Need Children's Book Illustration Critique~
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Thread: Need Children's Book Illustration Critique~

  1. #1
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    Cow Need Children's Book Illustration Critique~

    Alright, this is my first critique request, so I apologize if I'm setting my thread up incorrectly or something...

    Anyway, this is a practice illustration for a children's book I want to write/illustrate for that I'd love to get some input on.

    Since this piece isn't actually going into the book, I'd really appreciate critique of a "do this for next time" nature rather than stuff specifically for this piece. Thanks again to those of you who'll put aside some of your valuable time you could be spending doing way better things to critique this~

    For those who're interested, this was inked with a .8 Micron and I used Grumbacher watercolors to color it in.

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    Hi Here are some of my thoughts...

    - The frog looks like it's flipping off the penguin. Needless to say, something to avoid for next time lol
    - I'd recommend using a bigger canvas so that you can vary the line width more and get a nice tapered stroke where it's needed. Right now the lines look very homogeneous—bland.
    - You'll definitely want to suggest some cast shadows on the ground from the characters, otherwise they look like they're floating in the air.
    - I think you're putting too much explicit detail into the grass and tree leaves. It would look better to use the same large brush as the sky and then make slight indications here and there.

    cheers

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    Thanks for all your comments . I feel a little too addicted to this site replying just a couple minutes after you posted, but your comment about the frog flipping the penguin off totally had me laughing over here. I didn't even notice that until just now xD. That would have to be changed for a kid's book, huh?

    Anyway, I'll definitely be using what you said about line width. I'm not sure it's a canvas issue (the actual image is a lot bigger than what I posted here), but I think I really should be using different size pens to indicate things spatially and that kind of thing, so thanks for mentioning that. The other suggestions are also stuff I'll keep in mind for my next drawing.

    Thanks again~ =D

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    If you're comfortable using watercolors already, maybe you'll want to try using a brush for areas where you want to control/change line width. Or you can split the difference and use one of those Micron brush pens

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    I don't quite understand the elephants legs?
    All other animals follow their basic anatomy, but the elephant seems to bend the legs outwards somehow? :s

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    I think you'll want to add a lot more complexity to those animal characters. My wife taught students K-6 some years ago and she mentioned how visually stimulated the kids were. In other words the story can be rather simple but the drawings should be what holds their attention. Vary their sizes, dress them in clothes, give them moustaches, show the police aardvark peeking through the leaves of the tree instead of hanging off it in plain view. Challenge kids to report what they see.

    Maybe all these artists will be familiar to you but just in case they're not please take a look at some of these greats and how they approach visual storytelling for kids.

    Tomie dePaola
    Richard Scarry
    Mercer Mayer
    Eric Carle
    Rosemary Wells
    Sandra Boynton

    Just a thought -- making the elephant the same size as the penguin takes away one of the things that makes elephant unique -- his size. If you want everyone to be equal, that's fine, but you might consider choosing another animal that's in scale with the others.

    Another thought -- even if this project is for fun (not intending to get it published) approach the book from a teaching POV. Think about the age/reading level of the child who would own this book. Think about what kinds of skills and competencies a teacher would want to focus on. Even Dr. Seuss approached his children's books this way -- Cat In the Hat only used 50 different words. That way early readers learn those words through repetition and other words would build off that vocabulary. These are the books that get read over and over in classrooms and at home -- they teach and they entertain.

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    @blacksmithx: That's a good idea - I actually do have some Micron brush pens I'll have to try out now .

    @LordLouis: Yeah, the elephant's legs always looked a bit off to me, but I couldn't quite figure out why... I think what you said must be the problem, they do look like they're bent too far outward to look convincing.

    @Ilikesoup: Wow, thanks for such a thorough critique! I think what you said definitely hits on the problem I've been having with this book: I like having the designs of the characters a bit more simple (though of course you might be totally right, and I've just become too attached to their current look), but the simplicity of it seems to work better for infants and toddlers than who the story works for, which seems complex enough to be more for kindergarteners or first graders. So I'm not sure how to unite the story audience with the picture audience. Maybe I will end up having to change the character designs like you said, and just suck it up and redo my website illustrations... or do you think making the background more complex would make up for the simplicity of the characters? Adding hidden images, little interesting details, that kind of thing?

    Good point on the scale thing. I'm not sure I'll try for a realistic size difference or the elephant would probably take up half the page, but you're right, there definitely should be some more size-changing going on for the sake of the character design. And, wow, writing and art advice in the same critique? You've been amazingly helpful =D.

    Thanks again for your critique, I'll go check out those illustrators you listed right now and see if I can learn from their work .

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    The only thing I would point out is that the page is rather full. If it is for a book next time I would make sure to leave some empty space for text.

    Everything else is a matter of opinion I have seen simple illustrations that kids love and beautiful ones that they hate. Just be true to you.

    Simple is not Easy.
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    @JOELB: Thanks for pointing that out - initially I had planned to have the text below the picture, but I've been thinking about trying to integrate the text into the picture more, so that's something I'll have to keep in mind if I try to do that .

    Heh, yeah, I've been realizing that more and more with this book - only about three people have read the story so far, and even among the three of them, they couldn't agree whether they liked the new version or the old version of the story better xD. I eventually had to pick myself because they weren't picking for me~

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    Quote Originally Posted by fish&lantern View Post

    @Ilikesoup: Wow, thanks for such a thorough critique! I think what you said definitely hits on the problem I've been having with this book: I like having the designs of the characters a bit more simple (though of course you might be totally right, and I've just become too attached to their current look), but the simplicity of it seems to work better for infants and toddlers than who the story works for, which seems complex enough to be more for kindergarteners or first graders. So I'm not sure how to unite the story audience with the picture audience. Maybe I will end up having to change the character designs like you said, and just suck it up and redo my website illustrations... or do you think making the background more complex would make up for the simplicity of the characters? Adding hidden images, little interesting details, that kind of thing?

    Good point on the scale thing. I'm not sure I'll try for a realistic size difference or the elephant would probably take up half the page, but you're right, there definitely should be some more size-changing going on for the sake of the character design. And, wow, writing and art advice in the same critique? You've been amazingly helpful =D.

    Thanks again for your critique, I'll go check out those illustrators you listed right now and see if I can learn from their work .
    Do you have the story posted somewhere? I'd like to read it and don't want to steer you in the wrong direction with any advice I give.

    As far as complexity? I just took a step backward and rethought my post. I don't think it's a good idea to overcomplicate a picture just to offer visual stimulation. However. . .

    The page you've posted doesn't focus on any one animal. If that point in the story talked about Penguin and Frog discussing philosophy at the church picnic I might show the kangaroos tossing a ball over the crest of the hill, the squirrel stealing a snack before dinner, etc. but the focus would be on the Frog and the Penguin.

    As for the style of the characters I think a child at kindergarten age might be put off by a character that looks "too babyish". Ask a five year old if he's four and expect an eye roll. Give a child a book that is (or looks) like it's for too low a reading level and he probably won't touch it. I can't say myself how a child would react to that style so if you do have kids, nieces, nephews. . . ask their opinion. If no kids, I'd err on the side of older looking animals. Or consider that your audience will be younger than K-1st grade.

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    Wow, a lot of excellent advice on this thread!

    One thing I notice about the character design is that all these animals have the same basic shape. A circle for a head, an egg for the body, and rods or balls for arms and legs.

    Adding complexity does not mean designing elaborate costumes or embellishing your charaters to a great degree (although that could be part of it). Try adding a little variety and richness to their silhouettes.

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    @Ilikesoup: Not yet - I have finished a rough draft of the story and done some editing on it, but it's not completely done yet. Thanks for bringing up the focus thing. There wasn't really a focus on any particular character for this situation since it's not actually part of the narrative, but yeah, that'll be important for the work that is for the narrative. And, yeah, in some of the research I've done, I've seen articles mention that kids can get put off by visuals they don't connect with, like you said... I guess I'll have to try to rework the characters xD;.

    @TerryGillooly: Thanks, I'll try to keep that in mind when I go to redesign the characters =D.

    I think I'm going to practice redrawing some of the characters and see how that goes. I'm still new to the critique center, so I'm not sure, but should I put the reworked designs in a new thread, or in this one?

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    Quote Originally Posted by fish&lantern View Post
    I'm still new to the critique center, so I'm not sure, but should I put the reworked designs in a new thread, or in this one?
    I think you should keep it all in this thread. It's always good to see a project from original concepts to completion. Besides, I think the moderators like to keep the number of threads down to a minimum. If they see multiple threads for the same project they're likely to merge them together anyway.

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    Here are two samples for the redesigned characters - the first is for the character Mayor Penguin, the second is for the character Assistant Frog. The old versions are on the left, the new versions are on the right. I'll try to post more characters as I get them done, probably in one big post so I'm not posting too much. Please excuse the shaky lines and the crappy digital watercolors, I was so excited about how many changes I'd made I was in a rush to get them to you guys xD.

    What I'm wondering is:
    -Which do you prefer, the new style (on the right) or the old style (on the left)?
    -Do you think that either illustration works better than the other for the style of the story (excerpt of the story included below), or neither?
    -For the new versions of the characters on the right, do you think they'd still fit with the watercolor medium, or should I use a different medium?

    Thanks to anyone who feels like helping~ And for all the amazing help I've gotten already .

    Here's an excerpt from the story, which isn't completely finished yet, but this is the most finished form to date. It's from the introduction:

    "It had been the perfect Sunday for Mayor Penguin. No one had fallen asleep during his speech earlier that day and now he was going to see his good friend, Old Man Turtle. Yet when he knocked on the turtle’s door and received no answer, he wasn’t sure it was such a wonderful day after all."

    dun dun DUN. Nah, just kidding. But, yeah, that's how the story goes at the moment.

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    The new designs are adorable! They convey a lot more about the characters' personalities. Frog's watch is a good touch. I feel like Mayor Penguin's bow tie could be a touch more exuberant. Why is his monocle clear in the new version?

    About the use of watercolor, I would have to say that these uniform, thick lines do not go along with the delicacy of the medium. If you look at Ben Hatke's stuff, you can see how his strokes and colors complement each other.

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    @TerryGilooly: Thank you~ =D I'll try to fix the bow tie next time a draw him. And the monocle is clear due to forgetfulness xD;;. I'll have to remember to add the glass effect for next time. Yeah, that's what I was thinking about the watercolors... but I'm kind of tempted to maybe try doing the backgrounds and watercolor and then add the characters in digitally? I guess I'll have to experiment and see if that works out.

    Anyway, here are the other redesigns I did - and there are even more characters than this xD;. I tried to give them each a distinctive shape, but I started to run out of ideas after a while...

    And now you can see what original names they all have .

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    Better! And I like that chief squirrel is peanut shaped.

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    Ha ha, yes, how did you come up with such imaginative names?

    I don't think every character needs its own shape. Owl and Penguin have the same basic shape, for example, but they are highly distinguishable due to their details (and their coloring, when they are colored).

    Overall very nice! I think that Monkey looks more like a pig, and that Bear and Mrs. Kangaroo are a little too similar (especially if they both end up being colored brown). Maybe a bigger head for Bear, and elongate the kangaroos' muzzles more? Also kangaroos have very powerful hind legs which aren't coming off much in these sketches.

    I like Officer Tiger's macho look, and Squirrel has cute eyes.

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