Style That Appeals to Children?

  • Hey everyone, I have a question about something I've seen mentioned here quite a bit: a lot of people are interested in finding a style that "appeals to young children." And when they show their artwork, it always seems to be the flat style with chubby little characters (I'm not sure what the name for it is). I'm not saying there's anything wrong with that at all, I'm just curious about the reasons for it. I'd like to open myself up to illustration work, but if my style is too complex, I'll need to know that.

    So far I haven't been a children's illustrator, so I imagine I'm not in the loop, but have their been studies to determine what appeals to different age groups? I ask because I've always loved very detailed artwork. I remember being a young kid and collecting books that had beautiful drawings in them by Arthur Rackham and other Golden Age illustrators.

  • I'll reply to this as I replied to a similar post a few days ago -- I agree with you completely. I believe you should work in the style that appeals to you as an artist. Don't give much thought to the notion of what "appeals to young children," because that has more to do with commercialism (what will sell to the broadest audience) than with the full range of things that real children enjoy or relate to.

    You're not alone if you remember liking a wide range of illustration styles when you were a kid. I did, too! The illustrators I dug when I was a kid are the same ones I like now as an adult. Examples:

    • Quentin Blake
    • Lane Smith
    • Ernest Shepard
    • Charles Addams
    • Edward Koren
    • Bill Peet
    • Quino
    • Peter de Seve
    • Hilary Knight
    • Leo Lionni
    • Stephen Gammell (scared the HECK out of me!!)

    One of the reasons I got into these artists when I was young was because my family had a diverse collection of books in the house (both children's books and books for adults; newspapers and magazines), and pretty much didn't restrict what I could read or take out from the library.

    Kids are all different and have different tastes. Publishers want books to sell and that often means watering down anything distinctive or remotely challenging or, heaven forbid, "dark" from children's books. That doesn't have any real bearing on what kids like or don't like, any more than the flavor of Doritos is an indicator of what food should taste like. It's the "cutest common denominator." Frankly, it often has more to do with the anxieties of the parents than the tastes of the kids. Left to their own devices, kids can get into some really gnarly stuff!

    Do the work you want to do, how you want to do it. It may not sell, or it may not sell in the sort of mainstream commercial context that marked children's publishing of the 19th-20th century. But do what you can to get your work seen by an audience and I think you will be pleasantly surprised.

  • Pro SVS OG

    @amberwingart Breaking into children's book illustration is way more about good story-telling than style. There are tons of different styles, some very simple others gorgeously detailed but none of it will sell if you are not telling a story with the images.

    For the most part I would say board books for the youngest of kids lean towards the more simplistic and some longer storybooks such as fairy tales and fantasy lean more towards detailed work but picture books run the full spectrum of art styles.

    Don't get caught up too much on style...start by telling a really good story and see where everything else falls. Also many times those simple styles are not as simple as they appear to execute well and take a lot of hard work and time too. Hope that helps.

  • SVS OG

    @amberwingart I have a feeling you should keep doing what you are doing - i still remember being very impressed by a piece you did - there was a mouse on the back of an owl and he was being readied for take off it looked like by two other mice - i loved it and appreciated the style - Charlie and Zoe make excellent points - i think too if you watch some Stephen Silver videos he will get you very pumped to do your own art and get you out of your slump - Story telling and ability to Really draw are the two main themes that he hammers on as needing to see more of in folks portfolios - i think while you are waiting for inspiration to strike you should paint the scene before and the scene after the Owl and Mice painting - show us the story - i of course have zero real experience though but thought i'd share my opinion too:)

  • @zoe Thank you so much for the insight - I was starting to get worried that I was painting myself out of the industry...But I really feel like you're right; I wouldn't enjoy creating in a particular style just because I know it'll sell to the broadest market. I really want to create pieces in a way that resonates with me personally, otherwise I may as well get a desk job (eek!). I haven't heard of a lot of those illustrators, so I'm chomping at the bit to check them out - fun! I really appreciate your thoughts - I feel a lot better about it now.

  • @Charlie-Eve-Ryan I so needed to hear this - your comment, with actionable steps and Zoe's comment, with a new perspective have really given me a little boost. Thank you so much!

  • @Kevin-Longueil Wow. Would it be completely pathetic if I said that your comment brought tears to my eyes? lol Well, it did. I've been stuck in this awful rut for months, feeling really down about my work. So to hear that someone who doesn't know me remembered one of my pieces months later and enjoyed it means the world. Thank you for sharing that with me. I'll definitely check out Stephen Silver's videos - I haven't heard of him before. Drawing the before & after is a great idea - I'll give it a shot! That might kick in the creativity again too. Thanks again for the comment...I believe this is the piece you're referring to, right? It's called "Special Delivery." It's the one that brought to my attention that I really need to learn composition...

    0_1467184856201_special delivery extra small.png

  • SVS OG

    @amberwingart Yes! that's the one - really nice! - no.. i don't think it is pathetic at all - i'm glad i could help quite your inner critic - my own inner critic has a bullhorn and is a bit mean spirited - somehow the feedback/support i have gotten here has more power than my own arguments to quite him - so i know how you feel for sure 🙂

Log in to reply