Thursday Afternoon

Well I’m still reeling from the launch of our new website last week.  The response has been overwhelmingly positive, and I can’t tell you how good it feels to work from this new space. The Artists are settling in as well — the site is editable and accessible to them 24 / 7 which is nothing short of amazing —  working out the kinks, uploading and editing their portfolios with notes to me along the way.  I’m loving the conversations this has opened up and the new ways in which several of the Artists are looking at –“seeing” or “perceiving” — their work.  Given a chance to show their latest and greatest illustration without overwhelming the website viewer is a challenge to be sure.  For some, it’s obvious.  For others, especially those Artists with various styles or artists who have come a long way in a short time, it takes some thought and doing.

Speaking of doing, how are those manuscripts and book dummies coming along?

Happy creating.  And happy Thursday afternoon,

 

Nicole T.

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Quoted : Book Expo America 2012

Here’s a link to a Cleveland Plain Dealer article I was quoted in over a week ago.  The article summarizes book editor, Karen Long’s, response to her experience at Book Expo America.  Karen happened to be eavesdropping on my random conversation with a grade school parent I ran into at the airport on the way home. I’m so glad Karen introduced herself!  I mean, when will I ever again be quoted in the same article as Richard Russo and Stephen Colbert?

I encourage you to read the article and note my optimism.  It’s sincere and well documented even during these summer months of 2012.  The editors I spoke with at the Expo and a full day of client visits in the city, tell me they are LOOKING for manuscripts (picture books and leveled readers in particular).  Good ones.  And those manuscripts will need illustrators if they aren’t written and illustrated by the same talent. Strong, smart, creative character sells.  Original, inspired art sells.  Good writing sells.  Good books sell.  But these things don’t appear out of nowhere.  Like a successful garden they are cultivated and nurtured, planted and pruned, and sometimes they take years to bear good fruit.  Don’t let this last part stop you.  Sit down and get to work.

Our New Website

I’m particularly excited about the new look, feel and ease-of-use of our new website.  We’ve always known that less is more, and that art speaks for itself.  This new landscape puts those maxims to work.  The platform allows artists and agent the ability to update portfolios 24/7, so we can promise an evolving, exciting destination on the web.  It’s as good as a summer vacation!  Well, almost.  Come back often and see what we’re up to!

Five Questions for T2 Artist, JANE SMITH

Continuing our T2 interview series, we recently sent five questions to the fabulous children’s author and illustrator: JANE SMITH.  Here’s what she had to say:

1.)     Jane, as a paper artist, how do you go about finding and collecting papers?  And how do you keep them organized?

I find them everywhere from my mailbox to inside my Christmas presents to my local art supply stores! My collection is a large work-in-progress. I have old pantone papers from the days of manual paste-ups. I have tons of tissue papers, salvaged from presents and packages as well as from art supply stores. I have a variety of origami papers, color-aid papers and handmade papers. I always save the colored envelopes that the numerous holiday cards I receive throughout the year arrive in. I have a stash of paper sample booklets from my days as an Art Director. And I always keep the interesting colored wrappings that bouquets of flowers come sheathed in. I have also been using quite a bit of fabric lately and love shopping for beautiful patterns at my local fabric store.

 I keep my largest sheets of paper flat and clean inside a gigantic set of metal flat files that I adore. The sheets are all organized by color, plus a drawer just for patterns. Smaller pieces of paper are sorted by color into large envelopes that are stored inside plastic bins that keep them clean and dry. I also have a big plastic bin for paper sample booklets and another one just for fabric. And since I tend to remember every single piece of paper and fabric I collect, I would say that I have mental inventory list too!

 2.)     Who and what influences your work?

 I have always been inspired by the Abstract Expressionist movement. I particularly love the work of Robert Rauschenberg, Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock, Franz Kline and Louise Nevelson (her sculpture at the Columbus Museum of Art was a favorite even as a little girl!). I often visit these artist’s works in the permanent collection at the MOCA in downtown Los Angeles.

 The DIY craft movement that has taken off in recent years also influences me. The movement swirls around the bright and colorful world of flea markets and craft fairs that are buzzing with homegrown creative energy. I can’t get enough of browsing on Etsy, and love purchasing everything from homemade pants to hand-thrown pottery to recycled glass bottle cups from individual artisans. It’s very exciting!

 I also love the following things (in no particular order) and find that they often spark new project ideas: silly words like hootenanny & philodendron, everything southwestern from cowboys to succulents to beans & rice, cupcakes, Japanese pottery, vegetarian cooking, reading crime & horror novels, Samurai Jack, hiking and Bigfoot.

 3.)     You are currently creating and fine tuning book dummies for the children’s market.  Briefly describe your process.  Is it pictures first? 

 Actually, no, it isn’t! When I’m working on a dummy book, I start with the manuscript first and like to work it until it is pretty tight (usually 10+ drafts!). Then I pace out the text by cutting and pasting the manuscript into a blank dummy. This process reveals which pages have too much text, where the page turns are working and/or not working, where the climax is hitting, etc. and then I make revisions accordingly. Only then do I start thinking about the images!

 At this point I start with thumbnails. Once I have worked out what the images need to be, how I’m going to accommodate the text and what pages are full spreads versus single pages, I start creating full-sized sketches. Like the manuscript, the sketches usually go through several round of revisions before becoming solid enough to move forward.

 Once I am satisfied with the sketches, I put everything together in InDesign. With my background designing children’s novelty books, using a professional design program to create my book dummy is a natural choice. I lay out the sketches and after spending a fair amount of time scrutinizing fonts, I make my choices for the title and body copy. Then I lay in the text. Once I feel confident about the overall book design, I print out the dummy and assemble it for submission packages to publishing clients.

 4.)     Describe your perfect Saturday night.

 It’s all about simple pleasures! My perfect Saturday night would begin with a snuggle with my 17 month old daughter, Phoebe Love, and then she’d fall asleep by 8pm. My husband, Chris, and I would order takeout from my favorite Italian restaurant: spinach & cheese ravioli with garlic cream sauce and artichoke hearts, mushrooms and shrimp. We would cozy up together and watch our favorite TV show of the moment. I would have a vanilla cupcake with vanilla frosting. And then I’d fall asleep dreaming about a squirrel selling nut-flavored ice creams.

5.)     Picture book: name your current favorite and why!

 This is so hard—I’ve got so many favorites! But if I had to just pick one…I’d say Henry In Love by Peter McCarty. This book is absolutely gorgeous! The palette is sophisticated, the use of negative space is light and refreshing and the character design is sweet, but understated. I really enjoy the gentle pace of this story and am completely won over by the darling ending sealed with a delicious muffin!

Picture by Jane Smith

“I’m Not Too Little to Help the Earth,” Illustrated by Natalia Vasquez

This is a copy of a December 5th blog post found here:

Title: I’m Not too Little to help the Earth
Author: W.Y Taylor
Illustrated: Natalia Vasquez

Ages/Grades: K-1 (5-6 Years old)

Buy it a this link:Amazon!

This is a short book for a kindergarten and first grader to read to learn about some things and actions that they can do to contribute to the improvement of the world. Kids in this grade (Kindergarten & 1st grade) sometimes see themselves as “little people” that are not as important because they do not drive a car or can speak with a firm voice. They look up to adults who are able to make a difference and role model after them. This book shows that their actions can help the earth too. The book mentions simple things like turning off the light before leaving a room, using two sides of the paper to color and draw, not always having to ask parents to buy the newest toys. This is helping them to become more independent, more mature, and more responsible for themselves as well as taking care of the earth. Recycling is mentioned several times in this short story book and they can even start to recycle. We sometimes overlook children as followers but if we show them what they can do to help out and they see it to as a result, they can soon be leaders; leading other children to do the same thing. This book doesn’t just show how children can be proactive, the kids (characters) in this book are being proactive by saving the earth one action at a time.

SJE: This book is the 6th social justice element. The children in the book do not want the world and earth to go “bad” because of all the wasting of water, paper, and electricity, so they do something about it. They put their desire into action. They turned off the water while brushing their teeth, they use two sides of the paper, and they turned off the lights before leaving the room (being proactive and putting their action to work, showing to others what they are doing so it can be spread).

Activity: After reading this book, you can discuss some ideas and make a GOALS LIST on what the kids can do at home to improve the earth. They can spread the word of recycling and conserving energy to their parents, friends, siblings, etc. By the end of the week, they can see if they can finish and complete the GOALS LIST. Also, you can introduce recycling to them and have a recycling race. Have a bunch of recycleables spread out and mixed up on the ground and they have to have a race on who can fill up the different recycleable cans the fastest (paper, glass, cans, etc)

Helpful Resources:
www.kidsplanet.org
www.kidsface.org
http://www.captainplanetfdn.org/index.html

NICOLE TUGEAU: ART AGENT Takes Your Questions

December 1st and there is snow outside my window. Fantastic!

I’m committed to re-energizing the T2 Blog in 2011 with thoughtful and relevant “blog-able” content as it pertains to art, illustration, children’s books and related technologies, the fantastic T2 Artists, and our fine and ever-changing industry. We’ll feature news on book releases, artist interviews, industry interviews, illustrating and writing tips and techniques, digital publishing, promotions and the like. Join us in this new season of awesome “blog-ability!”

To kick things off, yours truly is responding to a series of random questions – both personal and industry-related – submitted by T2 Artists and our fans and followers on Facebook (http://tiny.cc/c5003) and Twitter (@Tugeau2). Psssst: if you’re not yet following us, please take appropriate measures!

How did you come to realize that you wanted to do what you’re doing now? (Carol C.):

Carol, in the simplest terms, I lucked out and started dating an artist! Jay, my husband, was a working illustrator for children when we met back in 1997. His Mom, Chris Tugeau, was (and still is) an agent for children’s illustrators (shout out to http://www.catugeau.com). Watching Chris successfully grow her own business, seeing the fun she had going to work every day, following her into NYC for client visits, and listening to her talk about her artists and the excitement of book deals and book promotions, well, I just knew I wanted “in.” I LOVE books and people and art. And I grew up with a family-run business. So I was always sure that I’d one day own and operate my own company. I had several ideas about what that company might do (graphic design, PR, editing, sales), but back then I’d never have guessed children’s art. Learning the business happened over the course of a year or so (I say I’m STILL learning even after seven years), but it felt right from the very beginning. Chris was very generous to show me and my husband the ropes of this niche business and share a wealth of information (a career) we’re thankful for to this day.
What character from kid lit did you most identify with as a child? (Janet M.):

I have two. Ramona Quimby and Laura Ingalls. I grew up with them both and enjoyed their imaginations and resourcefulness.

What character from kid lit do you identify with today? (Janet M.)

I have three young kids, so I’m the Mom in every picture book. I yell, I say “NO!”, I teach, I give good hugs, lots of love, and big goodnight kisses. I’m even starting to look like some of these characters! Lol.

Can you describe a typical work day? (Sehee J.)

Email, email, email, email, phone call, phone call, email, email, phone call, email, email. And then I realize that it’s 3:30 and I haven’t gotten darn thing done. Seriously! I have to consciously STOP and take time to focus on contracts, business development, staying current with industry news, and upcoming projects/trips/promotions. Every day is different, really. And that’s a good thing in my book.

How can you manage all this stuff? (Sehee J.)

Ha! Yes, I have a husband, three kids, an old house, a large family, and a business. Life is very full. I get nervous when people ask me how I manage all this stuff. I’m not sure. I guess like every working Mom I rely on strategic planning, my husband, good babysitters, a caring family, coffee, and my Blackberry. And I work from home, so there is no fuss with travel, wardrobe and makeup until I hit the road for meetings and conferences.

What is the hardest part about the job, what do you struggle with? (Sehee J.)

Good question. I think the hardest thing about being an agent is that I’m so invested in this whole Team of artists. I work to make a living, and the Artists are relying on me to perform, to help them make THEIR living. It’s a lot of pressure. Sometimes I want to burrow inside my desk chair and wait for a replacement. But I’m much too tall to fit in my desk chair…or even under my desk. So I carry on. There are portfolios to share, proposals to construct, and books to be made. Let’s do this.

What are your top three indulgences? (Sehee J.)

Chocolate croissants, “coffee shop time” which is time spent alone away from my house reading and writing, and expensive face cream 

Do agents like to receive artist postcards or should I stick to ADs only on my mailing list? (Michelle H.)

I look at every postcard that comes in the mail. I enjoy them. But it is rare that I take the next step and go browsing the artist’s website. I have to look at and consider an artist’s entire body of work, and it’s rare (if even possible) for one piece of art to exude the artist’s whole offering. If you are sending postcards to me in hopes of gaining representation, it’s simply not the best course of action. Send me an email with FIVE jpgs of your best work, that’s the better route.

My line styles vary from thick to thin to non-existent as well as smooth and shaky, better to have varying styles or should I stick to one particular look? (Greg M.)

You can definitely show all of your work. You just have to be careful HOW you show it. Don’t confuse ADs and art buyers by offering them a mix of 20 images in six different styles on the front page of your website. Offer one strong, consistent, signature style to start. And show your different styles in separate galleries or separate pages, making sure that each page reflects strong, consistent work specific to your industry or one genre.

There is no absolute one way to approach this. You’re not going to please all the people all of the time. For instance, I like to see ONLY juvenile illustration work in any one portfolio or website. I just sort of sigh when I start flipping through subsequent galleries in a children’s illustrator’s website and they’ve chosen to include their fine art pieces: still lifes and portraits and mural art and the like. Other agents and ADs may appreciate seeing this side/influence of the artist. Different strokes for different folks.

I’m ALL ABOUT an artist being multi-faceted (this comes with your growth as an artist), but you have to be savvy about your presentation.

Some tips: Allow other professionals to weigh in on your presentation techniques. Don’t over-analyze. I’ve known some artists who see very small differences in their work or technique and they want to break up their portfolio. Keep it simple. Always show your best work. Eliminate pictures that are dated or lack your current confidence.

Best way for an illustrator to attract an art agent’s attention? What do you want to see in an illustrator’s portfolio? (Diana D.)

Follow the submission guidelines on a representative’s website. I’ll say it again, follow the submission guidelines on a representative’s website. Do your research, use common logic when it comes to WHERE you might fit. If you don’t show any children in your artwork, don’t contact a children’s art rep. And make a personal connection. Emails to the entire list of children’s reps are instantly deleted from my inbox. I am looking for a rich, lively, consistent portfolios that exude quality draftsmanship, an understanding of narrative scene, and original character. I also like to see diversity of mood, ethnicity, and place.

Does the challenge in finding an agent come down to uniqueness in the work? Too many illustrators and not enough differentiation? It’s hard enough for one designer/illustrator to find work, how as an agency/agent do you find work for all of your artists? Is there really that much work available out there for those with the wherewithal to find it? (Greg G.)

Lots of questions here! To start: yes and no. Yes, I like to see unique styles and new manipulation of artistic mediums. Creativity abounds in this industry, and I feel honored when I’m forced to stop and take notice of stand-out work. But I always have to feel confident that I’ll be able to sell the work and cultivate an exciting working relationship with any one Artist and her portfolio. A couple of years ago I was introduced to this fantastic sculptor who was creating and designing beautiful clay worlds intended for children’s picture book. As wildly fantastic and original as the characters and settings were (and I was very attracted to them), I simply couldn’t invest in this artist and her work. For one, the sculpture was intricate and time-consuming. Too time-consuming to keep up with today’s often rigorous picture book deadlines. And what publisher could pay her enough? Labor of love is one thing, but who can afford to lose money on their art? Call it short-sighted, but I didn’t see a long and healthy publishing career with this particular artist. One does run the risk of perhaps being ‘too unique’ for our industry or more of a ‘fine artist’ than ‘illustrator.’ I believe that if an artist, any artist, is devout in their desire to work for the children’s market that they will find their place. It may not be mainstream, and it may not be through 20 or 30 books, and it may not be WITH an agent, but they will find it.

Agents like to see original artists with a certain amount of versatility. One big versatile facet (but not ALWAYS necessary) is the ability to work for trade book publishers AND make art for educational products and programs. Two different balls of wax, but experienced artists do this all the time. Knowing the difference, understanding the difference, and showing the difference between trade and educational work in your portfolio is the key.

In terms of work, sure, there is a lot to go around. But it IS competitive. And I don’t think it will come as a big surprise to know that not all of our represented artists are working all of the time.

What can artists do to make an agent’s job easier? What’s the best way for us to be prepared for upcoming jobs? (mh_Illustration)

This is nice of you to ask! Stay in touch with your rep. Make him or her aware of your time away from the studio and let them know how this will (or will not) affect your availability. Check your emails and your phone messages regularly. Continue to hone your craft even in down time (one of the hardest things to do, especially for established artists, but it never hurts). And always meet your deadlines!

What is your opinion on spec work? Times seem hard now. Is it so hard that artists should consider spec work an option? (Wilson W.)

Well, the business side of me says you have to spend money to make money. But work on spec, because it’s for the eyes of only one client or one publisher (and something you might not be able to use or want to use for self-promotion down the road) is a bit tricky. Tread carefully, but don’t scoff at it. Step back and evaluate the big picture.

Say a senior editor or AD from a well-known book publisher asks you to create a color piece because they want to see how you’ll handle a particular character or instance in the book. If you have the time, ask for $200 and do it. Just do it. It gives you a direct connection to the industry and a chance to show off your work.

If a small publisher asks for the same thing but can’t pay, ask a few probing questions. How many people are they trying out for the work? What does the book project look like if I’m selected (scope of the book, what is the schedule, etc.)? Then ask yourself if you have time for work on spec. If you’re gainfully employed and rather not stay up to 2am to compete against 12 other illustrators trying out for the same job, then gracefully decline the offer. If you have a good chance of making the cut and you need the job, go for it! What do you have to lose?

If a self-publisher with a modest budget and no money for work on spec is dangling a potential book deal in front of you but insists on seeing their character on the page, I’d walk away. Keep a good business sense as you navigate work on spec. For me, it’s proven to be a good step for some projects as we get the right artist in the driver’s seat from the get-go. And there have been other times when I’ve felt a little taken advantage of, the $200 maybe wasn’t worth the back-and-forth and long wait periods.

It seems that traditional publishing is taking a hard hit from the current economy and progressive media trends. I see a lot more projects that are self published or designed specifically for electronic mediums, e-books and things of that nature. I also see a number of great publishers who have closed their doors (Tricycle Press comes to mind). While this may be opening opportunities for those who can’t find traditional publishers to back their work, it also opens the flood gates for a lot of mediocre material. As an agent, how do you navigate this changing environment? Are there certain types of projects that even though they are rising in popularity, you just won’t be involved in or endorse? On the same note, are there trends rising that you are seeking out with enthusiasm for the promise and excitement they give you? (Wilson W.)

I could write a small book on these very good questions. And I think I’d need another day or two to give a well-researched and thoughtful response. But I’m committed to answering your questions and I will do my best! Times they are a changin’ indeed. Right now, at this very moment, I’m feeling cautiously optimistic. We’ve had a tough couple of years in children’s publishing. Fewer and fewer picture books are getting made. School budgets are down making educational programs, illustrated programs that used to employ 100’s of artists at a time are today smaller with less illustrative needs than I’ve ever seen. We’re working harder and doing more…for less.

That said, books are still getting made. Good books are still getting made. New school programs are being tested and going into production. There is work out there. Work for writers AND illustrators. It’s just not as abundant as we’d like. I’m not in a position to comment on quality as I’m not sure budgets and numbers and use of a variety of illustrators is the best gage for quality. But I do know it’s a darn shame that small boutique publishers, vibrant and original publishers like Tricycle have to close as a result of…what…economic downturn, new technologies, priorities in the wrong place? I’m not absolutely sure to be honest.

I give credit to self-starters who are either self-publishing or working day and night to find footing for their small publishing houses. It’s in these down times that entrepreneurs rise to the top, innovate, and succeed in giving the world something new, something great. I suppose I have to trust that discerning consumers of children’s materials will demand quality books and related products. And that includes quality artwork. The disconnect here is that the illustration budgets for these books and products are always the first to get cut! I continue to advocate for fair pricing, educating book publishers and self publishers on the importance of using professional artists. They don’t always want to hear me!

I’m navigating carefully, doing my research, making sure the contracts with any new publisher or new venture are sound, and that our represented illustrators are getting paid as close to industry standard as possible. I am embracing ‘new’ and listening. I’m working hard to keep up with these new opportunities for illustrators specifically in the realm of apps and ebooks. We’re currently working with two media production companies that are devoted to these platforms. I’ll let you know how that goes! But I’m holding on very tight to our traditional book and educational publishers as I continue to actively agent portfolios and book dummies.

***

Phew! That was a giant blog! Go big or go home, right? Can you tell it’s football season in Ohio? I look forward to responding to your questions again soon. Check back for more exciting posts!

A Note

Hi.  I’ve had several emails come in referencing my recent post entitled, “Something For Your Pocket?” (June) 

 

One comment in particular seemed to be the catalyst:

 

“…the Publisher I was speaking with went on about how it would take innovation and creativity on behalf of the book publishers to look for and create books that ‘make sense’ in the current market.  Books, perhaps, that could work on many different levels – interfacing with web platforms and social networks, for instance.  And, yes, these sorts of books just might call for an illustrator(s) that have experience in all areas of this ‘interface.’  Illustrators for these concepts are likely to require not only digital submissions but vector art creation, basic knowledge of web development, animation, etc.  Are you all ready for that?”

 

Me again. 

 

The emails I received were in sharp response to this suggestion. 

 

“What does that mean for me, children’s book illustrator with no digital aptitude whatsoever?”  

“I’m concerned!” 

“This is very depressing!”

 

So we’re clear, I do not believe that this will happen overnight.  I do not believe that multi-platform books/networks will ‘take over’ the children’s industry just as I don’t believe that Kindles or Sony Readers will significantly hurt book sales in our children’s market.  Bookmakers simply want to be a part of this emerging genre.  They want to be on the front lines of something new and exciting.  One or two popular books in this genre could mean big earnings for a mid-sized publisher, so they have to entertain the ideas and plans and ideas into motion.  

 

Just the other day, my husband was speaking with a senior editor who thought it was high time for a resurgence of children’s book classics – Three Pigs and Billy Goats, for instance.  Our industry has strayed far away from ‘classic.’  Kids need modern tellings of these old tales. 

So don’t despair, just be aware!  And embrace what’s new as you find your path in this industry. 

Thank you!

 

NT