Meet the faculty of the 2015 Austin SCBWI Writers & Illustrators Working Conference. We've asked all our faculty members to answer 4 quick questions so we can get to know them better.
Next in the series is C.S. Jennings.
C.S. Jennings is an Austin, Texas based children’s and editorial illustrator. He brings top shelf know-how to the publishing, gaming, editorial, advertising, and entertainment industries. (He also was an animation lead for Richard Linklater’s A Scanner Darkly.) Author of Hello, Texas! (Sterling Publishing) and author-illustrator of the picture book Animal Band (Sterling Publishing); he’s also illustrated books for Penguin Group, Scholastic, and Stone Arch Books.
What attracted you to children’s books?
Reading did not come easy for me, though I was read to throughout my early years. (My mother tells me she still has “Green Eggs and Ham”—my favorite picture book—memorized.) Picture books were the entry way for me, making the idea of reading a safe one. When I could read, I tackled most everything I could get my hands on. As a visual person, the trips books took me on were personal. I still have many of those scenes floating around my memory as if they were my own.
As an illustrator what draws me to children’s books is they’re a fit for what comes naturally to me. My style has always been light hearted and fun. The topics, characters, and action in children’s books are squarely in my wheelhouse—and I have a great time doing it.
What’s the best part of your job?
Um. Can I say all of it? Reading the manuscript for the first time, letting it percolate and bubble in my imagination. Putting images—sketching and creating the compositions—with those words. The revision process (I know that’s weird), working with the editors and art directors to take the book to the next level. OH! That last moment when the book is wrapped and on its way to print. In among all of that, though, probably my favorite thing is readings. Me. A book. A room full of kids and parents. It is delightfully unpredictable.
What’s the most challenging part of your job?
Main characters. Definitely. Sometimes it takes a while to get that character to live in the lines and colors that are my tools. When he or she finally shows up, though, it’s great. Then I get to hang out with that character for a while. (A close second for most challenging part is having to throw away pages or compositions I really love for the good of the book. That’s genuinely not fun.)
What’s the best piece of advice you were given that helped drive your career?
In a discussion about a story I was wrestling with a friend wrote to me, “Just strive to do what seems true. The beauty will follow.” My interpretation of those words is when I’ve hit that wall we all do, to stop. Breathe deep and ask, “Where’s the truth in this piece? What can be removed? What’s the core of the story, or this character?” I like that I am, even as goofy as my drawings are, striving for beauty. As an artist and a storyteller, that’s my aim with every word I write and line I draw.
Come see CS at the 2015 Austin SCBWI conference, March 7-8.