What’s not working here?

  • I banged away on this piece, hoping to make it a strong addition to my portfolio. My objective was to make it fun, colorful and engaging.

    I finished it up, dropped it on my Instagram, sat back to enjoy accolades from my dear followers and... almost zilch. Now, I know gauging the success of a piece by Instagram response is a recipe for sadness and woe, but this thing just disappeared. I have the sneaking suspicion that I am fooling myself, please 'un-fool' me.

    Could you please take a moment to give me some fresh eyes and opinions on this piece? What would you think if you saw it in a portfolio? What’s missing? What's wrong? What could be improved?

    Brutal honesty is completely fine with me. I want to do this illustration thing for a living, so if you see something, please say something.


  • Moderator

    I love the characters, but the harsh yellow and red caught my eye first.

    The background is very boring. They seem a bit excited, but about what? They look like they are maybe on their way to the beach, but it's just grass. Could have them on the beach, grass to the right fading into rocks and sand under them, showing they have arrived. Maybe some distant cliffs.

    I love the characters though, so charming.

    Paint a new bg, and digitally edit the characters in maybe?

  • Hi, @sketchbook! This is such an honest, down-to-earth post. With the accompanying illustration, in my honest opinion, you've managed to successfully apply the keyword "colourful." I think it has great potential to be fun and engaging, too.

    Just a little note: It can get tricky when we look for validation in the form of likes or positive comments from followers on social media. I know it can be quite saddening when we don't receive the kind of response we anticipate, and I hope to help a little bit. I don't think you're fooling yourself. The illustration might need to be pushed a tad bit to convey all three of your keywords successfully.

    I'll attempt to answer your questions the best I can:

    1. For me, one missing piece is in the storytelling: what are the two characters excited about? They look like they have beach gear on them - are they headed there? Could other elements be included in the picture to provide the viewer with some clues as to what they are looking at and where they are? I'm wondering what your story idea was with this piece.

    2. Aesthetics-wise, it has a very sweet, watercolour look, and it is certainly colourful! (Was it done entirely in watercolour?) I don't think there's anything wrong with the rendering. The values could be improved, though, in my opinion. Right now, there doesn't seem to be a focal point.

    This is what it looks like in black & white:


    • and when it is really zoomed out:


    The rabbit's umbrella and the tortoise's body are almost the same value. Is there one element you would like for the viewer to notice first and foremost, before all the others? That area could get the highest saturation, the highest contrast with its surrounding areas, or some other treatment to get it to stand out.

    My honest opinion is that it is a sweet-looking piece that would be greatly improved with the application of some design principles, and possibly with the inclusion of some clues on the storytelling.

    I hope this helps! Feel free to say if you disagree on any of my points, of course.

  • Hey 🙂 I think this is a very common problem on Instagram these days, there is just so much being uploaded every second that stuff just gets swallowed up!
    Are you using hashtags on your illustrations? I think you can have about 30 so make sure you use them, and try out posting things different times of the day to see when most of your audience is engaging with your work. I think to get a big following and interactions with people you have to be posting things everyday 😞 which is hard to do if you work/have kids/other obligations etc!

    I think your characters are great, their faces especially, and I love what you have going on in the scene, but like others have said, it needs to have a bit more story and maybe change up the colours. At the moment they look a bit muddy to me and I don't like the bright yellow, red and blue on the umbrellas, there's too much red for a start. Maybe his shorts could be orange or purple or something!
    This is a great piece that you should be proud of though, whether you get likes on social media or not, I fully understand how disheartening it can be when you upload something you're so proud of and it gets nothing back. But apart from a couple of colours I think this piece is brilliant 🙂

  • Oh man I'm learning so much just reading this! Thanks @sketchbook for posting your illustration and great points to keep in mind @CLCanadyArts and @animatosoor 🙏

  • This is great! I love watercolour 😃 I think it's the saturated reds and yellows sprinkled throughout the piece that compete for attention. I want to look at the rabbit and the tortoise characters, but the bright colours are drawing me to look at the umbrellas, shorts and eski. Maybe organising those colours would make it clearer where the focal point should be. I really like this style though! Is that watercolour pencil you're using for detail?

  • @animatosoor said in What’s not working here?:

    Hi, i love your characters, fun and they look excited. Love the vibe of going on vacation for summer. I agree with the coments above about social media. It's tricky and often makes you doubt more than reinforce you.

    Some small things I would take into consideration (in the end, what you do with it is up to you of course!)

    I would limit the red in the shorts of the hare. I suppose that he is your focal point. I would in the same go, make the umbrella a bit less saturated and put more light on the top of it. Same goes for the umbrella of the turtle.

    I love the light in the shell (is that how you call it) of the turtle. if you could put some more light area's on his face, that would make it nice.

    All and all i think you have a great start for an image. just some small tweeks in the lightning and it will be perfect I think. Let us know what the finished piece looks like!!

    Good luck!

  • Wow! Thanks for such fantastic feedback everyone. I am learning so much. And please keep it coming if you happen to see or think of anything else. I'll see what I can do in Procreate.

    All of your observations are like water in the desert to me😊.

    I love the idea to have them arriving at the beach. I think I can get back in there digitally without breaking the image. Thanks!

    Your right,was done in watercolor with a little adjustment digitally. Thank you for taking the time to turn this black and white, I always forget to do that. It is shocking to see how that yellow is the same value as the red and almost the same as the blue. Saturation fools me almost every time. I think one of the keys to this piece is going to be managing those umbrellas. Thanks!

    Instagram is tricky. I keep meaning to write up a set of good hashtags to just copy and paste. I always run out of ideas around hashtag five or six. Time to write up that list.

    I agree with you on those colors. I definitely need to rework them and purple might be a nice complement to all that green.

    I agree with you on those colors. Now I can see them more clearly. I just wasn’t catching them before.

    You’re right about the pencil. I like to go back in with a pencil to tighten up the details when I finish painting. There is also some adjustment and definition in Procreate on the iPad too.

    I agree, putting some light on the umbrella to desaturate those colors is a great idea. Those shorts, maybe purple...hmm. Time to start adjusting things in Procreate.

    Thanks again everyone!

  • @sketchbook I agree with the others on most of the points... I have a couple to add.

    1. I am missing the focal point. What is supposed to be coming out first? You might want to think about zooming out or zooming in so that your focal point is getting into one of the 1/3 x 1/3 hot zones.

    2. One thing you might want to watch is where the characters are looking. The viewer will follow the characters' eye lines. Right now that is leading right off the page. If you put a second focal point there (i.e. the ocean) that would be fine but as-is it is leading to nowhere. One thing you could try is to have the rabbit looking down at the turtle and the turtle looking up and back at the rabbit. This would give more interaction between the characters.

    Just some thoughts. I do love the rendering techniques and the tortoise and the hare at the beach idea. Good luck.

  • @sketchbook

    The rabbit is sitting with all the primary colours -so he stands out a bit uncomfortably for me -in your face maybe even trying too hard.

    I think both characters are great. There looking at something we can't see and have no clues -because they could be coming back from the beach and seeing something that has caught their fancy maybe an ice cream man.

    Also suggest maybe adding some shadow to the rabbits head -if its sitting even partially under that umbrella.

    Last, the two legs on the tortuous/turtle don't match -the front one has scales and the last one is wrinkly - this I find is distracting.

    Everything else is good and besides everything I mention I am surprised you didn't get any love- because your characters are cute together.

  • @Heather-Boyd
    These are great observations. I’m reworking the image on Procreate now. Thanks for lending me your eyes 👀 😊

  • @theprairiefox
    You’re absolutely right about those eyes and needing a focal point. Your observations will really help as I tear back into this one digitally.

  • SVS OG

    I haven't read what other people said I'm not disregarding what has been written... My view is there is nothing wrong with this image. I bet if Lee posted it as his own or Jake or Will everyone would say its amazing. Sometimes I think status can dictate plaudits. So what I am saying its a great fun picture and in a book it wouldn't look out of place. Instagram or social media does not correctly value a picture. Thats my view keep up the good work. 🙂

  • I really like this piece! I don't really think there is anything really wrong with it- it is fun and has a lot of bright, bold colors.

    Looking through your instagram, it seems like this picture is a fairly different style than what you normally post. Most of your other posts are super realistic pen or painted pieces, which is pretty different than this more cartoon-y piece. Perhaps your engagement is lower because your followers are not as interested in this type of art?

    At any rate, you should be making art you like, and if your tastes are changing from what your followers like, that is ok! Don't take the lower engagement as a sign that your art is worse... you just might need to take a while to get that other audience!

  • Moderator

    Second idea. Act like it's in a kids book, turn it into a two page spread, and extend the bg to the left? Then you can show the beach or something?

  • I like your illustration, I think it is very strong. I also feel your frustration around social media, I've had similar thoughts, it can be feel very good when your images are liked and shared and can boost confidence etc. all of this is good, but should be treated as an added bonus. I've been in the situation where I like a piece I make and post it and then the interaction it gets determines how I feel about the piece. I found this to be problematic because social media was dictating my confidence. And the reasons for it getting little interaction could vary so much and most of which have nothing to do with the actual artwork.

    Some points I have on your image are:

    The top of the umbrellas which are facing up towards the sun could be lighter as a result of being hit by the sun, and the inside of the umbrellas could be warmer and lighter, If you look at a photo of and umbrella in the sun, it is almost translucent when light goes through it, I think that is referred to as sub-surface scattering.

    I think possibly the underside/belly of the turtle could be a little lighter as it is going to get some reflected light from the ground in the shadow. Possibly overall the shadows are too dark, I would keep the darkest shadows for the areas where no light can get in.

    I think the textures describing the surfaces are lovely, the rabbit or hare's colour is possibly too similar to the shell.

    I do think the characters are great, nice expressions, nice concept.

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