SCBWI Tomie dePaola contest

  • SVS OG

    I thought that this year's Tomie dePaola contest prompt looked interesting in its own right and would be worth having a go at, even if it's mainly for my own portfolio. In case you haven't seen it the link is here:

    And this is the brief:

    "This year’s assignment is to cast yourself, as a child, in a picture book. Show your autobiographical character in a scene and make sure to convey the emotion of your character. The viewer should be able to read the emotion of the character immediately and clearly.
    No words or captions are allowed in the image."

    So, I had a few thoughts, drawing on some of the things I remember as a young child. There were a few animal related encounters which were memorable for me - once meeting an elephant at the zoo, another time meeting a penguin, another time meeting a HUGE Great Dane when I was really into dogs.... but although I thumbnailed some of them, I'm not sure 'girl meets animal' has a lot of depth to it, story-wise.

    So I then focused on a couple of other ideas - one idea showing that I was really into reading books, and another idea showing my first day of school. For bureaucratic reasons I started primary school a term later than everyone else, so most of the other children there had all made friends by the time I started. So I thought a scene showing a feeling of being apart somehow, could be interesting. But I'd appreciate any feedback on what you think is most interesting/appealing!

    My initial thumbs:


    And then I developed these two a bit more (so you can actually see what's going on!)



    Any thoughts/critique welcome...

  • Pro SVS OG

    All wonderful! I do love the idea of your great Dane though 🙂

  • I really like what you've got started here! I think that everyone can relate to the feeling of being different or left out as a kid and it will resonate really well emotionally. My preference is for the one where you're reading but both are looking great 🙂

  • Hi Dulcie. I actually like #8 if you want to show a feeling of apprehension because the child looks separated by the fence and the adult figure isn't fully seen. The adult almost turns into an anchor in this sea of children she's afraid to jump into. #10 looks like she's content to be alone with her book. That's a different emotion and you could push it with more books, maybe they'd be like a fortress around her, to go along with the book she's reading. The kids could be kicking up dust, playground toys flying everywhere. One kid could be wearing a dragon t-shirt.

  • SVS OG

    @lmrush Thank you! 🙂 Maybe I'll have to draw that Great Dane another time 🙂

    @Katie-W Thanks! I appreciate your thoughts. Glad the concept comes across, and that you like it so far...

    @Lydia-M Thank you! That is a really insightful comment, I appreciate the feedback and I agree that it was better with the adult not fully seen. I'm re-working the thumbnail to take into consideration what you said... I also love the ideas you have to push #10 some more. Thanks again!

  • SVS OG

    I updated my thumbnails taking into account @Lydia-M 's suggestions...still not sure which one to develop for the contest. I think the 'apprehension' emotion in #1 might be a clearer emotion to express, and therefore better for the prompt, but the contentment with reading one might make a more interesting image overall. Hmm..





  • I like the apprehension concept better. I suggest pushing the apprehension even the girl (you) peeking out from behind the mom, or pulling back on the mom's arm--like she doesn't want to go in. I also think her mouth suggests surprise. Maybe wide eyes with a frown would make her seem more anxious/wary? The values and scenes in both are great though, so I don't think you can go wrong with either of them. Can't wait to see more!

  • @Dulcie Sorry I didn't get back to you sooner on this. I've been distracted. I Agree with @Joy-Heyer about pushing it more. More distance between the girl and the other kids? A jampacked school yard with her off to the side would give more contrast. And I still like both concepts so it's hard to choose.

  • Hi @Dulcie I'm really loving both! And I can actually relate to them as well. I like your reading one a lot (and might like it better if it were for something else), but I think for this contest in particular, the apprehension emotion of #1 is the way to go.

    I agree with others that you can push it further though. Right now to me she's looked more shocked/in awe than scared/shy. Also - your perspective is off. Your main kid is larger than a few of the kids who're actually closer "to the camera". There's a bit of a line happening with a few of the kids too (the girl playing hopscotch, then the two kneeling behind her). The two kneeling I might push back a little further and stagger them.

    I like all the movement and action that's happening and it really comes across that all these other kids are already comfortable in their environment, all except for poor young you.

    Good luck! Can't wait to see it develop further 🙂

  • Pro SVS OG

    Hi Dulcie, sorry to tune in so late - It's been really hard lately to find time to write sensible comments - especially to really good work like yours! I love the prompt of this contest, it offers so many different angles! I like both concepts you brought forward (and both resonate with my own childhood!) but personally I like the second one (you reading a book quietly in the middle of the turmoil) a lot better. There may be personal associations here, but the first gives me a sense of anguish, while the second radiates a quiet contentement and the marvel of losing oneself in the world of a book and being one's own special place. In essence, the first is a negative and the second is a positive picture. Of course there is a good place for both, but I find the second one has a higher emotional content for me.
    If you decided to go with that, I would consider revising the composition. The central composition with all the light around the face reminds a bit of a sacred throne. Maybe that is a good thing, and you could push it even more, giving a sense of "sacrality" to the whole situation of being enthralled by a book while the world is passing by. Or maybe you could go the other direction, and emphasize the sense of (positive) isolation by shifting yourself into a corner or background position, having the light do the job of bringing attention to the focal point.
    These are obviously only my thoughts - I do feel like I had exactly those very same experiences (only without mummy to hide behind!).

  • SVS OG

    @Joy-Heyer Thanks so much for your thoughts, I appreciate the feedback! I really like your ideas for pushing the apprehension emotion further, especially the idea of her peeking out from behind mum (I think I actually did that on my first day) and making the expression more anxious. I’ll try to work that all in!

    @Lydia-M Thanks very much for your comment, oh no worries - of course you’ve had a lot to think about. I really appreciate your (excellent!) ideas! I agree that I need to push it more, looking at it again. I like the idea of more contrast and a more jam-packed school yard…I think I might go for a lower perspective, so you get more of a feeling of being in a crowd…if I can just make that work on paper somehow…

    @DanetteDraws Thanks for your comments and suggestions! Really appreciate it…Glad that you like the concepts 🙂 I agree I need to push it more, and also that the relative sizing of the children is a bit off. I think I’m going to re-sketch and find a way to push the whole thing further taking all of this into account…

    @smceccarelli Thanks for your thoughts (especially at a busy time!) - always so helpful. Oh it’s interesting that you like the second one better…maybe I will have to work up this one as well (even if I don’t submit, it could be a useful portfolio piece)…choices! I agree that they are totally different in tone with the second one much more positive. I’m going to have a think about your suggestions and see what other compositions I could do for #2.

    One thing I worry about with #1, and now possibly when re-working #2, is how to make the piece work when the main character and focal point is in the background…the judges need to look at the piece and know which child is ‘me’ amongst all the others without being told (as there’s no text to help) … It’s going to be an interesting and challenging thing to make it work. I was planning to use value/contrast/colour but that’s much easier said than done 😉 Will see how the re-sketching goes… Thanks again for your thoughts!

  • One thing I worry about with #1, and now possibly when re-working #2, is how to make the piece work when the main character and focal point is in the background…

    Yes, most certainly value/contrast/colour will work well for this, but also I'd suggest using a photography trick where you want your main focal point to have the most level of detail, and the rest to be simplistic. Doing this in photography looks something like this: but I wouldn't go so far as to make your foreground quite that blurry, but hopefully you get the idea.

  • SVS OG

    @DanetteDraws Thanks very much for that suggestion and the link! Great idea..yes that would really help solve that problem. I've seen it used with illustrations on Instagram..and also the speed-painters on Facebook do it a lot.. but I've never done it myself yet, so I guess I'd better get busy and learn how to do it 🙂

  • SVS OG

    Here's an updated thumbnail for #1...I think I'm going to go with this 'apprehension' concept for the contest, because the emotion is clearer and more immediate, which I think hits the brief better - but I'd definitely like to revisit/finish the 'contentment in reading' concept soon.


  • SVS OG

    I neatened up the line and did a colour study (v rough, may change)...any critique/suggestions welcome...



  • It is looking wonderful! I would move the hopscotch girl so she is overlapping or overlapped by something. Right now she is framed by negative space making it seem like she is the focus. All the other characters are incomplete--either by the cropping of the frame or overlapping of another character. Also, the red shirt draws attention to her. The little girl (you) is very cute and I love her look of apprehension! With a few tweaks to the hopscotch girl, the apprehensive girl will stand out nicely with your values.

  • SVS OG

    Thanks @Joy-Heyer, it's so useful to have another perspective on where the focus seems to be - I will try and think of a way to overlap the hopscotch girl, to take away the attention from her...somehow! Not sure how to do that yet, but hopefully will think of something....probably will involve changing the mystery girl in the near left corner though, into something else.... Thanks again for your thoughts 🙂

  • SVS OG

    I like the one with the teacher. I think everyone has felt that at some time-being the odd man out.

  • SVS OG

    Maybe if the hopscotch girl were facing away from us more and wasn't surrounded by such a light color it might draw more attention to the little girl. We tend to go for the faces looking toward us I think. Just a thought. I may be way off.

  • SVS OG

    @Marsha-Kay-Ottum-Owen That is a really excellent suggestion, to flip her round so she's facing away - thank you. You're right that we tend to fix on faces, so hopefully that will help. I'm working on a new version with that idea 🙂

Log in to reply