This week I did a presentation at Sauder Elementary's 1st grade class in Massillon, Ohio, about Cheeky's Security Blanket and what it's like to be an illustrator. This was my first time speaking to a classroom, and I'm happy to say that everything went great. The kids were all amazing, inquisitive, and very smart!
After reading through the book, I showed some slides of other illustrators to show examples of artists I've been influenced by and an example of how many diverse ways there are to illustrate picture books.
Like the paw prints hidden on every page of Cheeky's Security Blanket, Mercer Mayer's Little Critter books have a mouse and spider who appear in every illustration.
Sometimes I feel like the work of my favorite artists is weirdly dissimilar from my own. But maybe not...
I also showed some samples of my illustration work outside of picture books. One of the kids seemed flabbergasted that my work had been published in and on the cover of magazines, despite just having seen an entire book full of my work!
Because of their age, I wasn't sure if they'd know who this was, so I asked if anybody recognized him. A bunch of hands shot up. My favorite guess: "John McCain." Close, I told him. 2nd best: George Washington.
I showed a few samples of drawings I did when I was around their age, to try and make the point that drawing well is really just a matter of practice and work over long periods of time rather than something you're just born with. Hopefully they were inspired!
Sometimes you don't get things right the first time. Here's a bit of process work from Cheeky's Security Blanket that I walked them through:
Once they saw the thumbnail rough, they were immediately curious what the stairs were doing in the picture. I explained the concept of roughs and preliminary work, and how they allow you to change decisions and revise images with minimal effort in their early stages.
The first sketch looks a little different from the final. There were some concerns with the implication that Cheeky was wandering around the neighborhood unsupervised, so the background was changed from a front yard to a fenced-in back yard.
Finished inks. They were all fascinated with the idea of drawing on a computer using a tablet. Next time I'll have to take some pictures or a video of me working! One kid told me he has a Wii game where you draw on the screen with the controller, and a few asked if it was similar to the smartboard I was projecting the pictures onto, so I think everybody got the idea.