Judy Sue Sturges: Stay honest of what we do

Judy Sue Sturges

Judy Sue Sturges:

Judy Sue graduated from RISD as an illustrator. After her graduation, Judy Sue worked for Hallmark and Ginn & Co. before starting her own Children’s Book Studio in Boston in 1989. She envisioned a place where she could nurture creative talent, and develop quality book projects for trade markets, and museum communities. Today, Studio Goodwin Sturges works with more than 38 artists from all over the world.


A=Judy Sue Sturges

Q:You’ve been in the illustration filed for more than 35 years, has this industry changed?

Absolutely! I’ve changed. When I graduated from college, I had to get a job, so I worked for Hallmark and Ginn & Co., the greeting card industry. That’s almost going flat, because of the computers. Then I went on to work for publisher, that changed a great deal. I was working at education publishing, and that’s where I learned how to design books, and it was a terrific experience. But at the same time, education now is changing, because school market is not putting as much money in materials as they use to put in, and now they started to pick up the data that is perhaps free on the internet, or just use old art and give it anew face look. So the artist work for this projects and people who are staff members are really becoming obsolete, or at least in United States. After that I went on to do what I always love to do- children’s books. Education is borrowing children’s book for classrooms use, so during that time, I started todo what I love to do. There was someone ask me how to prompt their work, and I said I never thought about that. I started up with 3 people, and I took these artworks to New York, and got more work, and realized that I could do well. I grew from there, and now I work with over 38 people from all over the world, I have staffs and actually I never planned it. In fact, I don’t have a name card for thefirst few years because I can’t afford it, so I use to make little cards when I went to publishers, and put stickers on them.

The market has changed a great deal. Children’s book is becoming extremely in demand. There are publishers being more carefully of what they sign up for because of the demand. A long time in the late 80s, 90s, everyone wanted to do a children’s book, even grandma wants to do a children’s book. So the market was extremely over saturated with all the materials. And now they are being far more careful about it, and the direction of children book has changed a great deal, they are looking for more non-fiction, because non-fiction is a cross over and will go back to school’s market.

United States is not using as much readers (textbook, magazines, and other books) as they used to be. They are using a lot supplementary materials instead. They are doing a lot on computers, and giving out handouts to students.

It all boils down to time, quickness of turn around, driven by your generation, the computer generation, no time for this and that, and then cut back on the finance has to say how these books to be produced.

So everything has to be adjusted with the quickness, the speed, demand, and try to keep it so does not become over saturated.

《Consteuction Kitties》by Judy Sue Sturges, Illustrated by Shari Halpern

Q: Technology has been developed very fast in the past few years, and you also mentioned that schools are not using as many paper materials as they use to. Publishers and social media have changed the way they publish illustrations. So how does this affect illustrators?

Now you are talking to an older person for old ideas. I believe everything comes around goes around. For example, the independent book stores in United States like Barnes & Noble are having a hard time, and a lot people are going online like Amazon to purchase kindles. The small book stores are obsolete, however, they are going forward again. Because of the support of the demand, and the fact that books stores know their books, and can work direct with the sales team, and they are really supporting the materials. I think in United States, there will come a time, that I can see it begin to happen now, the illustrator, person who’s looking for entering the market, must be incredibly good at computer, they must think about generating a lot art on the computers in very fast time, which I’m not for. Obviously the young ones are raise on the computer, so I’m not talking about the receivers, I’m talking about the quality of materials that are now being generated, which I think is being done way to quickly without a thought, a depth, and the potential that they need. But I think that the time is going to happen, and I feel very strongly that the gaming is going to hit the fan soon. Because right now the market is so saturated with people who want to do game, do the characters for it, and think about money involved it. The market I saw in RISD is really slowing down, because they don’t have room for these people, they don’t have the money for the expansion, and they don’t need for the expansion. And there are only a few things that can make a big time, it’s no longer a lot small ones can survive.

But I think as artists and designers, we have to adjust, but at same time, do not allow ourselves to burn out with what our initial dream and goals are. And I think we must stay honest of what we do, and for the young people who is growing as illustrator, or graphic designers, which I know are not done so anymore, they should start to think about collaborating all together, presenting your own individual of thinkers, gets the best of the best, and form your own organizations, you own little groups and move forward with it. I believe that’s the future of what we are all doing. I love when students say we are going to New York, we are not sure how we are going to feed ourselves, but we will make it work, we will start something, and usually they can do it.

《Dig In》by April Jones Prince, from Studio Goodwin Sturges.Illustrated by Michelle Berg.

Q: I’ve notice a lot illustration students are doing a lot computer illustration, and actually start to reject to use traditional materials, like sketch and painting.

That drives me crazy, because I have students think if they can do it on computers, then they have it. They can’t draw, they can’t mix paint, and it looks like computer generated junk. My people in my office are all very busy with books, I have maybe 2 computer people out of 38, and they all do art. I take live arts to New York, I don’t take computer generated work, unless it happens with that’s what that person does, and they do it so well that they use computer as a design element. And if you want to be part of big companies like Disney, and your work maybe do nothing more but clean up the pieces that they put on the computer, to become part of the big machine, and that’s fine for some people, but Its not fine for a lot people.

I think that the shortcutting is not allowing the natural growth of town and building, and I do think at some points and some time, all those people who spend time will become realizable, I really believe it

Q: Let’s go back to children’s book. Children’s book used to become simple children illustration book, but since technology developed so fast, they started to add sounds, music and etc to make the book becomes more interactive item.

I think there’s room for all of that. But first, a book that is already out there will never do well, it’s never going to make those leaps into all those in all these interaction staff. The book has to sell as a book, and the sales begins to take on a new extension, I think there are a lot small companies that are starting up that are more interactive, be honest with you, people who are doing them, are not making a lot money. Because they are not as desirable as they hope they would be. I think it really boils down that book is a book, and I think that there’s room for everything, but a lot new technology for independent groups forming these interactive books is something based on not knowing the full market building about the books.

Professor Judy’s workshop at Shanghai SFK

Q:What’s your advices to people who want to go to a different country and experience with different culture?

I think it’s terrific. I think every young person should move around as much as possible if they can afford to move around. Do whatever you can do in richer life, and see new thing. Love mom and dad, but not necessary to leave mom and dad forever, it’s really important and critical for who you become, and what you want to do in rest of your life. It doesn’t mean that the family is losing you, they are letting you become who you going to be, and a happy person. I’m all for it, moving around, there might be a time that you want to go back with your loots, but it’s the time to do it at your age. You can pay me to move to New York right now.

Professor Judy with SFK’s students
You know what they say about April…! (from Studio Goodwin Sturges) (Publishedby Imagine Press

Q: Do you have advices for all the young illustrators or art-lovers?

Never give up the goals, you are going todo it.

Sometime it’s very hard for young people. I always suggest young artists to form support groups that meets at least once every two weeks. When you are in college, you have your groups that you can sit within a coffee shop in school, and say “I have the worst they in painting!” and other people will immediately respond to you with “I know!” But now when you leave college, a banker will not pick up what you said at a coffee shop. It’svery important for you to keep your groups together, form your own littlegroups, and have someone you can respond with. you are no longer getting weekly assignments, you now have to come up with own development, but if you have a group that you admire their taste, and your opinions, then you get it.

And another important thing is no matter what you may have to do, it does not mean to an end. It does not mean you havework in a bookstore forever. It means that you know you have the ability, that’s why you have to keep doing it with support groups, and that’s what you are aiming for, but you also know now you have to do some thing to keep it going.

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