Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Praise for "The Can Man"

Here is some recent praise for my book "The Can Man", written by Laura E. Williams. Because I was the illustrator I am singling out comments about the art. I will post more reviews as they come in!

"Orback's realistic oil paintings on canvas bring the tale's urban setting into clear focus in warmly lit scenes that illuminate the characters' feelings—notably Tim's unease and his beneficiary's gratitude—and readily transmit the weighty themes at work." -Publishers Weekly

"The full-page oil paintings have a quiet realism reminiscent of Edward Hopper in scenes of Tim’s close multiracial family indoors and the Can Man alone outside. A humanizing story that reaches beyond easy messages."-Booklist

"What makes this title a standout are the carefully thought-out details of Craig Orback’s illustrations. To Williams’ few hundred words, Orback seamlessly adds a few thousand more with his pictures. The result is a definitively noteworthy collaboration indeed." -Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Program

"New York, New York"

It has been a few days since returning from my trip to New York to visit publishers and now it's time to share some of my experience. Over all I think it was successful as far as making it to my meetings on time and plantings seeds in minds when it comes to looking for an illustrator for future projects. I appreciated so much the art directors, editors and designers taking time out of their very busy schedules to review my work. That was my takeaway from the publishers, EVERYONE is super busy, which is encouraging for a hungry illustrator. In total I had 13 meetings and also dropped off my portfolio at 7 different publishers so it was a very busy week.

People seemed genuinely interested in my work and I got lots of great feedback. Now it's time to process it all and hopefully create some new work based on said feedback. I was particularly thrilled when picking up my portfolio at Penguin Putnam. It was passed around to most of the children's book divisions and I was excited to find a letter from G.P. Putnam's Sons & Philomel Books an imprint who create beautiful picture books. The feedback I received was a highlight of the trip. Here is an excerpt:

"We are very impressed with your portfolio as a whole, particularly your realistic rendering of people and textures. In addition, your vast experience as an illustrator makes us confident that you can bring the variety and quality of scenes and compositions needed for a picture book. We feel that your traditional, dramatic style of painting would be well suited to our list here at G.P. Putnam's and Philomel. We will certainly save samples of your work, and keep you in mind for future projects. Please remain in touch and keep us updated so that we can try to find a place for you to contribute here at Penguin."

What kind words from a great publisher! It's encouragement like that that keeps me on this path. Having a copy of "The Can Man" with my portfolio and several images as part of my portfolio really helped publishers to see I could create consistent characters throughout a picture book. It made the difference with Penguin this time. Thank you Ryan at Penguin who two years ago gave me the tip.

Below are various photos taken while touring the city, portfolios in had and an umbrella as well on occasion. Another highlight of the trip was visiting everyone at Lee & Low Books the publisher of my recent book "The Can Man". Hannah was so great introducing me to everyone and it was a thrill seeing behind the curtain as they say and hearing about all the effort now being made to launch the book out into the world.

Here is the reception area at Lee and Low.

And look at all the beautiful books they have created!

Madison Avenue near Lee and Low.

Love Washington Square and its arch.

This grocery store really grabbed my imagination in Greenwich Village. Wish we had some like this on the west coast.

Lunchtime at Bryant Park. Beautiful weather that day.

View of Rockefeller Center. Believe it or not it was POURING rain that night like only NY can. No wimpy Seattle drizzle.

On my last day we visited this diner near the Metropolitan Museum. I LOVE NY diners. I had to have at least one experience on the trip.

Should I take this as some kind of omen? I'd like to think it means my life and work will be merging with NY in the future but in reality that is a view of New Jersey. Just my luck!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Like a moth to the flame

My portfolio is updated, two new ones created. Samples and business cards are printed and appointments are being made. In a week I will be leaving Bellingham, destination New York City! The center of my business world and many others. I am excited, nervous and hopeful. This will be my fourth trip to the city to show my illustration portfolio. I have been illustrating children's book for nine years now and I have learned that journeying to the heart of the publishing industry can really make the difference when it comes time for a publisher to find an illustrator for a project. It also happens to be incredibly inspiring and fulfilling taking charge and marching the streets of New York City portfolio in hand.

The first such trip was in the fall of 2003. My first couple of books had been published in Minneapolis and I was eager to take my career to the next level with the goal of working with a New York publisher. This was before I had an agent so the major effort of contacting publishers ahead of time and making appointments fell on my shoulders. Luckily I managed to arrange a pretty full schedule worth of meetings. Those days were a blur of catching subways, lugging heavy portfolios and hoping not to get lost. Even though I was VERY new to this business most people were kind and had lots of good advice and encouraging words to say about my art. The best part came on the third of four days, when visiting the school magazine division of Scholastic Inc. I was there to meet one person but others were invited and soon our table was surrounded by interested designers and art directors. I left that meeting with my first New York publishing job! It was a series of illustrations for one of their school magazines. Of course I had dreamed it might happen like that, receiving a job right on the spot, but it still seemed to good to be true. If I am feeling discouraged about my career I like to think back on that early success.

Arguably my best jobs have come about after making a visit to a publisher. Six months after my first trip to NYC, Simon and Schuster contacted me to illustrate the book "John Adams Speaks For Freedom." In 2005 a few hours after visiting with my publisher in Minneapolis I was on the plane home, reading the manuscript for my future book "Nature's Paintbox". That book allowed my to illustrate poetry and nature, explore different art mediums and get away from being the historical go to guy for awhile. It has also been a book that has really connected with kids during my school and library visits over the years. In 2008 a few months after an epic one week trip to New York where I had 24 meetings with around 60 people I heard from Lee & Low Books with an offer to illustrate "The Can Man", a dream project. Here was the book I had been waiting for. It was a fictional, contemporay picture book for a New York publisher, and a beautiful story as well. I tried to savor every moment of that project.

Which brings me to the present. As exciting as these trips can be filled with hope and inspiration they can also be emotionally exhausting. It's like a roller coaster, elated one moment, feeling a bit discouraged the next. I try to take in the comments, while leaving my ego at the front door. I have gotten better at this but it's not always easy. I have heard many times concerns about realism's place in todays market and have felt a bit pigeon holed as the guy who does historical educational books. Granted I have done a lot of those but with projects like "The Can Man" and "Nature's Paintbox" I am hopeful that people are beginning to see my work in a new light.

Because of those books this trip feels a bit different. Over half of the work in my portfolios is new. A balance of contemporary and historical with a nod to illustration styles of the past. I see the growth in my work and I am eager to share it with others. Unfortunately I am also arriving at a time when publishing like many industries has take a real punch to the gut since my last trip. Vast layoffs occurred, budgets tightened, people are working longer hours with little time to meet and greet visiting illustrators and authors. Besides showing my work and making connections I am also traveling to take the pulse of the industry, seeing for myself the state of things. The Northwest is about as far away as you can get in the states from the center of publishing so I look to these trips to reconnect with my chosen career. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

An interview about The Can Man

Just wanted to share an interesting interview with Laura E. Williams the author and myself about the creation of our picture book "The Can Man". You can read it here at my publishers web site. Let me know what you think! It raises some interesting issues about depicting homelessness in children's books.