An evening with this art director to make your work better

Click the orange button above to subscribe to monthly Guest Group Critiques or purchase a seat for just this month's session with Loraine Joyner.

Loraine Joyner is the former senior art director of the Atlanta, GA. based Peachtree Publishers, which specializes in children's picture books and YA and Middle Grade fiction and nonfiction.

Many of the more than 300 books she has art directed have received awards and critical acclaim, including recently 14 Cows for America by Carmen Agra Deedy and illustrated by Thomas Gonzales, which became a New York Times bestseller.

As February's GGC guest instructor, Loraine has a two-part assignment for us. You can choose to accept one – or both parts. Get all the details on how to participate and where to upload your work when you register!

Monthly group critiques are 'perfect practice'

They tell you...

  • What isn't working

  • When to push harder

  • When to just stop

And help you to...

  • Get a fresh perspective

    Our guest critiquers – illustrators, author-illustrators, children’s literary agents, art directors, maybe an editor or two  – examine your final in a spirit of teaching and mentoring.

  • Think more like a pro

    Watch up close and personal how full-time creatives evaluate and troubleshoot their own and others’ pieces.

  • Prepare for that thing

    That upcoming kidlit (or illustrators’) conference, important promotional mailing, post or sit-down with a client.

  • Sharpen your discernment powers

    Remind you of those bedrock principles of draftsmanship, design and communication. (Funny how they keep bringing you back to those.)

  • Meet your tribe

    Your colleagues and the expert practioners. Who share their What I Wish I Knew Then stories and become your contacts in ‘the biz.’ (It’s called networking.)

  • Get better at getting better

    Practice with critiques helps you understand the hierarchy of feedback and how to navigate it wisely – knowing what’s valid for you now, vs. what to set aside for later.

A smart critique will make the difference

Denise Fleming received the Caldecott Honor for In the Small, Small Pond (Henry Holt and Company.) Her colorful concept books for very young children, distinguished by great language and rambunctiously beautiful art are a staple in children's libraries and elementary school libraries across the country.

Author and popular writing teacher Jodell Sadler directs KidLit College, which provides classes on how to craft musical language, irresistible comic timing and "Wow" pacing for children's picture books and other topics of interest to children's writers and author-illustrators.

In December's interactive live critique Jodell and Denise examined 30 illustration submissions. They came with their prepared notes of recommendations to make the pieces better.

They pulled no punches. Sometimes they drew on copies of the art to suggest corrections or changes in a composition. 

They talked with viewers and each other about the need for more 'story' in the pictures and brainstormed ideas for heightening character interaction and elements to add to scenes to create reader anticipation and compel 'page turns.'

Jodell even visited the websites of some of the submitting artists and made helpful observations.

Nick Balian serves as art manager and staff illustrator for the digital children's publisher ustyme books. He has illustrated 11 books for ustyme, including Aesop's Fables and The Three Little Pigs and directed many artists in the illustration and design of other ustyme titles.

In our nearly three hour workshop in January, he talked about ustyme's digital books platform, his own process illustrating the new ustyme title Hansel and Gretel and how to submit samples to him to be considered for an assignment. He also looked at and commented on 34 illustrations uploaded by our viewers.

ustyme books art manager Nick Balian

ustyme books art manager Nick Balian

Catch the replays of exciting live events like these – and participate in new live critique sessions with KidLit professionals every month!

Group critiques – in the studio classroom or around a cafe table with friends – have been training artists for centuries. Be part of the conversation.

Subscribe hereFor monthly critiques, including January 28 session

Join us at the table every month.

Only $8.95 monthly.

Improvement comes from consistent focus

You don't have to upload your work to every session. You just have to listen.

You'll benefit by being there. It's like practicing the proverbial golf swing in your mind.

Whether it's your work being discussed or someone else's, you'll take away invaluable knowledge to help you later — when it's just you behind the drawing table or monitor making those hundreds of decisions (big and small) that go into completing a picture.

You don't have to go it alone...

With a subscription you can participate in all of our monthly live critique programs and immediately access replays of the 11 guest group critiques we enjoyed last year by these top illustrators:

Click on the photos to see their websites!

Mira Reisberg

Mira Reisberg

Karien Naude

Karien Naude

Karien Naude

Chris Schechner

Loraine Joyner

Loraine Joyner

Author-illustrator Jeff Crosby

Jeff Crosby

Marsha Riti

Marsha Riti

Christy Stallop

Christy Stallop

ustyme books art manager Nick Balian with the cover of his

Nick Balian

C.S. Jennings

C.S. Jennings

Annette Simon

Annette Simon

Mark Mitchell

Mark Mitchell, moderator

Denise Fleming

Denise Fleming

Wendy Martin

Wendy Martin

Mary Sullivan

Mary Sullivan

Jodell Sadler and KidLit College

Jodell Sadler

It's a bit like art school...

But for $8.95 per month.

Subscribe Now to Guest Group Critiques

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Try out the subscription and see what you think of the next Marks and Splashes Guest Group Critique session. If you find it not hugely helpful or just not your cup of tea, write me (c/o the How To Be A Children’s Book Illustrator blog) and I’ll refund you same day, no questions asked, no worries and we’re still friends. Your replays of all of last year’s Guest Critiques are on us, until then.

Also, remember that you can easily cancel your subscription anytime through PayPal (or write me, c/o the blog and I’ll help with that — Mark M.)