We are getting very excited for our upcoming Virtual Illustrator Day on October 9, 2021. This year we are focusing on nonfiction and biography. There is still time to register, and we are still accepting applications for our scholarships (application deadline September 24). Follow this link for more information and to register: https://epa.scbwi.org/events/illustrator-day-2020/. In preparation for the event, our Eastern PA SCBWI Illustrator Coordinator, Berrie Torgan-Randall, recently chatted with Penguin Workshop book designer Taylor Abatiell. Here’s what they had to say:
Berrie: Hello, Taylor! Welcome to the EasternPennPoints Café. Would you like something to drink or eat from our virtual café? The scones are particularly fresh today.
Taylor: It’s a pleasure to be here! If the scones are virtual, I might as well have a dozen.
Berrie: Can you tell me about your journey to becoming a book designer for Penguin?
Taylor: I like to think the journey started with the love for books my parents instilled in me as a child. I was an avid reader when I was little, and I always created my own stories, magazines, comics, and newspapers to share with family and friends. These passions led me to pursue a BFA in Communications Design with an Illustration concentration. As I studied, I worked as a creative and administrative assistant for illustrators and writers in the industry, and for a program encouraging teen mothers to read to their children. These experiences only solidified the belief that books, especially for young people, can hold a certain life-changing magic. I wanted to be a part of bringing that to others. In a way, ending up in children’s book publishing feels like I’ve come full circle.
Berrie: For the Art Director’s assignment you are asking our participants to choose a notable person to illustrate. What type of art style catches your attention—digital, collage, realistic, etc.?
Taylor: I work with a wide variety of illustrators. The desired style is often determined by the subject matter, age range, and sometimes industry trends. I keep my mind open when it comes to artist searches, but I will say that I have a special place in my heart for people who still work traditionally with unique materials.
Berrie: What advice would you give to participants who are just starting their journey in the children’s illustration profession? Any other advice for participants who have been in this profession for a while?
Taylor: I would encourage everyone, new or seasoned, to try new exercises or challenge yourself to create in a different way. Whether that’s trying artistic prompts, challenges, or a new material, exploration is important at any point in a career. Don’t pigeonhole yourself just because you already believe you know what you’re good at; you can be good at a plethora of things! When artists send me new styles or ideas they’re working on, it makes me feel like they truly love what they’re doing and shows they’re always thinking, which makes for a great collaborator.
Berrie: I see from your LinkedIn profile that you have helped coordinate events for the SCBWI midwinter conferences. What do you think participants get out of going to the big conferences?
Taylor: I did! I credit my volunteerism at SCBWI as one of the reasons I have the job I do today. It’s so important to surround yourself with other creative people with similar goals, which is why I think SCBWI is so special! It can be hard to stay motivated without a sense of community and feedback as you continue to develop your craft.
Berrie: Thank you for joining me today. Now I must put my nose to the grindstone and start working on the Art Director’s assignment.
Taylor: Thanks for having me! I can’t wait to see what you, and the rest of the participants, come up with!
Taylor Abatiell is a New York-based book designer with Penguin Workshop, an imprint of Penguin Random House. She focuses on children’s books and middle grade novels, as well as licensed content development. Her responsibilities include art directing illustrators, designing new branding, working with longstanding series such as Eric Carle and Mad Libs, and adapting licensed content to the children’s book market, such as Paw Patrol and Mighty Express. Previous projects worked on include Clyde the Hippo, Ducks Run Amok, Mother Goose to the Rescue, Kirkus starred Humpty Dumpty Lived Near a Wall, and the #1 NYT Best-selling series Who HQ. She also specializes in inclusive art direction, and champions diverse creators and stories for young audiences.
We hope you’ll join us for Illustrator Day on October 9 featuring Author/Illustrator Kate Garchinsky, Book Designer Taylor Abatiell of Penguin Workshop, Associate Editor Kandace Coston of Lee & Low Books, and two agents—Nicole Tugeau of T2 Agency and Chloë Morgan of Plum Pudding UK. Live attendees will also be eligible for our giveaways! Don’t forget to register: https://epa.scbwi.org/event-illustrator-day-2020/illustrator-day-agenda-2021/.