Friday, June 12, 2020

Digital Workshop 2.2: Vashti Harrison

Digital Workshop 2.2 Vashti Harrison: Character Building for Writers and Illustrators 

In the same week she landed five spots on the New York Times Bestseller List (yes, you read that right) - Vashti Harrison honored us with being our Digital Workshop guest for slate # 2.2. She is an SCBWI success story -- after winning the DRAWTHIS competition, and landing her illustrations on the front page of our website, an art director reached out to her for her first book. She’s been working nonstop ever since. 

“People are trying to teach themselves about race and Black history... and it can be exhausting,” Vashti says, opening the workshop. “I want to talk about what I love. Creating beautiful stories.” 

She describes visual storytelling as ways to use visual tools to service your stories. In other words: how to make your characters come to life; how to make your readers fall in love with your characters. Creating memorable characters come from the connection she finds with them. Would you want to hang out with them? Are they flawed? “When it comes to my books, the voice comes from really imagining they are real people. That is what makes them jump off the page.” Vashti showed viewers the way she experimented with light and color in Sulwe, careful to make sure that the color of the little girl’s skin was never taken away in proportion to the glow of the moonlight. 

She ends the workshop in a political and poignant way that viewers will never forget. Vashti walks us through the creative process behind Hair Love, written by Matthew Cherry. “There is a bias in the Black community that Black dads are absent; I very purposely wanted this dad to be hunky, masculine, younger… we wanted to break the bias.”

She shows us the different hair patterns, and textures of Black girl’s hair she chose, why she specifically made those choices, and why we need more books like this one. “I don’t just mean: here’s another book about racism or protesting… I mean here is just a book about a dad and his daughter. It’s crazy how this is revolutionary -- but it is!”

Hair can be political. Every choice is intentional. 

Until next Digital Workshop...!


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