Serious Critique Request

  • I really liked your September piece! It was totally worth being top 16, but I think there were just so many good pieces not every one could make it. Asking for a serious crit and staying with it shows how dedicated you are. I get a bit down now and then about it all too so I totally get it. Really. But, your piece was good. A different day or different judges and you could have been top 16.

  • @Chip-Valecek I really like honest critiques, the ones that only tell us how good we are just hurt the artist.

    In your case I would recommend going back to study the basics, anatomy, coloring and perspective. Also, remember to use references, loads of them

    I tend to recommend the same three books all the time, but never get tired of it; perspective for comic book artists by David Chelsea, Color and Light by James Gurney as well as Tonko House's course at, Figure Drawing by Michael Hampton, and finally Framed Ink by Marcus Mateo Mestre (I think there's a whole series by this author but I haven't read it)

    If you red all this in the past, give it another run and try doing the exercises and copying the examples


  • SVS Team SVS OG

    @TessaW thank you! It was not harsh at all.

    @Laurel-Aylesworth I might not be doing the contest this month. I am having a hard time trying to do the inktobers. If I get any free time I might try to come up with something.

    @Jose-A-Nieto I have heard of those books. I have not read them but I will look into getting them. Thanks!

  • @Jose-A-Nieto said in Serious Critique Request:

    @Chip-Valecek I really like honest critiques, the ones that only tell us how good we are just hurt the artist.

    In your case I would recommend going back to study the basics, anatomy, coloring and perspective. Also, remember to use references, loads of them

    I tend to recommend the same three books all the time, but never get tired of it; perspective for comic book artists by David Chelsea, Color and Light by James Gurney as well as Tonko House's course at, Figure Drawing by Michael Hampton, and finally Framed Ink by Marcus Mateo Mestre (I think there's a whole series by this author but I haven't read it)

    If you red all this in the past, give it another run and try doing the exercises and copying the examples


    I agree with this. You have really good concepts. That being said I don't think it's because your designs aren't traditional children book styles I just think going back to basics and strengthening that is going to really help. I find when I don't go back to doing studies once in a while my drawings are really off.

    Specifically your colors need to more harmonious and I say this as someone who really struggles with color. There was this video on YouTube from Marco Bucci that I saw a little while back that really clicked for me and I had my ahah moment. I'll have to search around for that video but I'll post it.

    I always see your posts and improvement and as long as you keep going youll be happy with your work.


    This is the video he has a series on colors. I hope this helps🙂

  • SVS Team SVS OG

    @DarleneAnico thanks, I will check out the video.

  • @Chip-Valecek Hey Chip, I am with you on this. I thought I had a really strong piece last month, too and everyone else seemed to like it. I was really disappointed yesterday, too.

    That being said, as I watched the critiques, I realized that my piece still had work to be done on it. I listened to many of the things as I was working on this month's prompt and I realized that I was not doing some of the things they said pros do, like silhouetting the characters and making my highest color(or value) contrast be right at the focal point. (I promise I am not making this about me and I am getting to my point.)

    I think your pig idea was great. It had a really good composition and told a great story. Reading everyone's comments, here, I am in agreement. There are areas you could have tweaked. But so could every artwork that appeared on that sweet 16.
    I see great improvement in your work and more importantly, you have insight into how to use photoshop and you are always encouraging others and lending your expertise. I for one really appreciate how you comment on my work, often when no one else does.
    So... to wrap it up. Keep on keeping on! Learn and grow and don't make these few guy's approval the end goal, but your success as an artist, whether that be as a niche artist or as a mainstrem children's illustrator. (I am preaching this to myself, too) Kick butt on this Halloween style prompt!

  • SVS OG

    Like so many others have said, I think this is one of the strongest pieces you have submitted primarily in terms of storytelling. In watching you develop it, however, my feeling was that you had it nailed down as a solid children's illustration right before the end but then you went that extra step adding the glowing bacon and the eerie lighting that is your distinctive style and in doing so it moved it out of children's illustration into a more "Mad Comic book" style. Your style feels more geared toward an adolescent market than a children's market to me, and though I think you do that style really well maybe that's why you're not getting attention in the contests.

    I agree with @Whitney-Simms that it would be nice if long time subscribers could have a ten minute personal critique from one of the teachers. What a perk that would be.

  • SVS OG

    @Chip-Valecek okay. Been thinking about it for a little bit I have a few other ideas. I would love to see your art hero’s. I think the project would be the dream portfolio. Who are your art hero’s that are working in the market currently? There is a Skillshare class I watched on licensing. I can’t remember what it is. Go into your hot topic and Spencer’s and look who manufactures that stuff. Scratch that. Just show us who your hero’s are that are similar in style. Maybe do some master studies of their work.

    Look outside the svs community to see if there is someone who could be a mentor. I think offering to pay for a portfolio look and a conversation is something that would help. Someone who knows that niche of the industry.

    Make a product. Go to a place where they would sell said product. Your horror paintings would make a nice book. Your inktobers. Christmas is cute. I would pass on the Christmas collection. Maybe a compilation of monthly contests? I don’t know. Find who buys your stuff and make stuff. Or something. You need more people looking at your work in your niche. To buy and to give feedback. You base too much of your value on svs monthly contests. Give yourself more table legs!

    Your people are there, find them!!!!!!!! You know i love surface design and stationary. My work certainly doesn’t fit into story telling. But These classes still are really well done. I don’t way stop learning from them. I feel last inktober really changed things for me and my direction. Your inktobers would be great for those hydro flask sk sk ssskkk and stickers.

    Good luck! But don’t leave us either!

  • I've been looking at horror-related children's books illustration. It seems like they're either really cute and rounded (think Will Terry and Bonaparte), or they're out-and-out creepy (like Dean McKean ).

    I agree that your niche is out there. My husband does creepy horror work and I don't even like to look at it (because it's so creepy). He puts stuff on shirts and merch and sells it via his website. There's an SVS class on merchandising you might check out. The woman who does it shows how she made one Christmas image and licenses it for a whole host of things. That might be something to look into.

  • SVS Team SVS OG

    @demotlj yeah I always had that glowing bacon in my mind from the start. My bad on that one.

    @Whitney-Simms you have been my biggest supporter around here, thank you. Don't worry, I am not going anywhere.

  • I understand what you are saying art is very difficult and can be discouraging I feel the same myself. I love your art Chip you have a strange dark sense of humor like myself so I enjoy your work. Not all children's books are cute and funny I could see you illustrating for Roald Dahl books or something similar. Have you thought about animation I find a lot of childrens cartoons similar in style and dark humour.

  • SVS OG

    Try not to get discouraged, Chip. I feel the same way and I bet a lot of other people do, so you're not alone.

    Maybe a totally different process for coming up with an image would help. Rather than focusing on the drawing techniques like perspective or anatomy, maybe start learning to develop a really solid plan. One that you've questioned yourself about, looked for ways to make the image stronger, looked for things that might become a problem with the image and figure out how fix them.

    When I hear Lee talk about his process, it seems to me there is a lot of thinking and questioning and working out a plan before he ever starts. (That would probably help a lot of us LOL!)

    Right now I'm going through his "Visual Storytelling Techniques" video, and this is what he's talking about. It's beginning to sink into my little pea brain just how useful having a plan is before trying to make a finished piece. Might be something for you to focus on at the moment, and maybe it will help with future images.

    Keep going, keep looking for ways to improve, and you WILL! It's a skill that we can learn, but we have to keep trying. 🙂

  • Hey Chip!

    Wanted to post some feedback as well as I can join the others in saying that you're a great part of this community and since I've joined, which was only a few months back, I can definitly tell you've improved.

    As others have pointed out your storytelling on this one is cool. There are plenty nice and humerous links in the back and foreground to make the viewer understand what's going on. I think the focal point is pretty clear, and I can tell you've done a lot of work on making the expressions emotive on this one, which is a great improvement on the feedback you received for your 'summer gone wrong' piece.

    I can see two main reasons why the contests haven't worked out for you yet.
    One is to keep your audience in mind: All three of them are after all children's book illustrators and having heard what has been said on some other pieces, they don't often favour anything too dark, gross or gorish. This is utterly subjective, and might just mean that with another audience you might have more success. Your images are definitly funny, it might just be a bad match.

    The second is that I join some others above in saying that your basics just still need some work. You are DEFINITLY on the right path with this, so keep going, practising, taking classes and accepting feedback, because it does just take a long time to improve on the craft and you're on a great upward curve.

    Some things that stand out to me with this piece as an example are the colour harmonies. The focal point works great, but the gold of the bacon has such a short radius. No light is reflected on the apple or the other food, and in fact the shadows are all going in the opposite direction from the bacon, making the atmosphere just a bit chopped and confused.
    some of the shadows tend a lot towards black and look a little flat. Adding a bit more atmospheric colour into those could also make the shapes better rounded and suited for the scene. I second the Marco Bucci recommendation! Really good video!

    The characters are a little stiff. You're getting there, but I'd recommend doing more studies of the real animals in different poses (same for humans) and practising a big bunch of gesture drawing to get some fluidity into them. They just don't quite look like they could be real moving and living characters.

    Composition could use a little work but this is a harder one to pin down and more intuitive. The wolf is cropped awkwardly at the top, and all the pigs are bunched together and overlap in places maybe a little awkwardly. I also think the items on the table are all so seperate that they just look glued on without providing much aid for the eye. Maybe they could have overlapped and helped point towards the focal point.

    That was long! Hope some of that was helpful. Everyone feels discouraged when it comes to their art, and it can feel so often that you are just working into a void and nothing is coming back out of it, but you ARE improving, and your evident love for art is going to bring you back to try again and again until you WILL succeed. If you are discouraged with SVS contests specifically, there is no shame in taking a break from them and working on some studies and sketches leisurely until you feel up to it again!

  • There's been lots of great feedback so apologies if I'm repeating what's already been said! I think I read through everything but may have missed some-

    Totally love the dark humor and the expressions! I agree with previous comments regarding the stiffness of the characters though- with how stylized your work is and how intense these expressions can be, you can push the body language a lot further with these!

    The biggest thing that stood out to me with this piece is lighting. There isn't a clear light source here and the similar level of contrast/saturation/values across the three pigs and the wolf make the piece have less of a focus on the glowing bacon. The highlight on the apple for example is away from the glowing bacon. The pig with the bacon has highlights under her eyes which makes sense with the lighting from below you're going for but the rest of the figure lacks the necessary highlights and shadows to make the lighting effect convincing

    For example from this photo from

    alt text

    There's highlights under the eyebrow area too. With the angle the bacon is at in relation to her face, I would expect a little around her forehead and the edge of her snout

    The intensity and saturation of the colors on the other two pigs draws too much attention and makes for a lack of focus on the subject of their shock in my opinion. I feel if the colors were less saturated or cooled down in contrast to her colors, it may read better especially since their wide round white eyes will provide good contrast already even if their pinks are toned down a bit.

    This is a wonderfully detailed and funny piece! Keep up the good work!!

  • @VivianTong Thanks for linking to this Photography post I found it really useful.

  • Hi. I understand how you feel. It is hard to not knowing what to work on. I often has the same feeling: I had a strong piece, but it was not picked.

    I want to offer a suggestion that may sound counter-productive.

    • try to make art that does not look like yours at all for a bit, and see what happens.

    I always immediately can tell which piece is yours everytime I scroll through the contest thread. Many people may say that is a good thing - an artist with his own distinct voice. But I find it problematic especially when the distinct style does not get enough traction (from contests or portential desired clients).

    I have gone through this process myself several times during the past year. I tried this not only with techniques, tools, but also with the kind of stories I tell with my images. The reason I do this is that I try to find a sweet spot: the kind of art that I enjoy the process, and my audience enjoys the results.

    I think we all need to improve the fundimentals all the time. But we artists are also easily get caught up by lighting, brushes, textures and forgot about the story. In the end of the day, we want to make stories that resonate with the audience. I really think you have strong enough fundation to carry out any story succesfully. The bigger issue is the story itself. Like @Nathalie-Kranich said, it is a strong story, but does not really match with the childrens book world.

    I am interested in hearing how other people go about this process of "deciding your style". (For me, it is not so much about finding a style, more like deciding, if that make sense.)

  • Before I knew about the SVS forum, I used to watch everything Will Terry had on YouTube, and I still remember a third Thursday critique I watched, way back when, of one of your pieces. The fact that I can remember your image so clearly, amidst the hundreds of other critiques I’ve watched, is hopefully encouraging to you. You have the artist fire lit, and it seems to burn strongly! It has endured for years! Any artist with passion and extreme determination can make it, in my opinion. Perhaps it’s about finding the other people who will remember you. Thanks for all you do for this artist community. You’re so helpful to so many!

  • Hi Chip 🙂

    I didn't want to read and run and thought I'd offer my two pennies worth on your illustration. I haven't seen the other entries yet.

    The issues for me are:

    • The glowing bacon makes no sense and has no context - they appear to be in a standard cafe/canteen rather than somewhere magical.
      -The characters need work - if you're going to have pigs sat in a canteen using forks, they're going to need fingers and thumbs to make that look feasible.
      -Why is the canteen dark at lunchtime? I can't make sense of the situation I'm looking at and there are no clues to help me. It suggests a power cut, but no one is acting like there's been a power cut (carry candles/torches/looking stressed/trying to scare each other etc).

    I think the textures you use are great and your use of line and expressions made me think of Axel Scheffler. I thought about how Scheffler draws pigs and the shapes he uses, and why they're successful. I think that comes down to the cuteness factor - his look like kids. Your pigs look older and I think it's down to too many depressions/bulges in the overall shapes. Their arms look muscular rather than chubby and cute.

    I hope this is helpful - it's coming from a good place. I can see how helpful you are to so many on here and thought I'd offer some honest critique in return.

  • SVS Team SVS OG

    Thank you everyone for the feedback. I can see that my vision was really only clear to me and not the viewer. I truly appreciate all that everyone has said. It gives me a lot to think about while moving forward.

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