Question for everyone



  • I agree with some of the first commenters I think broadening the horizon on what is taught would really help peak more interest for me. I bounce from SVS to ArtStation lessons to get a verity of styles and lessons but the down side of ArtStation is lack of community feedback it’s really focused on finished works and getting jobs which is why I really love SVS but sometimes I feel a bit like a black sheep because my main interest isn’t children’s book art.



  • That is a great question. Today I found the "Start Here" part of SVSLearn. I wish I had seen that before being months into membership. : ) Thank you for asking.



  • Hi! This is a bit off topic, but just wanted to mention how i think the way the free trial option is integrated into the SVS home page now is great. 🙂


  • Moderator

    I agree with @jimsz. When I originally signed up for SVSLearn, I was coming off a disappointing year of self-driven classes through Schoolism, and I was looking for an educational experience that was about the wide range of visual storytelling possibilities without being singularly laser-focused specifically on career prep for the movie, animation, or gaming industries to the exclusion of everything else. As much as I love picture books, I think there are lots of other forms that ultimately tell stories visually. Even the monthly challenges are focused primarily through a picture book lens without specifically articulating it. On the landing page for SVSLearn, instead of saying, "Find work as an Illustrator," it is much more accurate to say "Find work as a children's book Illustrator", as all the classes that touch on any other type of illustration are noticeably tertiary to that specific field of focus and everything that goes into it.

    And to be honest, even Will, Jake, & Lee don't just do picture books. They never have. It's exceedingly rare to have a career just doing picture books and nothing else. It would be nice to see other avenues of illustration being focused on in more than a passing manner--such as book covers, middle-grade illustration, self-publishing and non-traditional endeavors, illustrated novels, comics, posters, editorial work, and the vast panoply of new graphic novel modes for multi-various ages. SVSLearn obviously privileges illustration specifically for children of picture-book-age, and that's okay, but it would be good to have that very clearly spelled out initially.



  • @Coreyartus yes I agree, your list and suggestions that you articulated are exactly what I've been thinking since 2016 when I joined. (My subscription was supposed to auto-renew and be paid annually but it then one year it didn't renew itself and I didn't bother to chase it down because while I have illustrated children's books, I decided my passion was greeting cards.) I like the idea of either focusing in hard on the message that this is for picture book illustrators, or broadening it up a lot...and if SVS decides to broaden, let me add another item to Coreyartus' list:

    The greeting card industry! Whether you're aiming for a big licensing deal(s) or just owning your own business and selling wholesale to stores, SVS could incorporate some things. IP's like Care Bears, Precious Moments, Beatrix Potter (Peter Rabbit), Holly Pond Hill (Susan Wheeler), Mary Engelbreit all got their start with the humble greeting card. For those who don't know those examples, it's like if Spider Man or Mickey Mouse would have been (they were not) introduced to the public through greeting cards!

    I've applied some of the things that I learned at SVS to my business and some things in the classes have really helped! However, the greeting card industry stuff (jobs, licensing, back stories, artists, composition must-dos, limitations, so many details I could go on and on...) I have sought other sources to learn. Any artist should naturally learn from a variety of sources but I think SVS would be a better place to learn these industry skills.

    Edited to add:
    Ironically, Mary Englebreit and many other artists could not break into picture book illustration until after their success with greeting cards, then other licensing, and then they started illustrating picture books (sometimes with that IP or with classic children's stories depending). So, conceivably, greeting cards are another doorway into children's books, sometimes. I know a former Hallmark artist very successful with cards who got her first book deal to illustrate The Land of the Blue Flower (by Frances Hodgson Burnett) and decided that she'd never do it again because it was too much work haha! This happened to me also. Customers thought some of my cards would make great stories, and eventually one of them paid me very well to illustrate his self-published book, which led me to join SVS in a hurry, and then I got several more offers from such like Elf on the Shelf (I declined) and so on.


  • SVS Team

    @geekinm thanks for sharing that! Would a simple overview of the program be enough to help you get going so you could work in Procreations instead of Photoshop or do you feel like you would need a much deeper and robust course so you could do the course work in that program?

    Are there any other tools anyone feels like they would like an overview of when they first started taking the foundations course?


  • SVS Team

    @Becky did you try out the Start Here course? What did you think of it? The course is actually new and was only launched last month, so I would love any feedback on it.


  • SVS Team

    @KathrynAdebayo thanks! We certainly want as many people to find it as possible.


  • SVS OG

    I agree that covering the entire gamut of illustrated books is a good idea. But since this is the only place I know of to learn how to illustrate books, I hope that remains the main focus of the art itself. But other marketing ideas to help create revenue streams never hurt!

    About "what I wish I had known," I can't say, because I knew so little about book illustration per se, and the site has changed so much since I first subscribed. But I'd say that the main thing I have learned is how to focus on storytelling, as I was in a different area of art before where that wasn't the emphasis.



  • @AustinShurtliff good ideas! I use open source free GIMP, if that answers your question. But since I work mainly traditionally, back in 2016 when I first joined, I needed a big warning label on certain SVS courses hahaha "If you haven't decided on a medium(s) or explored it enough to be in the driver's seat, go and do that first, then take this class and do the homework in your chosen medium(s). Know enough about your medium(s) to be able to translate things in this class into what works for you. You may need to pursue outside tutorials and instructors who have mastered your medium(s)." I was too inexperienced to know that I could not just think the concept and apply it without controlling my medium.


  • SVS Team

    @Amanda-Bancroft thats great feedback!



  • I love the courses even though they don't all apply to my goals. Some courses introduced new goals for me as well. On Procreate - Will's course is using an older version of the program. I got mine last October and it does not have the same controls or even the same way to size a canvas. It might be nice for Will do do an updated version.



  • Hi, I have been a subscriber for a year ad a half almost so I can't say much about the "start here" course, it probably is useful as a quick orientation, if it pops up first on someone new's page (at this point I had to search for it after reading this thread, I couldn't find it other way).

    Maybe others have said this already, but I'll just say it again... A better structured list of the courses would be most helpful for new and old subscribers! Because the courses do not follow an exact structure - some are short, some are hours long, some are one video, others divided into short parts, the instructors are different... it is even now difficult for me to understand what I'm looking at without clicking start course and browsing a bit. It's hard even to find all courses on one theme despite the groupings or search options. I click around a lot when I try to find a new course, or sometimes I remember having seen a course I was curious about but only remember the graphic so I scroll through all the pages to find it. I rarely click on the overwiev as it doesen't give some information I really need - ex. the lenght of the course. I have to "start course" and browse the left menus to get a better idea of the course format.

    The thumbnails with awsome graphics are really nice and help remember visually the course and make the page look professional but I would love to be able to see a plainer list of all courses, sorted by topic, and at first sight the list to have clear information about them - not having to click on every one to find out more. The data I belive would be useful would be: the name of the instructor, the lenght, how many parts the course has, maybe level or other skills previously required in the course. I would also want to know if it is a live session recording with students (these are fun and interesting but tend to take longer and stray from the point from time to time, so if I try to get these into my schedule I have to be careful) or the online course format, wich tends to be more concise and to the point.

    Another thing that seems confusing to me although I got used to it - while being logged in SVS, some parts of the website appear to me as if I am not logged in, and at first I was tempted to use the "Curriculum" tab on the top and "all courses" and those appear not to be for the already logged in user but still function at the top of the page.

    Hope this is useful and as apositive, I really love SVS materials, and while I hope to see a segment structured more for graphic novels and comics, I see there is enough great material on the site for any approach at illustration!



  • @AustinShurtliff I came here for the art part, not the technical software learning, and there are many variants (for instance - I work in Procreate and Gimp). For all softwares available there are free tutorials and user forums to just learn the software, so it would seem to me a waste of SVS purpose to make courses for all software in usage... Instead, making digital art courses wich highlights the art and digital techniques common to most software, with nice examples ( eg: masking, layers, types of brushes, flow of lines, color palettes) would be better, and the student can then search by himself wich tools in his software do that. The only distinction I would make in digital art courses would be between raster (painting) software and vector software.



  • @Oana That is an interesting thing you said there.

    I've been in svs for 3 or 4 months and am following the curriculum. I'm loving it and is helping me a lot to learn and evolve, and although I'm not a children's book illustrator, what I'm learning applies to everything I do easily.
    One of the advantages too is that is already created from scratch in a specific order, and I don't need to be guessing what should I learn first, and next, and next.

    Some weeks ago I tried to see how I would go if I wanted to start learning the painting part too, and felt completely lost. Then in the curriculum values course Lee said at some point that if we would like to learn how to apply values with the colour to check course X, and I thought had found my first step, but then on that course it advised to take other 2 courses first (which is great by the way, at least I immediately knew where I had to go before that one).

    So, it might be an idea to have some kind of lists of some major topics. You can still keep the main structure you have for the website, but then have a page where you have a list of main topics, with courses in an order that would be good for newbies to follow. It doesn't need to be something like the curriculum, just an organisation of the courses you already have on the website for newbies who have no idea where to start and where to go next. 🙂

    And speaking of curriculum, although I have still a lot of courses to do there, may I take the opportunity to ask if you are still thinking in continue to build it? I've seen that this year, no more courses were added there yet. Just curious. Would love to keep having that path to follow. 🙂



  • @Oana I've been a subscriber for a similar time (though haven't made much use of it for the last 12 months) and my experience has been exactly this. I mostly randomly pick a course based on the graphic and then have to watch a bit and look through the contents to see how long it is and if I want to actually do all the course. It's very hit and miss.

    The new curriculum seems like a good step in the right direction but I already did several of those courses before curriculum launched so haven't really followed it.



  • @neschof i totally agree as well! even something simple like a table of contents would be great. or if there were subject categories under 'All Courses' or 'My Dashboard'. a course could be included in multiple categories if applicable.
    for example, if someone wants to learn about digital illustration this would help them quickly find all the related courses and complete them in a less random order.

    i'm in my first month of SVS (after the free trial) and i created a list of courses i'm interested in doing soonish so i don't have to randomly pick courses when i'm ready to move forward.



  • The thing I felt could have been most helpful when I joined was some type of direction on what to start with & what order to follow the classes, so it was great when you listened to our feedback & added the Curriculum! I just saw on this post that you added a "Start Here" as well.

    I haven't checked them out or followed it yet, but it's good to have it available, especially for those who are new. (I have chronic illness, so my use & participation here is erratic, and I have taken classes on somewhat related topics that gave me somewhat of a headstart over absolute beginners, such as: Photography, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, & Graphic Design).

    One thing that I think would be very helpful (if you don't have it) is a class on the basic principles of graphic design. I've seen some of these principles taught within classes, but I haven't seen a class that just goes over basic design principles.

    It also might be nice if this class (or a separate class) talked about selecting mediums. It could give brief examples / introduction to various traditional media, and a sample of the various digital options (and let them know they can find free tutorials for these online). (I remember Jake mentioning in a YouTube video about how you can use various types of pens, including regular ballpoint pens.) Most people have heard of Adobe Photoshop, and you can mention that most of the classes here use Photoshop & Procreate, but maybe you could mention that there are a spectrum of options, such as free programs like GIMP, subscription options like Adobe, and one time purchase programs like Procreate and Affinity.

    You could also explain the difference between raster based graphics and vector based graphics, & some pros and cons of each. Pros and cons of working traditionally vs. digitally would be another good topic.

    This class could also talk about converting traditional art to a digital copy (I remember Lee talking about taking digital photographs of paintings to create a high quality digital copy), and how Jake sometimes works in a combination of traditional and digital. (I've seen videos where he starts with paper & colored pencil to sketch, then scans and works on it digitally, and sometimes inks &/or colors by hand.)

    I think this could help beginners know what options there are, and feel comfortable using whatever is available to them.


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