Monday, April 2, 2012

Director of Art Answers Questions For Illustrators

My portfolio critique was with Susan Sherman (very kind and approachable), Director of Art at Charlesbridge Publishing.  When we spoke, I mentioned that some of the illustrators in my “12x12 in 2012” had questions for her and if she minded my asking her these questions.  She knew about the “12x12 in 2012” FB group (Yeah!) and was pleasantly surprised that I would ask questions for the group.  She asked how this came about.  I explained that I’d sought their help, because I thought many heads were better than one.  She chuckled and agreed. 
Below are the questions that some of the 12x12ers asked with answers by Sherman. 
Julie RZ What are the priorities of what a publisher is looking for in an illustrator: idea/concept (using their brain) , composition (most important), execution, drawing abilities vs. coloring (medium) skills?

All of them, but she looks to see which illustrators have the smarts (brains) to see the very best illustrations when they read pure story text.  She considers composition to be the most important when looking at an illustrator’s work.

Julie RZHow do they match writers with illustrators? LouiseN How do you (or do you) keep in contact with illustrators you like and might want to use for future projects?

They have many file drawers filled with  illustrators and their examples.  She says that she can find many illustrators with the style of art they are looking for to illustrate a particular book, but Sherman says she searches and looks for “the illustrators with brains”.  The ones that can look at the story and see the very best way in which to illustrate it.  So, she is very interested in looking at illustrator blogs to see what illustrators are thinking.

Julie RZHow do they search for illustrators, or do they just wait for submissions?  How do they prefer to view the work, what are they expecting as far as online presence?

Sherman can find illustrators at places like conferences, she looks at illustrator blogs, and she likes to receive 1 or 2 illustrations through e-mail or via postcard (one illustration on each side is the maximum). She says send your postcard or email illustrations 3 times a year (no more).  Make sure to have your contact information.  Include your website/blog.

LouiseN Would you prefer to receive a picture postcard to an email picture? 

Either is good, but she likes email pictures best (with contact informaton).

LouiseN Would you prefer a copy of a work or an original postcard made just for you? 
This question was not asked because from her previous answers I believe she would like illustration copies on postcards best.

Alison KH How many samples do you like to see on a postcard? 

One or two at the most.  If two, one on each side.

Alison KH Do you want b/w and color?

It depends on the illustrator’s style.

(FYI:I asked Sherman many more questions and took lots of notes when she spoke at the conference. If you're interested in reading more, I’ll be announcing that post ASAP!)


  1. Thanks for sharing this great info! It was nice of Ms Sherman to answer your questions so clearly. I'd definitely like to hear the other things she talked about also! :)

  2. Great Jill. I'll I'm glad her info can help. :)

  3. Thank you! I am also surprised both by her knowing about the 12x12 as well as you asking for us! NOW... how did 'your' critique go? Did she like all your stuff or pick out one or two that she wanted copies of? Did she say anything about your style? How long did your critique last? and thank you again!

  4. Thanks so much for sharing all this Brenda! Can't wait for your follow-up posts! It's nice to hear 12x12 is something an art director has heard about! And ditto Louise's questions! I have long wondered about AD's looking for more meat in the concept! I have seen more than a few superbly skilled illustrations in PBs that somehow 'missed the point'. Again, thanks for sharing the feedback and the chance to ask questions! Big hug!

    1. I'm glad her answers were helpful to you, too. I think that if we all share what's fresh and constructive from the publishing world, we'll be leaping forwatds in our field. Love that Big hug. :)