Get OUT this spring…..

Here in Williamsburg VA it’s almost summer ….very warm and intensely sunny, with those evening thunderstorms and occasional ‘light shows’ that still excite my New England senses.  I’m drawn outside a lot….hard to work inside.  THAT IS A GOOD THING!

I want to encourage you all to leave your computers, social media, even your drawing tables, and go outside.  Take a sketch book and a pen…maybe one that will bleed with a bit of spit for tones, and just LOOK and DRAW fast.  It’s marvelous.  This might sound ‘Old Fashioned’ but it works to open the mind and renew the senses.  Giuseppe Castellano, AD of Grosset and Dunlap, and ‘The Illustration Department’ blog,  recently wrote about the importance of disconnecting from all devices and social media when an artist.  (a human!) “Find the empty spaces between the busy spaces…”  Love that.  The negative spaces…the rests for the eye and mind.

We need to play just for the sake of playing.  It helps an artist SEE freshly.  When we openly really look, we tend to find.  We sort of beckon things to ourselves. Surprises happen.  Lessons are learned. Time is spent wisely. There can be a shift of awareness too as we LOOK for the good, the detailed, the lovely just about anywhere.

And it can lead to new projects!  One of our artists is now working on a lovely nonfiction book about an event that happened on US soil during WWII.  She was chosen to do this book after the editors saw her blogged sketches that she does each day and posts on line. These are just quick ink line sketches of people mostly around her NYC neighborhood. They are done in a traditional realistic style not like her children’s market work at all.  The are play and a discipline for her.  BUT they were noticed, and lead to the style in which this publisher wished this story to be told. (all to be revealed eventually here!)  She was resistant initially as this ‘wasn’t my style!.’  It wasn’t ‘serious.’  Yet it was and is.  The illustrations are turning out fabulously!

Play can lead to something serious….a new style, a job, career, a new love, a move.  But the nice thing is it doesn’t have to lead to anything.  It can just BE.  Spring and summer do call us OUT and into the world of play.  Heed the call. Grab that sketch book, camera, box of watercolors and just go….. GO!

from Dave Szalay…. a possible adventure OUTSIDE….

Szalay bo in tree

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take care of your ‘tools’

B and F reading

This happy photo of my youngest grandkids (and our agency ‘research assistants!’) reading together, yet totally engrossed in their ‘literary worlds,’ just pleases me SO much!  Isn’t that why we all of the children’s market do what we do?

I also can’t help but to picture lots of creative minds working endless happy hours to write and/or illustrate the very books our children get engrossed in.  Those endless hours can also bring a very serious price however :  PAIN!  In my 23 years as the agency owner, I’ve seen various injuries with our artists. Back issues certainly from long hours slumped over drawing boards or computers.  Eye strain is common from intense close work as well….remember to blink and look away now and then! More recently one of our most popular artists has experienced debilitating wrist and arm overuse injuries from a combination of traditional painting and digital movements.  She’s now slowly healing while cutting her working time and doing PT, but it’s been really difficult for her.  Whatever the pain or the cause, an artist must take care and LISTEN to their bodies.  They are one of your MOST important tools.

Pain is protective.  It happens to tell/warn you of a problem and hopefully make you pay attention. You need to keep the body stretched, rested, hydrated and happy.  Even if you have a tight deadline, stop the activity that hurts before it becomes a bigger problem.  Take meds and rest. See a Doctor if it persists. PT might even be necessary.  All better than ending up unable to complete the project and commitment, and possibly ruining your reputation.

That leads me to another problem for active artists: over-booking! And this can lead to physical problems of course.  It is a great temptation to take all the jobs you possibly can on going.  Time is money! So you schedule too tightly with often multiple jobs overlapping. some of this is fine if all goes well.  You CAN do a small educational job, or maybe a short story sketches, while you wait for a client to ‘turn’ your sketches on a trade picture books finishes perhaps. But if one or the other gets delayed with revisions or clients schedules, then you can find yourself up all night or nights!! and talk about PAIN!  Be very careful about this temptation to over schedule.  Having to call clients to rearrange due dates can cause them stress and often money.  That doesn’t make you very popular no matter how fabulous your work is!

Try to be respectful of your time and commitments and your body.  Handled wisely and well all will work out for you MOST of the time for years and years of a happy productive career.  And my grandkids, and I, thank you!

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Portfolio Prep for Conferences…Finding YOU!

It is that time of year again!  After you review your year, (see last Post) you want to strut a new, confident foot out there into the industry! And just in time, there is the SCBWI NYC Mid Winter Conference…just waiting for you!  (there is still some room…go!!!)

As an artist, the way you’ll present and introduce yourself anywhere is with your portfolios.  The WEBSITE is your first and foremost portfolio.  The one you’ll take to NYC or other regional conferences has to be complimentary to your website too, but may show a more concise YOU.  I asked my daughter and partner in the agency, Christy Tugeau Ewers, to comment on some hints for this special physical portfolio.  She will be at the Friday portfolio presentation on Feb. 10 evening looking at portfolios and meeting with our, and other artists, (editors and art directors as well!) as time allows. So it seems perfect for her to comment on what SHE will be looking for as an agent, and what is typical of the ‘event working’ by buyers.  I’ve been to lots of conferences, several times as judge of the portfolios, and she’s got great practical points here.  I want to mention that unfortunately, we viewers ‘pass over’ the majority of the portfolios! That’s true, if not good news for those presenting.  Either the open page isn’t a style we’re looking for, it doesn’t catch our attention, or it is work too much like what we’ve seen a million times before. You want to jump out! So, other than the more typical hints of 12-15 interactive, story telling, good character pieces in a reasonable sized, clean looking ‘ book’ with a dummy attached if you have one, lets move to Christy’s comments and hints for YOU to JUMP OUT!

Hello! I’m chiming in here to ruminate on a point that is very important to remember when curating your portfolios.  Perhaps I’ve been watching too many Disney movies with “Finding” in the title (Nemo, Dory, etc.)  but I like to call it:  FINDING YOU. 

Many artists who send us their digital portfolios show all of their work.  This seems like a good idea, right?  We should see EVERYTHING you’ve done and are capable of doing, yes?  NO! Stop right there! It’s completely counter-intuitive, but we (and art buyers alike) do  not want to see everything you’ve ever done.  We don’t want to see a portfolio that shows work that could have been done by four different artists either.  We want to see YOU and your signature style. That should be the one you’d MOST like to create.  (CAT  added: and be paid for as well.)

In order to represent you to buyers, we need to know who you are, and what you do best.  We need to be able to SELL that ‘you’ so that you are memorable to the art buyers who have jobs needing to be filled.     (CAT added: You HAVE to be memorable ….they must remember your style to think of you for a book or product. Make it easy for them.)         For instance, if you are a traditional watercolor artist and showing that style,  but also have dense, color-block samples created digitally  included, we’re going to be confused., and so will buyers.  If this is your situation, ask yourself what you want to work in first.  If you were to be hired to illustrate a children’s book, would you rather use the watercolor style or work digitally in the flatter style.  You can too both….but the styles should both look consistently like YOU. (and include b/w if you do it. Remember  You are introducing your artistic self with your portfolios.)

It is such fun for us to visit an artist’s website and see various ‘other than children’s’ tabs.  This is a way to show off other styles (editorial, cut paper, etc.) and not confuse.  We can see who you are, or want to be,  for children’s work, but then dive further into that artist and person by looking at ‘other work’ on different page tabs – “digital” or “sketchbook” or “paper cut” etc.  Only show work that you are proud of. Nothing weak.  It IS OK to cross genres – so long as it’s in the same general illustration style.  If your work reads ‘young’ as in ‘perfect for board books’, do not be afraid to try your hand at a middle-grade cover or two.  This will surprise and delight people who would otherwise place you in the “0-3” category.  Shows versatility!  Be bold and take chances that way, but be sure to keep the overall look of your book consistently YOU.  Your work in time will evolve, but for ‘first impressions’, get yourself in the door with the style you most want to be known for.  FIND YOU, and then let us see what else you can do!  Happy creating and curating!  Christy

and Chris !…. check in here again for more helpful ideas and suggestions.  Contact us with questions if you wish as well.  It’s what we do……


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Your Year in Review

Well we’re near the end of Jan 2017 already!  There is one very important activity that you  should have experienced  by now … you should have given yourself a YEAR IN REVIEW self analysis!

You are a business.  Artist or Writer or both, you are a business, and you need to manage your career. Part of that (see  past article on this subject) is to semi annually assess where you were this time last year, where you are now, where you want to be, and what needs to change to get there.  I like Jan. as a time to give your business a REVIEW.  You’re doing taxes anyway and getting your 1099s from work done, so you know what you have made this year.  Is it enough?  Did you like the work you got and did for your clients?  Have you kept in touch and sent more work to those clients for future jobs?  That goes on the ‘to do’ list.  Can you grow these contacts better?  What sort of postcard promotion do you have planned?  An aside from this is to notice and assess how hard you worked for these clients for your $ return.  It is possible you worked too hard for too little, and that should be looked at.  Or you just took on too much and paid a price physically or mentally.  These are important assessments!

I have to bring in here a Representative relationship.  That needs reassessment as well! As a rep, this is the time of year I look at each artist to determine how they are doing for us, and how we are doing for them!  Times and style needs change.  An artist that was VERY hot for years can suddenly cool for no real fault of their own….sad but true fact.  We encourage artists to change it up….get better, different, relevant. And artists who have been developing can suddenly ‘get discovered.’  As agents we need to keep our group exciting and relevant too.  We need to add new artists, and unfortunately let others go.  This keeps our agency ‘of interest’ to clients looking for new talent, or new styles from more established artists.  Letting old friends go for business health isn’t EVER easy, but it is necessary.  We try to keep our group a certain manageable size for two reps to best serve all the artists and all our clients.

If you are lucky enough to have an Agent….how is that working out for you?  Have you seen more work?  if not, have you asked why not?  What can you do to encourage being hired? Any ideas you might have on what they can do to help more as well?  Do ask! Do you keep your agent in the loop with every job and client you work with?  Remember never to conduct business without first bringing your rep into the fold!  And never share too much personal information with clients that might make them worry about you as a good ‘worker’ for them.  Their publishing house is a business after all!  But DO always share personal stuff with your agent when it might impact your work in any way.  Helping you through tough times and complications is part of what we do for you.

If you do not have a rep but think you might benefit from one and have lots to offer them, then now is a good time to start a search and campaign to acquire an agent.  Look them up! SCBWI has a listing of agents for writers and artists and both.  Think about which might work best for you. (note: we are listed as ‘Artist Agents’ as that is our HOOK, but we show and have sold many ms and dummy book ideas that our artists have produced.)  Contact the agents of interest with samples of your art style and link to your website.  If they are looking (and ‘we’ always are) they will take a look and hopefully respond with interest or  helpful suggestions.  The Mid Winter SCBWI conference in NYC is a great place to showcase your art and yourself while learning and connecting with other artists, editors, art directors, and reps! My partner and daughter Christy Ewers will be attending the early part of this next conference starting Friday Feb 10 in fact.  Look for her!  Several of our artists will be there as well, which is always fun for all.  Next week I will write a HOW TO for portfolio prep for this and other conference and visit presentations.  Having been a portfolio judge several times in the past 23 years in NY, LA and other regional conferences,  and viewed oh so many, I will be blunt about what works and what does not.

So get to your personal year-end review and plan for your artistic year ahead!  Jump back in with gusto! Let’s STRUT OUR STUFF like our Laura Logan’s version of our LOGO CAT!!  DO hope you have taken note of our new year, new logo design on our site and elsewhere recreated for us by another of our artists Priscilla Burris! A ‘nod’ and commitment to a relevant future of fantastic children’s book art!


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SO excited to exclaim about the launch day for Lesley Withrow’s BUNNY BUS from Farrar, Straus and Giroux for $16.99   This is a HAPPY ENDING story for illustrators!  The initial image of the BUNNY BUS (see below) was done for a postcard promotion a couple of years ago.  SO CUTE! Joy Peskin, FSG editor,  saw and fell in love with the character, asking if Lesley could write the story!  That didn’t work out, and Ammi-Joan Baguette came on board to write the fun story for this unique character with a nod to the Easter Holiday, and friendship and helping others everywhere.  A dream come true!! Yes, those post cards DO work best for promoting your style and possible picture book characters!

Congratulations all!

this is the original postcard image….and the cover is VERY close!  enjoy!


and from PW review…. “Ammi-Joan Paquette, illus. by Lesley Breen Withrow. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $16.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-374-30225-2

Public transit gets a springtime makeover as Paquette (Ghost in the House) and Withrow (You’re My Boo) introduce the Bunny Bus, an anthropomorphized conveyance with a fluffy tail, two large ears, and a bucktoothed grin. Dapperly dressed owls, cats, and other animals clamber aboard: “Room for more? Of course! Pile on!/ The Bunny Bus rolls on and on.” Withrow’s scraggly pencils, lined-paper backdrops, and splashes of color and pattern create an exuberant atmosphere that’s only briefly interrupted when the overloaded bus temporarily breaks down, sending carrots and painted eggs flying. It’s a novel spin on familiar Easter themes. Ages 2–4. Author’s agent: Erin Murphy, Erin Murphy Literary Agency. Illustrator’s agent: Chris Tugeau, Christina A. Tugeau Artist Agency. (Jan.)”

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It’s that time of year….full of twinkling lights, sounds and images to ‘bring up’ the HAPPY!  of course, not everything is ever perfect….but this time of year we might get pretty close. Let’s remember the good and the love and always the laughter.  Let’s try and forgive and forget while watching closely. Lets fine the inspiration (and energy) to create and achieve!  Let’s let the adventures happen…..   and sing their praises!



thank you CAT artist NINA MATA…..

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