Featured Student 2020 Review Edition

  • SVS Team

    This has been a crazy year for everyone, and we thought a great way to end it was to have everyone share. something they have learned over the 12 months. So, for December’s special edition of the featured student we are asking everyone to share one image they created this year that was impacted by SVSLearn. This could include images that are based on exercises from the new foundations curriculum (or based on the things you learned from it), images made as part of the monthly contest, or images that you shared to the forum and received feedback on from other students.

    The hope for the Q&A blogpost is to include a large number of people (with all forum users able to particpate), so we are only asking everyone two questions. Please include the answers to these questions with the image you submit.

    1. How have you improved this year thanks to SVSLearn, and
    2. How did SVSLearn impact the creation of this piece.

    Submissions will be taken until the 6th of December. Because a large amount of students might be selected, we might not be able to include everyones’ individual image on the student gallery.

    To be considered share 1 of your best pieces created this year on this forum post with answers to the two questions listed above. Make sure to share your image by the 6h of December to be considered. Also, make sure your images are at least 800 pixels on the shortest side and do not exceed 1mb in size.
    Work will be selected based off of how well the work uses the following:

    Concept: How well does your illustration convey a clear concept/story. Is it a unique approach? Does it make me want to know more about what is happening in the illustration?

    Technique: How is the composition working? Does it have good use of lighting, rendering, mark making, etc.? Does the technique compliment the concept?

    I can't wait to see what everyones' work from 2020!

  • @AustinShurtliff said in Featured Student 2020 Review Edition:

    How have you improved this year thanks to SVSLearn?

    Through the courses at SVS and monthly challenges, I feel that I’m improving incrementally with each piece. It’s hard to gauge whether I’m doing better, but I honestly feel that I’m learning and becoming a better artist with deliberate practice and putting myself out there for constructive feedback.

    When I first entered the monthly challenges, I stood no chance at making the Sweet 16 or honorable mentions for that matter.

    Nevertheless, I continued to push myself by learning, making mistakes and trying to improve. Let’s face it, the art in the Sweet 16 is incredible, and I hoped to one day be good enough to make it.

    Then out of (what seems like) nowhere, I made the cut for the October 2020 contest and proudly stood before my fellow artists for the first time! I didn’t win the contest but I did win my first internal commitment to make the Sweet 16, which I’m very proud of. I feel like a winner, and that’s a step in the right direction.

    How did SVSLearn impact the creation of this piece?

    Without a doubt, the SVS courses are world class. We have great teachers; namely, Will, Lee and Jake, among many other amazing instructors in the courses! Admittedly, I have no formal art training other than SVS and free videos online; therefore, I was very fortunate to stumble upon SVS given my desire to create beautiful children’s books and become a better artist.

    Upon reflection, what surprised me very much was the SVS community in the forums! The community is extremely positive and helpful, but more importantly, there’s a sense that we’re all in this together. No negativity, but rather constructive feedback.

    For example, I posted an early concept and color study of this piece and received incredible feedback from the community. Although I didn’t make the cut with this piece, I really love it and would like to use it for my personal submission in response to this post.

    Thank you for the opportunity!

  • Coming into 2020 I hadn’t drawn ANYTHING in a long time! Joining SVS Learn proved to be an invaluable resource for revisiting foundational concepts, introducing new techniques, as well as providing a helpful and supportive community through the forum.

    SVS impacted the piece I selected for many reasons. Thanks to Will Terry’s class on painting in procreate I was able to navigate and figure out how to use Procreate and it provided the prompt that inspired my painting. It was my first time entering the monthly contest and my first attempt at a digital piece that I truly felt good about.


  • SVS Team

    There is still time to share your work! Please post a piece you made this year and your answers to the two questions by next Monday.

  • I have learned so much in the past couple months during my classes with SVS I don’t know where to begin. I think I have improved greatly in my character designs and compositions. I am used to working with acrylics traditionally and I’ve just started using watercolors, but I recently got a new iPad Pro and I’ve started to dabble in procreate and I’m eager to do more and learn the ways of digital illustration. This piece I originally created for the November prompt together but I wasn’t pleased with my background, I didn’t like how the watercolor wasn’t quite fluid enough. But like I said I just started watercolors and this was literally my second painting ever so I got to give myself a little credit! Thank you to the SVS family for helping me perfect my skill and give me a jumpstart in the illustration community. 285CC33F-8418-44EF-AF48-3A8ECFE9604B.jpeg

    1. How have you improved this year thanks to SVSLearn.
      I have been an SVS subscriber for a few years now, but don’t always find (or make) the time to study and practice like I should. I really appreciate the fact that the lessons are always there to go back and review when I need a refresher. In particular, I have learned a great deal from the Creative Composition and Color & Light classes. Also, Lee White has finally gotten through my thick head the importance of thumbnailing! This has to be the biggest factor in improving my art! (Just don’t tell Lee)

    2. How did SVSLearn impact the creation of this piece.
      I am so amazed at all of the beautiful artworks I see each month in the contest, I was inspired to try a style outside of my normal, over worked comfort zone. I am happy with the results. I hope you guys like it too!


  • @Jeremy-Ross
    She’s so cute!

  • Thank you @alicia! I thought about replacing with my cereal + milk piece, but I can’t help how much I love the pirate girl piece.

  • How have you improved this year thanks to SVSLearn?
    SVS courses are so helpful and I have recommended them to many friends. Like Alicia, I like the fact that the lessons are always there and they get updated. The critiques in the interactive classes and the contests are great. I find that problems are often not visible to me until someone points them out. I am developing a better eye.

    How did SVSLearn impact the creation of this piece?
    I had never tried this medium before (screenprinting ink) and I love it. The video took me step by step through the process.


  • @Jeremy-Ross Love the 'days at sea' marks on the box!

  • @AustinShurtliff said in Featured Student 2020 Review Edition:

    How have you improved this year thanks to SVSLearn?
    I have learned how to use procreate with help from Will Terry’s course. The things I have most improved on are finding a rendering style that works for me. Lee’s advice on texture has been super helpful. But the ability to participate in the monthly contests has spurred me on to improve my story telling.
    How did SVSLearn impact the creation of this piece
    I had the opportunity to submit an inktober piece to a critique session because I was a member of SVSLearn. The feedback was SO helpful. . I learned I was making circular compositions and that those could be boring. With Jake’s advice in mind, I clumped these characters into three groups to form a triangle. I used Will’s advice from the Creative Composition course to create the trees in the background with a random pattern. Mostly I learned that I need to draw draw draw draw draw and repeat. In his videos Lee stresses that if you want to improve something draw a lot of them. So I did. And here is the result.

  • @AustinShurtliff said in Featured Student 2020 Review Edition:

    How have you improved this year thanks to SVSLearn, and
    How did SVSLearn impact the creation of this piece.

    Being a person that is confident in my ability I believe I have improved due to understand the gap between what I can actually do vs. my potential. I stil believe that I can reach my goal however I know I need to fall in love with the process more than try to streamline the journey.

    This latest piece was heavily influenced by @Jake-Parker ’s Stylize character course. The impact was learning the strategies to allow me to be more flexible in my creativity by understand the realms of possibilities.

    Though I let a few aspects escape my plan I am happy with the result, until I tinker some more, and happy with the process.

    And a big shout-out goes to the best online community. Though I have been stubborn at times I am grateful to have such a supportive artistic family.


  • SVS OG

    Childhood Week Mission final smaller.jpg

    How have you improved this year thanks to SVS Learn?

    First of all, I have tried to watch as many Critique Arenas as possible. Trying to guess which illustrations will make it into the Final 16, which ones will win, and then comparing my guesses with what actually gets chosen and listening to the subsequent live critiques has been very educational. The take-home has been: story, story, story!!! And focus in order to tell the story! Critique Arena occurs fairly late in the evening where I live, so sometimes afterwards I am so geared up I can’t sleep, but whenever possible I like to watch it live, and vote, regardless.

    Since I knew from Critique Arena that I needed work on storytelling, I took the Sterling Hundley Ideation course this year. I have also been working through the Foundations course track, recently completing the entire gesture and perspective courses, and watching large parts of other courses as I have had time.

    In addition, I am currently working on setting up a website and so have used the portfolio course checklist to decide what gaps I need to fill. It turned out that I needed a narrative sequence, so I used Slowvember to work on one of three pieces for this sequence. In the process my Slovember illustration became a Draw 50 Things piece (actually 25, but that was an option in the course) which subsequently turned it into a Slow-cember piece, but I’m experimenting and learning a lot as I go.

    So far my illustration journey feels like the golf swing that Will talks about, and has for about four years now. I love a challenge, but sometimes wonder whether my style and process will ever gel, especially since I am not young. Late last year I competed Lee's Dream Portfolio Exercise to that end and have been referring to it this year. But I have faith that through the process of intelligent practice and hard work, my style and process will eventually come together. The main thing that keeps me going when I get discouraged is that I do see progress!

    Another recent thing that is helping me to keep faith in the process is the book Art and Fear by David Bayles and Ted Orland, which Jake recommended on the Three Point Perspective Podcast episode Books Every Illustrator Should Read. It has a lot of insight into the nature of our fears about the art process, and since people working alone sometimes can feel like they’re stabbing around in the dark, that is very helpful.

    Next year’s goal is to continue with this year’s goals, but also to work faster. I’m working on streamlining my process, because being slow makes me miss so many opportunities! (Like using my Slowvember piece for this gallery, for example.) But I know some of the slowness is because I experiment so much with style and technique, so I have faith that if I keep putting in the work, eventually things will settle out.

    How did SVS Learn impact the creation of this piece?

    This piece was created for Childhood Week (the prompt was “Mission”), but using a lot of ideas from SVS Learn. I put it on the forums and on my critique group early on to see whether the story read clearly, because it was tricky to portray a pretend game and yet make it clear what was happening. When I got feedback that it didn't read well, I completely ditched my first composition and came back with a lower camera angle that increased the sense of urgency (I don't remember which course that was from, maybe Creative Composition, but I know I learned it on SVS!).

    A major goal besides storytelling and increased efficiency (mentioned above) has been to work on complex environments, so I took the Building Backgrounds live class with Brian Ahjar last year. This piece and my Slowvember piece this year both use a lot of ideas from that class. I exaggerated the gestures more than I usually do to in order to enhance the storytelling (Building Backgrounds class), but in the end, I also hit on the idea of using the blanket to double as pretend waves (Ideation class).

    I also used the idea of grouping items according to color and value from Draw 50 Things. And the perspective courses helped a lot as well.

    But the real test is in the viewer: Can you tell what is going on here, and does it make you care? That is the main thing I have learned from SVS this year, and what I tried to keep in mind most of all while creating this piece.

  • @AustinShurtliff This is my very first post in the SVS forums, so I hope I’m doing this right. The piece I’m sharing is of my final character designs for Goldilocks and the Three Bears. This is maybe the first piece I’ve ever made completely digitally, and definitely the first illustration I’ve made in black and white! I really tried to work outside my comfort zone.


    1. How have you improved this year thanks to SVSLearn?
    I only joined SVS a few months ago, but I’ve already made my way through several courses — Creative Composition, Children’s Books, Character Design, etc. Before I joined, I was struggling to teach myself everything on my own and getting caught up on where to start. As an aspiring picture book illustrator with no formal illustration education, I’ve really appreciated SVS as a resource. I’m still a beginner in this field, but SVS has helped me organize my creative process, which has been crucial.

    2. How did SVSLearn impact the creation of this piece?
    I followed the approach Anna Daviscourt laid out in her Character Design course, just with a different story (Goldilocks and the Three Bears) and time period (1940s). I played with simple shapes, proportion and wardrobe until I landed on these characters.

  • This is my first time posting in the forums so I also hope I'm doing this right.

    1. How have you improved this year thanks to SVSLearn?
    I have been rewatching some courses and watching new ones to refresh my skills. I've also popped into a few of the monthly illustration prompt reviews and have learned a lot from the critiques that Jake, Wil and Lee give (due to my busy work schedule I haven't had time to participate but my New Year's Resolution is to start trying in January). I've also learned from others who have posted and commented in the forums. Having a community of illustrators in a virtual setting to learn from is very helpful; there are not many illustrators where I live, so I don't have anyone in my writing critique groups that can really help me critique and improve on my illustrations.

    2. How did SVSLearn impact the creation of this piece?
    I was becoming frustrated with my illustration style. It wasn't bold enough or standing out enough. It was too boring. Too many times, I had people push and pull me in different directions with their comments and suggestions as to where I should go with my style. So I listened to "How to Discover Your Style" with Lee White. I did the exercise of thinking about the artists and illustrators that I love or that I'm drawn to, such as Picasso, Matisse, Dali, Van Gogh, Eric Carle, Denise Fleming, and most of Rafael Lopez. When I narrowed it down to 10 pieces, as the exercise said to do, I realized that the common thread was bold colors and shapes and sometimes abstract concepts. Then I started sketching out some ideas for illustrations and experimenting with other ways to do collage. I feel like with the new illustrations and sketches I've done since watching that course, I have a better sense of the style that I want to keep developing. This piece is an example of me moving in that direction and I'm very pleased with it.

    Angela-Padron-promo-illo-island-2020.jpeg image url)

  • Hi! I had so much fun on the October month's challenge and am super proud of it though I think it would have been a better fit for November's month of "together" but anyways.

    1. How have you improved this year thanks to SVSLearn?
      SVSlearn's class Light and Shadow by Lee White opened me up to stylizing my work that helps me best tell the story I want to tell. Also understanding local tone/colour was incredibly helpful. I am finally getting the hang of light on dark and vice versa. I appreciated David Hohn's and Will Terry's classes on perspective which has helped me understand how to find the horizon line whether looking at an image or in real life. Overall I have been able to begin a style that I enjoy and can develop further as I have transitioned back to traditional tools. I have been encouraged by SVSLearn and forum members to develop a style that I can reasonably reproduce.

    2. How did SVSLearn impact the creation of this piece?
      This piece was created for Will Terry's October feast work. I treated this work like a slowvember work. I made thumbnails and I had just recently started the prop class and thought I could transfer the designing of props to the designing of characters. I found pigs and wolves designed by others and played around with what I liked and what I'd do different. I also set up goals like I wanted characters that interacted with each other and I wanted to push gestures. I actually did 4-5 colour studies and found a minimal pallet was best and I used a lot more pencil than I had first thought. Adding the shadows under the characters was the final piece but I didn't want it everywhere (thanks Lee White).

    Thank you so much, 🙂 ❤

    svs october contest work.jpg

  • Spaceship_Illustration_sm.jpg

    1: I have learned so much about coloring and lighting from SVS Learn. Those lessons were probably the most useful, but there were so many smaller lessons, like the "drawing robots" class. You have really helped me move up to the next level with my illustration.

    2: With this piece, I was much more aware of the light source, and the clarity of the composition. One small thing I picked up was the power of placing something in the near foreground. I still have a lot to learn about color, but I am definitely bolder with it now. Thank you for everything!

  • LisaBotFinal1_ChrisPhilpot.jpg

    How have you improved this year thanks to SVSLearn?
    I'm new to the entire world of picture book illustration so the emphasis on story has been a revelation. It's not just about style or technique (though I have lots of room to improve there too of course.) I've learned how important it is to have others confirm the storytelling is working. Lots of ideas work in my brain but don't read correctly to everyone on their own. I've also learned I need to build real rest into my schedule after listening to the burnout podcast episode.

    How did SVSLearn impact the creation of this piece?
    I tried to be as direct and simple with the story as possible. I tried to make the composition interesting without distracting the viewer from the important story elements. It's not my most ambitious effort, but I think it's the most successful monthly contest entry so far.

  • SVS Team

    @cianamacaroni this looks great! Thanks for dropping in!

  • SVS Team

    Still a little more time to post something you have worked on this year!