The RMC-SCBWI, Rocky Mountain Region-Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, fall conference happened last weekend. I took 2 weeks off work to prepare my portfolio, submit my 3 illustrations for the anonymous critique session, and paint an illustration for the calendar contest. The calendar contest is important because if you are chosen the for the calendar, the calendar will go to all industry professionals. In other words, great exposure! So, I had 48 hours last Wednesday to complete my painting. I worked 2 nights into the wee hours of 3:30 a.m., slept 4 hours, then started painting again. I met my timeline after great exhaustion settled into my bones. The night before the conference, I had to make a print of the painting. I had enough paper, printer ink, and pictures. Ok...I was ready. The next 4 hours were grueling... my pictures did not turn out as well as I had thought. The paper was not the right kind, so colors were muddy. To create a good print was next to impossible. As 12:00 midnight approached, I felt disappointed, all my exhaustion spent in the previous 48 hours for the print to turn out so terrible. I had to wake up in 4 hours to get to Denver, I decided to go with what I had.
The next morning as I was driving out the driveway, I decided to take a peek at the print. Sunlight can make a difference, I hoped. Well, it did, the yellow's in the painting were much to strong, the contrast was way too much. Nothing to do now, but let the chips fall where they may. The conference was filled with excitement, people bustling around all hoping to get a glance at the guest speakers and industry panelists. I wait in line to submit my illustration print. I see a couple of illustrators ahead of me, their illustrations are colorful and imaginative. I sheepishly, pull mine out and hand it in. In my mind thinking... let it go...let it go. I did my best under the time limits I gave myself.
As I meandered into the ballroom, there were a sea of people. I took my seat. The celebrated speakers were full of life, sharing their journeys with a room full of aspiring writers and illustrators hanging on to all their wisdom. Although, I must admit with the heavy cloak of exhaustion I felt, I could hardly keep my eyes open. Then, our illustrator coordinator pointed to the back of the room and reminded the crowd of 300 to vote for their favorite illustrations for the calendar. I glanced back and saw a table jammed with illustrations. On the way to the first working session, I stopped at the table and looked for mine. How was it going to measure up against all of these? I spotted it, in the very back row, I could hardly see it. Let it go...let it go. I decided, I could let it go, and place my hopes on my portfolio being recognized. Off to the sessions I went. I took away something valuable from all of them. Some more exciting than others. At lunchtime, the speaker was the wonderful author-illustrator Judy Schachner. Hands down, she was one of the most spirited, witty, engaging speakers I have ever had the pleasure of listening to in my lifetime. I could have sat there all day and just listened to her. Throughout the day I would meander to the illustrator table and listen to comments of the voters. Were they seeing mine? Did it speak to anyone? ...let it go...let it go.
The next morning on the long drive to Denver I was excited to hear the results of the portfolio juried show. I was resigning myself to the fact that the print of my 2-day painting was not going to be voted into the calendar. I placed all my hopes that my portfolio would stand out to the industry panelists. I told myself my most important work is in my portfolio. As I arrived, I noticed that on the second day the crowd dwindled to 150 people or so. So much energy goes into the first day that some cannot repeat it the next day. The illustrator coordinator came to the podium, she was ready to announce the winners of the calendar. I had my back to the stage, pretending it doesn't matter. She read a few, I politely clapped, thinking let's move to the portfolio results. Then, I heard it...J. E. Ryder...I swung back in my chair to see my illustration 10' x12' on the screen. What? I could not believe it? As bad as I knew it had turned out...and it did. It still spoke to enough people that it earned a place in the calendar. I was thrilled. Now I had a second chance to properly make a digital print of my painting. Relief took over, and I was happy. I did not get my portfolio recognized, but somehow, I was ok with that. Having a crowd include me into the calendar was motivation enough to keep going. It even made the critique session enlightening...the industry panelist proclaimed that she loved my technique, rendering, perspective, and design, but the realism was a big no-no for her. All in all a great experience, with unexpected results!