Thursday, September 1, 2011

2011 SCBWI Illustrators Intensive -- Some Notes

SCBWI followed their summer Conference this year with a chance to attend either a writer’s or illustrator’s intensive.  I chose the Illustrators Intensive and thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to see some of the ‘greats’ demonstrating their illustrating techniques.

I wrote down some snippets of the information (on tools etc.) so dear to the hearts of illustrators’ fans and groupies!

Jerry Pinkney

Some preferences…

2B pencil for sketching

A tint of raw umber or ochre (rather than a white ground) because “it gives something for the colors to bounce off of.”

Arches 300 lb. or 140 lb. hot press watercolor paper “…hot press allows for greater detail.”


Re: dealing with ‘artists’ block’…  ”Sometimes deadlines get you unstuck!”

Interesting info:  He never spends more than 3 days on an illustration. “But that could mean 10 hour workdays…” And it really means 3 days + 30 years experience!

Paul O. Zelinsky


125 lb. cold press watercolor paper because “it’s kind of forgiving.”

Inexpensive brushes are fine if they have a sharp point.

A clean work environment is important “but it never is” (clean).


He stretches his watercolor paper (unless it’s thick enough not to need being stretched).

Concerning avoiding over painting….”Use a lot of hope!”

He uses a medieval technique involving underpainting with water base paint followed by oil painting.

I found the demonstrations helpful as well as inspiring.  I’m going to stop worrying about expensive vs. inexpensive brushes and my work environment not being as neat as I’d like!  And I’m finally going to experiment with underpainting – oils over water-based paint....

More notes and photos from the Intensive on my next post!


  1. Did Jerry Pinkney mention why he uses so much graphite in his paintings, one of his trademarks? The business about Paul Zelinsky's "medieval technique" sounds fascinating. Thanks, Diane, for bringing a little bit of the conference to us.

  2. I'm so glad to hear other artists feel the same way about inexpensive brushes. I, too, have been wanting to try underpainting in water-based medium. I'm going to have to give it a try.

  3. Hi Dolores,
    There wasn't as much discussion about drawing as painting (except for his definite fondness for 2B pencils! But oh what he can achieve with a pencil!

  4. Thanks Kathleen! And Yes Mary Ann! Hurray for inexpensive brushes (and art store sales)--it did make me feel better about using them when more than one of these amazing artists mentioned using them too...