For the past few months I’ve been working on new pieces for my portfolio based on the amazing feedback I received at the 2014 SCBWI LA Summer Conference. (I was one of six illustrators who received the SCBWI Mentorship Award, and I got to meet individually with six mentors who each gave me guidance on my work. It. Was. Awesome. Read more about my experience here.)
More than one mentor told me to forget about words for now. I should think in pictures and create wordless stories. Don’t think about a whole book. Think of an episode or a paragraph. This concept of letting the images lead the storytelling, and of choosing smaller stories to tell with those images, has been very liberating for me.
I do not currently have a particular story dummy in the works so I need to come up with some smaller narratives to illustrate. To get myself going, I’ve compiled a list of ideas—collected and expanded upon from past class assignments, fellow illustrators, and published picture books—and I’ve shared them below.
THINK NON-FICTION: THE WORLD IS YOUR INSPIRATIONAL OYSTER
Illustrate a few scenes from a historical or current event that interests you.
Some books for inspiration: Shackleton’s Journey by William Grill, Pop! The Invention of Bubble Gum and City Hawk: The Story of Pale Male by Meghan McCarthy, How the Meteorite Got to the Museum by Jessie Hartland.
Make a mini-biography of a friend or famous person.
A while back, I wrote about Mark Todd and Esther Pearl Watson who created these really cool ‘zines of their family and friends. Some more inspiration: The “I am…” series, including I am Rosa Parks, and I am Amelia Earhart written by Brad Meltzer and illustrated by Christopher Eliopoulos, Malala, a Brave Girl… by Jeanette Winter.
Think about your own childhood and illustrate an important memory or feeling. In The Writer’s Guide to Crafting Stories for Children, Nancy Lamb includes a great page of prompts to get you thinking about your past.
Eavesdrop on your kids and write down what they say. Illustrate those quotes.
Find a picture in a magazine—like National Geographic or a travel magazine—that inspires you and create a story around it. What happens next? (idea via Jeslyn Kate Cantrell.)