Society of Illustrators – Educators Symposium

Society of Illustrators Educators Symposium, Oct. 10-12, 2014, New York City

Introduction by Executive Director Anelle Miller and Educators Symposium Chair Chuck Pyle (Academy of Art University)

We are in a time of tumultuous and unpredictable transitions from print to digital but illustrators have survived evolutions in technologies before, in fact due to the resiliency and importance of artists and their work, surpassed expectations. Recall how Cave wall artists transitioned to art on skins, from a fixed location to mobile artworks!

Keynote: It takes two: The Exponential Benefits of Joining Forces

Writer/Illustrator, indie publishing duo Matthew Swanson and Robbi Behr of Idiot’s Books shatter the myth of the lone genius while discussing and demonstrating the powers of collaborative thinking and doing.

This duo have published 57 books between their two companies – Idiots Books and Bobbledy Books for adults and children respectively.

There are different types of collaboration:

  • Passive collaboration –  A works separately and B work separately and combined they make a single product. (ie. writer writes a book and illustrator illustrates it)
  • Active Collaboration – A works with B and their combined effort creates a single product.  Lots of back and forth, writer comments on art and artist comments on writing, they each take the feedback and recombine.
  • Directed Collaboration – A directs B to create the product, ie. Art director or editor

Idiot Books started as a subscription service, sold book subscriptions so they had to create books! After 10 books, publishers started to come to them.  Odd logic of collaboration that two minds together is exponential in it creative output.  It allows for the unexpected which can lead to greater creativity, but must be open to it.

The process for collaboration:

  1. Accept the offer
  2. Add a new concept
  3. Build
Common Ground + Points of difference





Writer vs. Illustrator


Divide jobs and Respect turf

No=Yes (with a but) is better than Yes which actually =No because there is no investment in the response, no critical thinking

Cory Doctorow – “Makers” 81 chapter graphic novel available always for free or donation, more “concerned with obscurity than copyright”! http://craphound.com/makers/download/

Making comics and Graphic Novels an Effective Educational Track – Paul Levitz

Levitz is a writer of over 400 comics and an executive at DC comics

He asks – Why teach comics? and responds that there is an unprecedented desire to be creative.  The tools of distribution and creation are readily available – but without education there is a general absence of craft.  Animation is not a great form of personal expression whereas comics are.  They can also help an artist find their voice.  There is the magic of the form with the creation of secret characters and scenarios. When there is deep research of a subject matter there is a joy in authentic detail and this can be translated into the comic. There is an art to making comics and they do need writers.

Historically in the 1950s – long comics stayed safely in the fiction genre.  Then in 1978 Will Eisner wrote “Contract with God” in reaction to losing his 16 y.o. daughter to leukemia and 18 y.o. son to mental illness. It was a self-published piece of fiction to deal with his loss and anger.  The book touched creative people with issues of religion, god, death and why we live.  Richard Kyle coined the term Graphic Novel.  Art Speigelman wrote Maus in response to his parents holocaust experiences.  Frank Miller wrote Dark Knight and Watchman.  The mainstreaming of the graphic novel began with Persepolis and Funhome.  In Japan, Manga accounts for 33% of all publishing.  The Graphic Novel accounts for 2% of all publishing in the US. In 2005 comics made a comeback with the launch and growth of web comics.  Joe Sacco writes a comic as his tool for reporting from Palestine.

Some facts -There are now 4-5 peer reviewed journals in Comic Studies.

Studying the art of comics is usually within the context of an art school.  This often leaves out the writing side.  There is a need to marry to two together. Levitz co-teaches a Graphic Novel course with a non-fiction journalist.

Scott McCloud’s book “Understanding Comics” is still the best, most comprehensive guide to the inner workings of comics.

Comics can also be educational – there is a Comics for Medicine conference

A good example of a collective effort is the Stanford Graphic Novel Project

Comics and style – look at Matt Madden  – 99 Ways to Tell a Story.

Professional Practices presented by Robert Hunt and Adam McCauley from CAL Arts

A conversation on the importance of instilling good professional practices on students before they graduate began with the Youtube video Pay the Writer!

Amateurs make it difficult for professionals!

History of Pricing –  ie. fee for a magazine cover

1956 –$3500

1984 – $400

2014 – $400

Payment is sometimes negotiated by the promise of exposure over getting paid properly.  The entire New York Times art budget for the year is $1 million dollars, so they pay a lot less, but artists accept this because of the exposure factor.  The evolution of technology, the global economy, deregulation and mergers are all reasons for the downward turn in illustration wages.

Pricing surveys, info is old before it ever gets published and the reality is, they are often based on past rates, so it doesn’t go up, in fact goes down taking inflation into consideration.  Advice to counteract this, don’t work on spec, take onerous terms, under value your work.  Acceptance means you are complicit in the race to the bottom.  Illustration is a commercial art, art is created for money.  Value should be tied to usage and charge usage fees.

The question to ask if approached for a free or undervalued work, would pay for the exposure in lieu of payment?  If not, it’s not a good deal.  I reasonable discussion of a fee is EXPECTED from a professional.

Work made-for-hire, in this arrangement, you lose the copyright and should be compensated for this.

Royalty –free deals are bad for the industry.  They are important to challenge in order to create sustainability.

Free culture isn’t working for artists – music – visual.

PACT – Professional artists client toolkit artpact.com

MADEFIRE: A New Chapter

Joe Elardy- Production Manager demonstrated MADEFIRE and how it makes a compelling portfolio

MADEFIRE partnered with Deviantart to create an app for comic publishing including motion comics.  The great thing with this is once you publish, you are put into the storefront – next to Superman

It is free unless you begin selling the comics.

Once you become a member of deviantart you can then access the “create motion-book” All work is done remotely and is cloud based.

Comixology online sales of print and online comics

Milk for the Ugly” is a motion comic that was made by two Polish women on their weekends.

Adobe Publishing – Steve Adler

Social media statistics-

1.2 billion facebook users

6 billion Youtube users

1.4 billion own a personal device

Technology is     – mobile, social and cloud based

The New Frontier is EXPERIENCE which is multifacted and the future skills needed are creatives, strategists, decision makers, leaders

The MFA is the new MBA says Daniel Pink

65% of today’s school kids will end up in jobs not even invented – U.S. Dept. of Labour

Animake – was an Adobe competition to find the best animation students

Adobe.com – in the menu is learn + support.  Use the button – Learn at your level

Each program has from novice to expert, 50 tutorials including the support files

Adobe Creative Cloud TV with Terry White (creativesuitepodcast.com)

Indesign – now can output to e-pub files including interactive elements and social links and embedded video

With the digital publishing suite (dps)– can publish and monetize.  A 14 y.o. girlmade a flipbook, sold it for $1.99 each and made $15,000.

It uses responsive design allowing for design to adapt to all devices – tablet, phone, laptop, desktop, TV

Adobe for Academics

Adobe Muse is a website builder for designers

National Geographic Magazine – has taken it’s online magazine to new heights.  In video the author can speak to the article written, show video as well as still images, play audio where relevant

a. Peephole is a school based magazine –San Francisco Art College – produced in 1 semester encompassing copy editing, illustration, graphic design, advertising students etc.

b. Oregon Journalism students produce their OR magazine

c. Corcoran College creates their view book

Clickbaby click youtube video

Upload to the dps store, publications are juried by Adobe which then takes a 30% commission if being sold.

Dpstips is an app to show you how to use the software.

Why Publishing Matters presented by Alan Male and Bunny Carter


  1. Pictures the Past-ie, google doodle seen by 6 Billion people a day
    1. Depict scenes we wouldn’t normally see, ie Battle of Hastings where 17,000 people participated
    2. Depict people either –ve or +ve and influence how people are seen
    3. Recreate a Norman Rockwell painting in 3D – with z-brush
    4. Showed the world what dinosaurs looked like
  1. Defines the Present
  1. Imagines the Future – “The Jetsons” from the 1960s is still cutting edge

Gaming is a $90billion industry

More important than ever that students know how to draw

Programs should be draw, draw, draw with a bit of technology

The art world has changed –

Historians have privileged fine art over illustration for centuries. But art has changed, illustration is used now to define all that is done in new media, storyboarding, concept development etc.

Illustration is perceived as anti-intellectual but there is much that is being done that counters this claim, ie. Visual research

Peer reviewed “The Journal of Illustration

Can teach drawing, can’t teach smarts.  There is a big need for medical illustration.

Technology and Craft

Finding new outlets for illustrations

Sarah Wooley – is a producer for Community Theatre and an illustrator on the side.  She creates the sets and props for the theatre.  She also creates for audience immersive – Live Art events

Margo Dabaie – applies her 2D design to ‘stuff’ and sells them on her online store.  She applies her illustrative work to a non-traditional surface to fabrics, coasters, pillows, jewelry. www.mddabaie.com

Marcos Chin – is an established editorial illustrator http://www.marcoschin.com/ .  On the side he has pursued fashion design. Set up a silk screen at home with a power washer and light exposure table.  Learned to sew stretchy fabrics, created textiles and set up his own Yeeyee design label.  Interned with an established designer to learn more.

Chuck Pyle – discussed his school – the Academy of Art University – in San Francisco.  The entire curriculum for many undergraduate and graduate art and design degrees is offered both on campus and online, including lifedrawing!  There are some students who never step foot on the campus, in fact the most recent valedictorian was an online student whose first time at the school was graduation.  Chuck has offered to allow a sneak peak behind the scenes.