When Stick Figures Just Won’t Cut It

Chinkara sketchesOne of the first things we learned when we started this journey was that we’d  need to bring someone on board to help with the illustrations.  It was a pretty obvious realization that, despite the Pictionary-inspired stick figure sketches we were able to bring to the table, relying on a true artist, someone who’d made a career out of his or her own visual masterpieces, would help launch us and our vision into a realm of greater legitimacy.  Of course, the process of selecting an illustrator itself required weeks and weeks…and a couple more weeks…of searching far and wide, throwing a few lines out there to various networks, going through the vetting process, and finally finding someone who was not only talented, but also extremely interested in telling the same story.  Oh, and since we’re financing this on our own at the moment, cost was, as it so often is for start-ups, a key factor.  We were ready for this, though.

Given that almost everything (including the kitchen sink) can be found on the internet, we figured we’d start there.  We’d already been doing research on publishing since April and had come across tons of amazing websites that listed out the names of illustrators to contact.  So, we launched into several rounds of cold emailing illustrators (much easier than cold calling, ha!) from all over the country.  Fortunately, a number of people responded.  However, none of them seemed to really fit our needs or pan out for a variety of reasons.  Not to mention, the logistics of contracting an illustrator isn’t as easy as just pressing “send” and getting a resounding, digital “yes!”.  Who knew?  If only…  Alas, as we continued to reach out to people we’d found online, we decided to simultaneously dive into our networks.  Which, um, we’re not sure about you, but, despite what everyone says and despite the fact that we know how critical it is to build and maintain a professional network, it doesn’t necessarily come naturally to everyone. We LOVE our networks, but it wasn’t easy for either of our personalities to dive in and ask for help, especially online.  We didn’t have the benefit of  the usual ice-breaking that takes place in a good old fashioned, in-person handshake.  But, we had little to lose…

So, we gave it a go, posting our concept with a brief description of our needs to both the Wellesley and Georgetown LinkedIn pages since we’re connected to alums at both of these schools.  Quite honestly, we were hoping for the best, but not expecting much.  In fact, we weren’t expecting anything, given that it was seemingly such a random request.  Oddly enough, we got an overwhelming number of responses.  Almost too overwhelming, as we found ourselves suddenly having to reply to a crazy number of people.  Not only were we surprised by the genuine interest in our project, but the creative talent out there is undeniably remarkable.  🙂  And, we were and continue to be truly appreciative of everyone who did respond — thank you!!!  Given that we’ve been trying to set goals for ourselves to ensure this project gets off the ground soon, we decided to establish a timeline for selecting and contracting an illustrator (using Trello, an online project management tool that we’ll likely cover in a future post).  We came up with a somewhat rigid list of criteria and gave ourselves approximately one month from that point to find someone.  Slightly ambitious, perhaps.  But, we were ready to get started!  And, what would a children’s book be without amazing pictures?

About 3.5 weeks in, just as we were about to run up against our hard deadline, we heard back from another Wellesley alum.  Who was interested in the project.  Who was incredibly talented, based on what we were able to gather from her websites.  Who was within our somewhat limited budget.  And, who also happened to live in the Washington, DC area.  It was almost too good to be true!  The dream combination.  So, we immediately responded to her and set up a time to chat.  It’s funny thinking back to that moment now.  We’ve both been working for years and have had some wonderful and some not so wonderful professional experiences.  And, we keep reminding ourselves that this is our business.  We call the shots…such a foreign concept.  The idea that we were in control of this decision was totally freeing.  Cathartic, really.  Anyway, all existential tangents aside, within a few minutes of starting the call, we were already chatting about cultural identity.  Not the usual “interview” conversation, yet so totally appropriate for a multicultural endeavor like ours.  It quickly became clear….she was it.  Indeed.  Alyssa was it!  She would be our illustrator.

We’ll spare you the administrative details that followed, but just wanted to offer you a glimpse into our process of finding an illustrator.  And, into the beginnings of what promises to be one wild adventure.  Alyssa has been a wonderful addition.  Just watching her put pencil to paper as we scarfed down Thai delivery one evening and come up with the first batch of character sketches was inspiring.  Not sure that either of us could have come up with such drawings…while eating Pad Thai…and without getting greasy sauces all over the paper!

As the characters are finalized – we’re almost there! – and our full-fledged illustrations begin to unfold, we’ll be sharing them with you all here because we want you to be a part of this process.  We love to celebrate the small wins that come in the form of progress.  And, on that note, happy Monday!

-K & M


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