SCBWI British Isles - Portfolio Intensive

by Liz Anelli

SCBWI British Isles - Portfolio Intensive - Friday 10th June - 13:00 – 17:00 at the House of Illustration A chance to network with agents and professionals in the children’s book industry, help target the right publisher for your work & present your portfolio and gain valuable insight and advice as to how to develop it to the make the industry sit up and take note?

A perfect English summer’s afternoon saw me dusting off my jetlag and heading for the fancy new canal-side arts complex at Granary Square, London https://www.kingscross.co.uk/granary-square new home to Central St Martins School of Art http://www.arts.ac.uk/csm/ and The House of Illustration - to take part in SCBWI British Isles Portfolio Intensive Event

Ness Wood, Art Director, David Fickling Books, www.davidficklingbooks.com Holly Tonks, Commissioning Editor, Tate, http://www.tate.org.uk/about/business-services/tate-publishing Sharon King-Chai, Art Director for Two Hoots imprint of Macmillan Children's Publishing (www.panmacmillan.com/imprint-publishers/two-hoots and Chrissie Boehm, Artful Doodlers Illustration and Design Agency www.artfuldoodlers.co.uk spent a full four hours sharing their expert advice with a room of about 20 eager illustrators.

 Sharon King-Chai critiquing a portfolio

Sharon King-Chai critiquing a portfolio

The format of small group critiques really worked for me as you could hear feedback and advice on other people’s portfolios as well as your own – rather like being a fly on the wall at a publisher’s office. There wasn’t enough time to be seen by all 4 experts but (having submitted your choice of 3 in preference order beforehand) you got a fair go. Format didn’t seem to matter too much, (printed portfolios, laptop screen shots or a bundle of sketchbook studies), it was age appropriate characters and subject content that caught the eye along with individualistic style. Some general advice was to ensure your main characters held the focus of the reader, experiment with different ways of drawing faces and to keep tonal contrasts clear. Also -  have a web presence on sites such as www.childrensillustrators.com/portfolio-directory, enter competitions and develop little stories and characters through greetings card designs. Most enlightening for me was to hear Holly Tonks explaining the refreshing angle Tate Publishing have of working directly with artists to develop picture and activity books and merchandising ideas. Being an art gallery, their focus is on visual narratives and experimentation, with text taking second place.

The publishers each have submission policies on their websites. DFB also publish a weekly story comic for children called The Phoenix https://www.thephoenixcomic.co.uk  and regularly hold ‘Master of the Ink-pot’ competitions for open submissions.

 Melany Pietersen’s portfolio

Melany Pietersen’s portfolio

Chatting with the other delegates, several had studied at the renowned Anglia Ruskin Children’s Book Illustration MA and many were from overseas. The afternoon was smoothly facilitated by SCBWI reps Trish Philips and Patrick Miller who ensured we were all happy and kept topped up with tea and biscuits.

Free entry to the beautiful exhibitions on show upstairs and the delights of an illustration-purposed gallery shop rounded off my day with just enough time to trundle my suitcase down to Kings Cross station, past Platform 9 ¾ to jump on the Cambridge train to go see my family