I'm stuck

  • I have a hurdle I need to get over. I need to make TON of new work for my portfolio. But the problem I am having is that I want to make work for picture books and middle grade books but I can't get over this nagging voice in my head that says the work I make feels like it is coming from the 90's (my childhood). Basically, I don't feel as if I have a style that would sell. But at the same time, I am not sure what to change about what I am making to update it or make it more appealing to picture book buyers. Could you guys look at some of my work and let me know what I should do?


  • Hi Jeane! Looking at your work, I think you definitely have the skills, but as you said your illustrations have kind of a "old" feel to them. Not long ago, @Jake-Parker gave a tip to another SVS student who was having a similar problem. I don't remember all that he said (it was a long post) but basically one of his tip was to take many (I think it was like 20 or maybe more) pieces from your favorite artists that work in styles you would like to work in and copy them (to re-wire your brain) and then start reworking your portfolio. I think if you do that, you will definitely be heading in the right direction!

  • @NoWayMe Thanks! I think that is great advice! I shall start making a list.

  • @JeaneBean that is exactly my problem too right now, and i'm very very far from whats popular, for now i just write and illustrate my own story cause i've seen some artists with unusual style started off like that. Your works are awesome and i think what @NoWayMe said would be very good for you, good luck!

  • SVS OG

    My style is very old fashioned and the people I get the most compliments from are Grandmas 🙂 I guess I must be going back to my childhood in the 60's! Ha!

  • Cool stuff! I really like your style over all. Before doing a style overhaul I would look into how you treat your values, contrast, and detail. What I'm noticing on most of your pieces is that you haven't quite perfected your focal points. Your backgrounds are often more vibrant, detailed, and contrasted than your subject in the foreground, or your whole piece has the same level of value/contrast/detail, making it hard to focus on what's the most important.

    Have you taken the Creative Composition Class? I just took it and it is just wonderful for dealing with these issues. The workbook had a lot of exercises dealing with focal points and values.

    I did a couple of quick paint overs to show you what I mean. Your original is on the top, my paint over is on the bottom. It's pretty subtle, but I tried to draw more attention to the figures and calm down the backgrounds.


  • I really love your art ,I agree it is hard to know what is modern,especially what modern children will like, but really it is the parents who pay the books for the children so do you need to appeal to the parent too. Maybe SVS could do a video on current trends in childrens books. That piece with the buffalos and witch is amazing.

  • But whats wrong with looking old style? I love it! Its like making pics with traditional camera. Those pics dont dont have all the effects but many people prefer it, as they are more natural. Its about fashion and fashion often goes back to the past. I think the most important is, if you like it or not? If you do, then dont change:)

  • I like "old looking" drawings. In my opinion, your style is amazing.

  • Your style appeals to me, I guess I'm old fashioned.

  • @TessW Wow!!! Thank you TONS for taking the time to go over these. I can see what you mean now! I do have a hard time controlling my values, for sure. I work mainly with watercolor and I am guilty of making everything too light all the time. I did take those classes, I think I need to review the lessons though. 🙂 YOU ROCK. Thanks!

  • @ajiabram Thank you! I really love your work. Your pen and ink stuff is very striking. I keep hearing that "tastes come around" but I don't want to be waiting for forever to get out there. Good luck on your stories, too! 😃

  • @Marsha-Kay-Ottum-Owen I always get compliments from grannies, too! Maybe grannies know where it's at, right? 😃

  • @DOTTYP I would LOVE for a video on trends in children's books. Because everything is so varied and mixed together and because publishers are buying books 2 years in advance, it is such a murky area. My true goal is to find a look and a voice that pleases me to my bones, and I can feel it starting, but I feel like I need a push. Like when I go to draw something, I can feel something happening, but somehow, in the final piece the magic that I felt in the drawing dies and it looks old to me. Maybe my problem is in the rendering...

    Anyhow, thank you tons for the feedback!

  • @aska I do love older illustrations, but I don't think that it is something that will bring the paychecks in at the moment. Some of the older illustrations I didn't start appreciating until I spent some time really studying them. Do kids and parents these days want to devote the time to acquire a taste for this sort of work? It also does come down to fun for me. I have a lot of fun at the drawing stage, but in the painting stage, something becomes tedious for me so maybe that is a signal I should change something. I just wish I knew what! 🙂

  • @alfredbaudisch Thank you!

  • @Christine-Garner Thank you!

  • @JeaneBean i understand you need to earn money. However i also believe that its better to find your niche that follow some fashion. Good luck with adjusting your style, so you are happy with it, but dont adjust it in a way that is easy to sell. Maybe its an idealistic view, but at least you will enjoy your work;) iam not a proffesionalist, just a hobbyst, so sorry if its a pack of BS 🙂

  • @JeaneBean No problem. I actually think you could keep things on the light side, as I've seen that aesthetic before and it works. You have a lot working for you- you just need to figure out how to control your focal point a bit better.

    For example, this illustration by Beatrix Potter is pretty light to mid tone, but she pops the foreground figures out by a little more contrast in her line work and accents of color.


    Or this one by Maurice Sendak. Notice how busy his background is? But the boy pops out by how light he is and how little texture he has over his whole body.


    Anyway, like I said, I really like your style! I would just make more of it and watch how you order it. Maybe do more with kids in it and make a few more black and white images if you also want to tap into middle grade books?

  • Your work is really nice but I noticed that your characters seem more whimsical than your back grounds which feel more realistic(the third image is a good example) as well possibly some of your color choices could be brighter the image with the buttery flies is an example. Hope my ideas help you

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