Picture Hooks Conference

On Saturday students and staff of Illustration travelled to Glasgow to attended this year’s Picture Hooks Conference at the Centre of Contemporary Arts. Now in its third year, the conference gives illustrators the opportunity to hear from leading experts from the world of children’s publishing.

There was an excellent range of speakers involved in both the making and publishing of picture books who shared their valuable knowledge with the audience.

Tessa Strickland, co-founder and Editor at Barefoot Books spoke about the things she would like to see in an applicants portfolio. “Can you tell a visual narrative? There needs to be a visible transformation, a character that changes throughout the story – there are people who are starters and people who are finishers. You need to be a starter and a finisher.” She also gave some general advice to illustrators who are trying to find their feet in the world of illustration “Life is short. Become the illustrator you want to be!”

Joel Stewart, award winning author and illustrator of over 20 books, spoke about the synthesis of digital applications and hand drawing and how the two seemed to increasingly blend together seamlessly within his work. It was interesting to hear Joel speak about how he considered himself more of an observational than an imaginative draughtsman and how he felt the teaching of academic drawing was an important part of Illustration training.

Andrea MacDonald, Executive Editor for Picture Books fromPenguin Random House gave insights in to how picture books work to comfort, challenge and open up new worlds to their audience. She gave advice on how Illustrators can approach publishers and spoke about the pressure author/illustrators can face when making a second book after a first successful one had been published.

Nicki Field, head of illustration at Jelly Agency, shared her experiences on the many other opportunities for illustrators to sell and license their work. As a Brighton graduate of Illustration Nicki was able to provide a unique insight based on her diverse background. She suggested that illustrators should define their practice and “work on what you think is you, your niche.” She advised not to set up multiple identities for different aspects for your work (just imagine they would all be called in for meetings at the same time) but instead to “be the same person but channel multiple aspects of your work in different ways” and “to be innovative and to do what you can to keep ahead”. She also spoke about the value of self-initiated work and how small ideas can have a big reach.

We met a lot of established and budding illustrators as well as interesting speakers, each offering a different perspective on the many aspects of the picture book and publishing industry. Altogether this was a very inspiring day for us!

1Tessa Strickland,  co-founder and Editor at Barefoot Books

2Joel Stewart, Illustrator

49Andrea MacDonald, Executive Editor for Picture Books from Penguin Random House

15Nicki Field, head of Illustration at Jelly Agency

17Catherine Lindow, one of last year’s Picture Hooks mentees

18Lucy Juckes and Vivien French, initiators of Picture Hooks

20ECA Illustration students feeling inspired after the conference




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