Hello my friends and welcome. This post is the start of a new series of posts where I talk to fellow children’s illustrators about their journey on becoming one. Today you will learn all about Jennifer Noel Bower’s journey. There is some good info packed in here!
How did you come upon your style? How long did it take you to land on a look where you said yes, that’s me? I know as a reader of your blog it has been fun seeing it develop.
I am not exactly sure I've fully come into my style, yet, although I have been told it is definitely identifiable. I am really into kind of this retro/vintage/cartoon hybrid sort of look with a mixed media feel. I am still trying to loosen up a lot in my work and not requesting perfection from each line. I guess I arrived at a certain style sense by trial and error, finding a medium that fit my mentality. I started out with pen, ink and markers because that is what I had leftover from art school fifteen years ago. Watercolors were frustrating and I didn't like the mess made by acrylics. Digital has allowed me to play, make mistakes, undo mistakes and progress a bit faster than with natural mediums; although I am always trying to make my digital work look more natural.
Do you have a certain process?
Do you have a certain process?
I always start with a sketch. They used to be really tight first drafts with a lot of erasing. Now I am allowing myself to play more and using up tons of tracing paper. Sometimes I will doodle different elements in my sketchbook, scan them in and then manipulate them into an image I like even better using Photoshop. I always have a pretty solid idea of what I want an image to look like and will use reference photos for getting the angles and perspectives accurately. But I am still learning to simplify the elements within my drawings. Once in PS, I always choose my palette from ColourLovers.com and then I begin to paint.
What medium do you use?
Digital, all the way, but playing with different brushes or scanned patterns to create a slightly more natural feel to the work.
How did you build up your portfolio?
One piece at a time and based off of feedback from my blog. You can tell by the comments (or the crickets) what pieces resonate with others. I just got back from my first SCBWI Regional Conference where my portfolio went through two reviews. The biggest advice is NOT to put in those pieces you are unsure about. We all have them, the ones we struggled to finish, didn't have fun creating, or look at and are still unhappy with. It is better to have only 10 pieces of really great work than 20 pieces that show varying degrees of uncertainty. Most of my ideas come from the Illustration Friday weekly prompts and every once in a while something from my life just begs to come out.
What have you done so far to promote yourself? I know you made some postcards; can you tell us what exactly should be put on the front and back of these? Tell us about any portfolio sites etc…Have any of the promotional things you’ve done so far helped, or do you think it will take a while?
Well, lets see. I promote myself on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Blogger, IllustrationMundo, That's My Folio and by attending a SCBWI Conference. I did make a promo card but I have yet to proactively send any out, I guess because I am still on the fence about whether I am truly representing my authentic voice. Lucy Cummins, Associate Art Director for Simon & Schuster said she is on the internet 90% of her day looking for new talent so really, the internet is one of the best advocates we have out there. Promotion is like planting seeds, you have to plant consistently and you never know when something is going to germinate. I actually received my first chapbook opportunity through a Facebook connection. I will eventually get those promo cards out but based on my recent portfolio reviews I need to add a bit more 'tween' specific material.
As far as what to put on the card, the front should be a great image with your name and ILLUSTRATOR or ILLUSTRATIONS. The back should definitely have contact info and links to portfolio or blog. Based on feedback it was suggested I put a carryover image on the back. The image is really the big thing. That is what is going to capture the AD's attention, then make it easy for them to see more of your work and a way to reach you.
Therapy! I've always loved being creative but grew up in a very competitive home and so because my sister was pursuing illustration I didn't. Art was her identity. I earned my BFA in interior design but then went to work for the family business right out of college. When my daughter was born I broke free but ventured further away from anything creative. First, sales with Tiffany & Co. and then into my current job as an office administrator and executive assistant. Quite honestly I was depressed. As I worked through issues with a therapist he strongly encouraged me to explore my creative voice and begin to the heal the inner child lost so long ago. (sad, I know) I doodled a doodle and posted it on Facebook. The feedback was phenomenal, but more importantly how I began to feel about myself and the world became more positive as I began to use my gifts and talents. I've been pursuing illustration ever since.
Any tips, pointers, or good stuff to share?
The biggest tips I can offer are: get involved in SCBWI - they are a tremendous and supportive resource; be authentic - draw what you like to draw in the way you like to see it; embrace the 3 Ps of this industry - practice, patience and persistence; be willing to connect with others in the industry...they have been there, done that, and now how it all feels. My favorite quote from David Diaz, a Caldecott Award winning illustrator, who ran our intensive at the conference said, "Sometimes I will goes days streaming Mad Men on Netflix because I am struggling to start the next project." That was so nice to hear. It makes you feel less alone with the weird thoughts we all get.
Visit Jennifer's website: www.jennifernoelbowerillustrations.com
Jennifer's blog: www.fromjenspen.blogspot.com
Right now on Jenn's blog she has a great post about her experience at SCBWI conference she just attended!
Thanks so much Jenn! Congrats on all that you've accomplished! Isn't there some great info in there! I think it's great getting this info from fellow illustrators who are on the same journey.
Okay, I'm going all cheesy and High School Musical on ya, but We're all in this together.
Would anybody else like to share their journey! If so drop me a line!