WIP spreads for a story, critique requested :-)

  • Hi, Everyone.
    I have 2 very rough sketches for a book project. I need to do a test spread to get the right feeling for the story. Currently the 2 spreads are two different scenes picked out from the story. My goal is to show a magical scene, and the warm and closeness of father and son.

    Which spread speaks to the emotion I want to convey more?
    Which spread is more aethtically appealing to you?
    Anything I should be chaning composition wise?


  • @xin-li I think 1 is working better for me compositionally. I love how the father and son are looking at each other. Are they meant to be catching stars? If so you could emphasise this more by having stars in the boat like you did in 2, or having a star caught on the fishing rod.
    2 seems a bit cluttered especially around the boat. If you went for this composition I think I would play a bit more with the scale of things. Maybe have a smaller glimpse of the rooftops and hills to give the boat more breathing room.

  • @eriberart
    Thank you so much for your input. The story has a strong connection to stars. The first scene is a holiday scene. Father and son spend time together, feeling close and connection. The stars in the water is meant to be the reflections of the star. The second image is a scene that they are working together - to hang the starts on the sky. I will try to play around with the second comp based on your input 🙂

  • SVS OG

    @xin-li i love 2. it shows magic and the son and father's interaction show their closeness.

  • @xin-li I absolutely love the second image, it definitely stood out to me straight away - looks very magical and you can see the special relationship. Perhaps the size of the stars could be a little more varied but it's gorgeous.

  • SVS OG

    For me #1 shows the emotional closeness of the father and son better but #2 feels more magical.

  • @Nyrryl-Cadiz thank you for your input.
    @Rachel-Horne I am leaning towards painting no.2, I will work on the comp a bit more.
    @demotlj thank you so much.

  • @xin-li Hi!
    I'm not sure if I am late to this party but I like 1 for the emotional connection between father and son not just because they are looking at each other but because their faces are larger and we can see more facial detail. Also 1 because the closeness is reflected in the composition; they are out alone with water around and not the business of the homes below in 2. 2 has a different type of magic. I feel it is magical because of the fishing boat in the air tossing the stars into the sky (like throwing fish back in) and this has more focus than the relationship between the father and son (an indescribable magical bond which again helps seal your father, son emotional connection for me). So it depends on the story you want to tell. 2 also reminds me straight away of another work which may have swerved me away from choosing it, not sure if it had the addition of placing stars in the sky but compositional wise it is the same (what I remember). I hope that doesn't detract from my other points which still stand in my opinion. I find 1 to be more calm and 2 could be more at ease with less people on their roof tops, maybe one or two so that the scene can still be intimate and spectators can be a happy surprise.


  • @xin-li Such wonderful thumbnails!
    I also feel that #1 has an emotional connection as an instead read. Plus fishing is a very father-son activity as well. I also feel it can feel magical with the reflection of the stars in the calm lake water, with everything illuminated under a soft moonlight. If possible, you may want to add some objects in the boat which help tell a little more story.

    #2 reads magic first. But the emotional bond is not as strong for me since it's focused more on the task of hanging the stars. It's still nice to see father and son, but I feel that the image would read the same for me if it were replaced with any 2 characters. Plus (at least for me as an artist) I'd actually spend time looking at all the details of the houses as well so it'll distract me from the main characters.

    So I vote for #1:)

  • I love the magic in number 2. Also I like that connection because they’re facing each other. But the fact that they’ve turned to face each other in number one is also interesting. To me it feels more apart though but it seems others here interpret it differently. I love the boat in the second one too. There’s something a little awkward about the stars that are below the boat and above the buildings though. I can’t quite figure out why though. It might be that the chimney smoke is sort of running into them and I can’t quite figure out where they are in space. Loving everything else about this image though! Number 1 is nice but less magical I think, more of a typical scene. Just my thoughts 😊

  • @xin-li
    Xin Li you have the ability to make magical illustrations. That is such a wonderful gift.

    For me number 1. I think it has the feel you are looking for. It is a beautiful spread and the tone is lovely. Maybe the boy could be in a ¾ pose like the father so his head doesn’t look like he is turning so much.

    Number 2 is also beautiful. Your questions make me think. How come this illustration - as much as I like it - doesn’t give me the same feeling as the first one? Maybe it has too many pointy things and maybe round clouds between the boat and the top of the homes would help. Or maybe the homes could be farther away and lighter in color.


  • @xin-li My favorite is number 2. It definitely gives me the magical vibes and has warmth to it as well 🙂

  • @xin-li - I think the first one is a good way to go to emphasize the relationship, because the magical aspects are in an otherwise normal situation. I like the normal fishing boat in the first one. The second emphasizes the magical aspects, and then later you look at the father and son more.

    I am very sure you can make the first look magical, so I would go with the first because it conveys their warmth more.

  • Thank you so much @Heather-Boyd , @Neha-Rawat, @Coley ,@Mara-Price , @Jacy13 , @carolinebautista. A lot of constructive and insightful feedback for me to chew on. It seems like both options have some interesting aspects, both need some more work. I think I might clean up both sketch a little bit more, and I will take 2rd to more final version for now. But It looks like I might be able to use both images somehow.

    @Neha-Rawat, @Mara-Price I totally get your point on the focal point. I have to tone down the contrast more for the house. I also think maybe the silhouette of the character might be what makes it feel a bit generic, I will work more on that.

  • Spread 1 feels quieter and more intimate. Spread 2 feels grander and more magical. It reminds me very much of Peter Pan and the flying pirate ship. These are both amazing in their own way.

  • Thank you so much, everyone for given me such a insightful feedback. I tried to bring a bit more connection between father and son in the second image, so this is what I end up. It is a moment before father throw the star into the sky. He looks at the son and asking "are we ready?". I also rearranged the stars a bit to show that they are actually hanging the star instead of catching them (you see more stars behind the boat.)

    Let me know what do you think?
    Are there any compostion issues? do you think the buildings and the crowds on the roof-top distracting in this version?
    Star_Maker_02_V2 3.jpg

  • @xin-li Hi Xin Li. Wonderful!

    The homes are toned down and the peoples’ silhouettes looking up in awe make a wonderful connection in this special moment. And of course the father and son looking at each other is nice.

    About the stars, I thought the stars were falling off the boat leaving a wake of stars.

  • @xin-li Your revised version is definitely showing a much stronger connection between the father and son. I think the rooftops are also sketched out very well now.
    Though I'm not sure if it's still clear that they are hanging the stars instead of collecting them. The only thing working in favor of that is that there are more stars behind them i.e the path they've already sailed. Although the stars on the right look nice compositionally, the "hanging stars" story would be stronger if the sky was starless in front of the boat and all the rooftop people could be pointing up at the starry part of the sky.

    Also, the wind direction of the sail and the smoke from the chimneys show that it's blowing backward, but the boat is moving forward? Is that correct?

  • @Neha-Rawat good catch with the wind direction. Hehe. I have not thought about it, only thought about composition in abstract shapes :-). The text of the manuscript told clearly that they make stars. So I will leave it for now, and would think more of it if I get to work on teh entire book :-). Right now, I am doing a piece to show the direction.

  • @xin-li The sail is the same size as the father and I think it should be on the same axis as the two of them, coming up at the same angle. I know it is fantasy, but I think that's why enlarging the father and son has somehow made the boat less convincing.

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