I met Mr. Lewis a year ago this past month at the Austin SCBWI Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators) conference. This was my first SCBWI conference EVER. Before I joined SCBWI, I had taken an online class http://howtobeachildrensbookillustrator.com/NewCoursehome2/ through Mark G Mitchell who at this time was the Illustrator Coordinator of the Austin SCBWI.
When I started the class, the first thing that was said was we were going to illustrate a book that we had been working on. WELL !!! I’m not a writer and I thought this course was about ILLUSTRATING !!! This really had me in a panic because I had nothing to paint. I was told by the Mark that I could paint classic stories or a cook book. BUT, I felt that having my own story was a challenge. However, I was still panicked with NO idea of a story.
My daughter mentioned an incident that had happened when she and her sister were young. SO, I went with that. To this day, I haven’t actually finished illustrating that. One reason is this. When I started the class, for some reason, I felt that I had to change my art to a more simple style because I thought that is what was wanted in children’s books. SO … the point is this. THIS simple style is what I took to this conference. I was never really happy with this stuff that I created either. I hope to one day finish this little project in my true realistic style.
To continue with the conference part of this story and meeting Mr. Lewis – There was an event at the conference where you could submit a piece of work to be critqued by a panel of professionals. I had turned in one of the new simple styles of artwork that I had recently done. To be honest, it didn’t FEEL like me. I had even told my family what I expected to hear. AND I heard it.
Mr. Lewis said that my anatomy was bad and that wasn’t either “stylized” nor “real”. It was on the fence. He said much more. He .. TORE … ME … UP !!! It was pretty rough and at first I gasped out loud but then I just started smiling and even giggled a little. I was sitting by my friend Joel Cook (I think he even gasped. haha) What went through my head was all the things that Mr. Lewis was saying and I was thinking that I needed to go home and fix them. Later, Mark Mitchell came straight up to me at the evening social and me if I was ok and said “OHHH that was harsh” and I looked at him kinda funny and then I said “OHH, well, I guess it was”. Then I proceeded to tell him what I HEARD Mr. Lewis say and how I could fix it. I personally found it very exciting. I used to tell my daughter when she was in dance and would get “picked on” by the teacher that if that teacher didn’t think you had potential that he wouldn’t take so much time in critiquing you. SO .. the way that I saw it was that YES, he was rough but I felt that he saw potential.
Later, I went up to Mr. Lewis, introduced myself as the one from that critique that he tore up so bad.. haha. And I shook his hand. I’m sure I babbled on like some idiot. But, I told him how much it meant to me that he said what he did and that I would go home and work on the things that he has said.
On the five hour drive back home after the conference, all I could talk about to my husband was Mr. Lewis. Such as the things he had said during his presentations at the conference. I googled him and read everything that I could about him and looked him up on “image search”. When I got home, I printed out some thumbnails of his books and put them beside my drafting table to study and dream of being like him. I never in a million years thought back then that I would have this awesome opportunity now. Mr. Lewis only CHOOSES a certain few to work with and I am so grateful to him for that. Also, God has totally blessed me with this opportunity. I truly thank God and give Him the glory and praise for this. I can’t wait to see the plans that He has in store for me.