1st Annual Children's Book Illustrator's Show!
As part of ArtWalk, opening night for the Decatur Arts Festival, Friday evening was a HUGE success!! Honestly, it surpassed all my expectations (even with the torrential downpour during the first part of the evening).
With my good friend Liz Conrad's help, the show came together more easily than I thought it would. More illustrators showed up for opening night than I expected. Even our SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators) Southern Breeze regional heads drove in to share the experience. Local children's book people came out of the woodwork to join in the celebration, and those who couldn't make it sent good wishes from across the country. The food was delicious (paid for by a grant from the SCBWI), the company was extraordinary, the crowd was consistent and full. All in all, it was a magical evening.
One thing that quickly became apparent in pulling this event together was it was not my event. Illustrators don't often get to show their work in a fine-art, gallery-like setting, and it was a meaningful experience for everybody involved. So much so, that one artist came in from Mississippi and another from Savannah - this was a big, big deal. How wonderful to be a part of providing that opportunity.
My friends at Little Shop of Stories (owners Dave Shallengberger and Diane Capriola are pictured above) were so incredibly supportive and appreciative to have another side of children's books displayed in their new space. Even though they are just 500 yards away from their old location, they have a completely new audience overflowing from the Starbucks next door, the Decatur square out front, and a hotel within walking distance. With the gallery space, they can appeal to art lovers as well as young readers and the response was tremendous.
Something wonderful came out of this show that I never could have expected or planned. Little Shop has wooden stools they use for all kinds of kid events. Well, they made perfect display stands for the books which accompanied each piece of art. And because they were low to the ground, the books were accessible to the children. Kismet stepped in - the show ended up perfectly suited to adults as well as little ones. Scenes like these, of kids reading or parents sharing books with their children, repeated throughout the evening. Could you ask for a better introduction to art? Wow.
I was thrilled when Jo Kittinger and Donna Bowman, heads of the SCBWI Southern Breeze region, walked into the show. Jo drove all the way in from Birmingham but said she "wouldn't have missed it for the world." Here they are with Peggy Shaw, Senior Editor at Dalmation Press (as well as the publisher of Jo and Donna's forthcoming books!)
Along with the amazing crowd (this picture doesn't do it justice),
the support from the local children's illustration/writing community was wonderful. Here I am with award-winning author, Deborah Wiles, and Assistant Director of the Georgia Center for the Book, Joe Davich.
Unfortunately, I didn't get a shot of award-winning illustrator (and illustrator of Danny Schnitzlein's, "The Monster Who Did My Math") Bill Mayer and his wife, Lee, or Vicky Alvear Shecter, author of "Alexander Rocks the World," or Jessica Handler, author of the forthcoming "Invisible Sisters." But here is Mark Braught with Art Director, Don Grant.
Eight of the ten illustrators made it for opening night - amazing. We got pictures of each with their work. So here's the rundown starting from left and moving right through the show:
Liz Conrad, the right arm of this operation, was joined by her husband Rick (from whom we "borrowed" the laser level while hanging the show). Liz displayed her cut paper work from "The Snow Ball" and "The Bunny Ball" - adorable board books in a series of many more "Ball" books, perfect for little hands. (Here are Donna, Liz and Rick.)
Next was Ami Blackford's work from "Quest for the Dragon Stone" and "Quest for the Elfin Elixir" (which I need to add a photograph for). She was bummed she wasn't able to attend.
Mark Braught's wonderful pastels were next. Mark displayed work from "Cosmo's Moon," "P is for Peach" and "T is for Touchdown."
And here I was with the space next door. I shared images from "Paco and the Giant Chile Plant ~ Paco y la planta de chile gigante" and "Glitter Girl and the Crazy Cheese."
Next was Rick Anderson with a prime location on the pillar that divided the display wall. (You can see his piece to Rick Spears' left below.) Unfortunately, he was our other illustrator not able to make it to the show.
Rick Spear's wonderful creatures from "Tales of the Cryptids" were next. I actually had to grab my signed copy (written by buds Kelly Milner Halls and Roxyanne Young) to make sure I had his index cards placed with the correct cryptids! Rick gave away free monster masks to the kids - those were a hit!
No surprise here, another BIG hit of the evening were Sarah C. Campbell's photographs from "WolfSnail." Did you know some snails hunt other snails? The kids couldn't get enough of Sarah's books and they actually sold out! She was our other long distance attendee, coming in all the way from Mississippi!
Daniel Power's was next up with beautiful watercolors from "Take the Lead, George Washington." Daniel is a Professor of Illustration at the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) and also drove a long way for the show!
Next door was another watercolorist with a completely different style, Karen Stormer Brooks. She showed art from "Dylan the Eagle-Hearted Chicken," "I Bought A Baby Chicken" (also written by Kelly Milner Halls), and "Piggy Wiglet."
Karen's husband is also an illustrator. In fact, her entire family joined her for the evening - they were so cute!
And finally for the finale was Laura Knorr's stunning work from "P is for Pelican," "The Legend of Papa Noel," and "A Isn't for Fox." I just love Laura's color palette and technique - seeing it in person was a treat. She also happens to be the wife of Mark Braught - what an amazingly talented couple!
Lots of books were sold and signed, and we all got to hang out and get to know each other. Hubbie was with me too, but behind the camera, so please forgive me in all these shots . . .
Donna, Dave, me and Diane's kids enjoying the books before the crowds showed up . . .
Me, Karen, and Donna . . .
And me with my good friends from Spanish class, Mark and Melissa. I was so glad they dropped by!
Several of us went to a very late dinner to unwind afterwards and talk about our incredible evening. Sage was wonderful, although I was about to fall asleep in my pasta. The hard work was over, the show was a success. I couldn't stop grinning. I couldn't have wished for opening night to go any better - truly. I know Jo got lots more pictures, so I may post links soon.
Thanks to everybody for helping to make the show such a huge success. Getting prints made, framed and shipped is no small undertaking and all the illustrators came through with shining colors. Thanks to Jo Kittinger and Donna Bowman as well as SCBWI National for funding and moral support. Thanks to the staff of Little Shop of Stories for providing the space and the grace of making it all look easy. Thanks to the City of Decatur, Georgia for providing the perfect excuse to show off our wares. Thanks again to Liz Conrad, who deserves equal credit for putting this on. Big fuzzy hugs to all!
So that's the report for now. I can't wait for next year and our SECOND annual Illustrator's Show!
Update! The show has been picked up by the Southern Arts Federation to go on tour all over the South for two years! Read more - click here.