Sunday, April 22, 2012

Melissa Sweet Keynote: Play at Work

Melissa Sweet telling us how she works.

Melissa Sweet, the amazing illustrator of more than 100 books for kids (!), has won all sorts of recognition for her work from outfits you might have heard of, including the New York Times and NCTE. And then there's her Caldecott Honor for A River of Words: The Story of William Carlos Williams.

She talked to us about her working process, showing us images of her studio full of treasures--basically a giant version of the hatbox from Flora McFlimsey.

Some early inspirations for her were things like Spirograph, Colorforms and Etch-a-Sketch, along with maps.

Her studio has a big wall where she puts up her entire book and studies it as a whole.

She gives herself assignments. One year she did a daily 15-minute watercolor. "That was incredibly useful for my nonfiction work. It really made me look at the world more acutely."

Another time, she focused on whether, recording the color of the sky and the barometric pressure. Taking a bit of time away from work for a few minutes every day is a great thing for her.

For A River of Words, she cannibalized beautiful books she found at her library's sale, taking book jackets and painting over them.

Her research process for Balloons Over Broadway was fascinating, from studying stories about Tony Sarg to watching a video clip, making puppets, and taking an important book her dog chewed up and making collage material.

"I was so determined that the whole world know about this guy is that I tried to become him," she said. "This is what I do all day long: scribble, make collages, and try to figure out what the story is about."

Melissa had this to say about persistence, which is turning out to be one of the themes of the conference: "You just have to keep plowing through and you will get to the end. You just don't know where it's going to take you."

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