Terry Widener wants to see your fairytale scenes
In the video above, award-winning children's book illustrator Terry Widener shares how he created the animated cover for You Never Heard of Willie Mays!?, the 2013 picture book he created with Jonah Winter for Schwartz & Wade/Random House.
Terry is set to serve as our guest instructor November's Guest Group Critique , starting at 8 p.m. (U.S. Central Time), Wednesday, November 9.
A gifted athlete as well as artist (he attended the University of Tulsa on a golf scholarship), Terry worked for many years as an in-demand commercial and editorial illustrator before a children's book assignment came out of the blue from an editor who'd been watching his work for years. Like many great illustrators he's interested in many things, not just sports. He loves history, popular culture and every kind of story out there and how it's told.He can't wait to see your completed fairy tale or nursery rhymes scenes in the November 9 session. (Scroll down below for the full assignment details.)
Here's what two reviewers are saying about Terry Widener's latest collaboration with author Winters, My Name is James Madison Hemings, published just last month by Schwartz & Wade/Random House. It's a picture book account of the son of Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings:
"Winters creates a tone of secrecy and distance in a place where no one is allowed to speak truth. Widener’s acrylic illustrations with their pastoral palette contribute to this with stillness, though they are not static. The many images of Madison as an observer of his surroundings reflect the fact he was the only one of Sally Hemings’ children to leave a written record of his life, a major source for Winter’s story...
"The strength of this telling is the way it encourages readers to empathize with Madison’s plight, making it a solid entry in that class of picture books tackling tough topics. (Picture book. 5-9)"
"The creators of You Never Heard of Willie Mays?! bring poignant and personal dimension to the story of Thomas Jefferson’s family with Sally Hemings through the fictionalized first-person perspective of one of their sons. A somber mix of historical details and plausible fictional particulars, the book was inspired by an 1873 newspaper interview with James Madison Hemings (1805–1877), in which he described his Monticello childhood and claimed his paternity. Alongside Hemings’s candid narration, Widener’s emotive acrylic art underscores his perception of his life’s station: he’s repeatedly pictured peering in from the outside, with Jefferson (who isn’t identified until late in the story) shown at a distance..."
"A moving final scene reveals Hemings as a free man and accomplished carpenter who is still perplexed about how his father—and master—viewed him: “Perhaps he would be proud. I do not know.” Ages 5–9."
In our live session with him on November 9, Terry will talk a little about creating the art for this powerful book, which took 14 months to research and six months to six months to draw and paint in traditional acrylics. We'll also ask him about his recent forays into Western Art and the world of fine art galleries. He'll also review some of double page spread illustrations, several left over from last month's group critique with author-illustrator Robert Quackenbush.
So don't forget to turn your clock back Sunday and mark your calendar for the November Guest Group Critique with Terry scheduled for 8 p.m. (U.S. Central Time), Wednesday, November 9.
It's going to be an exciting night! (Scroll down for the assignment details.)
Join us around the critique table in November
Terry paints his illustrations in traditional acrylics. Many of the the more than 30 books he has illustrated have been recognized on state reading lists, ABA, SCBWI, ALA, and a number of 'Best Book' lists. You can see a list of his awards here.
His work has appeared in the Society of Illustrators #’s 26,27,29,30,31,33 annual exhibitions and The Society of Illustrators Original Art exhibitions in 1997, 1999 and 2005. His work was also selected for the Communication Arts Illustration Annuals in 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989 and 1991.
His artwork is also a part of the Mazza Museum of International Art from Picture Books at the University of Findlay (Findlay, Ohio) and in collections of national and international corporations.
Participate in Terry's 'process visit' and review of the group's submitted illustration spreads, set for Wednesday, November 9 by subscribing to monthly Guest Group Critiques. You can also register for just the one event and video replay.
(Already a subscriber? You're in. Keep your eye out for the details in your e-mail inbox.)
Your fairy tale assignment (revisited):
Terry is known best for his illustrations for picture book biographies – often of sports and historical figures. But he loves a dramatic fairy tale picture, too and he's looking forward to seeing yours on Wednesday, November 9.
Robert asked to see a finished illustration in any media – a spread (two facing pages is a spread) showing an important moment from a fairy tale, fable, nursery rhyme or a story of your own.
Size/format? 10" x 16" or 8" x 20", depending on whether you want horizontal or vertical 8" x 10" book, which a standard size for a picture book when closed.
"For subject matter I suggest a fairy story or nursery fable – one that hasn't been done before. You can find that out by googling the name of your selection and see if it has been done. There is always a market for unusual folk tales and fables," Robert told us last month.
"You might even consider a fable or folk tale from India that has not been published before in the U.S for a wide audience including India that looks for books in English. Or write your own story, which is even better."
Monthly group critiques are 'perfect practice'
They tell you...
What isn't working
When to push harder
When to just stop
And help you to...
Get a fresh perspective
Our guest critiquers – illustrators, author-illustrators, children’s literary agents, art directors, maybe an editor or two – examine your final in a spirit of teaching and mentoring.
Think more like a pro
Watch up close and personal how full-time creatives evaluate and troubleshoot their own and others’ pieces.
Prepare for that thing
That upcoming kidlit (or illustrators’) conference, important promotional mailing, post or sit-down with a client.
Sharpen your discernment powers
Remind you of those bedrock principles of draftsmanship, design and communication. (Funny how they keep bringing you back to those.)
Meet your tribe
Your colleagues and the expert practioners. Who share their What I Wish I Knew Then stories and become your contacts in ‘the biz.’ (It’s called networking.)
Get better at getting better
Practice with critiques helps you understand the hierarchy of feedback and how to navigate it wisely – knowing what’s valid for you now, vs. what to set aside for later.
Click on the photos to see their websites!