In June of last year, I attended my first NJ SCBWI conference. I had never been to a children's literature conference. As an aspiring children's book illustrator, I knew it was important not to show up empty handed. I gathered some work that was remotely related to picture books, and ventured out with an open mind. I went with the intention of absorbing as much as possible. To my surprise, I was able to purchase a one-on-one with an art director. I also had a sit-down with an agent and a scout. It was more than I could've hoped for. I received critical feedback that I could build on.
|From last year's portfolio|
Shortly after that conference, I started researching more information about picture book portfolio content. I was trying to apply every rule and opinion I heard. It needed: interior, exterior, animals, children, diversity, nature, city, lighting, color, black and white, etc. My head was spinning. I wasn't thinking about my illustration. I was only thinking about a checklist. I wasn't having fun. Are those items important for a portfolio? Yes, of course, but I was going about it the wrong way. I decided to start creating new work by participating in an illustration challenge called, Inktober. If I could create 31 pen and ink illustrations in one month, I could pull from that and create finished work to put in my portfolio. I thought it would be fun way to let some ideas develop.
|From Inktober 2015|
I was able to complete the challenge, and I had a bunch of work to show for it. (click here for my inktober images) I have used those images to develop new characters, environments, and stories. Completing that challenge also put me into a mind frame to continue creating new work on a regular basis. I'm not suggesting that a challenge is the answer for everyone, but you should be having fun while you are creating. Create things that interest you. Draw in a style that you enjoy.
|From this year's portfolio|
Here we are, a little over a year later. I'm gearing up for my second conference at NJ SCBWI. I have a new portfolio of work, and a somewhat clearer view as a developing illustrator in children's literature. I know that I will continue to learn and change my portfolio, and that's a good thing. Evolution is an important part of the process. I can't wait to see where it takes me. (click here for my current portfolio)
Facebook: The Art of Mike Ciccotello