I have two homes. One in Long Island and one in Amherst, MA. I consider myself a very,very lucky girl to be able to walk in and out of two very different worlds. The three hour drive to MA feels very much like a trip down the rabbit hole into a Wonderland… up to the “Happy Valley” -in MA, as it’s called. Down here, in NY, I spend 97% of my life in my attic..alone with the pets..drawing. Up there, in MA… I meet the most enchanting people.
This past week I did my “Character Design 101″ workshop up at the NESCBWI Spring conference. I drove up a day early to get “Hot Dog House” – ready for guests. It was thrilling to see the cars pull up the drive way. From Texas, from Minnesota, from New Jersey and from D.C…. Out popped Diandre Mae, Nina Crittendon, Leeza Hernandez and Courtney Pippin Mathur. The weekend kicked off with an evening out in Amherst. D and Nina helped me bag my cookies for my workshop. (Cookies make everything better and the sugar high would fog their brains…making my workshop even better!) We were groovin’ at Hot Dog to Gotye’s “Somebody that I used to know”…
The next day – we all were off to The Eric Carle Museum for the reception. We arrived wearing polka dots..and who knew it would cause quite the stir? Illustrator Carlyn Beccia wore them too! I love to see illustrators take in The Carle for the first time. It’s such a little gem.
Leeza,Courtheny,Me,Carlyn and D. Nina had on dots too.. She must be taking the picture.
That night we were off to Springfield to the hotel. Those of us in the Illustrator Academies had our intro meetings. In the advanced Academy we had the huge opportunity to work with Dan Yaccarino, Matha Rago and Kristin Sorra. If you have read my blog over time, you know of my art crush on “The Yaccarino”. There’s got to be 4-5 posts about him. I met him this past winter conference in NYC for the first time. If there is anybody I want to soak up art knowledge from, it’s him.
I was officially on the faculty since I was giving a workshop. The conference theme was “A Whole New World”… and that is exactly how it felt. Being at the faculty dinner was kind of like a steady cam shot. Kind of dizzying. You seem to be right in the action.. but you can’t feel your body. Are you really there?
It was the night before my workshop and my nerves were revving up….but fun conversation helped whisk them a way for awhile. Somehow…after dinner I found myself sitting at the bar next to Harry Bliss. This dude is funny. I luv a dry wit and a slow delivery. He is also a huge David Bowie fan. A New Yorker cartoonist – great illustrator and a Bowie fan.
Dig – him.
The next morning… I had no idea what to wear!!! So- I thought… be chill… and started singing Johnny Cash… so I wore a black shirt and black pants. I walk the line.
Packed up the car with all of the workshop stuff and off we drove… back to Springfield! -we arrived a bit before 8. My workshop was at 9:50. I went to the room. It was set up all wrong. No tables. D’UH-O! It’s a drawing workshop… oy to the vey! After a minor nervous breakdown… I helped a nice man named Raymond put out new tables and cover them with table clothes. I gave him cookies. The AV dude hooked up the tech.. and in rolled the attendees. I was SO nervous- my heart was going like the typewriter in that Spike Jones typewriter song!
The nerves were like a huge wave…waiting to crash on me… so I rode that wave. I surfed my nerves thru the 2 hours. I learned – laughter really is the best medicine. Laugh at yourself. Laugh at your mistakes
Thank you to all who attended who were friendly and fun. Thanks to Casey Girard and Greg Matusic for posing for gestures.The other lady too! I didn’t get her name. I think we could have done that for a long time. Thanks for being excited to draw together. I hope that I get to do this workshop again and improve it. Now – having done it, I don’t know why I was so nervous. It was fun. Keep playing with your drawing you guys!
I did crash a bit afterwards. I sat in the afternoon..took a stroll in the sun.
Then it was time for dinner. I did not go to the faculty pizza party. We went out for BBQ a few blocks away. I sat across from The Yaccarino and next to friends and had a great time. I have a rule – no messy eating in professional settings. No salad, no spaghetti… no ribs. RIBS!? Did someone say ribs? They were good too! And so was chatting with Dan, yes, I can now call him Dan. (altho..I will always think of him as The Yaccarino) SO interesting to talk animation- the ins and outs and ups and downs! There were many ribs consumed…… by Heidi. She is so tiny… hollow legs…must be.
That’s me.. going “Pyscho” on my ribs.
After the restaurant- I hit the portfolio room. There are many talented illustrators up in New England. It’s a fertile land of art. My hands smelled like ribs as I turned the pages. I am sure I have added some scratch and sniff to many portfolios. I got a lot of great feedback on my own portfolio. It was very validating. It will fuel me in my on going agent hunting…
Then fun back at the bar. Some words of wisdom over my portfolio from Dan have lit a fire under my tuchus. Basically a “What are you waiting for?”
He’s like EF Hutton… If he’s gonna say somethin’..I’m gonna listen.
After a few cocktails we drove to Hot Dog House … first full night’s sleep in days…. (I did not drive)
The next day we were in the Illustrator Academy. It was great to see the different takes on our homework. The faculty each gave a presentation. I wish we had more time. I came ready to rework my under worked homework. – I had put all of my attention into my workshop.. so I felt like a bit of a slacker. I learned from other’s efforts tho. Martha Rago can see the “big” picture in the picture book. So many aspects to do successfully to make something so simple. Deceptively simple. – Elegance is simplicity. It’s all very zen…… well, kinda. It WILL be. – oh, back to work…
The Poster Contest! I almost forgot… my pick, won. Russ Cox! – I love being right. (there were other FAB posters too!)
The conference ended with a touching talk by Jane Yolen. She spoke of celebrating each other’s achievements and supporting each other along the journey. I got sniffly. We polka dotty gals had spent the whole weekend doing just that.
We bid Adieu to Leeza and Courtney… and went back to get into pajamas at Hot Dog.
Monday morning, lounging about… we got an invite to tea and had a SPLENDID afternoon. Inspiring, motivating…welcoming. Happy, Happy Valley…. you are hard to leave. After some book stores, some art gallery-ing.. and some local burgering… we were worn out.
The next morning D drove on to Boston and Nina flew back to Minnesota …and I drove back thru the rabbit hole to NY.
It all happened right?
It feels a bit like a movie I used to love…. The one where the kid drops a quarter into the slot of a fortune teller machine and says…
“I want to be BIG”