Choosing Your 2020 Illustration Course at The Highlights Foundation

This year, we’re hosting a series of free webinars: FINDING THE RIGHT WORKSHOP FOR YOUR 2020 CREATIVE GOALS. This week, Program Director Alison Green Myers will talk about our 2020 Illustration workshops.

We do our best to find generous and talented faculty for each workshop. Faculty to nurture you in your creative pursuits. They’re committed, as we are, to giving you a welcoming environment, space to learn, and tools to help you grow.

With our exceptional faculty in mind, let’s talk about ways you can find your way to them by picking the best workshop for your needs. How do you select which of these workshops will be best for your 2020 goals? Start by thinking of your answers to these questions:

  • Where are you on your journey as an illustrator or author/illustrator?
    For example, you might be an artist who is brand new to illustrating for children’s books. What new skills do you need to take the leap? Or you might have the illustration side down pat, but your agent has asked you to think about writing for children, too. How do you become comfortable being both illustrator and author? Where are you within your current project or projects?
  • Are you illustrating in a specific genre or genres?
    Maybe you’ve illustrated picture books, but now want to embark on a graphic novel. Maybe you don’t want to focus on one genre–you want to play and experiment.
  • How much feedback are you ready to receive?
    Each of our workshops has a component of feedback, some more than others. Some of our workshops for illustrators have feedback solely on the art, while others offer feedback on the words and art. Some of the feedback is in one-to-ones with faculty, or with an art director, or an agent, while others are in peer groups.

Watch the webinar:
There’s also a transcript below.

There are 16 total illustration courses that we have put into 3 categories: Hands-on Demonstrations in Illustration, For Author/Illustrators, and For Published Illustrators.

Hands-on Demonstrations in Illustration
Join us in May for our very popular Color, Light, Line, and Texture workshop. This one is filled to the brim with hands-on art sessions. Think of your favorite art classroom: color everywhere. Supplies everywhere. Smiles everywhere. Lead faculty Denise Fleming and Ashley Wolff design five highly engaging art activities for participants. This workshop is great for those illustrators just starting out who want to learn more about illustrating for children, or for those authors looking to understand the illustrator experience more thoroughly–really for anyone who wants to get messy with art supplies. You will not have formal feedback on a specific project, but Denise and Ashley are two of the most generous people we know, and they will take time to chat informally with all attendees.

Another great hands-on workshop is our Summer Camp Intensive in Illustration. This workshop begins each day with a two-hour deep dive into one of the faculty’s given mediums for illustration. We’ve hosted sessions on collage, digital, pen & ink, watercolors, pastels, paper engineering, and more. Along with this in-depth morning session, where you will observe, then do the technique, you will also have time each day for receiving feedback from your mentor. We pair student to mentor based on style, as best we can. Your mentor will give you feedback on your portfolio and any works-in-progress. For a more formal feedback session, you will also have a one-to-one session with an art director or editor. There are also panels at this workshop covering everything from making a living as an illustrator to art-supply show and tell. It is a great course for those just starting out, and for those who want to stretch in new styles.

Our next very hands-on session is our Master Class in Illustration: Narrative Picture Making with Anna Raff and James Ransome. This workshop has been retooled from last year’s inaugural session with a focus on the fundamentals of narrative storytelling through illustration. James and Anna will offer an assignment to students that will be critiqued throughout the class, as well as offer opportunities to review portfolios and current works in progress.

An online course called: Becoming An Author Illustrator is new to the Highlights Foundation. This 10-unit online course with Courtney Pippen-Mathur introduces author/illustrators to story construction, character consistency, and making a dummy. Multiple LIVE sessions with feedback on narrative art assignments and your dummy are combined with recorded lectures and reading resources. Courtney is an amazing teacher, and will work with you if you are just beginning on your journey as an author illustrator. Email Jo Lloyd for more information about this online course at

For Author Illustrators
Broad in scope are PB&J: Picture Books and All that Jazz & The Ins and Outs of a Picture Book and Its Many Forms. These courses cover every corner of picture books. Both provide a study in the art of picture book writing, layout, pacing, page turns, and how to write picture books. Both also provide feedback for you on a specific project, and generally as you build your career. Picture Books and All That Jazz has author/illustrator Leslie Helakoski on faculty. Ins and Outs of Picture Books has author/illustrator Aram Kim on faculty.

Picture Books: Inspiration and Perspiration has a slightly different take than the above courses. This retreat asks the question: What does the creator of a picture book need to thrive? Play! And poetry! And observation! And, writing, of course. Also, sharing, and imagination. Faculty Debbie Ridpath Ohi and Heidi E.Y. Stemple produce very different kinds of picture books, so attendees will get a taste of everything here: fiction, illustration, poetry, and nonfiction.

For those author/illustrators who want to know more about writing the Writing for Illustrators course is back by popular demand. This course centers on your life as an illustrator, and provides strategies needed to refine your writing style.

New this year is How to Create Concept Books for Children, with Salina Yoon, Rebecca Kai Dotlich, Denise Fleming, and creative director Patti Ann Harris. They’ll answer all the burning questions you have about Concept Books. Don’t know what a concept book is? Think: Cradle Me, First the Egg, Little You, Z is for Moose, ABC: A Family Alphabet Book, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, and more. Concept books are designed to bring an idea concretely to the very young: colors, letters, numbers, seasons, babies, animals, shapes, time, and more.

Two other picture book workshops for author-illustrators have a nonfiction focus:

Creating Nonfiction Picture Books for Children in a Changing World is a new workshop with Traci Sorell, Cynthia Levinson, Vanessa Brantley Newton, Mitali Perkins, and editor Kandace Coston. Author and illustrator team Vanessa Brantley Newton and Cynthia Levinson are the duo behind The Youngest Marcher picture book. Illustrators looking to work on a biography or other nonfiction project can find guidance here.

Science and Nature Writing for Children & Teens also has an author/illustrator guest (actually three.) If you are trying to learn about writing science and nature books, and want to include your own illustrations in your work-in-progress, we can pair you with faculty to help at this workshop.

We also have workshops for author/illustrators who want to write and illustrate graphic novels. We run our standalone graphic novel workshop every other year, so look for that workshop in 2021. Here are 2020 workshops that discuss graphic novels:

One is Pushing the Limits: Writing Experimental Fiction for YA and Middle Grade Readers. This workshop includes information about novels in verse, graphic novels, vignettes, ways to play with form, with structure, with chronology, and ways to intertwine genres. Focus is paid to where you are in your novel, and to the goals that you have for producing your work authentically.

You can also find support for your graphic novels at our Summer Camp Intensive in Illustration. This workshop with hands-on sessions and mentor meetings includes a guest editor. This year special guest editor Kiara Valdez will host a session called, “The Graphic Novel Process.” If you’re looking for more writing techniques and craft lessons to help build your graphic novel, please see our full list of offerings for novelists.

For Published Illustrators
Crafting Successful Author and Illustrator Visits is a week-long course for those ready to invest in ways to make an impact in classrooms and other speaking engagements. During this workshop you build a school visit presentation under the guidance of our caring faculty, then you go into a school and give your presentation. You will have time to review your presentation with your faculty mentors to make changes, and plans for next steps. This is a workshop not-to-be-missed for those looking to take their books into schools and other organizations. We’ve had author/illustrators take this course, as well as solely authors or solely illustrators.

Also for published book artists is Gather: A Community Retreat for Published Authors and Illustrators. With two-hour morning lectures and hands-on sessions, and afternoons dedicated to your own work, this community-rich retreat is meant to give you time to create, and time to be inspired. At this year’s event, we welcome faculty Jennifer Jacobson, Meg Medina, picture book author/illustrator (and newly announced graphic novelist) Mike Curato, poet Carole Boston Weatherford, editor Emily Feinberg, and art director Ellice Lee.

Need more help to choose?
If you’re still undecided, you can visit our Upcoming Workshops for detailed descriptions, faculty bios, and information about our extensive scholarship program. Our website has a new filtering feature where you can filter by genre, subject, career level, and more.

You can also contact one of our Ambassadors to get individual help in finding your perfect workshop: Cat Galeano, Rona Shirdan, Alex Villasante, or program assistant Jo Lloyd. They will work with you one-to-one to find the perfect course for you to help accomplish your 2020 goals. What’s more, they can assist with information about the Highlights Foundation experience, and with details about our scholarship program.

One last thing: if you register for a workshop before February 1, use code BUCKETLIST to get $100 off full courses with an on-campus component.

Download a pdf outlining the 2020 illustration workshop choices.

Posted on: January 31, 2020