Transitions…..

Burris Girl Skip

by Priscilla Burris…. jumping in to the future with both feet!

SUMMER is fully and firmly in the NE finally, and as my husband and i prepare to leave for island adventures, I’ve been thinking again of transitions.   LIFE is one big transition…things do NOT remain the same for long.  None the less, change does bring both possibilities and challenges.  I’ve been going through several transitions the past couple of years, and one of those is my professional movement to ‘semi’-retirement.  Further, this has caused changes then for several of my older valued artists as the agency and our markets have necessarily changed and transitioned as well.

Occasionally, it comes time to release a long time artist…their style just isn’t feeling ‘today’ after many years….and that is never easy!  We bond in this industry!  Or a newer artist just isn’t ‘selling’ like we’d hoped. One has to study what is being published and sold and try to flexibly keep pace. Artists and Agents must be pro-active.

A business truth about agencies and publishers – we all need to change, to let old styles go and take on new styles to keep INTEREST in the agency group high and current.  To stay smaller and ‘hands on’ as we like, we have to release some artists to make room for others.  SO HARD but a fact.  If an artist isn’t adding TO this endeavor of making our agency vital and current, then they are taking FROM it.  It isn’t personal!  But of course with a ‘tight’ group as we’ve always been, it will feel personal.  It is however BUSINESS.  If we are not vital we are not doing our JOB for any of our artist group.

Speaking personally again, I am generally very comfortable with my transitioning into managing only a few projects over the next year or so, and being in a ‘supportive’ role with my duties.  I still have a wealth of information to share (and Christy kindly acknowledges and allows that sharing!) but my my current market information has big holes in it! I haven’t run around NYC etc. in 5 years now, and it shows!   Fortunately for us all, Christy has the energy, enthusiasm and more necessary! She has been  making the agency her own, and I am so grateful.  It’s been the perfect time to transition.

As for me and my dear artists of the past- at times change, especially sudden changes, can be a bit unsettling, to say the least!  Remember though….transitions are FROM something INTO something else.  It’s a time for reappraisal and a re-plan of attainable goals in the future.  In previous posts I have talked about the “BUSINESS OF ART” and those two are important (yearly!) activities for ALL to do when you are a professional.  When a big transition happens, planned or not, like health, life situations, or losing (or gaining) a professional connection, this introspection of ones creative abilities and business plan is vital!  It’s a time for growth and renewal.  A rest period to catch one’s breath is a good idea. Look around.  Study markets, agencies, or areas of interest. Take another breath….honestly and brutally assess your style and what you might have to offer TODAY, and to whom.  Renew your energy for something new.  Find the positive and align with that and jump back in…perhaps in a new pond!?  Transitions of all sorts take time, even if they often do happen abruptly.

That IS what life itself really is….movement, change, growth, adjusting, accepting. Aren’t we grateful for that, and for our human tendency to move toward whatever that might be with hope and promise!

HAPPY SUMMER ALL!   vdaypbarton

from Patrice Barton…. me! ok I might have taken about 70 years off, but…..

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Invite the viewer INTO your art!

I just finished listening with such delight my daughter’s recent Nebraska SCBWI webinar !  She critiqued 15 brave artists’ work live … one of the best all over learning opportunities ever for everyone listening! I remember when (before internet etc.) I did one of the very first of these live with two AD’s at a SCBWI conference (NE perhaps?) so many years ago, with participants images projected up on a screen and having to immediately respond and critique them. What a challenge….and what a blast!

Christy’s webinar was an over two hour presentation! (we CAT’s can talk!) and just wonderful to listen to.  It’s a closed paid-for crit event so we can’t share…but she’s done others like this, and I encourage artists to try and participate if the opportunity comes up.  Just wonderful…..

I can share a couple snap shots of Christy however….. priceless!

After listening to her presentation, which was quite intensive and inclusive, I did think of a couple of areas that are due repeating here.  One was the reminder to the artists about their choices of portfolio/website images … you want to SHOW not TELL what you can do, and how consistently you can do it!  Christy consistently mentioned kids, of all ages and types and shapes, adults and animals all interacting IN A NARRATIVE, sequentially.  Not just stand alones. SHOW a story with character development and changes of expressions and scenes and perspectives.  She mentioned this oh so often!  And if you want to get HIRED to do PICTURE BOOKS then you MUST show this!

One seemingly small tidbit I DID want to expand on is about LETTING THE VIEWER INTO YOUR IMAGE/NARRATIVE.  Christy alluded to this a bit when talking about the occasional need to add a bit of background, or a bit more detail suggestion to better place the characters IN THEIR WORLD.  I’d like suggest that artists make a point to actually INVITE the viewer into this world. Not to always ‘present’ a stage production, or a ‘snapshot’ to viewers, but to actually allow a way visually for the viewer (child, parent, agent, buyer) to enter into this world you are creating.

An artist does this inviting consciously and unconsciously by using the basic  ELEMENTS of DRAWING/PAINTING:  line, tone, shape, size, placement (composition) and color, contrast and texture (stroke).  With these elements an artist brings to life a new, intact world of their own for the characters.  To make a story more engaging and personal for the reader and viewer, we want them to actually visually enter this world.  It can be as simple as changing the perspective of the image so the viewer is thrown out of ‘their seat.’  Make it from above, or below, or so close up the viewer IS on stage! Maybe so far back the viewer is part of the atmosphere of this world.  Or open up a path into the image the way fine artists have always done ….using the space in a subtle triangle, or an actual ‘path’ or an ‘s’ curve, or a diagonal shape one’s eye has to follow.  Using light sources dramatically can also pop a viewer into the focus of the image and then, once in, the eye can leisurely travel around taking in so much more.  That doesn’t mean complicating the image.  It can be done very very simply.  I have often thought of these elements as the keys to the ‘Hidden Messages’ that each image can hold and bring strength to a story.  These Hidden Messages, using these basic elements of art, create heighten action, emotions, energy, story flow itself….as the artist leads or directs the viewer in all these ways.  This is a lasting sort of effect on the viewer too….hopefully inviting him to return to this story world! Revisits are an end prize we all wish for.  A loved book/story revisited over and over.  Go ahead….learn to invite them IN!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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“You Do NOT need an Agent….”

BURRIS CAT  Burris

Well isn’t this Agent CAT looking smug!?  And what is with that title?

At the beginning of May, Christy and I attended the Springfield, MA NESCBWI Spring conference where we did MANY portfolio reviews and duel presented a ‘class’ on Portfolios…. what to pack, and what not!  We had a marvelous time there, meeting new people and reconnecting with others from our past (mostly my past, but she’s fast catching up and ahead!!)  One of these was an artist I had remembered from a review of his portfolio a couple of years ago. He nicely came up to say hello and reminded me of this (I did remember his work!) and then asked me if I remembered what I’d said to him.  gulp.  I see and meet with a LOT of artists, and say a LOT of things ….so, NO….I didn’t…. but I was sure he did remember… and would tell me.!

“You told me I didn’t need a Rep!”   then silence.   Gulp again.  Now, this statement is not surprising, I’ve given many presentations over the years about agenting and how, when or IF you should try for an agent. When I meet to review an artist portfolio that I know isn’t right for OUR agency, but is ready for an agent, I will often state that and suggest they begin their search.  (I don’t too often recommend agents because it is such a personal journey and match….only the artist with the agents can travel that journey.) So the statement wasn’t surprising, but somehow the tone was…. I wasn’t sure if he was happy, insulted, surprised, disappointed, etc. etc.  I didn’t know how to respond as there were other people around and we didn’t have time to delve back into the meaning I might have given that statement a couple of years ago.  BUT I HAVEN’T BEEN ABLE TO FORGET THIS!

So I want to chat more on NOT NEEDING AN AGENT.  This is a very giving, sharing industry.  It is still possible, though difficult I know, to represent yourself as an artist.  I do encourage a bit of that in the beginning so an artist becomes familiar with the industry standards, its wonderful people a bit, and the challenges repping yourself might bring.  If then, an artist feels they want help, and are willing to pay a commission for this help (it varies widely folks…ask!!),  and have a portfolio, on-line and physical, that is near perfect and ready to present, then begin your search!  It’s wonderful to be part of an agency of artists!  Ours is rather like a supportive family these days.  Others are not so ‘hands on’ and that might be just the right mix for you!  It can be harder to find an agent than a publisher at times.  There aren’t a LOT of us, and we do fill up now and then.  But being with an agent makes you less isolated with your art and ideally more connected in and with YOUR industry. It can help you keep on your career track as well.

I mentioned that I do remember this artists style and work.  He is hard working and professional in his approach and I felt ready for an agent’s input and help I think….but he also seemed very connected, good at working a connection, involved and engaged.  His was not a style we were looking to add to our agency, so I suspect what I’d meant by that statement was that HE could AGENT himself, if he wished, as he also looked for an agent.  He was capable and almost ready.  So he didn’t NEED an agent, even if he wanted one.  I’m unclear still if he did want one, but that doesn’t matter.  The point is, he, and other artists, don’t NEED (as in MUST HAVE) to have an agent.  Self agenting can be very effective. Frankly, save a day a week for this task….change ‘hats’ on that day. PROMOTE! order postcards and send them out, do business, organize ‘office’, read contracts, check royalties, reach out to former contacts. It’s an eye opener, and very healthy to do this!  I have written many articles about Agenting over the years…some are attached to this blog, and some I believe are still in the SCBWI THE BOOK in the artist information section.  I hope you (and he) might try to find those and other articles about agenting….how it works and doesn’t.  It IS helpful.  But no, you do NOT ABSOLUTELY NEED TO HAVE AN AGENT.   there…. I feel better!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Spring tips !

WELL WELL….it looks like maybe Spring might be actually sprung here in CT finally.  Every year…. why am I still surprised each year!!  I feel like I’ve  crawled out from under a ‘rock’ and back in the creative swing! How about you?

Christy and I had the privilege and fun of presenting at the NE SCBWI Spring  Conference in Springfield MA earlier this month. (Christy will be at the NJ conference first weekend of June as well! )  What fun we had doing a presentation together on Portfolios...What to pack essentially in your bag for the trip down their theme the Yellow Brick Road.  We almost did a song and dance routine…..but wisely thought better of it.

I did want to share a couple of the key points that might help other artists refresh or rethink their portfolios….and their work in general that they wish to present on-line (A WEBSITE!) and in a ‘book,’ physical portfolio for visits and conference reviews.  We did 24 portfolio reviews between us on Sat. and often it was the same hints we shared with artists over and over.  We’d entitled our presentation “Character, Expression and Narrative…OH MY!” I thought that was a HUGE hint as to what we’d be looking for…. but the call to DO MORE with all three was almost a constant.  So I expect it might be with other artists’ portfolios. So here goes….and write me if you have questions….

I think a short hint I mentioned at the beginning of our presentation says it all:  THIS IS A BUSINESS!  So you have to think about WHAT you are presenting, and TO WHOM you are presenting, and TO WHAT END- WHY? (hoped for result)

The WHAT you are presenting is your work…your style…your talents…your capabilities… YOU.  You might only have this one chance to make a GREAT impression! (or not so great)  Remember that!  Only put in/up your best and strongest work. Show as much diversity of character, expression and narrative as possible in 10-15 ish samples.  Show them how you THINK by showing a couple of story sequential scenes with the same characters interacting.  Show them lots of your characters, and how well you can show their emotions and growth even.  How else can they tell?  It’s SHOW- not TELL. That segues into the TO WHOM you are presenting.

Or maybe I should tackle TO WHAT END or WHY first …. that has to be clear to YOU before you think about the TO WHOM. Assumably you want to be hired by a publisher…picture book, board books, educational products, covers, magazines, etc. in the CHILDREN’S market.  You’d be surprised how many portfolios we see with NO KIDS!  hmmmm  Now there are some genre’s that maybe don’t require kids all that much, but it does seem rather expected that you can draw and paint them.  So don’t shy away. If you don’t do them well so you always do animals…think of kids AS animals and tackles them the  same way you do the cute fuzzy ones.  If kids aren’t depicted, buyers assume you can’t DO kids and thus your range of possible interest/ jobs is made much more narrow. If you want to BE HIRED, show them what they WANT and need.

Now back TO WHOM you are presenting to online or at a conference or visit. Buyers, editors and art directors and designers, are looking for talent.  They NEED talent…and new talent often.  But they are very very busy, and understaffed and on deadlines.  Time and ease is very important . Make their job easy.  Keep your website or ‘book’ simple and clean and easy to manuver.  No gimmicks, just great art exhibited in a way they can ‘see’ what you might do for them.  That is the confidence you need to give them with your professional quality choices for your portfolio.  You’ve only a moment or so to do it too!  Keep that person who might be looking at your work in mind.  Do your homework, study their other books.  Then study the artists who are being hired.  Analyze WHY they are being hired: their color, artistic technique, character development, compositions.  Figure it out…not to copy (always be careful to NOT plagiarizing!) but to use what you’ve learned in your own way.

Keep these hints about what, to whom, and why in mind while refreshing your work and portfolios  this spring and summer. Make it easier for buyers to hire YOU… and that IS the point of this journey of illustration…OH MY!!

(Chris@catugeau.com)

and from Anait Semirdzhyan…. CAT lovin’S Anait love

Posted in artist information, Artists Q&A, Children's Publishing Art, industry tips, marketing and promotion, Portfolios, Promotioinal tips, scbwi, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

I hate to admit it, but I’m newly in FL trying to get warm! (nice to be semi-retired!) They promise the wind will calm and the sun will stay out better starting tomorrow. Still warmer than CT!!!   SO…..

I have a little time to BRAG about some of the CAT artists! always good!….

This first is fun!!:  Patrice Bartons book REMARKABLY YOU has quite an honor. HC is partnering with Pizza Hut’s BOOK IT! Give me 20! reading program from March 18-April 10th to reach over 10,000 teachers to read every day to their students!!  What a perfect book  for this idea too…..  https://www.bookitprogram.com/programs/give-me-20

The marvelous non-fiction book THIRTY MINUETS OVER OREGON, illustrated by our Melissa Iwai (author Nobleman) has a couple more notices = It WON The Colonial Dames of America Young Readers Book Award!!             AND it also was a 2018 Freeman Bk Award for Children and YA lit. on East and Southeast Asia Honor Book!!! Quite the surprise story to even Oregonians!

HELLO SCHOOL, written and illustrated by our amazing Priscilla Burris has just been picked up by Scholastic for their book clubs and fairs too.  So the book is really going to SCHOOL!!!

Logan Cat logo

this was a fun logo idea from Laura Logan when we were updating our logo cat a bit two years ago.  I felt the attitude really feels like a ‘bragging cat.’

 

 

 

 

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Critiques, and growth, can be hard!

I was reminded recently how painful critiques can be!  I was talking with one of our agency artists about the ‘stuck’ feeling she’d been having recently. She was doing JUST the right thing and asking us and other industry professionals for portfolio critiques to help her see more clearly where she WAS now, and how she might get where she WANTS to be.  One does lose perspective and clarity on ones own work. We’re often too close! She has paying work, and a style we obviously enjoy….but she’d like to move more into the illusive ‘trade picture book look.’ There are no easy answers or directions for that non-distinct destination! It’s very individual, and to be honest, only the ARTIST can find the way there.  But then it’s ‘The Industry’ that decides if the artist has ‘made it.’ Remember, it is a moving target...always changing…thankfully.  If it’s not YOUR year, maybe the next will be.

It is possible however to critique and give some thoughtful pointers….things we’ve noticed, directions the market seems to be moving, suggestions about possible changes IF that’s what the artist truly wishes.  I started by sharing with her a couple of stories from other of our now successful trade agency artists. (family is always fair game!)   Many of their stories were and are a zig zag of fortuitous happenings!  NOT a straight line to success. Even those who SEEM to have lucked out with an initial HIT to the top, often then have to regroup and rethink.  That can be harder …having known easier success! It’s the nature of the always changing business! She seemed to enjoy these stories…made the struggle more real, even though the stories weren’t hers.  She believe she took something from each.

After we finished our hour chat, she mentioned that this critique had been painless and helpful.  I DO hope so of course, but I asked her why particularly. (always looking to improve!)  She told me that my critique, as well as the other two she’d recently had, were NOT ‘painful  or discouraging.’  This interested me as I would think ALL critique givers would strive to be encouraging and productive! But I too have had one or two of the ‘painful’ types.  You feel stripped, naked, bruised and left unsure of the will and justification to go on!  The opposite of what most critique givers would want for you.

I think the generalizing of ‘the struggle’ by sharing others specific stories helped her see that it IS a shared journey, not a lonely personal struggle.  Each story is unique and ongoing, but we all follow similar overall paths – growing, learning, discovering, re-learning, experiencing, pushing ourselves, re-learning. Studying trends and other artists we admire (and feel might be of interest in TODAY’S selling market!) is all good for us. Don’t mimic to own, but DO borrow to play! We want to be true to ourselves and our styles at the same time that we stretch. Stir it up with new materials, approaches, colors, methods, but one generally can’t quite help being ‘YOURSELF’.  Thank heavens! That uniqueness is the spice and fun in all art forms, but in children’s book illustration particularly perhaps.  We bring something NO ONE ELSE can bring ultimately.  The sense of PLAY and FUN and experimentation should always be part of our illustrations because they are for CHILDREN, and the ‘child-like’.  This is their life! Play and learning and experimentation as they try to figure out the world around them.

Critiques then can always help an artist SEE freshly.  I truly do not feel they should be painful….though seeing oneself more clearly can often be hard work! I too  have seen portfolios where my first inclination might be to suggest another field altogether!  But the recipient should NEVER feel like they have been ‘slapped in the face’.  They are laying themselves bare, and we CAN help them redirect if need be in a positive, productive manner.  If you are given a ‘slap in the face’… well, I’d suggest standing up and walking away….as fast as possible!  Run! and then take a deep breath and begin ‘playing’ again!! (A slap in the face generally says more about the critic than the critiqued!) 

As I have said so many many times in my 25+ years, (thanks to an art director many years ago) – Three things are essential: Good Drawing, Good Color (and that might be no color!), and Good Composition! These are the basis for any successful outcome. The solid ground for your castle building! Even in abstract work! It ‘works’ or it doesn’t.  Then the artist builds on top of these basics and creates something new!  HAPPY CREATING!!

CAT 25 year banner

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catch up brags!

Yesterday I posted a ‘brag’ about one of our artists, Nicole Tadgell, (‘Out of this World’)….. but then realized I hadn’t really said HAPPY NEW YEAR!!  and I certainly DO wish you all a great 2019!!

It’ll bring it’s challenges…. many of us may have already been hit with some. But isn’t that the way?  just another year full of surprises….good and not so good.  But FULL of stories!   let’s tell and show our stories with joy! 😉

I also realized I had lots more artists to brag about! Many we can’t yet, (darn!) but we WILL!  keep watching on our FB and  Blog here. Let me get to some recent nice reviews and awards…..

Melissa IwaiTHIRTY MINUTES OVER OREGON from Clarion – illustrated Iwai: Jr Library Orbis Pictus Honor Book for 2019 and a Guild Selection for TX Topaz Reading list for 2019 as well.  (SUCH an interesting, surprising WWII story!)      ALSO: Mr. Schu and Colby Sharp’s Blog “Best of the year list #12 non-fiction!!

Patrice Barton – 12/14 PW Review of REMARKABLY YOU, written by Pat Zietlow Miller and illustrated Barton from HarperCollins, was SO lovely! Kudo’s on a ‘remarkable’ book!

Nina MataSHE’S GOT THIS! illustrated by Mata, written by Laurie Hernandez from HC – 8th on the New York Times Best Seller List!  Such a strong girl story -They GOT this! 😉

Priscilla Burris – The cover reveal for FEAR THE BUNNY by Richard T. Morris and illustrated by our Priscilla Burris included this wonderful line – “ this book might ‘cute you to death’ but it’s faultless and funny!!”  BEAT THAT!!  and it comes out 2/5 from Simon & Schuster!  GET THAT!

Nicole Tadgell – had to mention Booklist gave raves end of last year to FOLLOW ME DOWN TO NICODEMUS TOWN illustrated by Tadgell and from Albert Whitman. Another great story about something most of us knew nothing about!

I’ve missed a lot I’m sure, but so proud of our agency artists!!  Will try to be better with this, but our Facebook Page has loads too!  Do follow us there as well…..www.catagencyinc.com

Good place to announce our YEAR LONG celebration of the AGENCY’S 25th Birthday!  May 2019 bring loads of good reviews, honors, great mentions, and personal successes to each and every one of our followers!

from our artist Ana Ochoa….digging for new stories???

ochoa 2019 newyear

 

 

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