Illustration Intensive 2019

About This Event


Immerse yourself in illustration techniques, gain tools for storytelling, and explore the children’s book market.

Explore the ever-changing children’s book market with authors, illustrators and art directors who are currently in the field. Come learn new techniques and enjoy the camaraderie of artists who understand your passion.

What You’ll Learn

You’ll create:

Learn new illustration techniques.

Find and advance ideas through play, doodling, book dummies, character development, and more.

Hands-on activities will challenge you to sharpen your illustration skills.

Learn about dummy preparation, storyboarding and continuity.

You’ll be mentored:

Practice new techniques with support and guidance from faculty.

Receive personal attention through one-to-one critiques from your mentors.

Participate in group critiques and portfolio reviews with peers and publishing professionals.

Get feedback from special industry guests at our portfolio showcase.

You’ll learn about publishing:

Faculty demonstrations and lectures to demystify the publishing process.

Study art directors’ portfolio expectations.

Explore how to find a market for your work.

Making a living as an illustrator

Discover ways to promote yourself and your art.

Who Should Attend

This course is open to beginner, intermediate and advanced illustrators or author/illustrators.

If you have taken one of these other workshops, you may find this course of special interest: Picture Book Illustration: From Conception to Birth; Illustration Intensive; Crafting a Picture Book Dummy; Color, Light, Line & Texture; Getting to Know Your Picture Book; Carving Out Your Picture Book for Submission; Creating Picture Books; Super Children’s Book Boot Camp.


Day 1


Arrival and check in


Appetizers and dinner

After dinner: Faculty introductions and mentor assignments, Merrill Rainey

Opening keynote, Kelly Light

Day 2



Sketch and Digital Demo with Mike Curato

One-to-one sessions (all faculty)



Remaining One-to-ones and revision time

Q & A with Jen Keenan

(Optional) Portfolio Showcase set up


Appetizers and Portfolio Showcase


After dinner: Informal patio night and optional art in the Barn

Day 3



Watercolors Demonstration, Kathryn Otoshi

Mentor roundtable groups (all faculty)



Print-making demo with Steve Light

One-to-ones with Jen Keenan


Appetizers and dinner

After dinner:

FUN: Chalk Painting with Merrill Rainey

One-to-ones with Jen Keenan continue

Day 4



Faculty Demonstration, Kelly Light

One-to-ones with Jen Keenan continue

Final remarks and Q/A facilitated by Merrill Rainey


Lunch and departures


True Confessions of a Picture Book Illustrator

In two blog posts, Elizabeth Rose Stanton comes to some peace with her issues, including her “colored pencil problem” and her realization that “my supply of watercolors will probably outlive me.” Read Part 1, and then read Part 2. Be ready to laugh!

Steve Light: Creative Spaces

In this video from All the Wonders, you will get an insight into Steve’s illustration process, learn about the tools he used as a child, and hear wonderful advice for any aspiring artist. Watch the video.

Author-Illustrator Spotlight: Kathryn Otoshi

Great interview on Kidlit411 with Kathryn Otoshi about process and publication. Read it here.

Illustrator Spotlight: Kelly Light

Another great Kidlit411 interview, this time with Kelly Light about her journey to publication, her advice to others and what her favorite books are. Read it here.

Crafting Your Picture Book Dummy

Lisa Cinelli gives you step-by-step instructions for how to create a picture book dummy, ready for submission. Find out how!

Let the Book Come to You

Robert Blake shares his best practices for using journals and sketchbooks. Can you believe he has 25,000 pages in his personal sketchbook library? Read about them here.

Graphic Novelists Need to Write in Pictures

Matt Phelan shares his particular method for creating comics. Find out what it is

Get It Right With Research

Don Tate shares the process he went through to get the details right for his nonfictionpicture book biography about the creator of the Super Soaker water gun. Glimpse his process here.

Making Readers Say “I Love This Book!”

Lindsay Barrett George wants you to make a connection with a reader that makes them say “I LOVE this book.” Plus, she can make readers turn the page. Watch the video.


“The experience I had at the Illustrators Intensive was absolutely invaluable! The highlight (ha) for me was meeting my mentor (Mike Curato). He provided really focused feedback on my dummy and helped me push it to be so much better. Seeing his demos were magical, as was getting to hang out with him as a fellow artist and human. I appreciate how supportive and kind he was, in spite of being a kidlit world rock star. Thank you for providing a place where you foster these creative connections, and helping us inch closer to making our dreams come true!”–Saki Tanaka

“I highly recommend the Highlights Illustration Intensive to anyone who is just beginning or wants to hone their skills as an illustrator. I found the program to be very well organized and the days moved smoothly from mentorships to delicious meals to workshops and free time. The faculty was a well-rounded group of talent that were extremely welcoming and shared much guidance in the field of children’s books. I enjoyed the variety of techniques that were taught and the opportunity to play with mediums and methods I don’t often use. The grounds and environment provided seclusion in nature or in your cabin if you preferred to work in solitude, and the barn hosted a more social atmosphere. I will never forget my time there and the new friendships formed that have been continuing to inspire and motivate. Thank you Highlights Foundation for all that you do to nurture those who want to create books for children!”–Gael Abary

Cancellation Policy

100% deposit refund for cancellation 30+ days before event.
50% deposit refund for cancellation 15-29 days before event.
0% deposit refund for cancellation 0-14 days before event.
The remaining balance (total price minus deposit) is due upon arrival.
Get full details...

  Write a review - tell others about your experience.

Similar Retreats You Might Like

Thank you!

We're glad you've joined our retreat community. See you around :)

Return to my event ×

Why Retreat?

We asked people why they go on retreat, here's what they said:

Rest and inner calm. Karen

Retreat Guru's Vision

We believe human beings are innately wise, strong and kind. This wisdom, although not always experienced, is always present. Going on retreat is a beautiful way to reconnect to our basic sanity and health. Our aspiration at Retreat Guru is to inspire people to experience authentic retreats and reconnect with their innate wisdom, strength and kindness.