SCBWI Canada East Blog

October 1, 2014

9:03 AM 3
Chris Jones is right.  Personal projects are fulfilling, build skills, and build confidence.  But what if all of your projects are personal ones?  As an aspiring illustrator, mine certainly are. Yet I long for commissions, contracts, and yes, even deadlines set by others.
How do I stay motivated and inspired when trying to break into kidlit illustration? Here's a glimpse at what is working for me:

Join a challenge
There are many online illustration challenges. Find one that interests you and join in the fun.  I am participating in the 52 Week Illustration Challenge. The weekly prompts provide inspiration. Sometimes it's a topic I would otherwise never choose on my own.  It gives me a sense of working with a deadline and it's a way to send my art out into the world in a non-competitive manner.

Enter a contest
The Tomie dePaola Award is an excellent opportunity to build your portfolio.  It's also a chance to work with someone else's specifications and with a deadline.
Take a course
Not feeling quite ready to send out those self-promotion postcards?  An illustration course might be a fun way to improve your skills and confidence.  Just be sure to weigh the costs and benefits before you invest.

Seek out critiques
Sign up for a portfolio critique at a conference or join an illustration critique group.   I can meet a deadline, I'm just not great at setting my own deadlines.  So I use my illustration critique group dates as deadlines. The constructive criticism is great for building skill.

I've seen myself grow as an artist thanks to these personal projects. I've gained skills and enough confidence that I finally feel ready to send out promotional postcards. 

You can see my 52 Week Illustration Challenge entries at


  1. I like the outstretched elephant neck. Very nicely done... :)

  2. Nice post. I really enjoy all the posts from the Children's Illustrator Studio - and I'm not an illustrator. I always find it fascinating to see one artist work in many different styles. Keep them coming, please.