Posts Tagged ‘critique group’

Lesson#2: Love Your Community & Do the Dishes (lessons from Brooklyn)

Filed under: Lessons of an Artist,On My Mind | May 18, 2013

Michael and HJ

My little family recently visited my sister and lots of old friends in Brooklyn, New York. It had been 2 years since I had walked that much (and that fast) in one day, rode the subway, strolled streets lined with row houses, got used to being warmer than usual indoors, washed dishes by hand, and went on the roof to water plants! If you don’t already know, my husband and I lived in Brooklyn (Park Slope) for a year before we had H.J. I remember leaving to move back home with renewed energy to make more time for friends. Family is awesome- especially mine- but friends are really important too. Friends in community are even more so.

India and Michael and HJ

HJ and India on a rooftop in Brooklyn

Our recent Brooklyn visit reminded me of that again… spending time in Crown Heights (my sister’s hood) felt like I was in a historic jazz town from a children’s book! Folks who had lived there all their lives were sitting on stoops and laughing with others, enjoying the Spring weather. When India (my sister) passed by, they waved to her and chatted as if she’d lived there all along too. And we had a warm welcome gathering in Park Slope in a lovely and quaint backyard of friends’. Afterward, my sister and her husband quickly offered to do the dishes! By hand! There aren’t many apartments with dishwashers there, so it’s a great way to serve your friends. And that’s when you get to the really good stuff in conversation- when you’re doing the dirty dishes! Don’t know why, but its true.

Party at the Booker's 1 Party at the Booker's 2 Party at the Booker's 3

I don’t know what it is about Brooklyn, but it breeds close communities. Communities of people with big dreams and big talents! That’s what I miss most about Brooklyn. Living among talented artists, designers, cooks, dancers, actors, musicians, and speakers and counting myself as one of them. When I visit, my old friends, my old community make me feel like I am still a part of it :) I’m so very thankful for that.

Hanging out behind The Old Stone House

Ben and I have chosen to live in the South near our families for now. I’m thankful H.J. gets to spend lots of time with her grandparents! And I have free babysitters often which blesses me with precious time for my illustration endeavors. I don’t get as much community with friends here in Georgia as did in Brooklyn, but the ones I do have are precious to me.

At the Brooklyn Botanical Garden At the Brooklyn Botanical Garden 2

I meet with 6 insanely awesome writers once a month! We (unofficially) call ourselves Trail Mix being as we are SO very different from each other, but we all all have the common thread of pursuing careers in children’s books. There’s laughing, tears, tough love, encouragement, and so much fun every time we meet! I would’ve never thought I would find such community with a group of writers! (Since I am more of an illustrator and all :) At the end of this month I’ll be hosting the group at my house, and I’m going to cook them dinner which is a little out of the ordinary. I guess I’m inspired to serve my little writer community!

HJ in BK!

I also happen to be a part of a very artsy family which I probably take for granted. It would stink if my whole family thought I was aloof and wanted me to be a doctor. That is definitely not the case! My family sets the artsy bar high- I am constantly being amazed!

HJ in BK 2

And my neighbor is pretty cool. Brandi has shown me that it can be a whole lot of fun to be friends and neighbors! We visit over coffee at each other’s houses or yards at least once a week. And if we need a cup of sugar, we walk over and get some :)

I also live in a sweet little railroad town called Ball Ground. I hope to be a pillar here and see it grow into something really neat. A small town girl with big dreams might be important to this small town- who knows?

McCloskey's in front of Manhattan

Conclusion: Artists need each other. Artists and non-artists need each other. Family needs each other. Maybe there’s a reason you exist in a place or in the same place as someone else. Maybe you are meant to inspire them or they to inspire you. Probably both.

So, love your community and do the dishes wherever you are.

NYC Graffiti


Notes To Self from Springmingle 2013

Space Chicken Illustration by Shanda McCloskey

Time flies! It has almost been a month since Illustrator’s Day and Springmingle and I’m just now getting around to writing up this post. I took notes for myself and wanted to document the highlights… and the gist of the weekend.

First of all, it was extra fun because I attended with 4 other members of my super critique group! There was definitely something special about our being there together. As each one of us went into the hall for our formal critiques, the others waited in the lobby as if the one being critiqued was in surgery or something. We all came out with good feedback, yet much to work on. I had 2 critiques in a row, because I did a portfolio critique as well as my first manuscript critique! My manuscript was reviewed by Jill Corcoran, an agent with the Herman Agency. She is very straightforward, but kind. She saw a few of my illustrations too so she saw me as a whole package as someone trying to write and illustrate, and do you know what she told me…?

She said (twice by the way), “You have a future in this. Keep working at it.”

Holy cow! That was nice to hear :) It was like she said: You’re not crazy for spending countless hours following this dream. You are getting closer. She didn’t say those words, but I think that’s what she meant :) Of course that MADE my weekend! And yes, I cried when I got back to my critique group. That’s just who I am :)


It was also cool to spend some time with my illustrator buddies too! These girls (Shannon and Christina) are really down to earth and talented. We represent 3 states! We don’t see each other often, but it sure is nice to talk art when we do.

artists_group copy

These are just two of the many amazing illustrators I have come to be friends with. I could never list them all, but each one has taught me something different! Lori Nichols, for example, has given me incredible, forehead slapping Photoshop tips and an beautiful example of a mother-of-three living this dream! The openness and honesty of Kristen ApplebeePrescott HillAlison Hertz, and Elizabeth Dulemba‘s journeys are dear to my heart as well. Thanks for all you do and for sharing what you know with me.

Since I was one of the first 12 to sign up for Illustrator’s Day, I was able to participate in the assignment art directed by Mark Braught! Here are some sketches and the final, although I feel it got too busy. And I prefer the cropped vignette image at the top of this post best :)

Shanda McCloskey Sketches

Chicken Graffiti by Shanda McCloskey

The weekend started with Illustrator’s Day (just for artists) with the silly Chad Beckerman (Abrams Creative Director), the hilariously honest Will Terry (Professional Illustrator), and the genuine, Dianne Hess (Scholastic Press Executive Editor).

Chad said that postcards are a pretty good, efficient way to send art samples to him. He also has been finding illustrators on Instagram! His big message was to get away from the idea that your work is “precious.” Because that way of thinking stifles you from changing and exploring as deeply as we need to as illustrators. Stay loose, free, full of life! Not, museum precious.

Will hit us with tons of graphs and charts about the market, reality, and moving forward. His big message was to be an illustrator entrepreneur. Do all the things we need to do to get traditionally published, there’s nothing like it, but ALSO do your own thing. That may mean apps, quality self-publishing, editorial art, other art forms, etc. To make it as an illustrator for a career, we must DO BOTH (traditional and our own thing). That was nice to hear, because I would love to try a few apps with my husband :) What if I could bring in some income from an app… what if? My dad would love this guy! He’s always telling me… “why don’t you just make your own books?”

Will’s recipe to be successful on your own:

1. Perfect your craft. Know who you are. (Working on that.)
2. Build a microphone. Blog! (Doing that right now!)
3. Develop a good idea.
4. Make a product that is amazingly _________. If you have a computer, you have a factory.
5. Tell the world. Blog, submit to review sites, etc.
6. Never quit, commit for life.

Then Springmingle heated up…
Carmen Deedy started off the weekend with a speech that made the entire audience cry! Not just me- everybody! Her words made me realize that the reason I am so passionate to do this is because I am absolutely IN LOVE with the idea of being a part of the children’s book world. Having a hand in  kids reading and imagining stories (in my time, from my head) is pretty cool. I AM in love with that idea. It’s actually very romantic :)

Then Nikki Grimes told about enjoying the process. God loves puzzles and He gives you the different pieces you’re going need at the right time. Trust.Be patient.

I loved Dianne Hess’s genuine passion for books. And Katherine Jacobs’ sweet, yet stern way about her. She knows what she wants. Katherine was very easy to talk to as well. She read “My Friend Rabbit” to us…. beautiful!

Shanda McCloskey Explorer Illustration

Chad ended the weekend with a presentation on Finding Your Voice… which seems to be the same as finding your joy! Whatever is immediate, easy for you, and joyful is what you should be doing. For some reason, artists think that they should struggle with their work or it isn’t good, but that isn’t true! But we must expect failure some of the time. FIND JOY IN MAKING :)

So, that is what I’m off to do!


Shanda McCloskey, Children's Illustrator & Author