Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Mazza Museum Summer Conference Day 2

The conference today began with James Dean, who is famous for illustrating Pete the Cat. James was humble, warm, and funny. “I have 5 cats and 4 litter boxes. Those are my credentials for doing what I do.” If it were only that easy!

James’s talk resonated with me. He grew up drawing, but worried that trying to find his way in art was “irresponsible,” so he quit sketching and studied engineering.  He picked up his art materials again at age 35, and quit his engineering position four years later. After self-publishing his 2 picture books, a friend sent Pete the Cat Loves his White Shoes to New York where it was picked up. And the rest, my friends, is history!

A few other interesting comments:
                “Give your kids a vision of being something—even if it’s the wrong thing.”
                “You are never too old for a fresh start.”
                “Last night I felt really old. I got to spend about an hour and a half with Jon Klassen.” 

James is a quiet man who exudes gratitude for what life has brought him. It felt like an honor to hear his story.

Following James, Julie Paschkis spoke.  Julie has written and/or illustrated so many exquisite books!  When illustrating someone else’s story, she says she reads a manuscript several times, but does not sketch. First, she waits and lets her unconscious mind work on it.
She shared her process, showing sketches and final art.

An interesting thing about her process is this: While I believe that most illustrators would tell you that they sketch out an entire book before doing anything else, Julie completes one finished illustration and lets that piece “ set the tone” for all the coming pages. Sometimes, she says, that final piece doesn’t get used, because it somehow doesn’t work and must be redone, but that’s okay. It’s a good reminder to creatives  to “respect the process.”  The process is working for Julie!

A few other interesting comments:
                “I’m a crossword puzzle fanatic.”
                “Starting something is the hardest part.”
                “Make mistakes, make false starts and good starts.”
                “Everything leads to something else—even the projects that don’t work out.”

Another great day!


  1. Nice! I found your blog through TBTS. I am a children's book author too (sometimes I do illustration, but I think once I finally get a contract they would want someone else to do the drawings).
    Kids Math Teacher

  2. Hi Lucy, thanks for your comment! You're right about publishers liking to choose their own illustrators. Then again, I had an editor say to me about a year ago, "an author/illustrator is a very good thing." Still, I really do think it's best to try to break in with one or the other. Keep me posted on your progress as you move forward with the writing!