A few notes from the SCBWI conference...
I had a terrible nightmare about a week after the conference. It was actually very lifelike because it was a revisitation of something that happened there. One of my new friends was a woman who'd worn many hats in her life, all deeply skilled and creative (can you have a skilled hat? You can certain have a creative one...) She was a former professor at the Seattle branch of my Alma Mater, so I felt very drawn to her. Anyway, right as we were leaving, we were talking to the splendid Anne Moore of Candlewick Press, and it pretty much came out that my new friend had been holding back on us--she was an incredible creature designer! Yet, she had only pastoral scenes in her portfolio. She was not quite doing what she really wanted to, and spoke as if she was attending to find out WHAT to draw. But the message of the conference was absolutely DRAW WHAT YOU LOVE. Create the stories and characters that only you can create. In my nightmare, she and I were still struggling with this. I kept trying to assure her, by which my subconscious meant I was trying to assure myself, that it was more important to do the best job of what you can do, rather than changing yourself completely in attempts to his a market. When I woke up, I was even more determined to follow through with what I had learned.
Just because some popular books have sketchy-lined french girls with skinny legs and pink cheeks doesn't mean that = children's book illustration. Likewise, just because Lane Smith draws the best demented crazy misshapen creatures doesn't mean I have to do that, either. The market is for unique styles and voices, something to appeal to many different kinds of people.
This is a piece that I did for my portfolio that I'm really in love with:
Next time I will post a bit of what I'm puzzling through in terms of 'draw what you love.' Please tell me about how you're coming to terms with this, anything you know can help!