This interview series introduces the talented recipients of the SCBWI Mentorship Award at the 2017 Summer Conference. Please welcome Diandra Mae to the KidLitArtists Blog!
About Diandra Mae:
Diandra Mae has a love of stories as big as the Lone Star State. Thanks to a steady diet of comics and cartoons while growing up, her work is full of emotion and humor. She is currently exploring what it means to be a storyteller through a variety of media. Diandra lives in Houston, Texas with her family.
Did the feedback you received during the mentorship critiques either change or confirm the direction of your illustration?
The feedback confirmed that a new path I had just started on with my work was the correct one. I had several brand new pieces (black and white work) in my portfolio that were held up with delight over and over again. I remember thinking, "I had so much fun making those. I need to make sure I keep having fun going forward."
What kind of projects are you working on now?
I have these two characters that I couldn't figure out what to do with. I recently realized that's because their story is wordless. Nothing like a challenge, right? I'll be dummying up their story this month. Once I see that through I'm going to explore the story possibilities for a group of young characters. I'm really looking forward to that.
Beyond that, I'm taking a creativity workshop online and I'm really enjoying the exploration of media and techniques without worrying about the final outcome. Process can be its own reward.
Is there any type of illustration (or other work) that you’re hoping for in the near future?
I feel like the more I create, the more I want to try! I currently have sitting on my drawing table, outlines or sketches for a) a board book, b) a webcomic, c) a picture book, d) early reader/early chapter book. And that's not to say I wouldn't mind illustrating a middle grade book. I would! I love it all!
Is there one really helpful piece of advice that you’ve gotten since pursuing illustration? Any one piece of bad advice?
The advice that really resonated with me was, "Why are you the one to tell this story? What makes you stand out from all the rest?" It's made me dig deep and figure out the kind of illustrator I want to be, and the kinds of stories I want to tell. It's turned my work in a completely new direction.
Bad advice: In a portfolio critique, I was told several things that went completely against the grain of who I was as a creator, and what was presented in my portfolio. That was one of those times where I considered what was said for about a minute before I realized that they didn't get me, and that was okay. Even bad advice can help you stay on your path.
What was one of your favorite quotes or lessons from the SCBWI Summer Conference?
I got so much out of the Illustrator Intensive. I enjoyed the exercises and there were so many fantastic points made that entire day. However, I think overall the lessons shared by LeUyen Pham at the SCBWI Summer Conference were some of the most concrete take-aways I've received in years. She is an amazing presenter/teacher. The message I got from her (and the one that thrilled my gardener's heart) was, "GROW."
What were some of your favorite books when you were a kid?
When I was little, the details and world building in both Mercer Meyer's Monster books as well as Richard Scarry's Best Ever books completely fascinated me. I cut my teeth on the "I can Read" collection published by Harper Collins. (Hi, eighties kid!) I would spend my allowance on the Uncle Scrooge comics you could buy at the grocery store. When I was older the humor of Sideways Stories From Wayside School completely sucked me in and I read my copy to tatters. The mysteries of Bunnicula helped build my love of the mysterious and weird, as did Roald Dahl's James & The Giant Peach and The Witches.
Thanks, Diandra! Welcome to KidLitArtists!