Odd sized otters



  • Hey guys. Hope you're doing well.

    I would love your feedback on some sketches I'm doing for a pretend magazine article about Fishing with Otters.

    As you can see the main difference is the size of the otters. Obviously making them visible is integral to visually communicating what the article is about and I know that many illustrations distort the actual proportions of objects, animals or people when composing images.

    However, I can't help feeling that the first one in particular looks like a boat being attacked by giant otters πŸ˜ƒ While sketch C's otters are obviously still larger than they would be in real life, they are at least visible.

    Which, if any, do you think work best?/ general feedback on composition and how the spread reads would be great too- I'm working on creating illustrations to produce a portfolio that could be submitted for editorial work. I think I'll do 1 or 2 spot illustrations too which would be close ups of otters and fishermen.

    Many thanks,

    Molly otters.jpg



  • @mollylgm An awesome assignment! Really interesting concept. The idea I'm reading here is that the otters "herd" the fish toward the boat, right? So compositionally, maybe a different POV would help. Right now, it feels like we're looking at the scene from a drone up above, so it's kind of hard to tell whether the otters are so big because they're closer or because they're giant.

    The easiest solution, I think, is to not show the whole boat. You could zoom in, leave some of the boat off the page and give more space to the otters and their activities.

    You could also think about showing it from the POV of someone ON the boat. Give just enough foreground details to let everyone know it's a boat, and the rest of the image is all about the fish and the otters.

    Or you could flip it around and get in the water with the otters, the fish up ahead and looking up at the boat up above. Using perspective, you could make the otters quite large and important, and lessen the boat in size and significance, if that's the intent.

    Hope that helps! It's a really cool idea, and an interesting problem-solve. (Also I love otters!) Can't wait to see where you take it!



  • Hi! Great concept, and what a good idea to give yourself an assignment. (Could be biased, though, cuz I LOVE otters!)

    @MarksByMallory makes some great points -- playing with perspective and camera angle could really help tell the story you're aiming for. Is this article from the "author's" perspective? Or from the otters'? That could greatly affect how and what you choose to illustrate.

    Another thing to mention, addressing your size question: if this "assignment" is meant to be nonfiction, you need to keep the otters their correct size in proportion to their surroundings. Nonfiction is huge right now, and most clients/publishers are strict about making sure that the art is 100% accurate. In a nonfiction setting, you're not only telling the story, you're teaching as well. You want to make sure that everything you draw is factual and you have references from respected sources to back it up. (Not that I'm speaking from experience, or anything... πŸ˜‚)

    Looking forward to seeing this piece come together. Please share your progress with us!



  • @MarksByMallory Thank you so much for the feedback. Yes, the otters herd the fish towards the boat.

    Your suggestions are great. My sketches are definitely limited by my ability to draw things from different perspectives- i need to take the svs classes on this again! I wasn't actually going for an aerial view, but rather a more straight on view with a cross section of the water, although I can see why you would think that.

    I rationalised what I drew because I wanted to show the whole system in a way that emphasises a more balanced relationship between the animals and humans. In my mind the article would argue that the existence of one benefits the other or at least that it is a complex one. the humans are working with the otters and supporting their conservation, as opposed to the otters simply being exploited. But like I said, ability to draw different POVs is something I really need to work on.



  • @Melissa-Bailey-0 hey! The are very adorable, although slightly awkward to draw from different angles. I want the article to be from the authors point of view, so like a wildlife researcher/social scientist or something.

    Yes! I was really unsure about the size thing. The thing is I've actually seen nonfiction childrens books that do distort the proportion of animals, people and objects in relation to eachother and their surroundings. Wild in the City (https://www.amazon.co.uk/Wild-City-animals-share-spaces/dp/0753446103/ref=sr_1_3?dchild=1&keywords=Ben+hoare&qid=1614193273&sr=8-3) is one example. But thank for sharing your thoughts and this is a really interesting conversation!



  • @Melissa-Bailey-0 or maybe the proportions become more important if the objects/people/animals are interacting....ahhh i really don't know! πŸ™‚



  • @mollylgm that may be the exception rather than the rule, and it probably also depends on the style the art is created in. A folk art style or very stylized illustrations wouldn't be expected to be in proportion like they would in a more realistic rendering.

    However, from my own experience and from what I've heard art directors & editors say about nonfiction illustration, it seems to be a good rule of thumb to strive for accuracy. Especially if you're meaning this to be a portfolio piece -- you probably wouldn't want a piece that you're hoping says "I can illustrate nonfiction!" actually make an art director question whether you could illustrate nonfiction in the way they need.

    With this piece specifically, which is all about the interrelationship between humans and otters, I would recommend they be sized accurately. There are several different kinds of otters, including a 6-foot-long river otter in the Amazon, so playing with proportions might give a mistaken impression of the species you're meaning to depict, and that might skew the believability of the scene.



  • @Melissa-Bailey-0 Thank you for explaining where your point is coming from! I'm going to work off that basis from now on πŸ™‚

    In the case that this is intended to be a nonfiction illustration piece, would you also then be hesitant about toying with perspectives alot?



  • @mollylgm when you say "toying with perspectives" do you mean camera angle? The POV we're viewing the illustration from?

    If so, toy with perspectives all you want! It'll make the composition more interesting and the right POV will help you tell the story.

    Some recently-illustrated nonfiction picture books that do this brilliantly are:
    Giant Squid by Candace Fleming, illustrated by Eric Rohmann
    Honeybee by Candace Fleming, illustrated by Eric Rohmann
    Grand Canyon by Jason Chin
    If You Take Away the Otter by Susannah Buhrman-Deever, illustrated by Matthew Trueman
    How to Be an Elephant by Katherine Roy
    The Fisherman and the Whale by Jessica Lanan (okay, this one is informational fiction--the author played with facts for the sake of story--but the illustrations are accurate and she uses POV expertly to tell the story)

    Hope this helps! πŸ™‚


  • SVS OG

    @mollylgm this is a cool project! I did a quick draw over to see what lowering the perspective could do - if you lower the camera angle you could have an otter of any size you want...could even fill the frame almost and still work if the angle was low enough - hope you don’t mind the funny draw over πŸ™‚492D6E95-10F6-4BCA-A143-698829BF3BC9.jpeg



  • @Melissa-Bailey-0 yes U meant camera angle. Oh wow! thank you for sharing such an extensive list πŸ™‚ Have checked out a few and looking forward to experimenting!!



  • @mollylgm you're welcome! Looking forward to seeing how you solve the composition puzzle in this piece!



  • @Kevin-Longueil this is awesome!! thank you for sharing πŸ˜ƒ also funny is always good!


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