Happy New Year!

Happy New Year! I’m so excited to see where 2013 will take me as an artist, and all of my artist friends. I’ve got a good feeling!

No new art to post, but I wanted to update about my very first presentation to students! I work at Trinity School in Manhattan doing behind-the-scenes PR and development work (as communications assistant), but barely any of my colleagues know about my illustration career. Well word got out, and the Middle School Dean of Student Life asked me if I would like to join a bunch of other creatives (mostly authors and journalists) and present to the Middle School students. It was parent-teacher conference day, so instead of the kids getting off school they decided to let them have an afternoon of workshops to get to know what it’s like to be an author or artist.

I had to prepare a presentation and small activity for two sessions, around 40 students total. The students got to pick whose sessions they wanted to attend. I was very nervous, since I’m not one for public speaking, but figured I needed to have the experience behind me so that I would feel more open to doing more.

It was actually quite fun!

Here was my setup: a whiteboard in which I had my images on a slideshow, a selection of some of my favorite authors and illustrator’s books (I encouraged them to always remember their favorites and revisit them, and made sure to tell them that picture books are for all ages-they were amazed I still buy them), and some of my published books and original sketches and paintings for them to see in person.

I had a different parent chaperone each session, which I was thankful for. I was nervous that the kid’s would get out of hand chatting, and I don’t have much experience with getting kids to quiet down and listen, but fortunately they were very well behaved and the parents were also very interested in what I had to say, and asked a lot of questions.

My presentation started with me showing some of my work from when I was in middle school. I love seeing early work from artists and seeing how they developed. And indeed, that was one of the favorite parts of the presentation, and when it was done the kids wanted to look at it again! I then showed them my current portfolio. All the while talking about how I got into art through encouragement in school and my parents, and went into my education. I then showed them my published work and talked about the process from sketch to finish, using originals. As an activity, I had sample storyboards printed out and a selection of text from Twas the Night Before Christmas, and taught them a little about storyboarding and composing pages with text and gutter and all that. The last 20 minutes were devoted to them sketching storyboards, or just drawing whatever they wanted, or coming up and looking at the books I brought, and looking at my original work (touching including!). All in all, I thought it went very successfully!

My own middle school art: a portrait of my mom, drawn when I was 10! I told them to start drawing family, friends, pets, and New York City from life-great practice!

I knew off the bat that the kids picked me specifically so they were all pretty interested in art already. During my presentation, the speaking part, they just stared at me, sometimes in astonishment (when I briefly mentioned adult things like freelance taxes, or publishing specifics like how most picture books are 32 pages). Being that it was my first presentation, and I was dealing with 9-14 year olds, I wasn’t sure how detailed to go in the career-talk portion, because I didn’t know how much they would understand, or care to understand. As I said, they were pretty silent and barely nodded when I asked them a general group question, so I was worried everything was going over their heads, but once I was done talking, I’ve never seen a more animated and curious group! So really, I guess they were just silent because they were so absorbed!

My favorite part was getting to talk to them after my presentation. Lots of really good questions, and I love hearing how excited kids get about art, even if they don’t draw a lot themselves. Sometimes you hear from one who is like “I can’t draw, but I like art and reading” and another who is like “I’m submitting work to Scholastic (some student thing, I guess), could you look at it sometime?” Some kids write books already, and some kids are just obsessed with manga. Anyway it was fun to chat with them. They were really pleased that I let them look through my books and original art too, and didn’t mind them touching the paintings and drawings.

Look! I’m having a conversation with a kid! A kid who loves to draw and talk about art! Yay. Being me, a couple of other students were using the whiteboard to draw on top of my images and play around with where to put the title and author name on book cover examples.

Finally, after the two sessions were done, all of the authors and artists gathered in the auditorium and we had a group Q&A so that students who didn’t see a presentation, or just had more questions, could ask questions. I got a lot of good questions there too, and even when the whole thing was done and kids were allowed to go home, they came up to me to ask more!

So, in short, I’m ready to give more presentations! (Though if you really want me to talk to your school, at the moment I am more prepared for the middle school and high school age, since I haven’t done any picture books yet).

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One Response to Happy New Year!

  1. mom says:

    Dear Elisabeth,

    I found your blog about your presentation so interesting and you sounded like you had
    such a good time in doing this. Actually Aunt Liz was the one who read it first and told me to look at it. And I am so glad that I did. I am trying to keep up with things more lately and not being so preoccupied with the move. You are awesome and we are so proud of you. And I loved the drawing of me in the blog!!!!