Serious Critique Requested - Picture Book Portfolio

  • Hi folks, I'm struggling to be succinct in how to describe what this piece is about as it is threefold! The least of what you need to know is that it's for my picture book portfolio and is another spread from the ink fairy story. I'd very much appreciate serious critiques to that end. If you'd like to know more keep reading! 🙂

    This piece is also illustrating the below poem:

    “Although the wind ...”

    Although the wind
    blows terribly here,
    the moonlight also leaks
    between the roof planks
    of this ruined house.


    • Imperfection
    • Impermanence
    • Incompletion
    • Ineffable beauty
    • Ambiguity
    • Subjectivity


  • @Katherine beautiful piece and lovely, gentle rendering.

    For me, this illustration evokes loss, loneliness/melancholy, and nostalgia. While I love it, I also feel sadness as I study its details. Not sure if this is what you were aiming for, but it’s what I felt.

    A few comments:

    • Quite a few elements in this illustration are evenly spaced. The pictures floating in the sky/breeze feel like they’re all the same distance from each other. Consider moving them so their placement is more random. A few more photos blowing off the tree might also be more effective.
    • While I am a huge fan of utilizing negative space, as you’ve done so well here, most of the elements in this illustration are very small. Some were difficult to make out. Could varying size, enlarging some elements, improve the storytelling and composition?
    • The house is very ambiguous to me. Is this just part of a room? Is the character sitting inside? Or is she perched on an outside corner? I think she’s meant to be inside, but the perspective and disparity of top and bottom angles make this unclear, and it’s taking me out of the story. If the perspective is meant to be wonky, perhaps exaggerating it even more will fix that.

    Again, this is a lovely illustration. I feel bad picking it apart! Please know that everything I’ve said is with deep respect to you and your art. And it’s just my opinion.

    Love your lines, the delicacy of rendering, and your style! 😍

  • SVS OG

    I think this gets the mood of the haiku and your keywords just right! In fact, it reminds me of a style of illustration I see often here in Italy--delicate, dreamy and slightly surreal. The varying perspective conveys ambiguity and subjectivity, not to mention impermanence. And obviously the subject matter suggests the same. I like the inclusion of the photos floating in the water and love the way the dress is drawn blowing in the breeze. It truly really feels like her life is bereft.

    One thing comes to mind that I have heard Will say over and over: If you vary the size of the objects in your piece more, your composition will be more harmonious. (There is a composition class in the subscription where he talks about this.) On the right side you have several objects that are more or less the same size and are evenly spaced.

    Another thing that might help is to consider all the background a part of the composition (negative space) and think about what it looks like as thought it were another object. I know logically that the objects are in the water, but aside from the tree I don't feel the contact much, so maybe emphasize that as well. I'm thinking some of the photos are in the air, and some are in the water, and I can't decide yet if not knowing which are which is bothering me, but it took me a while to read water at all. It's for you to decide how you want to treat perspective, but perhaps it should be more clearly a conscious decision?

    Also, the lamb in the chair seems to not be drawn quite like the other objects, so it's catching a little too much of my attention right now.

    I gave this a serious critique because you asked for it, but also because I like it and think it has a lot of potential! I'd like to see more!

    P.S. After I wrote this, I went to your Instagram and now I remember the fairy piece from the critique. I remember how much I liked the constructed camera!

  • @Melissa-Bailey-0 Thank you so much for your critique, Melissa and for taking the time! I think your description of the mood is appropriate — the only thing I would hope to also convey through the girls' eyes and expression is that although a ruined house leaves us prone to being tossed about by the wind and the rain of an uncaring world, it might also be that, without it, we'd be missing out on a transcendent view of the moon.

    I'm definitely going to play around with the sizes and placement of the objects on the right - thank you. I agree that the house is ambiguous but I think I'm ok with the ambiguity 🙂

  • @LauraA Thank you Laura, so many good suggestions! I'm definitely going to play around with the size and placement of the objects on the right - I hadn't thought about the negative space in the way you described so I'm glad you suggested it.

    I wonder if I should draw a horizon line to solve the problem of not knowing which photos are in the water and which are floating. The "lamb in the chair" is a rocking horse — is that not reading?! 😛

  • SVS OG

    @Katherine Oh, sorry! I've just never seen a rocking horse with a chair back like that. I just saw little "ears" (the top handles) and the V of the lower handle and its shadow looked like a tucked under hind leg to me. So I read it as "small animal sitting in a chair". And the horse's profile does look a little lamb-like. And admittedly I do have some trouble reading small print! But the other objects were clear to me.

    I don't know whether it needs a horizon line. There might be other ways of indicating water/sky. If I were to try one, though, I would make it rather faint.

  • @Katherine you're welcome! As far as the girl's expression conveying transcendence at being able to view the moon, perhaps you could strengthen that by adjusting the expression of her eyebrows and having her look at the moon? Just a thought. ❤

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