Highlights first illustrators intensive Founders workshop

A couple of weeks ago, I had the pleasure of attending an illustrators workshop at the Highlights Foundation, the first Founders Workshops dedicated solely to illustrators. The workshops were held in the wooded hills near Honesdale, Pennsylvania. A beautiful setting, I had a ball.

On the first day, we were provided a tour of the charming headquarters of Highlights magazine, which includes the offices of Boyds Mills Press. I had no idea until then that Highlights magazine also includes several trade imprints. We had the opportunity to chat with editors and art directors and ask questions. That evening, we were treated to one of the best meals I’ve ever had. In fact, the chefs at Highlights whipped up special meals every day of the three-day event. Top-notch.

Several people asked, “With so many books under your belt, why are you here as a student?” I attended the workshops because I never want to stop learning. The Highlights Founders workshops were an opportunity to work with, learn from, and exchange ideas with some of the top people in the children’s literature community. People like Eric Rohmann and Floyd Cooper, Melanie Hall and Suzanne Bloom, Lindsay Barret George. I met longtime legends like Vera B. Williams. And a surprise guest, Alix Kennedy, Executive Director of the Eric Carle Museum, dropped in to speak one evening. There were about 30 illustrators in attendance. I learned something from yet-to-be published illustrator, photographer, collagist Jazmin Ortiz. I had the opportunity to meet new-comer Andrew Day. And I was impressed with the work of Ashley Wolff, who has more than 50 books published! So there was a wide range of illustrators.

Attending these workshops forced me to cut four days out of my busy schedule to focus solely on trying out new techniques, something I’d never make time to do on my own.

Here are a few photos of my experience.

Here are some of the cabins where students and faculty stayed. I stayed in the infamous cabin #16, who in previous years had been occupied by author Audrey Vernick, SLJ’s Betsy Bird (Fuse #8), and Floyd Cooper! My roommate was Robert Squire, who tolerated my snoring and never complained once (well, maybe once).

The workshops included hands-on exploration of various techniques. What I learned is that I am NOT a collagist. At. All. But I enjoyed the experience. I came with a full box of supplies, but Highlights provided everything needed.

Here I am with a longtime mentor, Floyd Cooper (he maybe didn’t know he was my mentor). Floyd did a session where he demonstrated his subtractive painting technique using oil paint and a kneadable eraser.

Here are a few more photos:

6 comments

  1. I’m so jealous. There aren’t many–if any–types of illustrator workshops in Florida. As a beginning illustrator, I find these types of events invaluable–necessary, even. Kudos for taking part and sharing your experience. I hope to start participating in such programs next year as I have a long way to go to start establishing a portfolio :)

  2. This is wonderful! Someone told me a while ago I should look you up. I was just researching “Highlights illustrators” to see what their submission policy was and this blog came up as the top result. I am a writer and visual artist transitioning to illustrating kid’s books.

    I really enjoyed reading about the retreat! It sounds so awesome to be surrounded by nature and also to meet and schmooze with other illustrators who are at different stages of their careers! I am working hard so one day soon I can participate in these types of retreats. You all must learn so much.

    I am looking forward to checking out the rest of your site.

    Mirlande Jean-Gilles

  3. I am attending the Writing from the Heart workshop starting this Sunday. I came across your website searching for pictures of the cabins ect. I am really inspired by your work. I write picture books about the African American experience. So, I am very excited about taking this next critical step in developing my craft. I am an elementary teacher, and I have a blog that provides resources for diverse groups of learners. I am looking forward to branching out and learning more about the children’s book industry. Thanks again sharing your wonderful experience on the web.

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