September contest WIP
First contest entry in months! I would love feedback on:
How well it’s communicating the character and story. Is it clear?
Basic poses and anatomy. (Obviously still refining, but this is a good time to ask) Especially on the sitting pose. It was the hardest and may not have a clear enough silhouette. Also, that free hand might change.
Values? (Obviously still rough, but put them in to get an idea of the composition)
Unity of style, facial detail, consistency?
Print, fonts, etc.?
For the sitting pose, it is clear that she’s under a stool and does the text add to the story?
Is it ink enough?! I am a pencil-y drawer. I can double the layers and get a line that looks more like ink, but dang it, I am finally getting a style! Do you think the pencil look disqualifies it as a Inktober Critique Arena entry?
Once I am sure of the questions above, I will spend the next few days on possible costume alternatives (yeah, I know, a little late), refining the drawing and line weight, expressions, texture, etc. Thanks for your opinions!
I love your style and recognized this as yours before I even saw your name. (UnfortunateIy, I don't have any idea if the SVS team would count this as ink but I hope you enter it anyway.)
My only suggestion is that you think about rearranging the pictures. The opening text goes more with the picture of the girl under the stool whereas the picture of her fencing with a pigeon goes with the closing text. I had to read through it twice to see that because the order wasn't obvious.
Beautiful work and characterization.
@LauraA Love your style! What a cute character!
To answer your questions:
How well is it communicating the story? It's pretty clear, except for the fencing and sitting poses. It took me a minute to figure those out.
Because I saw the fencing pose first before I read the "about", it looked like she was trying to stab the pigeon. I wondered why she was so angry. As suggested, moving that pose so that it's closer to the text would help ... but should you rely on the text for image readability? Probably not. What if you altered her expression and changed the pose to an even more obvious fencing stance? (Perhaps bringing her right arm up over her head ... is she a lefty?)
The sitting pose is harder to read because of the stool legs bisecting the character, but we don't see the seat so have to guess what it is. But the text says that she's sitting under the counter ... so should she even be shown sitting under a stool? (The handwritten text adds confusion instead of adding to the story. You're better off without it.) You could intimate that she is sitting under a counter (without drawing it) by how you light the character, putting her in shadow. Also ... who is Baby Serena? Is she her sister? A doll? If she's a human baby, why did the parents name both their daughters Serena? It's unclear.
Values? Looking good. Only thing you may want to adjust with the values is the backgrounds -- they're too close in value to her skin. Why not just put her against a white background? That should solve the problem.
Print / fonts? The text font is good, but it's a little large, so it starts to look crowded around the artwork. You can bring the text a few points down and it will still be readable. The print is less legible, but it does match your art style.
Consistency? It's fairly consistent. For the most part, it looks like the same character throughout. The standing poses, though, may not be consistent with the rest -- her head looks larger and her face younger in those poses. Anatomy looks good -- the only things that look off are the size of the head in the standing pose (as already mentioned) and the length of her arms in the fencing pose.
Is it ink enough? While I love the sketchiness and your linework, this definitely looks pencil. Was this drawn digitally? If so, why not add a layer with digital ink lines for Critique Arena? For this challenge, as it is specifically mentioned that they want ink, you may want to follow those directions.
Beautiful work, as always! Really looking forward to seeing where you go with this character!
@demotlj Good point about the text and picture order. The problem is that I have such a number puzzle of a composition going on! (Remember those little plastic puzzles where you had to move all the squares around to put the numbers in order?) I'll take another look at it. Thanks!
@Melissa-Bailey-0 Thanks for your feedback! I see that I have a bit of a readability problem with the text being at the bottom and the fencing action at the top. But true, it should be legible anyway.
Great idea about the lighting! I was iffy about that stool. The real Serena does sit under a stool under a counter, but there's no reason I can't take poetic license. I also find it funny that her mom has to look for the iPad when she needs to process a payment, but maybe that's too ambitious for a character sheet.
Baby Serena really is the doll's name, in real life. Who knows why she named it after herself? Maybe because her family designed a custom American Girl doll to look like her? I didn't want to call Baby Serena a doll because I wanted to highlight Serena's pretend world, but I need to make it clearer that she is a doll.
The backgrounds were to help divide the space, but I can play with the value. I get the idea that I still need to work on the layout!
You confirmed my idea about the font. I think it's my middle-aged prejudice that fonts have to be large .
And yeah, still working on the head sizes and exact expressions. I have a tendency to make hands too large, so will look at those extended arms. I looked up the fencing pose, though, and read that the arm should be parallel to the body during the lunge. I'll see if there are other poses, though, and work on softening the expression. I had a hunch it was a little too violent, and since you guys have confirmed all my suspicions generally as to poses, the stool, font, etc. I now know what I need to do. Thanks!
@Melissa-Bailey-0 Oh yeah, And I can make it ink for now, and then if I want it to be pencil for style consistency in my portfolio later, I can change it back!
@LauraA glad we helped you figure it out! Looking forward to seeing it in Critique Arena!
Simply for the layout and not for expressions, drawing or poses, how does this work? Is it clear story-wise and does the composition work? I'll probably lighten up the pigeon because he's drawing too much attention in the center.
@LauraA flip the fencing pose back around the way you had it, and you should be good to go!
@Melissa-Bailey-0 I flipped it because didn't want to make the pose face away from the others. I felt it would lead the eye off the page. I'll try it, though.
Here are some pose and expression alternatives (for poses 2 and 4). The pigeon is now dropping a bagel, but that's 3 bagels so I may remove the one on the doll's arm. Do any of these alternatives tell the story better? Are the proportions of all 4looking more consistent? I haven't changed the close up yet.
@LauraA this is so sweet. It's so perfect!
I felt the new order of pictures and text makes it read much better. I also like your idea of having the pigeon dropping a bagel if you can fit it in because it explains why she needs to defend against pigeons. Lovely work.
I revised some of the figures this morning.
- Better bagel silhouette
- Thought the hands in 2A, although graceful, might not be anatomically likely, so experimented with alternatives 2B and 2C.
- Without the text with the mom's voice offstage, there's no reason for her to be looking up (3A), so I came up with 3B in which she is clearly reading to her doll. Is it clearer now that it's a doll? If not, I'll clarify the accompanying text.
- I still wasn't quite sure about the angry expression in the fencing pose, so I came up with various smiles that range from determined and slightly mean to just delighted. Do any of these help tell the story better?
Thanks for any feedback!
@LauraA looking good!
Actually, 2A looks correct and would be my choice.
Were you inspired by Degas' Little Dancer?
3B is much clearer and more character-focused. It's very clear now that she's reading to a doll.
For the fencing pose, I really like 4C -- there is some sass and personality to that smile. It's a little more playful.
Check your proportions on the fencing pose. Are the arms the correct length? The extended arm looks short, specially her forearm. Are the legs the same size? The extended left leg looks like it would be much shorter than the right leg.
You've really worked hard on improving the storytelling, and it shows. Amazing!
@Melissa-Bailey-0 In fact, I did look at the little dancer! At first I only had the idea of the girl sniffing and lifting herself up and drew her as such, but because I spent so many years in the Metropolitan Museum, at some point it came to me that I was going for something similar, and I looked at some photos of the dancer from various angles. I also tried to photograph my own hands. Not very doable from the back!
Thanks for the hints about proportions. I tried to straighten out her limbs, but it was hard to do entirely. I should come up with another way.
I'm not entirely sure which poses I will go with in the end, also because I have heard varying opinions, but since there are only two more days, I will start working on the finish by tomorrow.
I am a big fan of your Albert, by the way! (And Mag's!) I notice that you did have him turned towards the right even though he's on the right side of the page. I always thought things on the right should turn inwards. I may keep Serena turned in, but I would be interested in hearing your reasoning!
@LauraA thanks! (And I thought I detected some Little Dancer inspo! )
My reasoning for turning Albert towards the right? The illustration was intended for the picture book audience, so the medium those illustrations will appear in are books. You'll notice that in picture books, most of the action goes from left to right. This is because of page turns. Main characters especially usually point towards the right, as that subconsciously encourages the reader to turn the page and see what happens next.
A character pointed right is moving forward, pointing towards the future. If a character's action is going right to left, it often feels weird to the reader (they might not know why) and feels like the character is moving backward or contrary to the way they're supposed to go. So because Albert is the main character, I intentionally placed him so that he's moving "forward" through the "picture book" -- we subconsciously want to know where he goes and what happens next. While the supporting characters are interesting and interacting with Albert in the scene, we're not as emotionally invested in them; they can be placed anywhere on the page.
(A great example of this is the book The BIG Umbrella by Amy June Bates with Juniper Bates. The big umbrella expands to include all characters and is usually shown on the verso page pointed right; when a character approaches the umbrella, they come from the right on the recto page, pointed left towards the big umbrella. Another example: David Wiesner. He is a master at using movement and character position to tell a story -- check out Tuesday and Art & Max.)
Sometimes, this "rule" is intentionally broken to great effect. This is usually when the illustrator wants to heighten the tension and/or give the feeling that the character is going back to where they were, going back in time, or has changed direction or their mind. If the entire book has the character moving in one direction and the climax is them doing an opposite action, they might point towards the left instead of the right. (This happens in Olivia the Spy by Ian Falconer and The Grey Lady and the Strawberry Snatcher by Molly Bang.)
Of course, this rule gets thrown out the window when it's two characters talking or if there are two or more main characters. Sometimes it makes more sense to have a main character pointed to the left; having everyone pointed right would look unnatural or strange. (A book that intentionally plays with character placement is Sulwe by Lupita Nyong'o & illustrated by Vashti Harrison -- in the story-within-the-story of Day and Night, Day is always on the left while Night is always on the right facing left. Color and character placement heightens how opposite these two sisters are.)
And of course, this isn't a hard and fast rule. There are always exceptions. While you'll find characters pointing and moving towards the right in the majority of picture books, you'll also find exceptions that work wonderfully in telling that specific story. Because, at the end of the day, what works the best is what best tells the story.
Wow, I got wordy! Hope you enjoyed this little "Character Placement 101"!
@Melissa-Bailey-0 I just didn't know that the rules of book character placement applied to a character sheet, as there isn't a facing page! I guess I was thinking of it as both pages, or at least a self-contained composition.
That's a really good exposition of character placement, though, and I like all your examples. I'm glad I asked for it! As I recall, Jakes Little Bot and Sparrow also goes back on the page at one point, as Little Bot is recalling his memories.
@LauraA yep, totally! (And you're welcome! )
I don't think that rule applies to a character sheet, but it might also depend on what the project is and who your client is. For picture books, I just default to right facing, unless, of course, the composition or story calls for something different -- even in character sheets. My answer was more about the whys of the Albert composition rather than your character sheet.