The pandemic was in full blown lockdown. My fifth and sixth grade students struggled to succeed in our new virtual format. Perched on a chair at my dining room table, I settled in for yet another Zoom session with bewildered faces staring back at me. You guessed it. It was March 2020 and little did I know how much my life’s path would change. Changing from in-person teaching to virtual would be a walk in the park compared to changing from traditional art forms to digital illustration. Along with this transition, I also decided to rummage through some of my old manuscripts and put fingers to keys – ahhh yes! I’m a children’s book writer again. Not so fast!
First, I learned that my passion was a bit ahead of my understanding of the craft of writing for children. After multiple rejections I knew I must learn more about the craft. However, when it came to illustrating, I knew there was much to learn about children’s book illustrations. My training was in fine art and architecture. I attended Parson’s School of Design in Los Angeles back when personal computers, let alone laptops and iPads were rare. I figured it would be too complicated to illustrate in pastel since I usually worked on paper 18X24 and larger. I initially decided I would be an author and not pursue a path as an author-illustrator.
I was active in the children’s writing community on Twitter when I saw a post from Larissa Marantz about one of her drawing classes with OC Art Studios. I applied and received one of her scholarships. Additionally, with extra time on my hands, I decided to break out my pastels and see if I still had skills. I had not completed a pastel drawing in years. Here are a few of my return to pastels drawings.
Once in Larissa’s course I began to realize that many illustrators were using digital tools. I was working with pen, ink, paper, and erasers. Working digitally intrigued me. I had never drawn much of anything digitally. The first thing I did was ask my teenage daughter how to use some digital drawing apps. She just happened to be using Procreate, and that’s where my journey began. I did not know a layer from a mask, or brushes, or any other elements used in digital painting. My first efforts were frustrating. I knew in my mind what I wanted to create, but I could not carry it out digitally. I knew exactly what I would do if I were working traditionally. I knew how I would mix colors and execute certain aspects of my drawing. Do not despair. By and by, my digital illustrations improved. This was in part to Larissa’s courses. But it was also in part through courses with Mira and all the phenomenal co-teachers in Children’s Book Academy. What is even more incredible, is that I found out about CBA from Larissa and received a scholarship to attend a CBA course.
During the course, I continued to work on my digital illustration skills, and I continued to work on my craft of writing for children. I soaked in as much knowledge as I could during those six months from June – December 2020. One of the wonderful culminations of Children’s Book Academy courses is the Golden Tickets one might receive. As it turns out, I did receive multiple Golden Tickets, one of which led to my debut author-illustrated picture book “Old to Joy” with Gnome Road Publishing (2023). Transitioning from traditional to digital meant quite the learning curve, but there are so many courses and videos available to help make that process easier. I continue to take courses and workshops to improve both my writing and digital illustration capabilities. And our children are worth it!
Anita Crawford Clark is a writer and illustrator of fiction and nonfiction books for children. Anita grew up chasing butterflies and fishing crawdads from a nearby creek during scorching Sacramento summers. Her stories and illustrations often reflect those memorable childhood years. Anita earned her BA in Sociology, her MFA in Creative Writing, and MS in Psychology. A veteran K-12 teacher, Anita especially enjoys directing musical theatre productions. The athlete in Anita enjoys shooting hoops. The musician in her enjoys playing the drums, piano and banjo. Anita draws inspiration from her faith, nature, music, history and everyday life. If you visit her during crab season, you might be treated to a bowl of her Louisiana style gumbo - a treasured family recipe.
You can connect with Anita on Twitter (@AnitaLClark), Instagram (@AnitasFavPics) or visit her website at AnitaCrawfordClark.com.
We are so excited to be mixing things up at CBA, beginning with some delicious additions to the Blogfish. Meet our awesome new bloggers!!
Here's our lineup:
1st Mondays begin with editor/art director, & CBA Director Mira Reisberg PhD who is handing her Mondays over to awesome former now traditionally pubbed students to widen their audience.
2nd Mondays will feature super smart Melissa Stoller whose career is taking off with several new books.
3rd Mondays will feature Bryan Patrick Avery, published writer, man of mystery, and professional magician among other things.
4th Mondays will feature STEM, STEAM & SEL obsessed author Kourtney LaFavre sharing delightfully dorky, quirky, and fun info.
And 5th Mondays will feature Libyan American author Koloud Tarapolsi sharing wonderful diverse books.