The Big Apple

When you emerge from the subway in midtown New York and it's snowing and your map is rubbish because Mapquest put your hotel in completely the wrong place, it's easy to have a sense of humor failure. And so it wasn't until I finally consulted the proper address and realized I had been within a smidgeon of the hotel when I first arrived that I said 'GAAAHHH!!' and, with wet feet, squelched a million blocks back to the West End YMCA.

Lovely old building, but strange how the photos on the website made the room look fairly luxurious. I will skim over the somewhat stark accommodations (hey, I have stayed in Naval Messes that would rate 5 star in comparison), but I just MUST mention the excitement of a bed on wheels (with no brake). Everytime I turned over in the night I shot across the room and slammed against the dresser.

Does anything prepare you for New York? The diversity of people, the long, long perspectives that lead you to believe the drug store you are heading for is a couple of blocks, and it turns out to be in outer Mongolia? The cross winds! Like the maze in Harry Potter's 'Goblet of Fire' I expected the buildings to come hurtling together as I ran back down the Avenue. The taxi's - the shops - the icons that have been burnt in your mind's eye from countless movies and tv reports. THE FOOD! Oh my. The choice! Let me tell you after Central Maine, it was shocking (and wonderful).

I went to MOMA for hours and hours and looked at the great, and the not so great and salivated over the Tim Burton exhibition. What a crazy mind he has. And it reminded me I DON'T DRAW ENOUGH!! Always a good restaurant or bar right there ... and I went to see 'Wicked' at the Gershwin Theatre on Broadway. What fun! Despite the fact that I was front row extreme left and could see up the trouser legs of the actors. (Cheap seat ... starving artist.)

OH YES ... I went to the SCBWI conference too! Almost forgot ;-). At the Grand Hyatt, next to Grand Central Station (you cannot go into that vast, cavernous hall without wanting everyone to stop and waltz).

Friday was the illustrator's day. Amazing to be in the room with about 300 other illustrators - overwhelming really. I don't think I have ever been in the same room as so many people whose brains are wired like mine before. Scary. The speakers were great, especially Kevin Hawkes, who also lives in Maine. It was a privilege to hear Paul O Zelinsky speak, Caldecott Medalist and goodness knows what else. Lisa Desimini was inspirational, especially her collage work, which reminded me of Ducky!

150 artists displayed portfolios, including me, for agents and publishers and editors to peruse. It was a long day and I stumbled back to my wheely bed at about 10pm.

Other highlights of the conference were hearing Jim Benton (Happy Bunny), Peter Sis, Jane Yolen. So many - Allyn Johnstone from Beach Lane Books was a mine of information, as was Laurent Lee (ex Jim Henson) now at Simon and Schuster. So much information from art directors, editors, agents and writers and illustrators. A worthwhile trip for sure. Oh great luncheon on Saturday too.

Yes, it's a hard time in the world of publishing right now. There is no getting away from it. But in this cauldron of change, spells are bubbling and we can all throw our ingredients in the pot. What did I learn? Diversify. Do the best work you can, don't give up. Oh and I made some great friends .. more on that next time, perhaps.

I was exhaustified, to quote 'Wicked'.

So, back to the Land of Maine, and the Wicked Witch of Down-East (sorry Sharon, had to use it!) and my own yellow brick road (watch out for the snow mobiles.)

In between coughing and sneezing (my gift from The Big Apple, a stonking cold), I have been back at the drawing board (computer) as per. But there are new post it notes on my wall with new ideas, and the determination to recapture my enthusiasm for drawing ... easy to let it go when illustration is your bread and butter, right? Or and talking of right, WRITE!

So here are a couple of illustrations from the week's work.


This is the finished cover (text positional) which includes the owl from last week's post.

And this is the inked illustration that I showed as a rough sketch a couple of posts back ... and below here it is coloured in photoshop.

That's it for this week! It's nice to go away, but there's no place like home.

The Wacky Brit