Puddle Jumper Lorian Dean recently returned from Picturecamp in Atapuerca, Spain. Here's what she had to say about it.

PJ: Lorian, we understand you recently adventured to Spain for PictureCamp. What prompted your quest?

LD: I had been searching for an opportunity to go someplace out of my element to study/work, and I happened to see a friend post about Picturecamp in a Facebook Group for Children’s Book Illustrators. After doing some research, I decided it would be just the thing I needed to stretch myself personally and professionally.

PJ: Was this set up as a seminar, retreat, workshops, critiques, hibernation station, …?

LD: All of the above. It was a 4-day program, and each day was filled with lectures, demonstrations, hands-on group activities, individual project work and feed-back sessions with the teachers. Extracurricular activities included swing dance lessons, wine-tasting, tours of ancient cities, and a trip to Burgos (where I had the best Gelato and Tapas). The final day we were there, we got to meet with an editor from Simon & Schuster UK, Lara Hancock, who was fabulous. I showed her my portfolio and some other things in development, and she gave me wonderful feedback on my work and on the industry in general. She was lovely.

PJ: Who were the presenting teachers?

LD: Jorge Martin, Benji Davies, Marta Altes, and Alexis Deacon. They were all just so wonderful: generous with their time, kind, inspiring, encouraging, and authentic. Such an amazing group of people. Natascha Rosenberg also stopped by and spoke to us about her work and process. She was such a great person to listen to, she had so many things to say that resonated with me and my own experience. I love her work

PJ: What did you find challenging?

LD: I suppose that the same sort of challenges I face day-to-day were with me over in Spain: self-doubt, over-thinking, stubbornness. I think those things will always be with me, and that they both hinder and help me to move forward. I think that’s probably true for everyone in one way or another.

PJ: Can you share the most excellent bits you brought home with you?

LD: While we were all working on our individual projects, I overheard one of the teachers say this to another student, and it really stuck with me. It’s not verbatim, but it was something like, “We (the teachers) are no better than any of you (the students). We’re just a few steps ahead, and we know some tricks that you don’t. Keep working, and you’ll get to where we are.” I think that kind of encouragement is so important to give to students. It’s easy to get frustrated and want to give up, or to feel less-than. Remembering not to compare yourself to others is vital to your success.

PJ: Any favorite nibbles or sips while there?

LD: Everything. We ate lunch daily at a local restaurant called Comosapiens, and everything they made was delicious. We also had some excellent wine during a special event one night. There was one called Gallinas y Flocas that was especially delicious. The coffee and pastries we had for breakfast each morning from the local cafe were also really good. Everything seemed more delicious there.

PJ: Anything lovely to share about people you met, sleeping quarters, roommates, landscape, museums, etc?

LD: Everything and everyone was just…. as good as you could imiagine. The other students were from all over the world: Germany, England, China, Vietnam, Thailand, Sweden, Norway, Chile… There was only one other person there from the USA. That said, there wasn’t any sense of difference between us. We were all just Picturecampers. It was like being a kid again. Everyone was friendly and talented and so, so nice. Some of the most wonderful people I’ve ever met. The room I stayed in was in an old house and it was very cozy. The landscape was unbelievable. Like a dream. The colors seemed brighter, there was a special energy in the air… I know this sounds like I was just excited to be there, but truly, it was a magical place.

PJ: Any quotes, mantras, perspectives you found inspiring from your PictureCamp?

“Let it Go” was the theme, and I’d say that’s a pretty good way to approach art-making of any kind. I think artists can get wound up pretty tightly, and it affects their work. When you can reach a place of letting go, of relaxing, of playing, experimenting… you can find that special something that will enrich your work in ways you could never have otherwise. It’s like the Shower Principle… when you’re not stressing out trying to make yourself think of something, you think of better, more original ideas.

PJ: Do you have a link for aspiring picture campers, or was this a one-time event?

www.picturecamp.org and I highly recommend going, if you can. There was one student there who had gone last year as well, so this was her second time. I would go every year if I could… but plane tickets are not cheap. Definitely go if you can!

The school building where we met daily for work-play.

Mornings were perfect...

The view from my bedroom window.

Breakfast at the cafe usually consisted of an espresso or cafe leche, and a pastry or toast and tomato.

Benji Davies talks about making his book, Grandad's Island

Marta Altes shows us her storyboards for her newest picture book, Little Monkey

Natascha Rosenberg shares some process work with us...

At the wine tasting, we we challenged to come up with designs for wine labels based on the tasting notes.

One of the activities we did as a warm up was to use random cut-out shapes to create a character.

A tribute to all of our projects, made by Benji Davies

And some other non-work related things that I absolutely loved about my trip.

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