Get Ready for the Illustrator Showcase 2019

by Tania McCartney

Adults are curious creatures. 

It took me a whopping (and inexplicable) 25 years to reconnect with my childhood love of lustration. In 2014, I finally heeded the call, popped on my floral bathing cap and dived in. And oh my, the water was fine. 

Writing is my deep, deep love, but illustration has brought a whole other dimension to my work—and to my life. Ironically, the happiness it’s brought has been hard to put into words. I’m now up to my sixth illustrated work, with several more starting soon. Talk about surreal—and pure testament to the need to listen to our childhood callings.

When the AusEastNZ SCBWI team asked me to design the SCBWI Conference Illustrator Showcase for 2019, it was yet another surreal moment—struggling to connect the thought with reality. Simultaneously terrified and overrun with a glut of image ideas, I whipped out my floral bathing cap once more, gave fear the elbow, and dived in.

It’s funny when you’re enthused and invested in something—the ideas just pour from your pen, your brush, your pencil (your keyboard). The concept behind this Illustration Showcase poster is as much a mystery to me as it is to anyone else. Sure—the floral diving cap had to make an appearance, and at first, I had imagined this little poppet diving into cups of tea and swirling colour through the water with her paintbrush.

But my hand took me in a different direction (as it is often wont to do), and flowers bloomed from her paintbrush instead. Perhaps it was that almost imperceptible trace of spring that comes with August—maybe this explains the daffies? Or my recent foray into May Gibbs territory for my latest book? But bloom and blossom they did, and I’m hoping the result reflects the joy illustrators feel when they’re in full flow. When they channel ideas from above and design something from the chest area not the head area.

SCBWI illustrator showcase poster 2019-01 SMALLER copy.jpg

I created this work in watercolour, pencil and ink. The girl, the teapot and cups, and all the flowers and leaves were hand-rendered. I created dozens of separate watercolour images, scanned and finished them in Photoshop, then arranged them in Adobe Illustrator. Doing it this way allows me to change up and move the images, and adapt them to the various dimensions needed for use online.

The background is mono-printed acrylic paint, a digital gradient overlay and additional digital speckles and swirl. The butterfly is also digitally created. I drew the background shape and added a digital shadow, and the text was, of course, added digitally. For those interested in typefaces, these beaut creations are Mission Script and Franchise Bold.

What a thrill to create this poster that heralds the springlike arrival of new works by our brood of talented SCBWI illustrators. The Illustrator Showcase is a hugely popular part of the SCBWI Conference, and I can’t wait to see the treasures snuck into the pages of those delicious portfolios. Each page turn is like Christmas.

Illustrators—show those art-hungry professionals how clever you are by allowing your ideas to pour from your hand, unfettered. Let the work dictate its direction and elbow any fears aside. This is when we create our best work—when let our hearts, not our heads, do the drawing.

February 25, 2019 is very soon. Pop on your floral bathing caps and dive in.

Tania McCartney

Tania McCartney

Tania McCartney has been writing and illustrating since she was small. One day, she woke up and found herself doing it for a living. This made her very happy. Tania has now been writing professionally for 30 years, and illustrating professionally for almost five. She also engages in book editing, layout, design, typesetting and fervent consumption. Her books have won awards and shortlistings, including several CBCA notable books and the SCBWI Crystal Kite Award for Australia/New Zealand for Smile Cry. In 2017, she received the CBCA Laurie Copping Award for Distinguished Service to Children’s Literature. Tania’s books have been published in nine countries and her latest releases include World: Illustrated Map(Hardie Grant Travel) and Mamie(HarperCollins, 2018). A National Library author, a juvenile literacy champion and the founder of Kids’ Book Review and the 52-Week Illustration Challenge, Tania has lived in France, England, China. She now lives in Canberra but would really like to live inside a book.