The 2018 SCBWI Utah Southern Idaho Illustrator’s Conference


Manelle Oliphant 











It was a great conference this year. The portfolio display was amazing with many examples of great art. We said good bye to Sherry Meidell as the area illustrator coordinator and said hello to Manelle Oliphant.


Sherry Meidell and John Elgren of the Sons Of the Utah Pioneers

Sherry Meidell painted and presented a watercolor for the Sons of the Utah Pioneers. They have been very geneous with their building and accommodating our conference.


Richard Erickson

Richard Ericksen the art director from Deseret Book talked about getting the book brief and then picking the designer and the illustrator. He has to think about budget and time frame. Is the tone of the art consistent with the text? The cover illustration is needed as soon as possible for publicity purposes. One thing for illustrators to consider is the trust the publisher has put in you to meet deadlines and to do the project right.


Brandon Dorman

The great illustrator Brandon Dorman talked about each illustrator having their own unique journey. He also talked about the importance of meeting deadlines. If we work hard, we can help our stars align. He also talked about walking through all doors that open to you.


Brandon Dorman

We had two break out sessions this year. Manelle Oliphant and Shawna Tenney were the presenters. Manelle talked about the importance of branding and gave us many things to think about. She had a lot of questions for us to ask ourselves about what brand we want to put out there and who we are talking to.


Manelle Oliphant

Shawna talked about how to put together a great book dummy. The illustrators that attended her presentation appreciated the insights she presented.


Shawna Tenney

The first look was a great chance to hear the presenters critique the participant’s illustrations. We got the opportunity to look at the art and see and hear what others might think about the illustrations. There is always a lot to be learned from the comments that are made.


First Look

There is also a lot of conversation and networking that takes place in the illustrator to illustrator break out session. It gives the illustrators the chance to ask questions of their peers and hear what others are doing.
Then to wind up we had the panel discussion which is always informative. We could ask questions to the presenters and get some last minute comments from them on subjects that interested the illustrators. It was another great conference.


Travis Rawlings and Annie Bailey


Manelle Oliphant and Jennifer Eichelberger


The audience and portfolio display


Margaret Weber, Brandon Dorman and Richard Ericksen


Margaret Weber, Brandon Dorman and Richard Erickson




Shawna Tenney and her Amazing Illustrations


Shawna JC Tenney, Illustrator and Author

Shawna is a great illustrator and the host of the Stories Unbound Podcast.

I was able to ask her some questions about illustrating and her creative process. Enjoy.

1. Could you tell me what was the first spark of idea you got for “Brunhilda’s Backward Day”?

I got the idea from a childhood game I used to play with my best friend Lara. The game was called “The Opposite Witches.” We pretended to be witches that did everything backwards. We flew our brooms backwards, our spells always went backwards, and we even tried to speak backwards. It was so funny to us that we mostly ended up laughing the whole time.

2. And how did it change as you started to work on it?

When I first wrote the story, it was about a couple of kids who went to a witch’s house and what happened to them when the witch’s spells went backwards. But the story just wasn’t working, so I decided to make the story about the witch and what happened to her when her spells went backwards. After that, the story began to work.

Brunhilda’s Backward Day by Shawna Tenney

The cover of Shawna’s Book.

3. Did the illustrations come easy for the book?

No, it really took a lot of effort and deliberation. I started with a lot of planning- planning character design and environment design. Then I did lots of thumbnailing- working and reworking- until the book started to flow. Then I had to work and rework many of the sketches. I was very deliberate and careful about the colors I used. Finishing all the illustrations was a learning process. But I’m really glad I took the time to make an effort to make the best quality artwork that I could.


4. Did you have any setbacks in creating the book and what did you do to overcome the problem?

I can’t think of any specific huge set backs that happened during the creation of this book, but I had many story and design problems I had to work through. I revised my story many times with the help of other writers. I showed my sketches and color studies to my illustrator friends, and they helped me solve the visual problems I was dealing with. Critique groups and trusted art friends are so important to have if you’re going to work in this industry.

Storyboard for Shawna Tenneys’s Brunhilda Book

Part of the story board.


5. What has been one of the most useful bits of information you have received at the illustration conference?

There have been so many good and inspiring things I have learned through each speaker we have had at the conference. It is hard to choose just one thing. But I really enjoyed hearing from Giuseppe Castellano, Art Director at Penguin Random House. He was very personable and I enjoyed talking with him. I really liked what he had to say in his presentation. Here are a few gold nuggets of information I got from his talk:

He talked about the 3 keys to being an affective artist: Personality, Prowess, and Presentation.

He also talked about marketing your artwork. When you are marketing your artwork on your website, what matters most is your art- not your web address, font, sketches, logo, background etc.

We also heard first hand about how he finds artist for his projects. He doesn’t find artists through artist reps anymore. But he usually finds work through postcards, emails, social media and friend referrals.

Illustration by Shawna Tenney

Illustration by Shawna Tenney


6. Has the portfolio display been helpful for you as far as getting an illustration job?

Yes! Local art directors come to visit the portfolio display every year.

Last year a designer for the Friend Magazine, came to look at the portfolio display. We talked briefly after he looked at my portfolio. A week later, I received an email asking if I was available to create a cover for The Friend Magazine. Yes, of course!


7. Why would you recommend the conference to other illustrators?

It’s a wonderful place to mingle with other illustrators, network with industry professionals, get your work in front of art directors, and learn a ton about working in the children’s book industry. Plus it’s the only opportunity like this locally for illustrators, and at a great price!


8. Do you have any ideas on how an illustrator should prepare for the conference?

Prepare your portfolio with your best work for the portfolio display. Have some art friends give you feedback on what if your best work, and listen to what they have to say. Prepare an illustration for the First Look Critique. It’s an invaluable experience to get a first hand critique from an art director and professional illustrators.

July 2017 cover of the FRIEND

Shawna’s cover for the July 2017 issue of the Friend.


9. What advice would you have for a beginning illustrator?

Go to this conference! And go to as many conferences as you can.

Also, don’t be nervous! Don’t worry if you’re just beginning on the journey. Everyone is at different places in the journey, but everyone was a beginner at one time. Go prepared to talk with everyone and learn from everyone. We are all there to help each other!


10. What advice would you have for a continuing illustrator?

Go to this conference!

It’s so important to keep networking and find your circle of trust and support for your journey. Some of the things taught at the conference, you probably already know. But you never know what new things you will learn. And never underestimate what you can teach to others!

Also, you never know what new work opportunities could come out of showing your portfolio at this conference. It’s such a great opportunity to connect directly with art directors and other professional illustrators.

Introducing Brooke Smart

Brooke Smart has come to our conferences and gone to some of the bigger national ones. We asked her about her experiences with both kinds of conferences. She is a delight to talk to and has some pretty cool experiences.

Brooke Photo 4


1. Why illustration? How long have you been working as an illustrator?

I have been drawing and painting since I was a small child and have always known I wanted to do something with art, but it wasn’t until college that I discovered a love of storytelling as well. It was definitely lucky that I ended up at BYU with the incredible professors that I had there in the illustration department. They taught me how to combine those two interests into one and to make a career of it. I took a detour from illustration for about five years after school, pursuing a career in fine art, but have been focusing all of my energies toward illustration for the last four years. I love the world that I’ve stumbled into: the projects, the community, the interesting facts I get to learn, the stories I get to tell. I’ve never worked so hard in all my life, but I know it’s what i’m meant to be doing.

Flavia Vertical


2. You’ve gone to a few different SCBWI conferences. What are some of the benefits of going to a national conference? What are some of the benefits of going to our local conference?

Both are great!

The national conferences are awesome because of the locations. You’re able to show your work to hundreds of art directors and agents from big publishing houses and top agencies. They also last two or three days, with lectures and workshops from pretty amazing people. It’s also great to connect with other artists from around the world. Community is so important when you spend most of your time working alone in your studio.
Our local conference also has its perks, though. It’s a day of reconnecting with some of the same people each year, listening to an illustrator or two who is working in the field, making it happen, and being able to ask them anything you want (Wow!). And there is also usually an art director that comes and gives that perspective on the business, which is so helpful. And no travel!
Barnard College Final (1)


3. You received an honor/award at the New York conference. Can you tell us a little about that?

It was definitely unexpected. It was my first NY conference and it was intimidating to be there amongst so many talented artists. Receiving the award was something that helped me to continue on the path of freelance illustration. So much of being an illustrator is being brave enough to jump into the unknown and hope that there is a place for your voice, or jumping in and convincing people that there is a place for your voice. I’m grateful for that moment of encouragement from people that I admire so much.


4. What made you decide to come to the Utah/Southern Idaho conference last year?

That is always an easy decision. It is somewhere where I always learn something new, get insight into things I’m doing right or wrong, and somewhere that I can connect with amazing illustrators that live close by.

5. What did you hope to get out of the conference? Did it help you get any illustration jobs?
With every conference, I hope to learn how to do what I do better, illustration-wise, business-wise, etc. But I also hope to make connections with art directors that will give me new, exciting projects. Last year was great and I got to meet with an art director from Peachtree Publishing and show her my work. She ended up contacting me a month or two later and hiring me to do a book cover. Yay!


6. Would you recommend going to others? 

Absolutely, I’d definitely recommend it! Come!


Let’s Meet Rebecca Sorge!

Rebecca has come to our conference for a few years now and we noticed she got hired by a few of our visiting art directors. We interviewed here to find out what she likes about the conference and how it’s helped her career!


Rebecca at work

Why did you come to the conference?

The first time I came to SCBWI I had just graduated from a BFA program and was hoping for some guidance on bridging the gap between being a student and a professional. The advice from guest speakers and the portfolio review with local publishers really helped me get my start. Since then, I’ve loved coming back each year to hear new speakers and meet other artists and art directors in the area.


What did you hope to get out of it?

Each year I hope to get new work or a new client out of the conference. Even if that doesn’t always happen, I also look forward to the valuable advice from guest speakers. SCBWI invites fantastic ones each year and I always come away with new perspectives, tips, unexpected ideas, and helpful advice. I feel reenergized after the conference is over and inspired to do and be better.


What did you do to prepare for the conference? Specifically, what did you do for your portfolio?

Aside from bringing a notepad or sketchbook to take notes in, most of my preparation is putting together a portfolio. I review it each year in the week or so before coming, updating it with my strongest work. I also try to limit the number of pieces to about ten and make sure that the portfolio reflects the kind of work I want to get. I have friends look over it with me before coming to make sure it flows well as you flip through it and that each piece belongs there. It’s hard to cut stuff, but I think having a heavily curated and smaller portfolio works better than trying to include every project. I also make sure that the first and last pages (the pages the portfolio is most likely to be left open to) feature my strongest pieces.


Why would you recommend the conference to other illustrators?

The SCBWI conference is the perfect size, especially for me. It makes it easier to meet other artists in the area (which is helpful – I spend most of my time working from home and in my own little bubble). The smaller setting helps it from getting overwhelming. It’s easier to engage with the guest speakers than at larger conferences like ICON and there are plenty of opportunities to meet and greet the visiting art directors. It’s an amazing value for the price and one of my favorite conferences each year.


How did the conference lead you to get illustration work?

The portfolio show they do each year has been extremely helpful. It has connected me with several clients who saw my portfolio at the conference and later contacted me for work. Beyond getting my portfolio in front of new art directors, I also get to reconnect with old clients who come back from year to year in a more direct way than an email or a mailer. It’s helpful for building up repeat clients.


See Rebecca’s work on her website

Thanks, Rebecca! We look forward to seeing you again this year!

For more information on this coming conference click here.

To regester for the conference click here.

First Look Guidelines 2018


Do you want the chance to get an in-person critique of your work from an art director?

Then you’re in the right place!

This year for our “First Look” panel, Art Director Richard Erickson (Shadow Mountain) and Illustrators Brandon Dorman, Shawna J.C. Tenney, and Manelle Oliphant will be critiquing YOUR illustration on a live panel at the Utah/Southern Idaho Illustrator’s Conference on March 3, 2018.

Submission guidelines:

Your Illustration: This year, you can choose to illustrate a middle grade novel cover or a full picture book illustration (specifics below).

Illustration specifics (choose 1):

Choice #1- For a middle grade novel cover: Illustrate a cover for a classic story (fairy tale, folk tale, classic novel). You can interpret the story however you want. Make sure it is age appropriate for the audience (8-12 years old). Leave space for the title and author’s name.

Dimensions for a middle grade novel cover: 5 1/2 x 8 inches (must be vertical orientation) with a 1/4 inch bleed all the way around. Make your final file in jpeg format at 150 dpi.

Choice #2- For a full page picture book interior illustration: Illustrate a full bleed illustration for a picture book interior. Illustrate a classic story (fairy tale, folk tale, classic novel). You can interpret the story however you want. Make sure it is age appropriate for the audience (3-8 years old). Leave space for some text somewhere in the illustration.

Dimensions for a full page picture book interior illustration: 11 x 9 inches (must be horizontal orientation) with a 1/4 inch bleed all the way around. Make your final file in jpeg format at 150 dpi.

File format: JPEG

File name: lastname_firstname.jpeg

Send to: Shawna Tenney at shawna(dot)tenney(at)gmail(dot)com.

Email subject line: First Look 2018

Due date: Turn in your illustration no later than midnight on February 24, 2018. Entries turned in later will not be accepted.

Questions? Email Shawna with any questions you might have about your “First Look” illustration entry.


Illustrators Interview Series

Over the next few months we will be posting an interview a month that we had with some of the attendants of out Illustrators Conference. Get to know a few of our local illustrators and find out what the conference means for them.



What made you want to be an artist? And how long have you been pursuing illustration?

I’ve always wanted to be an artist of some sort. Illustration was a way to appease both my love of painting and telling stories. I’m still a little surprised that I can actually make a living out of doing something so enjoyable to me! I’ve only been seriously pursuing illustration for a couple of years so I’m still very much a novice.


Why did you come to the Illustration Conference?

I went to the conference as a way to put myself out there. People always say that networking with other artists is one of the best things you can do so I’m trying to follow that advice, even if my shyness sometimes makes it difficult!

What did you hope to get out of the conference? 

I was hoping to learn some solid, practical advice about how to approach publishers or agents. It was my first ever conference so I didn’t know what to expect. Mostly I was going as a silent observer so I could absorb and know what to prepare for with future conferences.


What did you do to prepare for the conference?

I made sure I had postcards with my artwork and contact info. I also brought a few copies of books I’d worked on in the past as well as a bound portfolio of my more recent work.


Would you recommend the conference to others?

I would! The conference was a lot more intimate than I thought it would be so any newcomers shouldn’t feel intimidated. Just make sure to put yourself out there and don’t be afraid to introduce yourself to people.

check out her website here you can follow her on Instagram and twitter @nanlikesbooks

For more information on this coming conference click here.

To regester for the conference click here.


“What’s Your Story?” 2018 Illustrator’s Conference

SCBWI poster_2018_fo-real

2018 SCBWI Utah Southern Idaho

Illustrator’s Conference

Any questions? email Manelle Oliphant

Click HERE to Register


Utah/Southern Idaho SCBWI Illustration Conference

“What’s Your Story?”

March 3, 2018 at the Sons of the Utah Pioneers Building, 3301 East 2920 South,. Salt Lake City, Utah



8:30 – 9:00 dried bread and water, networking, set up portfolios ($5.00 for portfolio display see details below) and grab a seat

9:00 – Welcome and announcements

9:15 – Richard Erickson: Helping You Be Successful Telling Stories Through Art Direction

10:15 – Brandon Dorman: Give Your Stars a Hand; 5 things you can do to help your stars align as an illustrator

11:15 ­– Breakout Sessions

            Shawna J.C. Tenney: The Art of the Picture Book Dummy

            Manelle Oliphant: What Should I Post On Social Media?

12:15 – Lunch: a hot bowl of soup and water (local art directors check out portfolios and have a bowl of soup)

1:15 – First Look Critique: Brandon Dorman, Richard Erickson, Shawna JC Tenney, and Manelle Oliphant

2:15 – Networking with Illustrator to Illustrator

2:45 – 3:30 Panel: Your Questions Answered by Brandon Dorman, Richard Erickson, Shawna JC Tenney, and Manelle Oliphant


Portfolio Reviews

Richard Erickson will be doing a limited number of individual 10-minute portfolio reviews. The fee is $45.00. Register before spaces fill up.


Portfolio Display

We hope you plan to participate in the portfolio display. All artists are welcome.

Register early or bring $5.00 the day of the conference. Local art directors and Richard Erickson from Shadow Mountain will view the portfolios. You need to be registered for the conference to participate in the Portfolio Display.

Portfolio Guidelines

(Portfolios that do not meet these guidelines will not be accepted.)

  • Portfolios should be no larger than 11 x 14.
  • They must be bound (no loose pages).
  • 15 images max.
  • No original paintings or drawings (use printouts instead).
  • One set of contact information cards such as postcard or business card can sit with your portfolio.
  • No digital portfolios.
  • You can display one or two book dummies to the portfolio attached with a string.

If you have published books they can be displayed on our published books table. But not with the portfolios.

Notify Manelle Oliphant at if you have any questions.


Registration and Prices

Click HERE to Register

Early Bird Registration Before February 2, 2018

  • Early Bird Prices Register before February 2, 2018:
  • SCBWI Members: $60.00
  • Students: $65.00
  • General Public $70.00
  • Portfolio Display $5.00
  • Portfolio Reviews $45.00 (only 10 spots available, register early!)

Register after February 2, 2018

  • SCBWI Members $75.00
  • Students: $80.00
  • General Public $90.00
  • Portfolio Display $5.00
  • Portfolio Reviews $45.00 (only 10 spots available, register early!)

Click HERE to Register


Richard Erickson

Richard Erickson Photo

Richard Erickson, Art Director Shadow Mountian Publishing

Richard Erickson has been the Senior Art Director for Deseret Book/Shadow Mountain Publishing for over 25 years. He graduated from the University of Utah in Graphic Design and Illustration. He was awarded the Society of Illustrators Gold Award for Art Direction and has received other honorary awards for his art direction. He loves reading and collecting old and new books. Richard art directed the New York Times Bestselling Fablehaven Series for Shadow Mountain. He loves traveling to far away places with his true love, Diane. He has three children and seven grandchildren and loves reading picture books to all of them.

Learn more about Shadow Mountain Publishing at


Brandon Dorman

Brandon Dorman, Illustrator and Author

Brandon Dorman, Illustrator and Author

Brandon grew up near Tacoma, WA and is the dad of three smiley boys and one frilly girl.

He began his art career in the 4th grade doing Halloween window paintings for his neighbors. Since then, he hasn’t stopped drawing dragons and painting pirates.

Brandon graduated from Brigham Young University-Idaho in 2005 with a BFA in Fine Art and Illustration.

He is best known for his book cover artwork on popular series like Goosebumps, Fablehaven, and The Land of Stories. With over 22 picture books under his belt, he is an accomplished visual storyteller. Hoolie and the Hooligans; The Alien who Ate My Socks, is Brandon’s first middle-grade chapter book, for which he is both author and illustrator.

He likes to eat string cheese and play flag football and is a huge Seattle Seahawks fan. He’s lived for two years in the Philippines and once licked a slug. He loves making magical pictures and hopes to be illustrating for a long time to come.

See Brandon’s work at


Shawna JC Tenney


Shawna JC Tenney, Illustrator and Author

Shawna has always enjoyed a vivid imagination. In elementary school, the teachers were worried about her head always being in the clouds. Now many years later, she enjoys using that power of imagination to write and illustrate whimsical stories. Shawna has been a freelance illustrator for over 12 years. Her work has appeared in picture books, readers, chapter books, magazines, and games. Her true passion is writing and illustrating her own stories, and her first book as author and illustrator, Brunhilda’s Backwards Day was published in 2016.

See Shawna’s work at


Manelle Oliphant

Manelle Oliphant Head

Manelle Oliphant, Illustrator and Author

Manelle’s love of stories, like many of yours, began with the books and movies she enjoyed as a child. It was a happy day when her mom finally let her get her own library card. (Then she accidentally ran it through the washing machine, but that’s another story.) Her love of stories had only grown as she found ways to create her own stories through illustration and writing. She received a bachelor’s degree in illustration from BYU-Idaho and since then has illustrated many children’s books. Her most recent book “In The Snow” received a Kirkus starred review, “The illustrations and their subject matter have a beauty, realism, and simplicity that evoke another era and will surely make caregivers nostalgic for the pleasures of their youths.”

She lives in Salt Lake City with her husband and two cats named after the weather.

See Manelle’s work at and


Registration Opens November 15, 2017

Early Bird Prices End February 2, 2018!

Click HERE to Register

See you there!


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