I connected with K.G. to find out more about the process and vision for creating this year's poster...
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Lee: Hi Keith! A pirate bed coursing through the waters, a golden-kite-sailed ship in the distance, the tagline... Can you share your process of coming up with the concept and design for this year's poster?
Keith: SCBWI gave me free reign in devising a concept for the poster. My original sketch was more typical of the dark, Gorey-inspired humor of Lester’s Dreadful Sweaters. A kid is reading in a dentist’s waiting room beneath the tag line “Wherever you’d rather be, a Golden Kite book can take you there.”
|Keith's original sketch for the Golden Kite Poster|
Lin Oliver at SCBWI gently suggested that reinforcing negative perceptions of dentistry might not be the most…helpful message. She proposed we take the same concept but give it a more positive tweak; “Golden Kite books take you where you want to go.”
Learning from my mistake, I realized I’d have to choose my setting carefully. Where are kids typically reading (school) that it’s OK to suggest they’d like to escape from (yikes, not school). And thus we arrive at bed-time. The bed-as-boat thing is hardly original. Off the top of my head I can’t think of a literary precedent, but what kid’s bed (my own included) hasn’t been appropriated as a galleon or a spaceship or a fort? Of those options, a breezy, ocean-going scene seemed best suited to a summer conference.
From there I went to Howard Pyle and N.C. Wyeth, and from there it was pretty obvious how this year’s golden kite (there’s always at least one in the poster) should be incorporated. Tada!
Lee: Fascinating - I love hearing that evolution. With well-published and award-winning illustrators like yourself, there can be a perception that you're past the making mistakes, experimenting and challenges of creating new work - that it's all somehow magically easy once you've 'made it.' Tell us what happened in the process of creating this poster.
Keith: I’m not sure that four books qualify me as well-published, but thank you for making me sound so grand. I suspect a little bird (named Sarah) at SCBWI has shared with you the fact that I had some “technical difficulties” with this poster.
Lee: She did, indeed - and was excited for other illustrators to hear the story...
Keith: I am not a young person, but I am actually a fledgling illustrator. I’ve only been at this professionally for a few years. Moreover I’m self-taught, so didn’t benefit from those art school years that provide instruction and permit experiment in various media and techniques. In short, I’m still playing around and making mistakes (or discoveries if you’re of a more optimistic bent).
Unsure of how the visual texture might be affected by a significant enlargement, I chose to render this piece at close to scale (24” x 36”). With watercolor and colored pencil, it was quite a time-consuming undertaking. I was working with Rives BFK printmaking paper which I’d used for The Mermaid and the Shoe. It’s not a hardy, forgiving surface but colored pencil blends and smudges on it exquisitely.
As you can imagine at these dimensions, the background was a bit of a bear and took me a couple of days. Unfortunately, when I came to remove the masking fluid that was protecting the figures it took the soft, velvety surface of the Rives BFK with it! It cost me my deadline (although the folks at SCBWI were more than generous with their sympathy and flexibility) and sent me on a wild scramble to find an alternative surface (it’s watercolor board if you’re interested).
Lee: Is there a lesson there for other illustrators to note?
Keith: If you can, go to art school. Otherwise, if you make even a slight change to your process (in Mermaid I’d used grey paper, for the poster I used white; I guess it was softer), test it first. Seems pretty obvious now.
Lee: Thanks for sharing that! How have things changed for you since winning last year's picture book illustration Golden Kite for your "Lester's Dreadful Sweaters"?
Keith: One very welcome change is that my agent is no longer forced to knock on doors hunting down my next project. I am in fact now forced to pass on much of what is being offered to me.
I’m such a hopeless Yes Guy it makes me feel terribly ungrateful. But in the end there is only so much time in the day. If I take on too many illustration projects it prevents me from writing my own manuscripts.
Secondly - referring back to a previous question - my lack of formal art training has left me with a certain sense of inadequacy. I’m constantly dogged by the suspicion that there is this vast wealth of practical knowledge of which I’m completely ignorant. As a result I’m always concerned that my work might appear amateurish or unprofessional. Winning the Golden Kite was quite the boost to my self-confidence. Every time I look at my shiny award I feel less like an imposter, and more like a real live illustrator.
Lee: You ARE a real live illustrator! You are! Can you share your favorite piece of advice for other illustrators and author/illustrators?
Keith: It’s not about how you say it; it’s about what you say. Yes, a painstakingly rendered painting or a stylishly-turned phrase can make your book a very lovely thing. But if the story does not engage the reader, if it doesn’t move them, if the story is without substance, then it is a lovely thing without a heart. Speech bubbles and doodles can have as much depth and humanity as poetry and oil paint. No need to hide your talents. Deliver your virtuoso performance by all means. But never let style subvert substance. The story always comes first. Always.
Thanks so much!
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Would you like your very own copy of the amazing 2014 SCBWI Golden Kite Poster?
Enter a comment here in the next seven days and we'll randomly choose one lucky person to win!
(Make sure to include your email address so we can reach you - if there's no way to contact you, we'll have to choose a different winner.)
And if you work at a bookstore or library and would like a copy to display, please send an email to: sarahbaker (at) scbwi (dot) org.
To find out more about K.G. Campbell and his work, visit his website here.
And check back at this blog for exclusive interviews with all the 2014 Golden Kite Award Winners (and the 2014 Sid Fleischman Humor Award Winner, too!)
Illustrate and Write On,