Bright Academy: Artist Resources
last updated 24 August 2023
Written by Nina Fiol
Welcome back to Bright Academy, our new blog series of guides to help you navigate the world of illustration. From beginners to experienced, we’re here to walk you through it all. This second guide will dive into using trade organizations as an artist resource. These are excellent sources of information, and create places of community for artists. While there is a wide number of organizations out there, we’ve selected three that our most popular amongst our Bright Artists. We’ll be breaking down the specifics of each organization, including benefits, membership, some artist experiences, as well as some thoughts from Bright’s Acting Global Managing Director, James Burns. We encourage aspiring artists to find an organization that best aligns with their needs!
“Trade organizations are vital for businesses and individuals, as they provide a community based on shared values and understandings,” James says. “They offer a seat at the table for industry professionals and grant opportunity for conversation and involvement in the industry.”
Society of Illustrators
The Society of Illustrators is a historical society that focuses on the promotion of illustration and illustrators. They are over 100 years old, making them the oldest non-profit organization dedicated to the art of illustration in the US. In their words, they act as, “a center where illustrators can share their ideas, exhibit their work, and contribute to the community at large.” In addition, the society is located in their brick-and-mortar Museum of Illustration, which was built in 1981. The museum hosts rotating exhibitions that change monthly, as well as their annual Original Art Show competition, which honors the best of children’s illustration published in the US. Bright loves attending this award show, and in 2022 had a record number of 13 artists featured! They also host multiple educational programs, including classes, lectures, and call-for-entries. There are a number of membership levels to choose from, ranging from student to full-time illustrator, which can be viewed here.
The Association of Illustrators
Founded in 1973, this world-wide organization was founded to help nurture and protect the rights of illustrators and their work. What’s distinct about the AOI is that they offer support from a number of angles, including licensing, contracts, and portfolio consultations. They also host a number of competitions, including the World Illustration Awards. Shana Nieberg-Suschitzky, one of Bright’s children’s illustration artists, is a member of the AOI and recalls her previous experiences with them.
“Over the years I’ve found that I’ve needed different experiences, events and classes based on my progression through this career and I have benefited a lot from being a member of the AOI,” she recalls. “It’s the priciest out of all of the societies and that means that I did have to stop for a while, but I found that I really needed their support still, and so I joined without the online portfolio, which is the cheaper option, as I have my Bright page, my own website and my Instagram handle.”
For beginner artists, getting advice on how to maintain a brand as an illustrator is essential, and a great way to set yourself aside from other artists. “At present, I have mainly benefited from their business advice and I think that the workshops related to that subject are greatly informative and extremely necessary,” Shana says.
The AOI offers a variety of different membership packages, available to students, illustrators, industry members, or professors. You can view the memberships and price breakdown here
The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators
The SCBWI is a global community of writers, authors, illustrators, agents… basically, all industry members and lovers of children’s literature make up the SCBWI. With multiple in-person and online events, local chapters and offices, and even a weekly podcast, they make their organization very accessible. Bright artist Jeff Harter had recently attended one of the SCBWI’s annual conferences, in order to get some feedback on his writing and manuscript. He shared his experience with us:
“I am an illustrator of 5 children’s books and counting, but I’m working on becoming a writer-illustrator. I attended the 2023 SCBWI winter conference in New York and chose to attend the writing labs and consultations in the hopes of hearing positive feedback and learning how to improve upon my writing. My meeting with Patricia Ocampo, Senior Editor of Kids Can Press, was the highlight of the conference for me. On a personal level, Patricia was professional and respectful and provided nothing but positive feedback and encouragement on my manuscript, as well as clear and intelligent feedback on how to improve in the form of written notes to take away. The overall cost of the conference was quite expensive, but this particular consultation was well worth it!
Having a sense of community has proven to be very beneficial for artists, as it allows a space for feedback and critique.
“Illustrators work independently in sometimes isolating locations, such as a private studio, and when working on projects it can be difficult to know if you’re on the right path creatively. Trade organizations like the SCBWI provide opportunities for friendship but more importantly critique and that is so important for the creative process,” says James. The SCBWI offer numerous awards and grants, digital workshops, book clubs, and more. Student memberships and discounts are available. Further information regarding their memberships can be found here.
Society of Artists Agents
While it is important for artists to meet with and explore trade organizations, it is also just as important for agencies and agents to become connected with trade organizations of their own. Bright is a proud member of multiple organizations, including the Society of Artists Agents. By being part of the SAA, it allows Bright agents to connect with other agents and artist representatives, to discuss the happenings of the industry, and to stay up-to-date on new talent. “It is crucial for agents to be able to share issues that are facing the industry. Being a member of these agent-lead and based organizations provides a sounding board for us to discuss movement in the representation landscape.” says James. The SAA is open to membership for all agents that have been in the business of at least two years. More information on membership can be found here.
We hope the above information has been helpful and gives you a place to start when considering joining an artist organization. Have a topic you’d like us to cover in the next Bright Academy? Give us a shout on any of our socials!