that have action or can tell a story)
     2. Scan them in
     3. Clean images up using digital software such as GIMP or Photoshop
     4. Size them correctly
     5. Print copies of these illustratons
     6. Purchase a portfolio
     7. Insert the illustrations in the best order:
           a. your best pieces go in first and last place (they make a lasting impression in these positions)
           b. select and group illustrations by story
           c. if you are STRONG in more than one style of art (ie. pencil and oil), group the styles
           d. have no more than 15 illustrations in your porfolio (Only your strongest pieces!)
           e. try to arrange it so that all illustrations are facing one way
     8. When possible, have your portfolio critiqued by your peers
          a. remove any illustrations your peers deem the weakest
          b. rescan the originals of any illustrations that need clean up (as suggested by your peers)
          c. correct and clean up all errors (digitally)
          d. print them again
     9. Make business cards (or i.e., bookmarks, postcards) to pass out at the conference.  Include:
           a. Image of book cover if published (include year) - is it a book and/or eBook?
           b. On the back side add an illustration and your name. Include whether you are an author,  
               illustrator, and/or artist. Add any important contact information ie. phone number, eMail,   
               Twitter, Website, Blog.  Are you a member of SCBWI? Put that down, too.                     
   10. At a later date, go back to your portfolio and study each copied illustration  
           a. are there any ink smudges                                                              
           b. are the colors correct                                                                            
           c. do you need to manually touch up any areas
           d. do the characters appear as you would like
   11. If you have a book dummy, you can include it with your portfolio.
   12. Make sure that as your portfolio pages are being viewed, your name and contact information can be seen with each page turn.

*Credit for much of this informaton goes to SCBWI and it's members.  SCBWI is a great organization to join. 
Do you have any other ideas on how to present an art portfolio?  You may use the comment section to help make this an informative post for all.  Thank you!                                                  

Wednesday, March 21, 2012



Writer and artist Brenda.
Never has an agenda.
For if that were so,
I'd have left long ago.

A clerihew is a poetic style that was created by  Edmund Clerihew Bentley.  It is 4 lines of humor about someone.  It is written in couplets.  The name of the person is included in the poem.  Bentley liked to place the name of the person at the end of the first verse.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Christ in the Neighborhood, Page 6

My neighborhood's Ladies' Bible Book Club has been in existance for about two months now.  It's located in my house.  The ladies knock and come in with their bibles (door is unlocked).  We sit around the dining room table.  For refreshment, there's hot tea and mixed nuts.  We laugh and share.  We take turns rereading assigned bible chapters.  Then, we talk about what insights we've gotten from reading them. 

But last week something interesting happened.

 At our meeting, one of the ladies said she wished we had a church right in our neighborhood.  I thought about her statement all week long.  You see, I've wished for a church in my neighborhood for years now.  I know what you're thinking.  Erase that! (Not a church building.)

Here's my vision of a neighborhood church:

We get to know each other - really know each other.  We become a community of believers.  Below are some examples of what might go on in a neighborhood church.

If someone needs a 20 foot ladder, or a generator, or some other sort of tool, they don't have to rent it from the local hardware store.  Church members will share what they have.

If someone needs a babysitter, or pet sitter while they're gone, church members will help out.

We could have a food coop - buy large quantities and divide it up.  This could help those who need to spend sparingly.

Our concerns would be local - prayer and action.  Do you get the idea?  We would meet to fellowship.  A Christ centered fellowship is an awesome thing to be a part of. 

Without the hierarchical structure of an institutional church, this church would embody a natural christian life.  The church would consist of families living within a 5 minute walk from each other.  This close proximity would give everyone easy access to fellowship.  Easy access would also make it easier for us to minister to one another.

A church doesn't have to meet on Sundays.  It doesn't have to meet once a week.  It does need to be filled with God's Spirit to be vibrant.  God's Spirit will help us have grace when difficult issues arise.  It will remind us to be sacrificial for his purpose.  His Spirit will keep the church alive.

Wow! How can this not be from God?  This is unity of the body with Christ as Lord.   

I'll share this vision with the ladies of the Bible Book Club and then I'll hope and pray.

Help Neighbors
photo credit:
You may say:  Wait!  How is this special?  How is it different from what a good family does for each other, or having a tight friendship between neighbors? 

It's not.  Except that it's centered on Christ.  And this will no doubt cause us to step outside of our comfort zone.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

A Review of Candlewick Press, Part I

   Candlewick Press began publishing in 1991.  According to their website, Candlewick Press is owned and operated by their employees.  They are the fastest growing and largest independent publisher in the world and produce "the highest-quality books possible".
   According to Ronda Levine, eHow Contributor, Candlewick Press publishes close to 200 books annually.  However out of 200 only ten are by author newbies.  Don't send a manuscript, send a query letter.   How to publish with Candlewick Press
   I'll be critiqueing 3 books published by Candlewick.  They are:
AMAZING MONTY by Johanna Hurwitz
MY DAD'S A BIRDMAN by David Almond

Summary:  AMAZING MONTY is about a first grader and the world he lives in.  Monty (mc) has asthma.  This is addressed in the book by the circumstances Monty is in and by his actions.  In the story, we learn Monty can't have pets with fur because of his asthma.  He is involved with losing his first tooth, acquiring 2 pet parakeets, and wondering what gift to give his not yet born baby sister.

  • Hardcover: 112 pages
  • Publisher: Candlewick; 1 edition (July 13, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0763641545
  • ISBN-13: 978-0763641542

  • Editor or Publishing Errors: NONE

    My Review:
    The story starts slow, but is interesting.  The characters are sweet.  Everyone is perfect.  The story flows smoothly, but it's too long to hold a first grader's attention.  (I fell asleep.)  I liked the illustrations by Anik McGrory. They are in black and white and have a soft delicate sense about them.
    Integrity Books for Boys
    This is another nice book from Johanna Hurwitz. Monty is certainly a character that boys can relate to and grow with especially if they too have asthma. All the adults in the book are kind and helpful. The kids are respectful to their parents and other adults.

     Kids Reads
    AMAZING MONTY is a charming entry in this early chapter book series. Author Johanna Hurwitz does a fine job of incorporating adventures to which young readers can relate...Although there are a few "awwww" moments, such as when Monty gives a gift to the impending sibling and when he meets her, the storytelling is refreshingly unsentimental. Adorable illustrations augment a thoroughly enjoyable story. Review by Terry  Miller Shannon

    Friday, March 2, 2012

    A Review of Holiday House, Part III

        I have selected 3 books published by Holiday House, Inc. from my local library. All three are fiction chapter books. The third book I am reviewing is NORA AND THE TEXAS TERROR by Judy Cox and illustrated by Amanda Haley.

    NORA AND THE TEXAS TERROR is about a girl named Nora whose family welcomes relatives to stay in her home until they find work.  Nora finds sharing her room with Ellie, the Texas terror, impossible to live with until her teacher forces Nora and Ellie to work on a project together.

    Pub Date: Oct. 15th, 2010
    ISBN: 978-0-8234-2283-8
    Page count: 96pp
    Publisher: Holiday House
      The story was entertaining.  Excellent economy of words.  The story flowed smoothly.  I also liked the illustrations by Haley.  They are in black and white and are reminiscent of Steve Bjorkman's illustrations in the original ALIENS FOR BREAKFAST.
    None. The story and illustrations were very good. 

    Publishing Errors:
    The binding was loose on a book that looked fairly new.  I was hoping the librarian would be able to glue the pages in, but she said no.  It would be discarded.  She couldn't get a replacement, because it had already been more than a year since the library had received it.  She said some publishers are trying to cut costs and so purchase cheaper glue.
    Kirkus Review 
                     ...Realistic situations coupled with modern economic problems make this a familiar story for today’s young readers. Humorous black-and-white drawings pepper the story, deepening understanding. Fans of Johanna Hurwitz and Beverly Cleary will embrace these two modern cousins. (Fiction. 6-9)
    Children's Literature
                     ...Cox does an admirable job of bringing a story about economic hard times down to kid-level by focusing on the tension that grows between Nora and her very different cousin Ellie. The situation—a windstorm, a missing little brother and a haunted house—that lead the girls to resolve their conflict with each other feels contrived and the explanation of why Nora's teacher insists that she and Ellie have the same name is unnecessarily drawn out. Overall, though, characters are engaging and this is a believable story about coping and dealing with differences during difficult financial times. The drawings are on the cartoonish side for the serious topic but perhaps this is intentional. Reviewer: Margaret Orto

    School Library Journal
                    Gr 2–3—... The slight subplots of a haunted house and an ancestor project may not be enough to hold readers' interest, though this easy chapter book does pick up in the final quarter. Cartoon illustrations don't complement the story, which is more serious than humorous. This book would be most useful as bibliotherapy for children whose families are having financial difficulties.—Kelly Roth, Bartow County Public Library, Cartersville, GA