Portfolio Critique please?



  • My website is...
    www.christopherhillustration.com

    I just really need some honest critiques. Thanks for your time!



  • I'll leave it to other more capable people to critique the artwork itself, but as a web designer and developer, I have a few ideas for you.

    One of the main principles of UX/UI design is to immediately confirm the expectations of your potential visitors. Given that this is an art portfolio. your potential audience is most likely people looking to hire you and secondarily, people who may be fans of your work. Both would have the expectation of artwork leading and confirming that they were indeed looking at what they expected to find.

    From here, there's the principle of progressive disclosure, which means that anything that anyone isn't wanting to see or ready to see is just noise. I think your site is simple enough that you can largely avoid this, but it's still important to consider the ordering of content. Having given this a lot of thought myself, I think the most appropriate order for an artist portfolio is as follows:

    1. Artwork
    2. About (biography and methods)
    3. Resources (tools, evergreen content, recommendations, etc.)
    4. Blog (a good idea for SEO purposes)
    5. Contact

    As for a few other quick ideas—make the scwbi image clickable and link to their homepage (open in a new tab) for people who may not know what that is or why it matters. And while it's okay to just have an email, consider implementing a contact form instead of or in addition to the plain email. It reduces friction. Likewise, the social media links could be small icons with links to your profiles. The more work people have to do to accomplish a particular action (even if just copying and pasting text) the less likely they are to do it.

    Lastly, I would suggest considering laying your images out in a clickable grid. It allows viewers to take in the whole at a glance and then zero in on what catches their eyes most, as opposed to a linear order which can be more fatiguing, even if only slightly so.

    EDIT:
    I have a further word of warning, but your site as it is potentially vulnerable to hacking as well. I don't want to disclose that specifically here and it's most likely not a large threat but something to be aware of. I'll shoot you an email about it.



  • @jazeps-tenis Thank you for all the great tips. I have been thinking of changing the layout of the work on my website for a while so it was good to have that confirmed. I think I will start working on it today.
    Also, that is a great tip about moving the work to the forefront of the site.
    I am definitely worried about the potential to be hacked. My computer knowledge is definitely lacking!



  • @christopherh Glad to help! I just sent that email about the security issue. Let me know if you didn't receive it!



  • @jazeps-tenis My site got hacked last year and I had to take down my contact page and the blog. My hosting service could not find any hint of malware into the code, so they couldn’t provide a solution. How do you avoid this happening?
    Sorry @christopherh for hijacking your thread - I promise I will also make a contribution about your website!



  • @smceccarelli you are fine... I know nothing about all this kind of stuff so I find it very interesting!



  • I was also going to comment about putting your portfolio page first, glad to see I wasn’t the only one thinking that.

    I’m also curious about what makes a page hackable, I know nothing about that!

    My first question on your portfolio is, what kind of work are you aiming for? Children’s books? Pet portraits? Editorial? Something else? I’m guessing the first but I’m not sure. It should be clear when someone looks at you site—“hey, this would work great for X!” You can even have a couple things you aim to do, as long as it’s clear to a viewer how they could be used, if that makes sense. (This is something I’m working on as well. It can be tough!)

    Not sure if that helps, just a thought. We’re you wanting some thoughts on your work as well or just the overall collection...?



  • @sarah-luann Thanks for your thoughts 🙂
    I'm now looking to do Children's books. I used to do more editorial style stuff (and a lot of political cartoons that I have removed all trace of) so it has been difficult to get my portfolio looking like it is going in the right direction. Along with that I feel like my style changed a lot and so it made a lot of my stuff obsolete and I am struggling to be less cartoony. I think personally I feel like my portfolio feels kind of aimless right now.
    Also, in terms of the actual illustrations, I guess I am wondering how far off professional looking my stuff is.



  • @smceccarelli This is a big question with a lot of factors, but just to list a few...

    1. Have an active scan security plugin and a hardening plugin. Wordfence and All-in-On WP Security are probably the best and best suported. The former will go over your site on a regular schedule looking for signs of file changes or malicious code injection while the latter will take care of many of the potential attack vectors that hackers use. There is some overlap in functionality here, and it can be difficult to configure, but it's a common security stack among Wordpress Developers.

    2. Limit login attempts. This can be enabled in the security plugins. It prevents brute force attacks from people who may gain access to the site simply by spamming the login on the admin page. This usually isn't a random person just guessing at your password, but rather a botnet of devices from around the world going through variations of possible passwords trying to gain access.

    3. Use Two Factor authentication

    4. Keep regular full site backups. If you get hacked, it's much easier to just restore from a backup than to rebuild the site.

    5. Change the url for your login page. Every Wordpress site starts with the same login page which is yoursite.com/wp-admin. If you keep it as this, then hackers can find your login and more easily brute force your password.

    6. Make your account name different from your display name. Along with the previous item, if people can figure out where your admin page is and they know your username, they're already one step away from getting into the site itself.

    There's a lot of other small elements to consider including thing like whitelisting your ftp account so only you can access it, but the main takeaway is that even with all of this, nothing is totally bulletproof. Ideally you want to put so many obstacles in a hacker's way that it'd be far easier for them just to move on to another site. In a funny kind of way, it's kind of like a digital siege.



  • @christopherh Well, I'm not exactly pro, but I'll give you my thoughts, and you can take them or leave them.

    I think you have a fun way of stylizing humans and animals that could work really well in a children's book. You've definitely developed some drawing skill, but there are a few things I feel could be improved to really look "pro". One thing that jumps out at me is what I would call "predictable colors". Grass is green. Sky is blue. Dog is brown. I don't feel like you really carefully thought out and chose the colors from a story telling stand point, rather just chose the right crayon from the coloring box--this says "grass green" so thats what I'll use. (Of course, this could just be my preference for a more muted palette speaking, so take it or leave it.) Maybe try doing a few color comps on your thumbnail before jumping to final, see if you come up with something more interesting.

    Also, for a childrens book portfolio, I think it would be great if it included more... children. One of those obvious things that you don't think of til someone says it ;-). This is something I've been working on as well, so it's not just you.

    Just my two cents. I hope this is helpful :-).



  • Most of the hacks I deal with are with third party modules that are installed. They tend to leave a backdoor into your site. Be careful on what you install. But @Jazeps-Tenis is on point 110% with everything said.



  • @sarah-luann Thank you for the critique! I hadn’t even realized that the four pieces I recently removed contained all of the children in my portfolio 🙂 It just didn’t even occur to me!
    As for the palette, I will really take a look at this. My favorite artists all use limited palettes and darker colors... the first that springs to mind is Jon Klassen... so I don’t know why I haven’t adopted this in my own stuff when that is what I like to see myself.
    Definitely some food for thought, thank you!



  • I think the best critiques are the most straight forward. I don’t know if I should be as straight forward as I want, but you seem to really want to know what is wrong, so I am just going to say what I think. Please understand that I am mainly focusing on what I see as flaws, and not really focusing on your strengths as much, just because I think as you get better in areas that you might agree need work, your stronger areas will get even better, and I also don’t want to have to figure out how to balance the critique and possibly confuse you as to what needs work or not. Just a disclaimer, I am not a pro, I am just an arrogant psuedo intellectual, but I am going to try my best.

    As for your designing:

    All of your pieces that are full images are perfectly horizontal. Design wise they feel boring for that reason. It is like the veiwer has a perfect seat in each piece, and your goal should be to make the viewer not relevent to the scene outside of creating focus . Go to pinterest and look up Dan Santat’s illustration and notice how almost all of his work is tilted. What I do is create a page of thumbnails, and look up a single artist and fill the the entire page with thumbnails of their art. I also think you need to get more “stuff” in your images. I want to see chairs, objects half off the page and darker objects in the foreground. Use the foreground and related objects to the piece to be an excuse to do less work. A big ass chair taking up 25% of your image is less work than not having it in there at all. get used to using those items as ways to create overlapping in your design phase as well. Overlapping creates interest, but also not overlapping makes the image seem unnatural. Take notice of how much overlapping is going on in Will Terry’s work on Pinterest. Also, you should have many more full pieces. Any agent or art director needs to know you can handle a 32 page picture book with full spreads.

    I actually really like the Sherlock Homes scenes, though I have no clue why the Arab character is vanishing from the scene. Besides that, I notice that your 2D style is much more polished than the 3D environments are, which I completely understand, since I had the same issue when I started here.

    Your rendering needs work. The water needs to look like water, and just because the trees are in the background and require less rendering doesn’t mean we can get away with less effort. What should distinguish the foreground from the background is more so values, not so much less rendering, though that is true to some extent. For example, I will drawl all of my buildings with the same care and effort, and then create a layer and merely lightely fade out the ones further back a bit, causing slight destortion.

    Try some mixed media. Maybe throw in some different textures, and practice rendering images with more chaos in your pieces. Right now your images look 100% digital, and that is a major turn off in this industry. Your goal is to get people to have to ask if it is digital or traditional. Check out Will Terry’s videos on mixed media and drawing on the ipad. You will see how much he works at making it look less digital.

    With that said, I think you have a lot of great qualities, and I wouldn’t have wasted my time unless I thought you had enough skill to push through to achieve your goals. Again, I am not a pro, and I have had some critiques that I thought were off and I was right. Someone told me my entire portfolio was trash and the folliwing weekend two art directors from Penguin were telling me how much they loved it. So, consider what I said, but also note that I am not infallible.

    P.s don’t hate me 😬👍



  • @eric-castleman Thank you so much for taking the time to give such an in-depth critique. You made a lot of really good points, and yeah, I would much rather have the honesty when it is given constructively like you did... I want to improve and it is finding out my flaws that will help me to do that.
    I have a lot to be working on, that’s for sure. I think because I have come from a background of such a different style of illustrating that this is a very steep learning curve. But, learning is what I am here to do.
    With more thought in the design stage I think that picking more dynamic poses and angles will become easier but I think my biggest challenge is with rendering and textures. I still find it difficult when working digitally to decide on which brushes to use and how to work with texture more naturally.
    Thanks again!



  • @christopherh I'm going to add a few things

    if I were a client:

    • you can share a real photo of you that would help a lot. Some even share photos and videos of themselves working on their computers or desks.
    • I don't know what are the services you offer, their estimated prices or how to work with you.
    • Also some testimonials from people you worked with, learned from or who have something nice to say about your work/you.

    as for the art:

    • try to show you can be consistent. create 3 illustrations in the same style for example.
    • focus on improving your core and cast shadows.


  • Hello!
    I like your sloth image. 🙂

    In case it's helpful, it's unclear to me what differentiation there is between your "portfolio" and the "sketchbook" category.

    Best wishes



  • I think @eric-castleman did an awesome critique. He is hitting some really great point, and if you work on that, you'll definitely be a step closer to professional work (although the definition of professional work varies greatly and some aspect of you work is already professional.)

    I think the main problem with your work is composition. Once again, Eric gave some great tip and I don't want to repeat what he said, but I definitely think you should try his trick of doing thumbnail of other artist work to study their compositions (this is a great tip, I will also try it the next time I feel stuck with a composition). You should also watch Will's "creative composition" class, one of the best class on SVS in my opinion.

    I like the pieces with sherlock, the style is very nice, and it shows that you can have a consistant style. I also like the character designs. BUT right now the fact that you have these 3 illustrations is probably actually detrimental to your portfolio, because it's basically the same composition repeated 3 times. I think an art director would see that and maybe jump to the conclusion that you can't draw various perspectives and camera angles so you resort to the same POV for all your images.

    Anyway! Like Eric, I believe in real critiques, so I hope you won't think this is too harsh! I think you're heading in the right direction 🙂



  • @Eric-Castleman did an excellent and on point critique, to which there is little to add. I would say on my part that, if you are seeking work in the children's book field, you probably need to enrich your portfolio considerably with the type of images that are relevant for children's books. There is a short course (1 or 2 hours) here on SVS about "what to put in a children's book portfolio" that is very enlightening.
    If you browse through some books - maybe picking some whose style and tone is similar to yours - you can have a sense of what type of content is relevant for that market. Many of your pieces are more character studies than illustrations (for example the last 4) and the narrative content is either absent or very limited.
    The three Sherlock Holmes illustrations are the best in that sense but, as it has been pointed out, I would keep only the best of the three and drop the other two. They are too similar to be all included, and an AD may interpret that as a lack of skills in creating different moods and points of view in a narrative sequence.
    There's a nice sense of style consistency that you can expand on. You are using a few "formulas" (like the round ball-shaped eyes and the big noses coming straight from the forehead) that you can either use consistently on all your pieces (being aware of their potential and limitations) or not at all. At the moment you have them in about 3/4 of your pieces and then there are some deviations. That makes it look a bit unpredictable.
    I'm not sure what the purpose of the "sketch" section is, as it is not WIPs and it is not really "sketches" - it looks very similar to the "portfolio" section and I'm not sure it adds anything.
    Overall you're on a good path - just a few more steps to go!



  • @christopherh I think I like the 2D spot illustrations the best. Interestingly, the bird is the piece that looked the most "finished" to me. He is great and I think my kids would agree.

    What I would say is that many of the other pieces seem to sort of argue with themselves about that they want to be. It seems like you are very suited at this point for the simple, fun, 2D illustration - along the lines of Lauren Child or Mo Willems. Which, my kids LOVE. (Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus, and Gerald and Piggy are some of their all time favorites.) Mo Willem's style works, because he focuses on these very funny, simple characters and not so much on environment or complicated compositions. What's confusing is when you take that kind of flat, symbolic, style of character drawing and put it in a complex setting where it looks like things are starting to have more rendering and dimension. The Tin Man piece, for example, looks unfinished because it has a level of detail that's not quite 3D and also isn't that more flat style. If the character is built with simple, easy to read line work that is not overly complicated, I think its confusing to see individual blades of grass at his feet... Does that make sense? I recommend doing Lee White's class on how to find your style. It's really helpful for getting you moving along your own path toward the style you are interested in aiming at. And you can channel that into these things. And it helps you to make consistent choices throughout the illustration - from character to environment, composition, rendering...



  • @christopherh After looking at your site, I had a question. The sloth in outer space and “Pigeon Pete” seem like much more confident and developed pieces with a definitive style that I’m not seeing in the other pieces you have in your portfolio. Are those pieces newer than the rest, or perhaps did you simply spend more time on them? If I were you I’d make those pieces the bar of comparison and make sure that each piece you post could be favorably compared to them, being as good or better than as you grow, and remove the less complex pieces as you can. To that same point, if I were looking to hire someone and saw your site, I would have difficulty knowing whether you’d give me texturey colorful sloth style or the more basic “grass is green, sky is blue” airbrushed style that others have already commented on in this thread. Thanks for sharing your site, hope this helps.