Inbal Gigi Bousidan has joined Scbwi at the beginning of 2016 and now, a few months later, she managed to get a proposal to illustrate a book for the American market! We sat for a chat with Inbal to find out how she did it.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I’m Inbal Gigi Bousidan, 37, a self-taught illustrator. Married and a mother of four, I live in Holon.
Tell us about your scbwi membership. Did you participate in many scbwi activities? Has one of them touched you more or made you act?
I joined SCBWI after seeing a publication by Miri Leshem-Pelly about a planned activity, of portfolio review meeting held by Gil-ly Alon Curiel – head of illustration studies in Wizo Academy in Haifa, and Liora Grossman – a renowned illustrator, curator of Israeli illustration and the IC of the Israeli chapter of Scbwi. Since I didn’t learn illustration at the academy, I felt that I could benefit a lot from such a meeting. I knew this is exactly what I needed - real criticism from highly professional illustrators. I really love and appreciate Liora Grossman's art, and I keep many of her books on my children’s book shelf. I immediately emailed Miri, which gave me every possible data about Scbwi, and I decided to sign up.
I had mixed feelings about the event. On one hand I was grateful for the opportunity. On the other hand – I was weary of the critic I might receive. Deep down I knew I wasn't there yet, although at that point I’ve already started to illustratrate professionally, finishing the artwork for my first book.
At the meeting, my fears proved to be justified. When it was my turn to be reviewed - Liora, who is a very honest and direct person, didn’t hold back. She gave me a real academic review of my work. The message was clear – my website shows only a few good artworks and too many illustrations which shouldn’t be displayed. As a professional illustrator I need to stand behind my art, and show only the best illustrations. I came home discouraged. Then I had a pep-talk with my husband and came to the conclusion I should not be upset by the critic, but rather “show” Liora who I really am! I'll work on my portfolio and improve it. Needless to say that at that point I had no idea that only six months later, thanks to Scbwi, I would really get to “show” her…
Tell us about your work process on improving your portfolio, following the illustrators’ event.
Since illustration has always been my dream, and I always knew I’d become an illustrator, I decided not to give up. I worked for hours, nights and days. I invested most of my spare time to illustration. During that period I dreamed and lived around my illustrations quite intensively. I decided not to make excuses. The change came when I started to believe in my abilities. I realized, as time went by, that there are good results for my efforts – my illustration style and quality had started to improve. I still feel I have a lot to aspire to, and I still draw on every opportunity, and also go back to previous illustrations and revise them.
Six months after the meeting of the on-line portfolio reviews, I received another email from Scbwi Israel, with an invitation for another portfolio review event, this time with Yael Gover, senior editor in a major publishing house. This meeting was open to a limited number of participants. The moment I saw the message I got back to Miri asking to be included. Only later I’ve found the time to delve into the details. I had only about a week before the meeting. I worked all week, created some new images, attached them to my portfolio, and went to the meeting.
When my turn came to enter the room where Yael and Liora gave the personal critiques, I did not know what to expect. Liora remembered me right away, looked through the portfolio and was excited by what she saw. Yael also loved my portfolio and gave me a positive review. There were still some comments on some of the illustrations, but this time it was more focused on specific details and not on the overall look of the portfolio. I left the meeting stunned but in a positive, happy way.
Recently you’ve participated in one of the exhibitions of the Israeli Illustration Week. How did they contact you? What did you choose to do?
At the Scbwi meeting with Yael Gover, I met with some gifted illustrators. One of them – the talented Noa Vichansky, suggested I take part in an exhibition called 'Multifocal' created specifically for the Israeli Illustration Week. I was really grateful for the opportunity, and wish to thank Noa and Adi Yochalis (the artistic director) for it.
In this exhibition each illustrator chose one character from an old Bavarian fairy tale. I picked the character of an unlucky fisherman. After yet another day of bad luck, a mermaid comes out of the sea. She promises him he'll get his good luck back, and catch many fish – if he promises her a gift. The gift, she explains, is something he already has, but is not aware of yet. The fisherman agrees and catches a bounty of fish. As he gets back home with the loot, he discovers the horror of his situation: his wife tells him she is pregnant. He then realizes his gift to the mermaid must be his unborn child.
Working on these illustrations was fun and proved to be an enlightening experience. Even more so when I found out that one of my five illustrations was selected to compete in “The Audience Favourite” contest held by Mako and The 50×70 gallery. Although I didn’t win, I felt that was a progress in my journey to become a professional illustrator.
Recently you were offered to illustrate a picture book for the US market. Tell us a little about the process – how and who contact you, what is the book about, what attracted you to this project.
Not long ago, there was another event held by Scbwi Israel. It was a lecture by our regional advisor, Miri Leshem-Pelly, on her journey to publication on the US book market. I really value Miri as an author-illustrator who had published many books. It was important for me to attend and try to figure out how to achieve a similar goal. Miri handed many tips, and I made sure to record her lecture. Later on I got thinking of how I could apply her advice to my career. I drafted an email in English with a query to agents, but before I could send it, I got yet another email from Scbwi Israel, introducing an American publishing house that holds a branch in Israel. Apparently, they were looking for Israeli illustrators. I immediately e-mailed the link to my portfolio. Soon after, came another email, regarding the same publishing house. This time they were searching illustrators for a specific book. I asked for the manuscript, read it and loved the story of a child who lost her grandmother. A sad yet optimistic story, taking place in a Jewish “Shivaa" (Seven days of grief). A year ago I lost my grandmother and her absence still hurts, and I felt like she sent me this story.
Miri sent the members’ submissions to Amanda Cohen, the editor, who contacted me. It turned out that I was the first submission she looked through, and was very impressed by my works for the Multifocal exhibition. Amanda asked me to draw some colored sketches of the main character, so that she and the other staff members in the U.S.A. could decide if I’m right for this project. They loved my sketches and I was chosen to illustrate the book!
Good luck, Inbal, and thank you for this interview!
Inbal Gigi Bousidan’s portfolio: inbalgigib.carbonmade.com