It's probably a good rule to never post on social media when you are feeling EMOTIONAL but I am doing it now; let's see how it goes. What I feel my work is about is celebrating LIFE, the mysteries and wonders of love and nature and the universe and animals and human curiosity and bonds and connection. You guys don't see it but part of what I do for work is "work-for-hire" children's art for educational materials. Work for hire means they buy the work outright and I keep no rights to it, so implicitly that often means the publisher has more creative control than I do. I've done less of this work over time as my following here has allowed me to shift a lot of my focus to work where I am in more creative control- so grateful for that. Today I am fuming because I have received "revise requests" from the publisher of a series of illustrations I have done. Two scenes I submitted included groups of kids; in both of the final colored versions, I have given these children different colors of brown skin. They're cartoons, but if you really wanted to assign race to them (as abstract as that can be in art of this style) you'd probably say: black, Latino, East Indian. Brown kids. The publisher has asked me to "increase the ethnic diversity" in these scenes by "lightening the skin" of one girl and giving another girl "blond or red hair." My stomach aches at this feedback. Couching this request in the plea for so-called ethnic diversity rings cowardly; you tell me how a group of presumed black and Latino kids is less "diverse" than a group of black and white kids. I would love to out the publisher but I have an obligation to my agent, so I can't. But after working in this field on and off for the last five years I can say with some certainty that this feedback would NOT have come in response to a biracial scene that included obviously white children. For decades and centuries white kids have been overrepresented in media. Even the media that is intended to teach them basic life skills. And now a scene isn't comfortable enough unless it includes a token white child. I'm fuming. Help me out. What do you guys think?
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  • kelzukiIt's probably a good rule to never post on social media when you are feeling EMOTIONAL but I am doing it now; let's see how it goes. What I feel my work is about is celebrating LIFE, the mysteries and wonders of love and nature and the universe and animals and human curiosity and bonds and connection. You guys don't see it but part of what I do for work is "work-for-hire" children's art for educational materials. Work for hire means they buy the work outright and I keep no rights to it, so implicitly that often means the publisher has more creative control than I do. I've done less of this work over time as my following here has allowed me to shift a lot of my focus to work where I am in more creative control- so grateful for that. Today I am fuming because I have received "revise requests" from the publisher of a series of illustrations I have done. Two scenes I submitted included groups of kids; in both of the final colored versions, I have given these children different colors of brown skin. They're cartoons, but if you really wanted to assign race to them (as abstract as that can be in art of this style) you'd probably say: black, Latino, East Indian. Brown kids. The publisher has asked me to "increase the ethnic diversity" in these scenes by "lightening the skin" of one girl and giving another girl "blond or red hair." My stomach aches at this feedback. Couching this request in the plea for so-called ethnic diversity rings cowardly; you tell me how a group of presumed black and Latino kids is less "diverse" than a group of black and white kids. I would love to out the publisher but I have an obligation to my agent, so I can't. But after working in this field on and off for the last five years I can say with some certainty that this feedback would NOT have come in response to a biracial scene that included obviously white children. For decades and centuries white kids have been overrepresented in media. Even the media that is intended to teach them basic life skills. And now a scene isn't comfortable enough unless it includes a token white child. I'm fuming. Help me out. What do you guys think?

  • dannyoseiddamn I know the pic accompanying this may have been a place holder but hot damn it's cool
  • kelzuki@jules314085 I see. I think it is all our responsibility as adults to teach love to the children we live with and know. The names issue is frustrating also. Names aren't "easy" or "hard" to say in a vacuum. It is one of my pet peeves to see people refuse to even try to pronounce names of people they meet if the names are new to them.
  • dylan_hackbarthWhat a robust and interesting discourse in these comments. No advice, just support for you as you weather this uncomfortable situation. Thank you for sharing this conflict - both interesting and disheartening. Much respect.
  • swingstationWhat happens if you refuse to make changes?
  • susannaseliciI'm totally with you in this struggle. This kind of implicit racism makes me mad. And it's everywhere. Even in daily conversation of people who think they are open-minded. Maybe you can have a chat about this with your publisher? Maybe he just don't realize what he's implying. It happens all the time.
  • jessicaterinaI like the redhead with a 'fro idea @illumined.connection
  • kapitein_stormwolkWould it be bad for refusing to make those changes?
  • crankyceramicsMy mixed racial great nephew of Greek and Indian roots has red hair. Maybe a red head with a leg caliper or an angelic blonde with a hare lip or a white bald kid in a wheelchair with a communication board being pushed by a brown kid.
  • b_bazzzzI am thankful that you are a woke badass because I love your work and own quite a few prints. This is a situation that will sadly keep happening when society upholds white supremacy. I hope that there is a way that you can honor your values and still make a living. I think it's important to be able to share your observations with the publisher. As white allies, it is OUR responsibility to actively hold other white folks accountable for their bullshit. Sending you love and light! ✨💕
  • vireo_virensI love the comments saying that if black and white children shown together is considered diverse, then brown and browner kids shown together is equally diverse! Bravo! We do not need to always have a token white person in every "diverse" image. One can relate to people portrayed in situations through their emotions, their activities, what they wear, in myriad ways--not just skin color or nationality. I don't discount stories and images just because the person portrayed doesn't have the same hair or skin color as I do -that would be ridiculous!
  • scoutshootsI came back to this post to check how you made out. Lots of good advice and support. I love your own comment that "...we teach our white children that children of color lead complex rich lives even when no white people are present." Bravo! You obviously have quite a bit of personal and professional integrity, and I realize you're not posting this to have that confirmed. I'm inclined to trust your decision, and I want someone with your sensibilities and passions out there representing!
  • ktmatherAnything your agent can do about it?
  • kelzuki@ktmather I think I've got her on the same page as me and we are starting with having her talk to the publisher about it
  • nellsylove✊🏼✊🏽✊🏾✊🏿
  • birthandpostpartumHard situation. No advice, but I hope you are able to find a place that makes you feel like you shared your perspective with your "employer"
  • rayoandhoneyThank you for fighting for the brown kids! 🙌🏾🙌🏿🙌🏽
  • jacfoshacas a designer who works in children's publishing, i'm totally with you. thank you for sharing your story
  • ekwetzelOh man. Man oh man oh man. 💔
  • harrietgrimmDiverse does not need to include whites. Whites have overshadowed POC in educational materials for ages. You may need to agree to make requested change BUT there is an important teaching moment here.
  • handatextilesJust discovered your work, it is so lovely. Im so happy to hear that you are closer to not having to work with publishers like this. So upsetting and backwards
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