What makes a good illustration?



  • @xin-li said in What makes a good illustration?:

    lighting, perspective, value, composition, etc. Working to improve drawing things in perspective, or making more dynamic composition is just building up your toolbox for storytelling. I think there is a set of parameters, but it is not like a set of hard rule, it is very contextual, depending on the story, and your intended readers.
    In terms of stylistic approach, you need to keep some kind of consistent rules of how you stylize characters and objects. This is to make the world you are presenting believable to the viewers.
    "Is good drawing as important as artistic interpretation?" I thin

    love your insights on this. This is a question I always wonder too. I have a friend who won NYT bets illustrated PB award, her opinion is that story's much more important than illustration and should always comes first. For illustrators, if illustration does not tell an interesting story or opinion, it is nothing but fine art that amuses the artist himself/herself. Of course she is really awesome at illustrating too.

    Would like to hear more perspectives on this topic.



  • @peteolczyk check out this year's list of NYT best illustrated PBs, you may have very very interesting discoveries on styles 😉



  • @idid is this the list https://www.nytco.com/press/the-new-york-times-and-the-new-york-public-library-announce-the-10-best-illustrated-childrens-books-of-2019/

    There’s another one here https://www.nytimes.com/column/childrens-books

    I agree about the emphasis on story , I’ve seen some great drawings that have no real content or story. While you can admire the skill, there’s nothing else to pull you in.



  • @peteolczyk I often try to have a set of questions for myself before I start making a new illustration. I did not have that before, this is something I learned during this year. Every time the questions are different, depending on what I am doing. For this year's inktober, I just want to get comfortable with wet media, it was more an exploration of the medium rather than focus on the story. For making a portfolio piece, I try to spend more time on figuring out the story and emotion before painting. But I have a hard time coming up with a set of guidelines - I tried, but it often changes as soon as I moved from one illustration to another. I think maybe this is because I am still fresh in this field, and I am still figuring out who I am as an artist.

    I love your observation and theory on stylized illustration vs more realistic ones. Here are some words by Pascal Campion which I really love:

    "Drawing is a lot like writing. If you put too many words in one sentence it will become hard to understand.
    A good writer will usually try to find the simplest way to phrase his thoughts, the simplest way to deliver his message. It doesn't mean that he doesn't know how to use big words. It just means that he uses them only when it is necessary.
    When you do an image, it usually works better to Only draw what is necessary to get the idea across.
    If you don't draw enough, the viewer doesn't get what you are saying, but if you draw too much, if you put in too many details and superfluous details and hope the reader will be able to pick out what you think you had in mind... it doesn't work. "

    This is very simple advice, but so hard to do.



  • @xin-li
    Thank you for sharing Pascal Campions words, his quote addresses that question so brilliantly. I feel like that’s part of the answer I’ve been searching for.
    It’s uncanny that you did quote him, as I’ve recently been studying his work, especially his children’s illustrations. (His kids stuff is in my dream portfolio)

    I must say your inktober has been a real delight to watch as it unfolded. You said it was more an exploration of wet media but I wonder if your previous habit of questions, story telling and figuring out the emotion, filtered through.


  • SVS OG

    I've often thought that in writing, music, and art, the first rule is that the artist shouldn't get in the way of the work. Whatever style or technique the artist/performer uses, it shouldn't interfere with the audience's response to the piece but should enhance it. That's still kind of subjective but what I mean is that, if for example, a character in an illustration is not drawn well that will only matter if it's clear that the artist doesn't know how to draw versus being clear that it's a stylistic choice. The first causes the audience to think about the artist whereas the second keeps the focus on the overall illustration and its story. Therefore, my definition of what makes a successful illustration is one in which the artist and the artist's technique "disappears" for the audience because they become so immersed in the experience that the artist is trying to create that they stop thinking about how that work came to be (at least initially). It's actually hard for artists (and musicians and writers) to react to a piece in our field purely as an audience member would react to it because we are always experiencing a piece or work thinking, "What were they doing with the perspective there? What brush did they use?" which immediately removes us from the experience.



  • @peteolczyk Yep, the first one 🙂



  • @demotlj
    Thank you so much for your insights. Sorry I took some time to reply I had to really think about you said. I really like your answer it stopped me in my tracks.
    When you say the artist shouldn’t get in the way of the art, do you mean in an egotistical way? Where the message of the art is more important than all the tricks the artist is ABLE to throw at it. For example only using what’s necessary to create the message or story?
    Also are you talking about about pieces of art where you feel the emotional pull, or the story, is so immersive, the relevance of the techniques are almost forgotten by the viewer. The message has got across and created that feeling or experience which is bigger than the parts (perspective, figures, texture) of the drawing.
    Are there any examples that come to mind that would show what you mean?
    (Are you a musician too? Does this give you an insight into the more immediate audience response to art? )


  • SVS OG

    @peteolczyk When I said that the artist shouldn't get in the way of the art, I was thinking primarily of ensuring that your skills are good enough to pull off what you are trying to do so that the viewer isn't thinking, "That doesn't look like an arm," instead of thinking, "That character is so full of joy," or something like that. The skills needed for each piece then will depend on what you are trying to accomplish with that piece. Some pieces can have, for example, anatomically poorly designed characters but it won't matter because the nature of the piece doesn't depend on accurately drawn characters to convey what you want to convey to the viewer. (Quentin Blake's characters were often anatomically sketchy but his whole style was lively and playful so a poorly drawn arm didn't draw the viewer's attention away from the overall story.) Other pieces will require accurately drawn scenes. Whatever style an artist chooses, or techniques or skills he or she employs, they have to accentuate the feeling, story, or experience the artist is trying to convey and not yank the viewer out of that end goal into thinking instead about the process itself.

    I am a musician (and actually better at that than art where I still consider myself quite a beginner) and to give a simple example, I play mandolin in our church bluegrass band and only know the basic chords but it's enough to give the band the "mandolin chop" it needs while everyone else does their thing. On the other hand, I also play classical mandolin in our church "Early Music" ensemble and in that kind of music, I have to be very precise about my playing because a few clunky notes will stand out and bring everyone listening right out of the flow. I also write in my professional life, and the same thing applies there -- know your theme, interest your audience in your theme, and make sure the audience gets to where you want them to end up. If you ramble around in your writing, or heap up tons of huge words, or pile on poetic passages that don't contribute to the arc of the piece, you are drawing the audience away from the theme of your piece to focus on you as the writer.

    After the "experience" is over (the book is read, the music has been heard, the painting is viewed) the audience might say, "Wow, that artist is exceptional," but a really skilled artist will keep the audience's focus on the work during the experience itself.

    I'm actually avoiding during some writing right now, which is why this was a rather long answer! I hope it makes sense though.



  • @demotlj thanks for your answer Laurie, hope your writing went well 🙂


  • SVS OG

    @demotlj That was a great explanation, Laurie. I love it that you also play Early Music. I know exactly what you're talking about.


  • SVS OG

    @LauraA Do you play an instrument?


  • SVS OG

    @demotlj I don't play piano or sing well at this point, but I appreciate a lot of different kinds of music. My daughter, though, was a serious violin student as a child and teen in NYC and then played in Early Music groups here in Italy (that's how she met her husband). Now she wants to start a family so she's teaching English to children, and they also do choral concerts and make films on the side (she does the photography and color editing). Our family doesn't seem to do anything the straightforward way!



  • @demotlj thanks again for your answer. Based on what you said, and as I’m looking for more insight I thought I’d try and teach myself some simple tunes on the keyboard. Nothing serious, I thought it might help somehow and give me a wider understanding. Thanks again.


  • SVS OG

    @peteolczyk It's great that you are going to try a little keyboard. I think that all of the creative arts feed one another and I'll be interested to hear what you learn from doing this.


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