Featured Student 2020 Review Edition

  • @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

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    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, 🙂 ❤

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    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!

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    How have you improved this year thanks to SVSLearn?

    At the beginning of the year I discovered the podcast "three point perspective" and that was a total eye opener. I studied fine arts, but after that I realized that I would rather work in the field of illustration. It felt like a complete new start, even though after years I finally found my way back to what I never stopped doing as a child: drawing. Except for the fact that I wanted to improve my drawing skills and try out conventions and would love to illustrate childrensbooks, I had no idea what possibilities there were, how anything works in this field, which areas might suit me and the podcast helped me a lot with all these questions.

    After I was done with the podcast, my hunger for information was just awakened. I now knew what I wanted to learn and I must say that all the courses I have seen at SVS have been extremely helpful. I love the "Portfolio Perfection Course" and "Creative Composition" so it really was time that I finally learn how to use perspective and draw backgrounds, and understand color theory - so I'm currently working through all the courses on these topics.

    The other day I said to my husband: "this is exactly how I imagined studying at a university when I was at school. It is a wonderful feeling to want to learn on your own initiative and to know what you are learning for. "

    How did SVSLearn impact the creation of this piece?

    The monthly competitions are extremely important to me. They give me a framework and the opportunity to compare my work with others. It is so fascinating to see how different topics can be interpreted, how different styles are and I learn a lot from the other members here.
    The book cover of "The Wizard of Oz" has changed my work a lot.I have never put so much work into an illustration, researched, thumbnailed, and really tried to stay focused until the end. To push the image as far as I could. I am super proud that I have achieved this.

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    How have you improved this year thanks to SVSLearn?
    I learned so much by hanging out at SVSLearn forum. The forum provides a place to discuss the process of making art. It is not only a place for me to get critique of my artwork, but also helped me to shift away from the obsession of presenting the final polished artwork (on social media), to focus on the joy of making. I am always so happy that I can show someone a thumbnail, and we start a meaningful conversation based on that. Sometimes the topic went to the direction that I have never thought about, and made me learn something new. In some ways, art making itself becomes a conversation, a way for me to connect with other human being.

    How did SVSLearn impact the creation of this piece?
    The piece was created for a competition hosted by www.picturehooks.org.uk. I posted the WIP on the SVSlearn forum, and I have received feedback on composition, value, color, character posture and even draw-overs during my process of making this image. All the conversations really helped me to complete, and improve this piece.

  • @Jeremy-Ross I remember this. This is a studio wall piece. A lot of inspiration packed into this...well at least for me.

  • Thank you @dafoota! What a wonderful compliment and greatly appreciated!

  • @xin-li This is lovely! I’ve never heard of picturehooks before, that looks like a great resource.

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    How have you improved this year thanks to SVSLearn:
    Thanks to SVS I've been putting more energy into questioning the concept and story of an illustration, in order to make sure it's solid. There has been a lot of joy in creating and solving the visual puzzles that are a part of making an illustration. Thinking more about concept and story has not only helped me in my own process but also when analyzing and studying the work of another illustrator.

    How did SVSLearn impact the creation of this piece:
    Through the Podcast and Crit Arenas, SVS has really enforced the importance of the "the viewer" and thinking about what they're seeing when they look at a piece. I was constantly asking myself that question with planning out this illustration. I wanted the viewer to have fun putting together what happened to Lisa's Robot in this garage and why she looks worried about these tire tracks.

  • How have you improved this year thanks to SVSLearn?

    I think, i have learned the most this year from Lee White's class on Storytelling techniques. To understand that story is the driving mechanism of every part of the picture, helps me a lot with thumbnail, character and prop design and with color and light.

    How did SVSLearn impact the creation of this image?

    This picture was originally done for the Inktober challenge (prompt SLEEP). Even though done digitally, it was heavily influenced by some techniques in new SVSLearn classes for inking. They were a big push to do Inktober this year.


  • Aug 2020 DragonFly125.jpg

    I have been a member a year. I have learned lighting and process techniques from Will. I love his illustrations. I learned character and inking from Jake and I took a shading class from Lee and have learned from his more whimsical styling. I have also learned so much from the participants in the forum from their feedback and the artwork they have created. On a recent podcast they mentioned doing master copies. I have identified at least 12 pieces done for the 'Together' prompt by the forum participants I would like to do that with. I might use them to do 3x3 pieces to learn from their work.

    This piece has a story - the dragon fly is a superhero that is healing a city and bringing life back after the riots. The line work is varied and I desaturated the colors behind the dragon fly. I think the drawing is pretty good too. I think this was one of my best pieces. It wasn't chosen as a top 16 piece, so it wasn't good enough, but maybe one of these days I'll come up with a piece that will be chosen. Thank you everyone for all your good work and feedback!

  • @AustinShurtliff 923A857E-7537-4D16-AAD6-84B8A528003B.jpeg

    SVS has been an amazing addition to my skills and knowledge level! This is the first character that I felt “I finally got it!” Or at least a good start with conveying the action of my character.
    The lessons are amazing and allow you to go at the pace you feel you need. It’s a wealth of information at your fingertips!
    Watching the critiques of submissions has provided a path with direction to take my illustrations where I would like them to be. Thank you everyone!

  • @chrisaakins I love this piece and your responses to the questions for this post.