As I created Diesel I felt his spirit. He became real to me, living on the canvas. What a gift this thank you note was!
I remember being at the Academy of Art in San Francisco and there was a sign for a Comicbooks convention in Oakland, California. I wasn’t into Comics at the time, but I noticed that it said that Warner Bros Animation would be conducting portfolio reviews so my friend and I decided to go check things out and ever since then I learned how to get in free as a professional for most of them along with various techniques on how to more effectively use them to network and become inspired as an artist.
Beforehand: Make a plan, the conventions website usually has a lot of great information, Comic-Con even has a tip blog.
Sign up early for the convention: ones like Comic-Con book your motel and car a month or more beforehand. Almost a year if you want a hotel downtown!
Bring good shoes: There’s a lot of walking!
Create Cards, sketchbooks and swag: Even if you don’t do a booth you can still give stuff out, I’ve seen people print their contact info on bouncy balls and other swag, there’s no rule that you can only do that if you’re behind a booth.
Bring a backpack or shoulder bag: Store toys and books you buy, swag and business cards and bigger cards, things that you’re going to give out, notebook if you like to take notes during panels or critiques, your tablet, lunch/snacks, etc. Poster tubes are good for preserving free or purchased prints and posters.
Pack a lunch and snacks: I’ve found that convention food is bland and overpriced and good restaurants are sometimes a good hike. I used to just starve, but that’s stupid, so now I pack a lunch and snacks for lunch and then go somewhere after the day is done and eat a big dinner. I learned this from going to Disneyland with my Disney obsessed In-Laws who know nearly every secret there is to know about hitting every ride you could want in a day. Some Conventions have started allowing food trucks right outside the convention center which are really great.
Schedule: I usually like to look at the posted schedule and out of that I create a personal schedule of desired panels and portfolio reviews in an Excel document and then transfer it to my tablet. Some conventions now have apps that you can download to your phone.
Research speakers and Artist Alley individuals: A lot of time you walk up and down the isles at a convention and it’s hard to tell if it’s an Animation artist who happens to be doing Comicbook art or an actual Comicbook artist so sometimes I’ll look up people beforehand and make a beeline to save time. Sometimes you can contact a company beforehand and request an interview and or meeting.
Make a realistic goal on your outcome: A lot of times in the past I would go to a convention saying something like “I’m going to get a job at Disney!” and then when it didn’t happen I would go home disappointed. Instead I’ve started choosing smaller goals that stretch myself but is very doable like “I’m going to give out 20 or more business cards!” or “I’m going to do 7 Portfolio Reviews” That way I come away from the convention feeling good about myself. Conventions are tiring; don’t add guilt on top of that!
Focus on set goals
Give out business cards to as many people as possible: ask for theirs, half of them won’t have them, but nothing will happen if you don’t ask.
Be selective on Swag: Swag and handouts can take up a lot of bag space, don’t feel guilty about saying no to a handout.
A lot of big name booth artists will happily look at your portfolio: Saves you time from doing a super long review line and usually the studio reviewers are just regular studio artists that also have a booth and can give the same advice.
Talk to people in line: You never know who you’re waiting with!
Portfolio Reviews: Take notes during or after. Realize that the big studios aren’t there to recruit, only give feedback for what their studio is looking for. But do give them a card with your website or a printed sketchbook that they can take back with them. Smaller Companies a lot of the time are looking to recruit.
Take time for yourself: Sometimes I feel guilty about taking time to go search for toy collectables or to get an autograph of a favorite celebrity or going to a panel of a favorite TV show, but I find that doing so gives me an opportunity to not burn out during the convention marathon. Make sure you eat and rest when necessary.
Follow Up: I like to take every business card I get and make friend requests on Facebook and Instagram that evening. Send out Thank You notes via e-mail or Facebook Messenger for anyone that gave me a Portfolio Critique and sometimes later follow up.
Review Portfolio Critiques: I review critiques and thoughtfully decide what’s valid and then actively work on that. Many reviewers have opinions and sometimes they contradict so I weigh everything for the things that make the most sense and especially for ideas that are mentioned by more than one person.
Start Preparing for the next convention!
Conventions that I attend
Wonder-Con: March 29 - 31, 2019, Anaheim This is a mini Comic-Con, it reminds me of how San Diego used to be about 10 or 15 years ago. It has a handful of big studio panels mostly from Warner Bros, but you can still walk into one without needing to wait in a line and you don’t get trampled. They have food trucks just outside and there’s a fairly big sized exhibit hall with an artist alley, a few studio booths along with collectables booths. I remember talking with a Pixar animator who told me that when they got the assignment to animate the two nerd characters in Monsters Inc. they went to Wonder-Con to sketch people. https://www.comic-con.org/wca
San Diego Comic-Con: July 18 – 21, 2019 The mother of all Conventions! Comicbooks, Movies, TV, Animation, Illustration, etc! The floor takes me two good days to walk across if I’m also doing panels, since I’ve been attending for about 15 years now I know which areas to skip! This is the convention that I make an Excel document for and usually have to plan 3 or 4 different desired panels at the same time slot and then make decisions on importance, then if a panel sucks you can jump to your second choice. Lines are super long; I never go to Hall H, that’s an overnight camping experience. Hall 20 I will do once a day if there’s something that I really want to see, it’s a 1 or 3 hour wait. Some of the main hall rooms are 30minutes to an hour. Sometimes it’s fun going to the smaller ones, just for a breather. https://www.comic-con.org/cci https://sdccblog.com/
D23 (Disney Convention): August 23 – 25, 2019, every other year, Disney usually skips a Comic-Con presentation when there’s a D23, Anaheim This is Disney’s fan convention which takes place every other year, so Disney will usually have big panel presentations to show off the next couple of years’ worth of animated movies (Disney and Pixar), Live Action Movies (Star Wars, Marvel and others), New theme park attractions. Lots of opportunities to buy Disney stuff, they usually have one or two demos with actual Disney artists talking about making the movies. https://d23.com/d23-expo-2019/
Lightbox: September 6 – 8, 2019, Burbank This is actually a creation of those Animation artists who are angry with CTNX, 2019 will be its first year https://www.lightboxexpo.com/
Los Angeles Comic-Con AKA Stan Lee’s Comikazie: October 26 - 28, 2019, Los Angeles This one is almost as big as Wonder-Con, their main panel hall is odd though since it’s a part of the exhibit floor and mostly only standing areas and usually the panels are fluff interviews. But the floor itself is a good chance to talk to a number of good artists or to buy a collectable. Since it’s on Halloween weekend a lot of the booth artists will have bowls to give out candy. http://www.stanleeslacomiccon.com/
CTNX (Animation Festival): November 21 – 24, 2019, Burbank Can be very pricey, $30 for just the artist booth floor. $40 for the Floor and artist demos (love this one) $95 for some panels, around $150 for all panels and other things, $210 for a 3 day pass, There’s also an ultra-expensive VIP pass which gives you opportunity to cut in line and lotto’s for studio tours. If you’re into Animation or even illustration there’s a lot for you, but you have to be willing to pay a lot depending on what you want to see and do. It is a great opportunity to have regular run ins with Animation masters though, have your portfolio reviewed, buy a lot of art books and listen to the creators talk about actually making the movie and not just some star talking about themselves. One note there is a growing group of artists who are angry with CTNX for their claims of being treated badly when they were guests and students complaining about the cost to enter. https://ctnanimationexpo.com/
Star Wars Celebration, Power-Con, TFCon, Anime Expo: Various locations and dates Normally you wouldn’t think that much would come out of these fan service conventions, but I find that a lot of times creators will be there either in a fan art booth or as part of a panel. So it’s worth a try.
Long Beach Comic-Con, Nerdbot and other small conventions: These Conventions are super small and you can usually breeze through them in a couple of hours. Not really recommended unless you have nothing else to do. The artist alley is filled with beginner artists.
There are a lot of benefits of going to a Comic book convention even if you’re not into comics. Feel free to share your own tips and expreiences in the comments!
Hi! Like many in our Illustrators’ Table group, I’m a writer/illustrator. With a freelance career in magazine/educational illustration and graphic design mostly behind me, I’m feeling incredibly lucky to spend my time with family, friends, a few long-term clients—and my own much-delayed projects.
That means writing and illustrating children’s books.
However, aside from this joy, it’s also just a teensy bit terrifying.
In the past, I managed to submit my own projects only a few times. I had some successes, but mostly, I wrote, I sketched, but I didn’t submit—sidestepping fear with the excuse of being too busy.
That excuse doesn’t work anymore.
So, now, with backup from Carol Heyer and the Illustrators' Table critique group, I practice imagining my fears as a crowd walking the opposite direction, blocking my way. Instead of getting stopped, I work on slipping past. Finding other ways through the crowd.
Shhh! Don’t tell my fears. It’s working.
I hope whatever stage your career is at, you find the inspiration* and support to slip by your obstacles, too.
*Publishing Info Links
The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators
An international professional organization of wonderful writers and illustrators of children’s and young adult books. It’s based on a culture of sharing knowledge, not hoarding it. Best member benefits:
Writers Digest, Children’s Books
Manuscript Wishlist What editors and agents are looking for.
Kathy Temean runs a generous blog, sharing information about illustrating and writing for children, interviews with children’s publishing professionals on both sides of the transom, including agents, book giveaways and more.
Deborah Halverson was an editor at Harcourt Children’s Books, is now a freelance editor and writer/advisor with right-on answers to publishing questions.
Jane Friedman, a practical and smart non-fiction and any-sort-of-writing editor, who also has good advice about handling social media and wordpress websites.
Query Shark, Literary agent Janet Reid’s right-on advice for writing effective fiction query letters.
Children’s Book Award-Winners
YouTube Inspiration for Illustrators
Will Terry, a children’s illustrator and teacher, has a great series of informational videos about being an illustrator on youtube.
Simona Ceccarelli shows a time-lapse workflow as she creates an intricate children’s illustration with the iPad Pro and ProCreate, discussing the differences between working with ProCreate and Photoshop.
Yuyi Morales describing how she became a children’s book illustrator and writer. It’s good, but long. Skip to the second half for the most examples of her work/thought process.
Marks & Splashes Learning, Mark G. Mitchell's youtube channel, featuring illustration agents and illustrators giving two-part interviews that cover illustration prompts and critiques for the members. The information from the guest agents and illustrators is good for more experienced illustrators, too.
I thought I'd post a few pictures from the last Illustrators meeting, including some of the beautiful projects members of The Illustrators' Table are working on!
Siri Weber Feeney brought in a new illustration from a project that she's working on. She's created such a fun and lively bunch of characters.
Siri also brought in a couple of maquettes she sculpted to use with her sketches.
Kathy Varie brought in a beautiful triptych that she just painted! She's been doing some really incredible art for an upcoming show.
Paul Burrows brought in some of the art/sketches he has been drawing on his tablet. Paul works from life and it's amazing how he is able to capture the essence of his subjects in such a short amount of time!
Kat McDonough brought in more of her amazing art. She does such beautiful work and is so prolific! Every month I'm inspired by her innovation and creativity.
Come back soon to see more amazing art!
I’ve been attending the original Renaissance Faire in Southern California every spring for more years than I care to admit. I’ve worked for a booth owner, worked for the Faire organization, volunteered for their 50th anniversary museum, and written and illustrated for the Faire participants’ underground magazine. But over the years I’ve mostly been a visitor, allowing myself to still feel the magic of going back in time (even though I have worked behind the scenes, where the magic is created).
Part of the enjoyment for me has been sketching at the Faire. I try to keep my supplies lightweight—there’s lots of walking on the site, and as the day progresses my bag gets heavier and heavier. A backpack is not my style, and would ruin my authentic 16th century look! So I take a sketchbook (5” x 7”) and a selection of pens in a plastic bag. Right now my favorites are black ‘micron’ pens (#s 01, 03 and 08). I also like their sepia pens, and sanguine Faber-Castell Pitt artists’ pens, #s B and F. At times I have taken a (very) few markers or Prismacolor colored pencils, which are fun for drawing the bright colors of belly dancers or gypsy costumes.
I usually draw people, since the crowds often block off booths and carts. The Faire gives us a rare opportunity to sketch people in a variety of costumes, hairdos and accessories. Decide fast when you see someone you want to draw—you can’t count on anyone being still for long! Singers, musicians and even dancers may hold positions long enough for a quick sketch. Check the audience at stage shows—even lively children will hold still when watching a juggler!
If you’re not used to sketching in public, don’t worry. I’ve found people are always nice, and they don’t stay long to watch—too many other sights to see! More importantly, don’t be critical of yourself. If a line is wrong, put in the corrected line—or not. Sketching is a fun pastime! At the same time it’s useful to improve your skills, plus you’ll probably enjoy revisiting your sketches—they’re reminders of the fun you had during your day at Faire!
Born in the year of the dog. Lucky me!
Every year is ...
Honest and loyal, Dogs are the truest friends and most reliable partner.
What a perfect pal to spend 2018 and beyond with. Every year can be the Year of the doggy. >'y'<
See more doggies and other fanciful creatures at
I just found out that 2018 is the Year of the Dog! Since dogs are some of my favorite “people” that makes this a stellar year!
I have two rescue dogs that make me laugh and have saved my sanity more than once. Their names are Peanut and Cashew Nut. I have been told that the three of us are mixed nuts, living in the Nut house. Too true!
I love painting animals, especially dogs. Below is a portrait I did of Angus, a very lovely fellow, who was a frequent visitor to the Nut House. The art is 13” x 19”, acrylic paint on canvas.
Keep a look out, in commemoration several other Illustrators from the Table might be posting their paintings.
Even though 2018 is the official year on the Chinese Zodiac , I think every year is the Year of the Dog!
This fall we discovered a water leak at our home. It went unnoticed until our latest water bill arrived. It suddenly became an emergency to find it and fix it. The payment stung worse because it was wasted water. That got me thinking. How much of my time gets wasted while I’m not paying attention?
I have to admit, I’d never made a real practice of New Years resolutions before 2017. But the new political climate rocked my world and I needed a plan to stay my creative course. So, I set two challenges for myself. One, to #SayYes to opportunites that would take me out of my comfort zone and the second (after a thorough cleaning of my studio) was to #UseWhatYouGot in materials I already owned. Both challenges were a great success. I’ve made and saved money through 2017. What did I lose? Some of my creative time. I knew concentrating art making and writing into fewer days would take discipline, but that’s my middle name.
And I did create a lot of art this year. I experimented with “new” materials. I wrote new stories. But that dark cloud of politics darkened my mood and to “relieve” my anxiety, I reached for Twitter and Facebook to commiserate with friends and strangers. Looking for someone to fix the problem. But alas, there was no expert to call. So, monitoring the situation gave me a sense of control. Focusing on staying informed took/stole/wasted more and more of my preciouse time. Moments of meditiation or daydreaming had been given over to reading snarky or shocking remarks and revelations on social media. Regurgitated messaging that left me feeling ill. Even the puppy videos weren’t helping.
I gave away that time but got nothing back but a stomach ache. So, this year this artist is #ReclaimingMyTime. I’ll continue my frugal #UseWhatYouGot and my comfort zone busting #SayYes. The simple plan is, when reaching for my phone to "stay informed" of anything political, I must have posted, tweeted or shared something about creativity in any form. I must have written or drawn or painted something, anything. Making conscious decisions with time has got to stop this leaking!
Join me, let's go create something. >’y’<
More of Kat McDonough's work and words
Dan Hanna brought some gorgeous stuffed toys, ancillary items for his wonderful POUT POUT FISH books. (photo by member Christy Reeve)
Suzy Block brought one of her wonderful illustrations from her most recent project.
Mary-Jo Murphy telling us about the whimsical products she painted for her latest gallery show. Such fun creations!
More photos to come!
Each post is a unique creation by an artist and foodie who attends our monthly gathering.