Drawing children

  • Hi girls and guys

    I've decided to join the forum after listening for a very long time to many of Will Terry's youtube videos and generally wanting to be a children's book illustrator. I'm trained as an architect and have been drawing since forever but because i've been working in architecture for many years i didn't have the time to focus on my illustration work and on studying and so on.

    I've recently quit my job and will be moving to London and hopefully at some point will be able to freelance and live from what i draw.

    But the reason i'm writing is really different. I've recently managed to get some illustration jobs and they are very satisfying but also extremely nervewreckign to me. I feel like because i didn't have the time in the last years i am so behind with pretty much everything. I feel terribly rusty and i try very much to work as much as i can to catch up to how and where i want to be. I am very aware of mistakes, shortcomings and so on and i have so much more to learn

    At this moment i really want to get into drawing children and actually my question is how to start to tackle this. I want to develop a sort of routine to tackle all aspects. I want to have interesting, dynamic, human, diverse characters that are kids. I also need to develop my style and feel confident with anatomy (but not necessarily interested in drawing photorealistically) and gesture and have consistency. Quite a lot, no?

    But how would you tackle this? Can you recommend anything?

    I'm thinking about doing a lot of observational drawing, from life and from pictures or movies. To study how kids look, what they are dressed in, how they wear their hair etc, how they move. Quick observational drawing and gesture.

    Breaking it down to elements - faces, heads, hands, feet and exercise this to develop anatomical understanding and what makes a face, hand, foot a child's face/hand/foot

    Doing emotions drawings

    I keep thinking that if i do this i will improve and really know how to draw kids. But i keep looking at my favorite illustrators and they don't draw necessarily anatomically realistic, they have a great style and very nice and interesting ways of abstrating. Or, the artists just draw like that naturally without going through a process of modifying their shapes to fit a certain style. Soof them

    How did or do you do this? how do you do your kids and how did you learn to do it? What's the best way to do kids and develop style?

    aaaand... i like a lot work like Beatrice Alemagna's, things that seem crooked, and "wrong".. and i can do that in space (i am comfortable with drawing environments and spatial things) but when it comes to characters i completely freeze without looking at reference photos and i get into this very constricted view that things need to be correct. And if i try to make them look wrong it's a struggle and it's not consistent. It's very hard to abstract whereas i think that people who draw like Beatrice or Maisie Shearing Paradise for example just don't do the whole "let's draw academically correct". In a sense perhaps they didn't focus on drawing correctly while i did in the beginning while a kid and a teen and even in architecture school and i can't just draw whatever and be conscious of the fact that i suck and somehow develop my suckiness into strength if that makes sense. I guess i want to know how to feel confident in doing work, how not to be completely blocked or how not to be completely crushed when i finish something and see that it's not at the level i want it to be. How to develop as an artist etc. (sorry, this is all over the place also because i am exhausted and quite down because of a drawing that came out bad. i did a series of illustrations for a book and redid the cover 5 times and it still looks like sh... whereas the inside looks better. It's like i completely f-ed it up at the cover which should be the most important and all because the cover has a kid on on... Anyway).

    What would be the best way to draw better kids?

    As for my own work here are some recent examples

    alt text

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    you can also get a glimpse here of my older stuff

    or on my instagram for newer things if you are interested

  • Nice art!

    Sounds like you've got a decent enough idea on how to learn to draw kids. Draw lots of kids.

    The "Stylizing Human Characters" course has some great instruction, and that's the first class I'd check out.

    The big things I keep in mind when drawing kids have mostly to do with facial and body proportions.

    I'd write more, but I'm out the door. Good luck! When in doubt starting a project (draw 100 kids, perhaps @Gary-Wilkinson ) is always a good idea to get better at something.

  • Pro

    Hi Irina!

    This is really really gorgeous work, and looks as professional as anything I've seen in published books! It's great that you see your flaws and know what to improve, but I'd suggest trying not to get to hung up on it because you have really great work that's all ready to go! I'd suggest to send your portfolio everywhere and then of course, you can keep practicing while waiting for the inevitable work that'll eventually come your way 🙂 You may want to look into an agent, if you're in London it's perfect because the best children illustration agencies in the world are based there, and they'd be happy to have you.

    The reason you're so comfortable stylizing backgrounds is because you presumably have loads of experience with correct perspective and drawing buildings from being an architect. You need to be just as comfortable with anatomy to be able to deform it with as much ease. So gesture drawing from life, picture and video is really great 🙂 I'd also suggest doing style studies of your favorite illustrations - not to show anyone else, but drawing other people's styles is something that can really help decipher how they're doing it.

    Best of luck to you, you have a beautiful career in front of you and I know we haven't heard the last of you!

  • Hi Irina,
    First of all, you have a wonderful style already from the examples you sent - very European and slightly quirky! I really like it, especially the soft colour that you use, and I take it you use traditional media?
    As for drawing children, it's probably best to start with videos on youtube on how to draw humans, rather than just children as it's probably beneficial to be able to draw people of all ages just incase you ever need to. Do you know of any life drawing classes happening near you? Life drawing taught me how to draw the human body.
    If you develop a style that's not completely anatomically correct in the future, then it will still teach you how the body bends and moves so that you can illustrate gesture really well with your characters.
    When I draw a character, say its a child for example, I start by using shapes. So a circle for the head, oval for the body and usually lines for the arms and legs and then ovals for the hands and feet. This helps me to get the pose right... (an example i found online) -

    I wouldnt run before you can walk though, start by learning how to draw the body as a whole and when you're confident enough then move onto hands/feet etc, then start trying different ways to capture emotion on your characters face.
    it all just takes time and practice 🙂 just use whatever images you can online, magazines, real life, photos etc and just draw lots and lots until it clicks 🙂 which it will!
    Your style for drawing people will then naturally fall into place to compliment your lovely environment illustrations!
    All artists need to use reference material, so don't worry about doing that - the more the better in my opinion, there's nothing wrong with it.

    I think all illustrators/artists have that horrid crushed feeling after finishing a piece that hasn't turned out the way they hoped, that's completely normal and very good for making yourself improve and getting that piece to the level you want it to be, but it just takes practice 🙂 Don't feel down, at least you're drawing and TRYING! That's brilliant and such a great start and you WILL get there because you seem like you have the determination.

    This forum is brilliant for feedback, so if you have any examples of your drawings of kids then it would be lovely to see.
    All the best to you with it 🙂

  • Geez your work is gorgeous! With a little practice, you’ll feel comfortable drawing kids in no time. You just have to do it more. I plan to re-watch stylizing human characters again soon.

  • SVS OG

    @irina OMG! I was blown away by your work. You have a very sweet style and your colors just make it all the more darling. I have no hesitation in calling you a professional with your skill set. Like you, I am also not traditionally trained in illustration and is generally self-taught. I know the doubts and fears coming from that background. However, i’m sure you’ll do great given your work and your previous experience with your job. I can’t really recommend any classes on SVS for you since I haven’t enroled myself but feel free to ask other members. They’d be happy to help you get started. I wish you the best.

  • SVS OG

    @irina I love your illustrations! And I can totally understand the attraction to the work of Beatrice Alemagna. I don't know of that many resources specifically for drawing children, but I think anything that applies to anatomy in general can be applied to children as well, with a few differences of application that can probably be picked up by observing real children. The one child in your examples posted here seems to work well.

    That said, I understand your concern. I always thought I knew the figure decently well, but the more I try to draw children, and especially children in motion, the more I realize I need to learn. Wish I knew what to tell you, but everyone has bad days and I'm having one of those "Why the heck am I doing this?" weeks myself. Hang in there because your work is good!

  • Thank you so much everyone!! Your kind words and support have helped me move out of my slump and deal better with my feelings of failure. I still don.t like what came out of the cover i drew and i guess the most i am disappointed in myself for not being able to create something better. But i realise this is my first such experience and i have to take it as learning. Speaking of which i took all your advice into account and took a figure drawing gesture class for general figure drawing and will slowly continue to practice humans in general and kids as well. Made also a huge pinterest board with reference photos of children in different clothes, poses, with a diverse array of faces and emotions and featuring diversity as well in terms of race and cultural background. I plan on practicing drawing on those and try to do the 100 kids challenge. I.ll take it slow and practice and will try to be gentle to myself

  • Draw skulls... for proportion, skeleton... individual bones, i caricuture those and it seems to stick in my mind quicker then a fully rendered replica of the reference. Children skulls... kinda macabre, but it helps. Even if your not going for the fully anatomical look... you can always tone it down. I guess photo and life reference will help too, but id keep that last, you can either draw a kid smiling from life... or learn how face muscles work.. and then draw from life. Feel the latter is more benefitial.

    Focus on the main thing your trying to learn that day... quick xray type sketches where you draw through the form... nothing fancy. Black paper... or background works real well for that, hard to shade so your not tempted to make it pretty. If digital is your thing... i use mypaint. its a simple program... but has this auto expanding canvas. always enough room. Turn it black and let it rip.

    Got a long way to go myself longer then you id say judging from your work... but this works for me, hope it helps you too

  • Think theres a chapter in andrew loomis book on drawing kid proportions... not sure which id have to check. Gary Faigin has a book on facial expressions for artists. Theres an app called lecorche on android... its a digital muscle model, very usefull. Burne hogarths book on clothing is pretty hard to read... but theres allot of good info in it. Theres a book dedicated to gesture... its called Force... I hoard art books. Got enough to last me a lifetime

    Allot to learn... stick to the minimum... for me quantity (with quality controll) works wonders. Like 20% of the time yielding 80% of the result. Rinse and repeat

  • @irina Sounds like you have a great plan of tackling your (self proclaimed) issues! I think when taking those steps over time you always see the improvements. I think you'll always look at your work 5 or 10 years later and see how you've progressed. It's very good that you are critical and see your short comings and learning goals (although I personally find the kid you drew very cute!) When I look at my work from when I just started, I cringe! If this is your starting point, chapeau!! I do see my shortcomings now too, painfully so. But it's always good to try and learn and push through them, like you're doing. I'm working on a book as well and while I'm almost finished, I've just started to take up lessons and learn more about composition for example. I will not be able to integrate this within my current book, since the sketches and thumbnails are already finished and it will become in cohesive as a whole (since I finished over 2/3 of the paintings already). But there's always the next book, and it's kind of interesting to see your style and skill evolve over time! So certainly do not try to let it freeze you. I think taking the online lessons and starting a 100 day challenge will bring such progress along!

    Your work is already stunning by the way. I love how your architecture skills shine through and you're able to push those boundaries and play with the layout and the overall quirkiness! I wish you a lot of luck and am very positive freelance work will be a very good fit!

  • I'm really curious how much you developed, i'm sure you nailed it. Unfortunately the photos you posted aren't available anymore. Maybe you can give us an update as an artist 🙂

  • @Ionut-Marian I'm pretty sure this is her instagram account here: https://www.instagram.com/irinageorgescudraws/?hl=en

    He work is so beautiful, thanks for the follow up comment so that I could find it.