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Thursday, May 01, 2008

Illustrators Conference

I went to the SCBWI Illustrators Conference on Monday. The conference was held at the Society of Illustrators on East 63rd Street. I love visiting The Society of Illustrators because they have original illustrations by Norman Rockwell, Howard Chandler Christie, and others hanging all over the walls. I collect posters from this era, so just seeing the originals up close was worth the trip for me.

The conference was for working and aspiring children’s book illustrators. The speakers included the Art Director from Highlights, the Image Editor from Oxford University Press, author/illustrator Neil Waldman, and others. Mr. Waldman spoke compellingly about his childhood, and explained how stories that he once told his four-year-old brother eventually evolved into picture books. He also described how his passion for art was strongly shaped by his mother's love of Vincent van Gogh.

My favorite speaker, though, was Jack Kreismer, President of Red-Letter Press. Mr. Kresimer started his publishing career by self-publishing the Bathroom Guest Book. After printing the book, he hired a small team of sales representatives and distributed the book in book stores and department stores throughout the country. He then went on to author, print, and distribute a whole line of novelty books.

Mr. Kreismer was an unlikely choice for a speaker at this conference because the books he sells are not illustrated and are not for children. However, his presentation was refreshing. He conceives, writes, edits, and publishes his own line of books. He is also a clever businessman, and enjoys marketing his own products. In short, he has made a successful career of amusing himself. I could only aspire to such greatness.

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