Target audience for the challenges

  • Hi guys,

    I have a question on the target audience of 3rd thursday challenges. Could it be said the target audience is specifically/exclusively "young" children's illustration? My latest drawing was certainly not worthy of the competition this month but I've uploaded it to ask about suitability. I really just draw what I enjoy and like how the 3rd thursday challenge motivates me to finish a drawing. But am I in the right place? I respect your honest feedback.


  • For what it's worth -- I love this!! Not only that, but I would have really loved it as a kid. I think what you're doing is great! There is too much lazy "cutesyness" in things made for children. Some parents feel really uncomfortable giving anything to kids that shows anything other than sweetness and light...even at the expense of humor and respecting a child's intelligence. Your illustration is wonderful! It's funny, relatable, and real. It touches on contemporary culture, which is sorely lacking in a lot of children's illustration/literature/programming.

    I notice this problem with children's illustrators more frequently than with the broader illustration universe: defaulting to lazy "stock images" and out-of-date stereotypes. For example, consider the word "Grandmother." If you're 35 or older, what a Grandmother might look like in your mind is going to be a generation removed from what your audience's Grandmother might look like. Kids who are 8-10 today might have grandparents who in their own day were hippies, punk rockers, activists or corporate professionals. Yet I still see so many generic "Grandmothers" in illustrations or cartoons who look like something from a book published in the 1950s. Sure, some Grandmothers do fit the pattern. But a lot of it is just perpetuating the images we grew up with.

    I know quite a few metalheads who are now having kids. I wonder what their kids are going to think of Mom & Dad's music -- I bet some will relate to the cow in your picture!

  • @zoe I think you made an absolutely excellent point - especially in the area where I live (German-speaking Europe), children books tend to be revoltingly mainstream and all have an educational message of some sort - my kids grew out of them very fast. We only buy English children books now (my kids are bi- or tri-lingual, depending how much they pretend NOT to understand Italian), which are waaaay better...but still, there is a predominance of cuteness and harmless stories. My kids are not raised like that (we tend to go with them well beyond what is supposed to be "age appropriate" in terms of discussing complex themes and stories), so I can see there is a gap to be filled and some bravery to be demonstrated.
    I would definitely consider the image here as absolutely fitting a funny and appealing children book!

  • @Rowan-Ferguson Hey Rowan - yes, you are in the right place 🙂 - I still remember your Astrid entry - awesome! - i remember in the video of that month that Lee and i think Jake too were cracked up by it and thought it was excellent - ...that was a long time ago but i think that happened - i think there are a lot of things going on in your question because i have had a similar thought but please forgive me if i am amplifying this too much - in a way Will, Jake, and Lee are the target audience - i think they all three definitely have things that they like and styles or content they lean toward but they are very forthright about letting us know what those things are - so that being said, i do think "young children's illustrations" will have a better chance sometimes 🙂 I think in a larger way though the Forum is the audience - for we folks in the forum there must still be leanings and preferences from person to person but i think there does not seem to be a style bias in a negative way - The public too is the target audience - the art consumer or professional that is looking over your website or portfolio - this is what 3rd Thursday is mainly for i think - Lee often mentions that this is to build our portfolios and that we should bend the prompts to be something we want to be doing as artists - At the risk of sounding banal ...we ourselves are the target audience too - making honest art that is true to ourselves - For me when i finish a 3rd Thursday piece i hope that i make honorable mention but really the main thing is that each time i have entered i have made my new best piece or gotten better somehow - i hope this did not sound like a half baked lecture - this is just what i came up with for myself when i was feeling a bit out of place - anyways sorry to bend your ear for so long - i hope you keep doing the 3rd Thursdays because i really enjoy seeing your work.

  • I absolutely love this! The only problem I see with this is the reference to smoking and alcohol. I write for a popular teen site (ages 15-20 primarily), and we were given specific instructions in our info pack when I was hired not to make references to smoking, alcohol, or drug use. There are exceptions for this, as we will often discuss the darker realities of growing up (addiction, heartbreak, loss of a loved one, sexuality, etc.). There is also an advice column on the site, so it's not as if we completely sweep these kinds of things under the rug. It's more that these issues have to be handled with a lightheartedness and humor while also being respectful and responsible. Also, being able to capture different edgy subcultures accurately without having it appear pandering is absolute gold. It's a very difficult line to walk, which is why it's usually handled on a case by case basis with lots of communication with an editor.

    Now, the reason I bring this up in reference to your illustration is this: This has been my experience writing for a teen audience. I would imagine a similar concept would be true for children, but moreso. You might be able to get away with an ambiguous "drink" on the table, but the ash tray, maybe not. I'm reminded of cartoons I watched as a kid and teen that pushed the boundaries somewhat gracefully. Certain episodes of the Animaniacs, Dexter's Lab, The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy, The Fairly OddParents, etc. They were technically kids shows and great ones, but there were so many sneaky overtones/jokes that made them both appealing to the parents and oddly refreshing.

    All the other aspects of this? Wonderful. I'd buy my future kids a book full of stuff like this, because when that time comes, their mother will probably still have blue hair. 😛 I generally think it's a huge mistake to make children feel as if the world has to be dumbed down before it can be presented to them. No one likes to feel spoken down to, and kids really can pick up on that.

  • I really appreciate the answers so far and have read through each carefully. Your comments have encouraged me to continue entering the competition. It's comforting that other artists appreciate a style that may not be animal-cutesy. While I will continue to draw what entertains me first and foremost, @AllisonMisak raises an excellent point - the art can still be dark or edgy without needing to include smoking and alcohol. I hadn't really thought about that and could have easily decorated the table with something else 🙂

  • I myself kept thinking the same thing. I checked out the goal of the assignment and it says :
    Our goal for this competition is to give you real world assignments that will help you add relevant artwork to your portfolio that will hopefully help you land assignment work from publishers
    Although I have seen most pieces that are critiqued tend to be children's book type, it does not have to be, according to the goal of this assignment. So as long as we learn from the critiques (peer or instructor)and maybe post the work afterwords to our portfolio, any work goes. But then again, the portfolio itself has a target audience.

    BTW: Cool piece of work!