I spent the last week doing a brick and mortar workshop at which we assembled a lot of traditional elements into a digital collage. Our assigned story was The Musicians of Bremen, and we had to choose an environment, so I choose the rural US in the early 20th century, probably because I had to choose quickly and it was so far away from where I really was.
I spent most of the week developing sketches of the characters, and I did a super quick storyboard, during which I was amused to realize that the donkey thought he was going to play the lute and told the dog to play the kettle drums, but it will never work because the donkey only has hooves! In my story, the donkey became a she, and the instruments changed as well, but during the process I got an image in my mind of when things are settled, they finally get to play, and the donkey is found out.
This JPEG loaded really green for some reason. It doesn't look that green on either my Cintiq nor on my computer monitor, so I don't know what to do about it! But the original has much more muted, almost taupe-ish greens throughout, including the donkey's skin and the drum.
I'm supposed to go see relatives the end of the week, but I really wanted to get this piece to a decent point first. I'm tired of not finishing things! I'll probably get to my relatives' house and realize I didn't pack any shoes or something...
Hi guys! Sorry I haven't been around. Like many of you, I got into the holiday season/present negotiation/preparing to travel crush. But I was also determined to finish the piece I was working on a while back of the little girl with the dog and sausages. Only a week or so ago it became a little girl with a dog and ribbon. Today is my deadline, because I will be traveling and can't take my tablet with me. I may come back and redo this piece at some point, but it's also important to be able to work to some kind of deadline, so here it is:
Before I put it on Facebook and Instagram, is there anything you'd change that I could accomplish within about an hour? You can also give more comprehensive critiques, but I just won't be able to carry them out until later. I know what's still bugging me, but I'll let you decide. For now, I'm just pretty relieved that I finished something! Thank you so much in advance and maybe I'll be able to check in more often!
Along the lines of Gary's 100 kids, I'm trying to draw a lot of characters at the moment to work on style. One problem is that I am too slow, so I made this quick illustration based on a little girl I sometimes see in my neighborhood. Her mom was calling after her, "Topo!" which means "mouse" in Italian.
I don't think I'd always work like this, but I rather like it as an alternative to a more rendered style. I'd like to know both what you think about the style as such and whether you have any specific critiques. I have my own ideas but I'd like to hear what other people have to say independently. Thanks!
Simona, you expressed my sentiments pretty much exactly, though from a more experienced POV. You are especially right that the fair takes a thick skin and a bit of assertiveness, and there are too many publishers to do all your research on the spot so you'd need a game plan. And I didn't realize that there were actually 10,000 attendees daily, but that makes sense in terms of the sheer numbers of people I saw.
I'm glad you had some success with showing your portfolio. It looks great! And I enjoyed meeting you as well. I knew a few other people there, but not many.
And finally, here is my recap from my blog: The Bologna Book Fair--an illustrator's glimpse I post this link with some hesitation, because my blog is going through a bit of a personality crisis right now, from American-expat-in-Italy blog to illustrator's blog, and back and forth with other stuff thrown in. So just don't expect to find a neat and typical artist's website. That's still to come!
Just finished listening to the first podcast! Like everyone else, I think it's a great new addition. The main reason: Everyone else mostly seems to just interview famous artists (mostly in vis dev or animation) and say, "You're so cool! Did you draw when you were young? How did you start working for Disney/Pixar/insert famous company here? And what is your next big project?" A few podcasts might do something similar for children's books, and sure, that's interesting, but the emphasis is more on stardom, not the thick of the struggle in which you wonder if you'll ever be able to support yourself. I really like that you guys are more specific and have practical information that applies to everyone.
Re this first episode, I particularly liked two things: One was Jake's story about how he upped his character creativity level from generic to more interesting by intensive study.
The other was the mention of the need for tough critique. I went through a fine arts program many years ago, and my professors were flippant, merciless and sarcastic. They also pointed out that I hadn't lived yet, so how could my work be interesting? Now, maybe a critique doesn't have to be as mean spirited as some of the ones I received (not to mention that some of them would now be outed for harassment), but we beginners NEED tough critiques so we won't waste our time. Sure, we've all had those critiques where someone pointed out what we already sensed, and of course style and opinion vary, but we want to get better, and that's why we're here! This is one reason I'm trying to take more live courses now. Critique helps, and sometimes I think it could be tougher.
Really looking forward to episode 2, which I hope to listen to sometime today. Keep up the good work!
In the spirit of what the guys said in episode 6 about doing enough studies before finishing a piece, I have been working out this pose. The line drawing should be finished enough to show that I've thought out the anatomy, while the shadow version is just to give a rough idea where the light is coming from. I think, for instance, that the cast shadow over her upper body should be much more obvious. But I want to see if the drawing needs correcting before working on it any more.
I thought a lot about this pose, and I know that the arms are crossed (anti-silhouette) and one foot is foreshortened, but it's really all about the psychology of the pose. She needs to be pigeon-toed, but any more is going to move into the realm of anatomical impossibility. The head and feet are somewhat enlarged, and the shoulders somewhat narrowed as part of the character design. And I need to make the near hand look more childlike. But does it all make sense, anatomically and perspective-wise? Is the pose appropriate for a sulk? Is there any point at which you think, "Why does she even want draw it that way? What's the point?" Or, "It's obvious that she should learn to do such and such."
And as an aside, this pose really reflects my feelings at the moment. This month has just been one interruption after another. But I'm fighting to keep making progress!
I listened to episode 2 yesterday. Like Miss Mushy, I'm 54. I started training myself in illustration about a year-and-a-half ago after going through some very major life changes. So when I hear people asking if 35-40 is too late, I think, "Oh, stop it!" Similarly to Jake's example, I have a friend who (professionally) published a truly interesting memoir last year, at 91.
My main age-related problems are 1) Doing the math and seeing how far I have to go to build a portfolio I can be proud of and enough work to support myself, and related to that, 2) giving myself permission to prioritize art and not get too distracted with the rest of life. In the end, you have to find a balance. If I'm going to make good art well into old age, I also have to eat well, sleep enough, exercise and develop good friendships. I think that last part is especially important for people who work alone!
Like the guys said, when you've already raised a family/had a career/gone through hardships your art won't be the same as a young person looking to be a phenomenon. The problem is more that you have so much experience, but little time, and therefore you have to choose your tasks wisely. I've been looking at art for years and the ability/taste gap is huge. How can I narrow it without wasting too much time? Especially when it seems that failure is an inherent part of the process?
There's a whole woman problem here somewhere as well, since I strongly suspect there are more woman who find themselves in this position than men (or at least they have different challenges when they do), but maybe that's another podcast.
But what I loved most about this podcast episode doesn't even have so much to do with starting late as it is good sense generally for self-starters: It's Jake's three-phase self-study battle plan. It helped me to get a realistic idea of where I am (trying hard to kick it into phase 2) and how far I still have to go (so impatient to have a good portfolio!)
And like I said in the thread about the first podcast, I like that this podcast fills a hole in the illustration podcast world, just as this site does generally. I'm looking forward to hearing future episodes!
Thanks so much for your critiques and your patience, guys! I think this poor child has had several different head tilts, and about a dozen arm and leg poses. No wonder she's so cross! But here's the latest version I'm posting for you to help me get a fresh eye. At least next time I have to draw someone pouting I will have thought it through!
Take 2! Actually 4, because there are two versions I never posted . Still need to loosen up the sausages and of course work out a lot of details including consistent shadows for the dog, and either that's a small girl or a big Jack Russell, but want to make sure I'm heading in the right direction first. What do you guys think? Is this an improvement over the previous version?
Thank you for your patience and help guys--I'm uploading yet another version! Something about those taut sausages was attracting too much attention for me, so I worked out a version with the dog jumping at, but not reaching, the sausages.
The sausages are tighter and jumbly-er, but in my research on the physics of flying link sausage (a limited field indeed) the string of sausages always curves a bit and acts as a whole.
I also decided that the POV is low enough to the ground that perhaps we really can see under her boot.
Any other critiques you'd like to make before I move on?
Boy, is it ever going to be satisfying to move on to color and texture on this thing! But I think that in the process, I am learning to draw much better from my imagination. And that's kind of the point, isn't it?
Thanks so much for your help!
I think that social media can be frustrating because it makes you realize just how MUCH art there is out there. It's easier to publish, so more people do, even people without a high skill level. It's also dizzying when you realize that there's so much to see that it's difficult to even choose what you like at times. We "consume" (to use what I think is a Will Terry word) art so quickly! And the Instagram algorithm can be frustrating, not only for artists, but also for viewers.
But, as a person who is just dipping my big toe into the water of illustration on social media, there are things I like about it. Mostly it comes down to the fact that I can put my work out there, but also that I can look at it next to the work of someone who is more advanced. That in itself is a sort of mini-critique, because it almost allows you to look at your work as though it were someone else's. And I know that a lot of my likes (not that I have so many) are coming from friends and family, not other artists.
But, for the last image I posted, I realized once I saw it online that I had spent a lot of time on the face at the expense of the whole figure. The details I had put in didn't even read that much from a distance. Well, that was something I needed to know! And yes, it was just a figure without much context, but I am aware of that and for now I am using characters as a building block to something else. It was useful to see my work within the context of other artists whom I admire.
I also think the SVS guys said in some video or another that even a beginner can find a legitimate niche by blogging or posting on social media as a journal of how they are learning and improving. I took that to heart. It takes humility to post work that isn't at a genius level or even a professional level yet, but I hope it helps someone in some way when offer whatever I have to offer, and hopefully I will also leave a trail of improvement.
So, to sum up, there's a whole lot of work out there, and it's a lot of work to wade through it and find the really genius stuff. And yes, there may be some people who care more about their image than their work. But social media also exposes us to a lot more work, which helps us to sharpen our own skills and gives us a more realistic idea of the possibilities than if we were just in our own rooms, listening to our relatives!
I also love all the artwork the participants have used in this thread, especially the Peter de Sève real estate piece. It's well drawn and I love the spark of color that is the view of the Hudson. And I have so been in that particular piranha tank, so the whole scene makes me laugh. It's perfect!
@tessaw That is an excellent point, Tessa! Because Wootha's portfolio shows mastery of all the things he says are secondary and 3D helps with all of them. Of course, learning 3D is a whole other ballgame and could take considerable investment itself.
I also agree that much of children's illustration in the past hasn't made use of half of these fundamentals. When I think of my favorite illustrators of the past, there was some anatomical knowledge, but the perspective wasn't as challenging as it is now and lighting was frequently rudimentary. I think a certain group of illustrators make use of them now, however, especially unusual perspective angles, and I often wonder how much of it has to do with the influence of concept art and computer design.
Thanks for opening up this discussion, Simona. It's interesting and I will keep following!
I really enjoyed this and it also gave me a much needed kick in the seat of the pants. Thanks guys!
Hi Sas! What direction you take with your shadows depends on what you're trying to do, because there are all kinds of styles. But if you're wanting to make it look more realistic, I'd suggest using yourself as a model and making observations about how shadows behave. (I have a photo library of ridiculous mirror shots which I hope no one ever sees!)
First of all, your character design and your idea are quite cute! So there's definitely something there in your imagination that's worth pulling out and learning to draw the way you want it to look.
For shading, start by thinking about where your light source is, or where you want it to be. Here it looks like you've got it coming from above, but it's a bit shallow (as in, the shadows make thin stripes suggesting shallow depth), which makes your drawing look like a relief. Lit from above, the eyelids would put more shadow on the top of the eyeball, but not necessarily all the way around. The shadows currently make the most sense around the mouth, which looks realistic and where you have some indication of a cast shadow. There should also be one under the neck, and on the top part of the ears, for example. If you look in the mirror with light coming from above you will see this right away.
But also, think about the mood you are trying to create. Light coming from above looks a bit like an interrogation (think of police shows). Observe the light around you and decide which kind of lighting suits the mood you want. Maybe for the mouse this scene is an interrogation! But your giant looks friendly, so maybe not.
Also, think about how the eyes fit into the sockets and how the skin goes over them. (There's a great part of a critique in one of the online classes somewhere that talks about this very thing with eyeballs, but unfortunately I have no idea where it is!)
And finally, for the nostril, I think your placement on the nose is fine, but the very dark value draws a lot of attention and the angle of the nostril looks wrong along the bottom. (The eye gravitates towards value contrasts.) Look at your own nose in the mirror with your face at the same angle. You will see some skin along the bottom of the nostril and perhaps part of the septum inside. And probably the bottom of the shadow won't line up with the outside contour of the rest of the nose.
Sorry, that's a lot of stuff, but once you know a few things about light and shadow you will improve really fast and it's fun! If you subscribe to the videos, have a look at Jake's Light and Shadow class. I'm sure there are others, but right now they've all kind of blurred together in my mind and I can't remember what's where anymore. Just filter for fundamentals and lots of good stuff should come up.
And if you want, post successive versions and ask again. I've seen people get really good critiques that way!
@jonas-zavacky The Caldecott is only for US books, but the NYTimes Best Illustrated Books Award, which is gaining traction, is for books from any country. Those are the main US children's book awards I know about, but there are also others for other countries.