1. Having a one-on-one critique with agent, Deborah Warren (East West Literary Agency). She helped me rethink how to approach a book I've been stuck on (and it didn't hurt that she said the idea is "very marketable!" and that my illustrations are currently its strongest point).
By the way, Deborah is one of the kindest industry professionals I've met so far. Whenever I ran into her, she was smiling, she took time to thank participants individually, and she treated everyone respectfully - regardless of her standing in the market, and regardless of the person's level of expertise. That's not to say she applauded everything we created - she was plenty honest. But she did it in a way that inspired and encouraged. All of her information was so helpful and gave purposeful direction.
2. Learning from Semadar Megged. She's an art director at Philomel and has worked with big names like David Small and David Elliot. Her most informative session (for me) was when she shared the process she goes through to select and then work with her illustrators. Her purpose is to achieve the right final product, however painful it may be. I was fascinated to see how she works with everyone - regardless of who they are and what they've done - by pushing them towards the best they can give for the book.
When it came to conference attendees, she pushed us the same way. It might have offended or hurt some (or more), but she was direct with the purpose of pushing us toward stronger, more emotional, more alive work. I appreciate and respect that. At one point she said to someone, "What? Do you want me to say that what you've created is nice? That you're a good artist? Okay, so it's nice and you're a good artist." But she continued by asking how that's going to help, that her intention is to push us to the best we are capable of. As for me, she thinks I can use more motion (suggesting to draw from real life, especially with regards to movement) and to be bolder with my use of color.
3. Listening to Dan Yaccarino. Not only is he entertaining, he's very astute in how he's dissected the picture book-making process. He highlighted the various formulas, story arc, and the use of protagonist/antagonists.
The conference once again gave illustrators the opportunity to decorate a chair. I forgot my camera, so I recreated my chair at home and took pictures. Here's my chair from a distance (I chose a party theme):