Transition from Fine Art to Illustration

  • Hey everyone!

    I’m new to SVS and am really impressed by the podcasts, classes, and community! I’ve learned so much from you all already and am in awe of your work.

    I have always been fascinated by the idea of creating characters and telling stories through illustration, however I've only ever done more realistic portraits and landscapes. My dream is to one day illustrate children’s books, but I have a lot to learn. Within the past couple of months, I’ve really been trying to fine tune some illustration skills, but am finding it challenging to make the transition from fine art to illustration. When I have a reference photo in front of me, I tend to paint “from life”, so I have to force myself to work from imagination on my illustrations as to not copy what I'm seeing.

    Has anyone had a similar experience in their artistic journey?

    I’ve added some photos of my traditional fine art vs the illustration style I’m attempting to develop. Are there qualities I could use for both? I really appreciate your input. art.jpg

  • @Kaela-McCoy Hi, Kaela, I love your work. I think there definitely room for fine arts influenced illustrators. @Lee-White does fine art and you can see how his textures are in both works. I am working from a similar background and am personally having trouble transitioning to digital.

  • Hi! I had more of a fine art background, but really wanted to do illustration and couldn't figure out how to make that work. Taking perspective and learning how to construct everything from simple 3d shapes was a game changer for me, but it took a while. Judging from what you've posted, it looks like you'll make the transition just fine! Just keep exploring, brushing up on skills, and maybe do @Lee-White's dream portfolio challenge.

  • @Kaela-McCoy Hey Kaela, I have a Fine Art background and work as a mixed-media artist. I'm not particularly interested in becoming an illustrator - I'm starting to feel like I'm done with making stuff for other people (undecided, as I still have to earn).

    I just love drawing, the SVS camaraderie and learning from the classes. You defo have the drawing and perspective, light and shadow skills. So that always helps. I went for a portfolio review recently with an illustrator agent and she said to get my art work and present it in a commercial way - if you want this to be a book cover then make it into one. So I'm making one panoramic work I've made into a Leporello because its accordion-pleat style suits that same structure. Also, I illustrated my last art show so I'll make that into an editorial article displayed like it would be in a magazine. This is then in Art Director language!

    When it comes to switching off the detail button, time is always an important factor for me. Sometimes when I want to tell a story. I find I'm drawing characters from multiple angles or in different positions so the less rendering I do the better - So I start with a silhouette (stuff learnt from light/shadow class and fundamentals of drawing). I like to squint and draw if you can see the character form in a squint then that'll often be enough detail. So try getting a reference photo and blurring it so you see less detail and more shapes, movement and gestures.

  • Yes, I'm on the same journey and it's very hard to break away from just painting what you see!

    It looks like you're off to a great start.

  • Me too 😁 I painted realistically in oil, a lot of pet portraits, it's hard to transition over. A lot harder than I thought! I'm getting there but I have spent a year working on it nearly every day for hours. This is my most recent illustration. If you peek at my Instagram you will see some very representational work. It's a challenge but I find illustration uses my imagination more and I really find myself smiling when drawing ( when it's going well LoL)

  • hello! I am the same.

    18 months ago I started to draw a children book, having no real background in drawing. I was quickly stocked and could not solve any of the problems. Because I relied so much on the photos, the hero of my book looked stiff and the composition a patchwork of items. I thought, at that time, that I was lacking in fundamental skills and I started to draw a lot (from real life models, from photos, I did urban sketching, botanic illustration, etc).

    I gave another attempt this week and a friend of mine, looking at me trying to design a character (from photos again) stopped me and told me to sketch very quickly my character (since now I have a good grab at how crocodiles should look like, having drawn hundred of them from photographs) and use the first sketch as a base. The next sketch would be the same sketch, but moving a leg, then the tail, and so on. After that, still from memory and still very quickly, he made me change the angle. Honestly I was amazed : not only my character has its own design without even trying (meaning I was able to draw a "children friendly" character), but also the drawing is very energetic and very true despite imperfections here and there.

    The lesson is that you learn by experimenting. I was so unsure of my skills that I was afraid to do anything else than copying (also, I really really like being in control). My advice is : be bold and be uncomfortable. Get out of your comfort zone. Try things that you find silly. To tell the truth, I was quite annoyed by my friend at the start until I recognized the benefit of it. It has definitely unlock something and I am now able to take up the project again with more confidence.

    Good luck!

  • @sigross This is really valuable advice - thank you! 🙂

  • @Coley I'm the exact same way! Sometimes, painting portraits can feel monotonous compared to creating a scene from imagination! I catch myself smiling too. It feels good to know I'm not alone in that. I always thought most illustrators were just inherently good at creating characters. Your work is so beautiful!

  • @Julia This is so encouraging and also great advice! Thank you so much for your response. I tend to stay in my comfort zone, but when I started playing with the idea of illustrating children's books, I was excited, but also scared. I have developed this one skill set with painting, and didn't want to feel like a "bad artist" because I'm struggling with illustration. But the challenge of it is also thrilling and I'm eager to learn! Thanks again.

  • Your work is beautiful! I would love to buy a children's book with your illustrations!

  • @Kaela-McCoy I feel exactly the same 😀

  • @Coley I looked at your Instagram, and all I can say is WOW!!!! I'm completely inspired!!!!

  • @Sarah-Foelske Wow, thank you!!! That means so much to me!

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