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Illustration Mentorship!

Illustrator Mentorship 2017-2018

Prize: The grand prize is a one-year mentorship with acclaimed illustrator, Kirbi Fagan.

Kirbi has illustrated the covers of more than 50 books, and illustrated the interiors of several series of illustrated chapter books. Most recently, Kirbi was awarded the Jack Gaughan Award for Best Emerging Artist in 2017 and the Muddy Colors Rising Star Award.

Check out our interview with Kirbi at The Mitten.


Eligibility: The competition is open to all SCBWI members who are Michigan residents unless they are Published and Listed (PAL) illustrators. (PAL writers may apply.) Please contact SCBWI-MI Mentorship Coordinator, Ann Finkelstein, if you have questions about eligibility. 


The winner will be announced at the Fall Conference (September 15-16, 2017)

You do not have to be present to win.



  • One entry per person.
  • The non-refundable entry fee is $20.
  • Each entry will consist of FOUR separate pieces of art that are suitable for picture book or chapter book illustrations, graphic novels or YA or MG book covers.
  • Two of the illustrations should be a page-turn sequence from the same story.
  • Do not sign artwork or put any identifying marks on illustrations. If you have already signed a piece, please block the signature before scanning.
  • The four illustrations should be saved as a single pdf file that is between 1 MB and 3 MB in size.
  • Art should fit on an 8.5 x 11 inch page, either vertically or horizontally.
  • Art should be in full color, finished and ready for publication.
  • Art should be appropriate for and targeted to children or teens.
  • How to name your submission:
  • Think of a brief descriptive title for the first illustration in your series and use it as the title for your saved pdf file. (For example: Girl with a Pearl Earring or The Child’s Bath.)
  • Be kind to your mentorship coordinator and describe the picture. Seated Woman with a Fish Hat is more helpful than Son of Man.
  • You will not be judged on your title. The titles are only used to help keep track of submissions.
  • Do not mention your name in the title.



Our three super-secret, superstar judges will evaluate artwork for:

  • Vibrancy (understands vibratory quality of chosen palette and the uses of combining/contrasting complimentary colors and varying warm and cool temperatures)
  • Handling of Medium (understands transparency/opacity, patterns, brushwork, use of movement and line quality in design.)
  • Design (composition of the image and design of the page turn).
  • Concept (is there an idea – visual metaphor, conceptual depth; image successful in telling story without text; secondary ideas woven into design)
  • Overall impression (includes originality, suitability for the target audience, and design of the characters, including anatomical consistency)


The mentor will make the final winning selection.                                              

All applicants will receive feedback on their artwork from the judges.


Special thanks to Matt FaulknerRuth McNally Barshaw and Leslie Helakoski for the judging criteria.


Registration and Submission:

The registration and submission window is June 5 – 26, 2017.


When you are ready to register and submit your art, click on the link that will be provided here soon. After you pay the $20 application fee, you will be directed to submission instructions as follows:

  • In the subject line of the email write: Submission: Title (For example, Submission: Ram’s Head with Hollyhock)
  • In the body of the email, write:




    • Your full name
    • The title of your submission
    • Your email address
    • Your phone number.
  • Attach your pdf to the email.
  • The mentorship coordinator will acknowledge the receipt of your artwork.


Mentorship applicants are welcome to apply for illustrator critiques at the fall conference (September 15 – 16, 2017) and display competition samples at the portfolio showcase.



  1. Can I enter the competition if I live in MI only during the warmer months? Yes. We don’t discriminate against snowbirds. We’d all escape from Michigan’s winters if we could.
  2. Why can’t I sign my artwork? Judging is anonymous. The judges do not know who the contestants are and the contestants do not know who the judges are.
  3. Why do I need to submit my art as a pdf? It’s easier for the mentorship coordinator and the judges to keep track of unsigned artwork if the submissions are grouped into one file per applicant.
  4. How do I make a pdf file? Acrobat Writer, Corel Draw, Illustrator, Photoshop and other programs save files as pdfs. FedEx will scan four illustrations and save them as single pdf for $8.
  5. Why do I have to title my first illustration? The mentorship coordinator and the judges need a way to make sure the scores and the comments are assigned to the correct artwork. See point 3.
  6. What if two or more submissions have the same name? The mentorship coordinator will also assign every submission with a submission number.
  7. I can’t think of a good title for my first illustration. You will not be evaluated on the name. The purpose of the title is to maintain the sanity of the mentorship coordinator.
  8. If I change my mind, can I get the entry fee back? Sorry. Entry fees are non-refundable.
  9. Can I register first and upload my art later? Yes, as long as it’s during the submission window. After you register, click on the link to upload your submission. Nothing bad will happen. You’ll find yourself looking at a blank email. Copy and save the address to use when your art is ready.
  10. Why do I have to register and upload my art during the submission window? Because I said so.
  11. Is it okay to tweet about entering this contest? No. Judging is anonymous. Promoting the contest on social media is great, but please do not mention that you’ve entered.
  12. What if I receive a contract for my artwork during the contest? Please contact Mentorship Coordinator, Ann Finkelstein, to receive congratulations and discuss the situation.
Earlier Event: April 21
Spectrum Live