Don't Panic!!!

There's a lot to look forward to at our annual Conference in Winchester,  the talks, the presentations, the workshops, the portfolio critiques,  the parties ... and, let us not forget, the competitions! Often illustrators find themselves in a last minute panic. What to take? What to wear? What deadlines are left... oh it's all too much.

Last minute deadline frenzy seems to be an inevitable part of the life of an illustrator, but always best to be avoided whenever possible. It hardly needs to be said that it's far better to submit and prepare when you're relaxed and with plenty of time to fine-tune. But, no-matter how hard we try, for some reason the night before a deadline, or (as this weekend) a conference always seems to be a bottle-neck of activity, and for some a full on melt-down.

Maybe you missed the deadline for the competition, or are still scrambling to prepare a portfolio, What to include? What to omit?  Preparation time has run out! But let's not panic, let's put things into perspective. It comes down to the the old adage festina lente, "make haste slowly". 

Perhaps this is the time to just pause a moment and put the kettle on.

Conference Confusion

Why do conferences work? What are we to get out of them?

It's the experience of sharing our love of creating books with other writers and illustrators, of learning from the workshops and critiques, of being inspired by the stories and experiences of others,  enjoying the creative vibe... and just maybe making a few business connections along the way. That's the key experience to be gained. Missed the competition deadline? It doesn't matter, there will be other competitions - watch out for the announcements. Portfolio still a mess? If you've booked a review, as long as you have your best work, people will know what you do. Publishers and agents go to conferences prepared to see things that are not 100% perfectly presented - they're looking for the gems.

If you haven't booked a review, then focus on the experience and take some business cards. For illustrators, meeting publishers at conferences is about making connections, not about showing everything you have. If you're ready to show your work or dummies, make the connection at the conference, but follow up afterwards.

Once you've had a breather and a cup of tea, go with your intuition.

Folio Fiascos

As the adrenaline rises, our decision-making becomes more final, we make yes/no judgements of our work rather than the "maybe" that's kept us awake at nights. The process of preparation can sharpen our decisions, make us more aware of our output. When the clock ticks close to the hour ask yourself, 'does it feel right?' If not, then leave it. In almost any creative situation it's always better to have less work you're 100% sure about, than lots of middle-of-the-road things to bulk up your presentation.
Keep it trim.

The Sunny Side of Stress

The presentation of your work is not best served by last minute panics, however I find that sometimes dropping in something extra or different as a last minute thought can make a difference. I would never recommend we stress out before the conference. Burning the candle late at night can lead to curious decisions, perhaps bad ones you later regret in the cold light of day, but also maybe new directions are revealed! We need the adrenaline to stimulate innovation, push us to take a little risk and get those brain cells buzzing. Activity helps us focus our creative energies.

Pressure is good for the artist, but let's not descend into panic. It will all be fine, trust me!


John Shelley is the Illustration Features Editor of Words & Pictures and co-coordinator of the Central East Network. He's illustrated over 50 books for children, many of them published in Japan where he lived for many years, and the USA. Picture books releases in 2016 are Will's Words: How William Shakespeare Shaped the Way You Talk (Charlesbridge, USA) and Yozora o Miage-yo (Fukuinkan Shoten, Japan). Twitter: @Godfox  Official Website: 

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