Illustration Features Editor John Shelley talks to event organisers on how technology has helped to continue events online during lockdown. 

Undaunted by Covid 19 restrictions, SCBWI has been active maintaining activities online. I asked volunteers in our Illustration Committee what's been happening in cyber space for our members over lockdown, how technology has helped to continue events during the pandemic, and what's coming up.

Virtual Sketchcrawls

Soni Speight & Alina Surnaite
On the last Saturday of the month Alina has been hosting virtual scrawl crawls on Facebook. SCBWI illustrators and writers have taken inspiration from online visits to the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington and the  Paris Opera. The events are made possible by cleverly using the virtual tours these attractions have on their websites and allow members from all regions of the British Isles to travel and explore together, seeking out new stories and character ideas. We then share our discoveries back in the group.

We don't really use Zoom or FB live as we spend most of the time browsing the virtual collections and drawing/writing but all members can chat and post their work on the event pages.

The virtual tours are found on the Google Arts and Culture website, they also have an app for it. The Virtual Scrawl Crawls' Facebook group is where members can find the previous events if they want to see what we created, and share all our work on the event pages. We had the last three events on this group. The first event (Musee d'Orsay) was on the Central East Network group.

The next scrawl crawl will be the J. Paul Getty Museum collection on the 29th August on the Virtual Scrawl Crawls group


 Picture Book Retreat 2020

Paul Morton
After my first ever PB Retreat I came home dazed, exhausted and thoroughly enchanted.
My love of picture books had been strengthened and my resolve to work at creating something worthy of being published became my driving goal.

I also realised one important thing, that the whole weekend worked so well not just because of the magical setting but mainly because of the wonderful people I met.
Mixing with fellow writers and illustrators, sharing ideas and being inspired together made the experience so memorable.

So when this year's retreat was inevitably cancelled and Natascha suggested offering a Q&A Zoom webinar instead I jumped at the opportunity. The idea of still being able to present something practical and entertaining to fill the void was compelling.

24 of this year's Retreat attendees signed up and submitted some great questions. Ashley was a star with the technical setting-up and Natascha was kept busy and on her mettle answering intriguing questions such as ...

"What is the next hot topic to look out for?"

"When do you know you're ready to submit?"

"How has Covid 19 affected the industry?"

"When preparing non-fiction ideas, how much to write up in advance of submissions?"

Natascha gave informed and instructive replies to the questions that had definite answers but like so much of the children's picture book world there very often isn't any single defining answer.
I think her over riding message was "to find the story you really want to tell."
Holding a live, online mini event was perfectly fine and hopefully we'll all be back at Holland House next year with James Mayhew and Mini Grey leading the creative workshops. I really hope so. I enjoyed seeing everyone on screen and some of the faces were expertly captured as you can see from the sketches by Hannah Sanguinetti.

Here's to the next one.

Illustration Masterclasses

Anne-Marie Perks
Though missing the in-person interaction of meeting fellow illustrators and industry professionals who give so generously to us, Zoom has been a saving grace to what could have been a very bleak time of silence. So far this year SCBWI’s British Isles Illustration Masterclasses have run three sessions for portfolio reviews with six different art directors and agents. These sessions exceeded all expectations in receiving great feedback from both participating illustrators and the art directors and agents who reviewed them. The latest session, International Publishing Opportunities with author-illustrator Bridget Marzo and Anne Weiss, art director with Pomme d’Api magazine and others under the Bayard Publishing umbrella inspired all who attended. News that did get back to me included one illustrator who followed through with the feedback given her during the session and has now been commissioned by an international publisher!

These Zoom sessions for the Illustration Masterclasses have done more than just supply online contact between illustrators and the professionals who can guide and or  commission artwork, they became the connection from their home studios to the industry and other creatives they love.

From the Anne Weiss session.

From the Anne Weiss session.

Coming up in September is, Writing and Illustrating the Graphic Novel with award winning author illustrator and educator, Emily Haworth-Booth. In October is the Art Directors Brief, already in the midst of the first tier of feedback, with art director Becky Chilcott. We are planning another round of  Portfolio Breakouts in November as the last three sessions sold out in 24 hours and we want to give as many illustrators as we can the opportunity to show their work to an industry professional. So what will next year look like? At this point it is hard to say whether we will begin in March 2021 as an online or face to face. The one sure thing is, Illustration Masterclasses will continue in either format.
(Header by Soni Speight)


  John Shelley is the Illustration Features Editor of Words & Pictures and the illustrator   of over 50 books for children, most recently The Boy in the Jam Jar by Joyce Dunbar,   for Bloomsbury. He's a three times nominee for the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award.   Instagram Twitter
  Soni Speight is a published illustrator based in Oxfordshire, and the SCBWI British Isles    Illustrator Coordinator and Conference organiser for Illustrators.  Instagram Twitter
  Alina Surnaite is a graduate of the MA Children's Book Illustration course at Anglia Ruskin, and an SCBWI member, for which she organises events in Cambridge.  Her debut picture book I Love You Bunny is published by Frances Lincoln.
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Paul Morton runs HotFrog Graphics and is a long-standing volunteer with SCBWI's illustration team. His book Bugbelly: Babysitting Trouble was released by Five Quills earlier this year. Instagram Twitter
Anne-Marie Perks is a former SCBWI Illustration Coordinator, illustrator, animator and lecturer at Buckinghamshire New University. Recent books include the wordless When Dad Hurts Mum, and A Safe Place from Domestic Abuse (Books Beyond Words Publishing, London). The Silkie (Clucket Press) a middle grade novel, is now available.


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