ILLUSTRATOR MASTERCLASS Creating Worlds with Nghiem Ta

In early October Walker Books art director Nghiem Ta headed our latest SCBWI Illustrator's Masterclass at the House of Illustration. Shana Nieberg-Suschitzky was there, and gives her report.

On Saturday 6th October I had the great fortune to have attended yet another inspiring, informative and motivating Illustration workshop. This was hosted by the wonderful Nghiem Ta, art director at Walker Books and organised by Anne-Marie Perks, our fab illustrator coordinator and Trish Edwards, of the SCBWI Illustrators Team.

Nghiem Ta

Nghiem had provided us with a rare opportunity. She had given us a professional brief, which was based partially on an existing book project that she is currently working on. We all had to complete the roughs for two spreads by a set time. These spreads included creating one with a view of a chosen world, then a second spread of sketches produced by the character who explores it, which allowed us to try two different techniques. Nghiem then sent us feedback by the beginning of September, for us to continue on to produce the finished illustrations.

On Saturday 6th October, we took our finished illustrations in to the event, where Nghiem then reviewed each person’s work, in front of the group. This was a fantastic way of seeing an array of different styles and responses to the same brief and it was amazing to get first hand feedback from such an experienced and gifted art director. There were a few people who didn’t do the work, but they still benefited enormously from just listening to Nghiem’s advice and responses.

And if this wasn’t beneficial enough, Nghiem then went on to give us a sneak preview of the book itself, which is presently in its pre-print form and will be out in Autumn 2019! She explained in great depth how she works with the illustrator, David Wyatt and included his answers to a set of questions that she’d asked him on our behalf. It was both illuminating and awe-inspiring. David had achieved a huge body of work in the relatively short period of six months. This included three different styles of artwork: the views of each world; the sketches that were ‘produced’ by the character and then the maps. I am unable to show photos due to it’s pre-publication status, it was purely a bonus for the people who attended the event, another perk of these extraordinary sessions.

As with all of the SCBWI classes, I feel that this workshop was incredibly inspirational and such great value for money. Nghiem is a modest, very talented and generous art director, who is also very good at guiding and nurturing others. She was a delight to listen to and learn from and I was in absolute awe of how much time and pertinent advice she gave us, given her full-time position at such a prestigious publishers.

The path of an illustrator can be quite isolating and unguided one, but having these type of events, with such a comprehensive brief and generous feedback gives us the opportunity to hone our skills and efficiency for our future jobs.

So, I give huge thanks on behalf of all who attended to both Nghiem and the SCBWI Illustration team for providing yet another great affair!

All photos courtesy of the author.


Shana Nieberg-Suschitzky is a long-time SCBWI member, creating stories and illustrations for both picture books and older children’s fiction. 
Twitter: @Mumma_Penguin

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