Working on Style -- Critiques?

  • Re: Trying out a new character style--critiques?

    I would like this style to look some where between realistic and a cartoon, which I know is a problem to begin with, but I like to draw and I like the look of a drawing and I'm pretty happy with my drawing ability. So I like the softness of this and I'm pretty happy. But sometimes when I create something and you've been looking at it for so long, I either love it or hate it and I should probably not be feeling either way, so I thought I would run it by you all to see what you think. I don't think this style is like most of yours, but I really value your critiques, so here it is.


  • @deborah-Haagenson He'll be much smaller in my illustration of a boy and man in a canoe on a river in a children's book.

  • @deborah-Haagenson I think I'll finish my canoe and man and add this here so that you have more to go on.

  • I also get that feeling where I've been looking at something for too long and then I don't know how to look at it anymore and need a second opinion. I feel like style is so personal that it's hard to give outside critique on! So instead of giving critique right away, I would ask -- what sort of story is the style for? What other artists are you inspired by when you draw? What's your dream illustration job?

  • Me advice on style is to forget about it. The way you work on style is mainly by drawing a lot for a long time. I believe @Jake-Parker Had mentioned in a podcast episode that it took him many years to really fall into a style, I believe he said around a decade. Take that with a grain of salt, I don’t recall exactly. I would say don’t worry about style too much and instead focus on comfort. Draw and paint in a way that is comfortable to you, I think this will help you develop a style over time. There are ways to more directly practice style though. What I do is find a bunch of artists I like and do a bunch of copies, have a whole sketchbook just for copies. You will pick up on stylistic pieces from them and slowly morph them into your own style.

  • @Griffin thank you for your response. I am doing everything you said. I am starting with what I do and like to do, but at the same time I'm trying to incorporate digital techniques to figure out what works. My traditional drawing is not whimsical, however I am kind of a whimsical person, so I may naturally incorporate that as I get better. I'm really trying to figure out what works for me and asking for advice if something really doesn't work. Do my facial features need work, my texture, my lighting, my hair. I plan to upload a more complete image in a few days. I lean more toward Will's style - Softer, brighter, texture. I don't have the cute thing down yet though. I completed Will's demo a while back and that comes more naturaly to me than Jake's or Lee's. I do think both are very helpful while trying to figure out what works for me-Jake's inking and Lee's whimsey.

  • @lora_chaudavis Thank you! I'm working through these questions you've asked. I will be loading a more complete image this week. The Illustration will be a boy and a father in a canoe in a river. It will be looked at by 3-5 yr olds, so I like the softness of this for that reason. If you compare Will, Jake and Lee's work (which we all know and compare), I lean more toward Will's style - softer, brighter, texture. Not as much line work like Jake's and whimsey like Lee's. It's important for me to learn their techniques too though, so I can incorporate them as needed, depending on the illustration.

  • SVS OG

    @deborah-Haagenson Hi! I actually like the look of this piece. I can't wait to see more of it.

  • @Nyrryl-Cadiz Thank you! I just finished the father. I was able to stay consitent. I was going to wait to add it, but I'll add it now.

  • SVS OG

    @deborah-Haagenson I love the woman but I think there's a few issues with the man's face. Like how the right side of the jaw is wonky and maybe his eyes are low in relation to his face? Is this a portrait of someone you know?

  • I think you are striking a nice balance between realism and cartoon and I like the linework with the soft coloring. I think the style is really worth pursuing!

    A couple of things to think about-

    1. For me, I can't quite discern the focus of the eyes in both of your characters and it's looking a little "uncanny valley" to me. Any little tweak and placement of the pupils can really affect the gaze of a character. I'd consider playing with the pupil placement, the placement of the highlight, to see if you can really nail down their focus.

    2. I think you balanced the softness of the hair in the boy character nicely with the linework over top. In the older character his hair has that "digital airbrush" quality we are warned so often against. It's sort of in the middle between not being soft enough or not being hard enough. I'd consider softening the transition of the highlight on the older character's hair even more and maybe placing a few line work details over top.

  • @Nyrryl-Cadiz Thanks! I see the wonky chin. He isn't someone I know. My reference has a very high forehead. I'm going to take closer look at this.

  • SVS OG

    @deborah-Haagenson ah... I see...

  • @TessaW Thank you! This is a photo of my screen and you can't see the highlights in the eyes. As for the hair. Thank you for the analysis of this. I'm going to work on the man'shair and see how I need to tweek it to get a softer look.

  • @deborah-Haagenson Oh, I should have been more specific with my comment about the highlights. I noticed that the highlights were looking as if they were placed underneath the pupils, which can of course happen, but I typically see them placed more toward the top of the eye in standard lighting. I was wondering if you placed them differently, like more above or something, it would help with the focus issue I mentioned? Not sure if that would help, but that's why I mentioned them.

  • @TessaW Ok, thanks!

  • Hi @deborah-Haagenson ☺ I’m working on the same thing at the moment! If you’re subscribed to SVS I recommend Jake Parker’s class ‘Stylizing Human Characters’, it will help you decide on the blend of realism, symbolism and abstraction you want to combine to depict your characters.
    Other than that I suggest a lot of research - who are the artists who already work in the style you are aiming for? Study their work.
    My own icon for a cartoon human style (apart from Disney 😉 ) is W.E. Joyce’s Morris Lessmore character, a realistically rendered human on the cartoon side. I learn a lot from his realistic moody lighting and how his chosen features express emotion.

    Looking at the images you have posted I think you’re on the right track, the characters look soft and sweet but I think you could push further into abstraction of the human form by really simplifying the face shapes into more basic, symmetrical shapes (remembering how different shapes depict different personalities) and then work on your lighting to give them even more 3D form. The problem we can encounter with realistic cartoons is that if they’re ‘too human’ they can look like unfinished portraits.
    Going forward working with the faces you have I recommend drawing them a lot (without thinking too much about the reference), experimenting with the shapes, sizes and positioning of their features to play with the elasticity of the cartoon side of things to bring more life, emotion and relatability. Then do the same experimentation to give them appropriate body shapes for their personalities/stories. Have fun with it! 👏

  • @Lovsey Great suggestions! I think I will take that class of Jake's. I have a long way to go and a lot to learn, but I feel like I have at least reached a jumping off point. I have been creating traditional art for years and I've been on this site since November, so now I really need to focus on furthering my character development skills. Thank you! Your post has helped me to realize where I need to go with this next.

  • @deborah-Haagenson I have a lot to learn too, but it feels good to have a plan and steps to work through doesn’t it!? You’ve jumped the first few hurdles already.

    The Introduction to Gesture course has been really valuable for my character design as well and might come in useful for posing yours in the canoe scene you have in mind (I actually just drew a mother and son in a boat last night from one of the reference prompts in the ‘two figure interaction’ section, which I like so much I want to develop further and add a background to 😎 )

    I’m looking forward to seeing how your characters develop throughout your process 👀

  • SVS OG

    @deborah-Haagenson I very much understand your dilemma about realism vs. stylization. And I think it's fine to remain realistic, as long as you avoid the uncanny valley, as @TessaW points out. (That's kind of a hard concept to describe! Anyone know where Will discusses it?).

    I also think you've gotten some good critiques here. I think that one thing that might help particularly at this point is to find a course that explores 3D form. For example, I was watching the gesture class yesterday (lesson 2) and Brooklyn Walker talks about building a form from simple 3D shapes, specifically talking, for example, about how to give a foreshortened leg roundness. I also think it might be helpful to do a few pieces (just as an experiment) in which you use a defined brush that forces you to make decisions about form. Someone once helpfully critiqued my work using a Sargent quote about the facial features just being "spots on an apple." The point was that form comes first.

    About style: I think that what happens is that once we draw a whole lot, even if we are realistic, we naturally start to stylize. Maybe someone who knows they want to go cartoon-y stylizes faster, but everyone does to some degree, if for no other reason, because we can't always work from personal reference photos! In the latest podcast, the guys talked about just how very long artists have to work to develop consistency. It can be discouraging to think about spending years developing a style (it is for me because I'm not young), but at the same time, sometimes it helps just to look at our own work six months ago and see the progress!

    I love realism, but I think what has gotten me off dead center is seeing the range of expression possible in professional character design. I think of Wouter Tulp, for example (not so much his caricatures as his character designs). Once you see all the possibilities that can come from exaggeration and dynamic poses, you tend to want to try it out. But it doesn't mean you have to leave realism altogether, and you can practice different styles side by side until you're comfortable. Publishers want a consistent style in the end, but I think a few years of just drawing and drawing and experimenting with styles are or order for most of us.

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