Children's book illustration

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  1. #1
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    Children's book illustration

    This is just a sample I've been working on to show book publishers. I'd really like people to give me some honest feedback that I can improve on for my next piece. It's lacking gradual depth and the characters are all very two dimensional.. but I think there's also some issue with the colours and values but I can't put my finger on it. It's just lacking some life or something! Anything anyone can suggest would be a huge help!!

    Children's book illustration

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  3. #2
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    Am I right in guessing those are Tasmanian wolves?

    Personally, the two elements that appear "wrong" to me
    are the rear wolfs head. It's appearing quite flat in comparison
    to the lead wolf. Perhaps its also being affected by being
    conveniently parallel to the rear wolfs tail, almost as if
    it is resting along the curve of the tail itself. Also his
    muzzle does not appear as accurately rendered as the
    lead. His front leg also does not appear to be anywhere
    near as convincing as the lead wolf. Right now he is
    more of a distraction then a companion to me, I think
    he needs to be redone.

    The girl bothers me. I think its in her head mainly.
    Her face appears a bit too old for that body, in my
    opinion at least. Also while you are indicating a
    bouncy sense of movement from the gallop, none
    of that is being shown in her hair, which is resting
    in one solid piece.

    I do think you have done a good job in creating
    a happy adventurous Utopian atmosphere. But
    now you will need to tighten up the elements
    within to make it all work together.

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  5. #3
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    For me, the reason it lacks depth is because there's aren't enough repeated elements going into the background, like even some trees or bushes getting smaller and smaller as they go back in space would help sell the depth much more.. I'm no professional but I hope this helped you in some way.

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  7. #4
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    What is the kid pointing at? The image would suggest he's pointing at the animals by the stream but all the characters are rigidly staring right in front of them and going straight to left, making it hard to figure out exactly what will happen or is happening. Overall straight profiles tend to look bit unnatural, especially in scenes like these where the difference in height (the animal head height compared to the height where the kids heads are) doesn't seem to affect the head angle at all.

    Also the clouds in the back look bit too evenly applied. They're so light that it's not much of an issue to my eye, but having those generic cumulus clouds like that makes the sky remind me more of a tapestry in a kid's bedroom, than an actual sky. Same goes to the very even and sharp "zig-zag" shape of the river.

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  9. #5
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    Star Eater: Thanks for your feedback. I'm so relieved to have some fresh perspectives on this! You've made some really good points that I didn't even consider. I admit I rushed the second wolf because I felt I had spent too long on the painting and since he wasn't the main subject I could get away with putting less detail in him, but I guess that's not the case. I see some fantastic paintings with hardly any blending/detail in the less important areas... I'd like to be able to achieve that "detail economy" too one day. His head was flat because I was attempting to make it look as if his head was raised so we would see more of the bottom and less of the top (but I seem to have forgotten this with the girls). The girl on the other hand.. you're right she looks too old or something.. The original sketch actually looked a lot better, she was cuter and had her head turned towards the background. That's something I need to improve too... not losing the movement of the original sketch.

    si3g: Yeah I agree, I'm definitely going to fix that in my next piece!! Thanks for your input!

    TinyBird: That's great feedback thanks! I think I got so caught up in the details I forgot to consider how things might act in this situation (such as the hair blowing and the characters facing different directions.) Wow I didn't realise how much was actually wrong with this, thank you so much. I'm going to make a note to think more about the physics/ reality of the objects I paint!
    PS: I'm really sorry but I accidentally clicked your comment and rated it with a two. I would have given it a 10.

    Last edited by Elissimo; April 11th, 2012 at 07:42 AM. Reason: le tired!
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    I like this picture a lot and don't mind the lack of depth at all.
    It has a clear children's book illustration vibe, so the zig-zag river and the clouds fit perfectly in my oppinion. The hidden parrot in the leaves is a cool idea, children love pictures where they can discover things. Maybe also add another small detail in the leaves, the girls seems to be looking at something slightly above the parrot.

    I think the connection between foreground and background is lacking a bit- the colors in the foreground are rich and nice, everything is detailed, saturated and there's action and cool wolves.
    Compared to that the background with the river is boring. There's no interesting landscape and just some small grey animals, barley dull clumps in a field of grass - I think I can spot a kangaroo (the silhouette is barley readable) and some.. uh.. bears or rhinos? What is the boy pointing at, it doesn't look that interesting.
    If you could add something outstanding to that valley, big animals, a running herd of creatures, cool light, a mountain.. something.. that would explain the reaction of the boy and the viewer would really want to look at the stuff in the background.

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    Hi Matey

    I personally think that this works very well as a childrens illustration and its the lack of some of the points that tiny made oddly enough that help it to work for kids.
    Kids have a very simplistic way of looking at things and are not good with foreshortening etc or the more complicated aspects used in art illustrations. In fact personal experience with writing with kids and for kids leads me to believe that the more direct the image the easier it is for them to read. This is dependant upon age of course.
    I tested this one with my kids 10yrs and 7yrs old and they both liked it and thought that the kid was pointing at the animals by the river.
    The lack of detail on wolf no 2 helps as it does not pull the attention away from the ones the kids are riding on.
    The colours are bright and colourful and the action works, so yep Thumbs up from my boys.
    If this was a realistic image for adults then yes it needs loads of wotk but its not its for kids and it works so thumbs up from me too.

    As an asside I wandered through your sketchbook and website and if you are aiming at childrens illustration then lose the monsters from the portfolio and get more of this style of work in there.
    Have a look at this website it has all sorts of tips and information for illustrators and authors:-
    http://www.littletigerpress.com/lyndall/index.htm

    look in the submissions section and the a-z of illustrators and you will see what youare up against.

    I hope this long ramble helps you out and also hope that the guys are still speaking to me for arguing the points they made!!

    all the best to you mate

    A great kind hearted lumbering bullock



    http://conceptart.org/forums/showthread.php?t=209918 = my Sketchbook
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    I like this, the only things that bug me are that the small girl looks like a midget and that the wolf to the right has a very stiff smile. The wolf on the left looks more naturally happy. I agree with Lightship, this is a good illustration for a kid's book! (If I like something, that is usually the case

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  16. #9
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    Kiera: Thanks for the input. It's good to know that someone likes the ziz-zaggy river and cloud patterns. I think about where I would like my style to go though.. and I'd like to make stylistic decisions like this on purpose and for a reason, which admittedly I didn't. I think I could probably get away with it in children's books but ideally I would like my style to be a bit more realistic (or deliberately non-realistic).
    The de-saturated and uninteresting background was on purpose to give the foreground maximum attention.. but perhaps this is what is making it looks so 2 dimensional now? The other animals were supposed to be megafauna (giant, prehistoric wombats and kangaroos) which would be shown more accurately in the rest of the book but you're right, they're still a bit blobby, unrecognisable and uninteresting... especially since this is a standalone image. I totally love the idea of stampeding animals and I was ready to move onto a new piece but I think I might give this one another crack with the new feedback I have Thanks!

    Lightship69 That's awesome. It's great to have feedback from the target audience I can see how children might appreciate simpler images but my most favourite illustrated books as a kid were those by James Gurney and Greame Base both which were more detailed and realistic than most kids books. They are a big inspiration for me.. so I'm not so eager to abandon that kind of feel. I could have been older though, maybe between 10 and 12.
    Thanks for the feedback on my site as well. I'm still trying to decide where to focus at the moment so I'm starting with a broad portfolio. This is something I've struggled with for ages... the cute stuff is marketable but the concept art/game stuff is something I aspire to (but is a saturated market, especially here in Australia). I feel like the combination of the themes from children's books with the realistic but painterly style of concept art would be happy medium for me.. so that's kind of where this is going. I can give some examples of where I'd like to be.. perhaps that will help people give me feedback. For example, I'd love my work to be more like Sem Nielson's recent image, or any of his storybook stuff and I've always had a love for Anry's stuff if I could do a children's book of that kind of artwork but maybe faster the way concept artists do, I'd be pretty damn happy!

    Thanks also for the link to littletigerpress and the samples there!

    _Devilry_ Thanks Devilry. Lol hey some kids actually look like midgets! Yeah point taken, I think it's the same reason as before: her face looks old. The wolf at the back was supposed to be panting with a hint of a smile. Actually I am surprised no one has mentioned that he looks like he wants to eat the midget... I think a full smile would have made this worse so I tried to make it more sublte

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    This is a double page, yes ?
    Setting the folding point in the centre and keeping it in mind is essential.
    Do not put anything important close to that area.

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    Nice piece...the color and rendering are very nice, although I don't know if all the colors need to be so sugary. Those leaves might feel greener if the sky and the dirt were less saturated.

    The figures feel stiff right now because they're all facing rigidly forward. If you turned their heads it would help a lot. Also, the little girl's positioning doesn't feel right to me...I'd move her forward a bit so it feels more like she's clinging to the boy. JPEG below.

    Those specific tweaks are secondary to my larger point, which is that you'd do well to engage a bit more with the precise physicality of a figure's pose so it tells the story in a specific way. (In the long term, taking dance and yoga classes can be tremendously helpful in this regard. Really.)

    Children's book illustration

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    shockowaffel: Yep, I didn't think about that I never planned for this to go across a spread... but since you mentioned this I now realise it doesn't work as a single page. I was going to mock it up as a cover, but that's definately something I will remember to consider now. Thanks!

    Giacomo: Thanks Giacomo, that's an interesting point about taking yoga classes XD Actually I'm not doing any life drawing at the moment either and I think that shows too. I'm not confident with turning forms. What's also interesting is that a lot of people think the front kid is a boy... it's supposed to be a (tom-boyish) girl. Actually I don't mind if it's a bit ambiguous because that's kind of how I imagined the character. More bold and adventurous than other girls her age.
    I agree that they would look more natural closer together thanks for the revised drawing!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Elissimo View Post
    I'm not confident with turning forms....
    Eeeeyeah. If you're trying to get work doing kids' books, I'd strongly recommend you get better at conveying character and narrative through gesture (i.e., being able to draw more subtle and complex poses than what you've got here.) Right now everything on your website is extremely static-looking. If I were an art director, I'd want to see more examples of your ability to get the story across.

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  24. #14
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    Hi matey

    The guys have come through for you in grand style as they invariably do, but they have reminded me of a few things as well.
    Shockowaffel - brings up a very good point, I had assumed it was a stand alone image but I can see the point to be made. If it is a two page spread then make sure you only put pointless or unimportant details in the fold. It looks really stupid if you lose a head or something equally important in amongst the staples in the middle. If it is for a picture book then also you need to plan it before hand to leave a large space for text! it is telling a story after all. With doing a picture book plan it and make a dummy book to try it out and work it, it is so necessary I cant tell you enough!
    Giacomo - also has a good point about the colours, but this depends upon the age of the children the book is aimed at. If its pre-school then the bright sugary ones are best to keep the interest, they have an incredibly short attention span. If its for older kids 9+ yrs old then you can push the realism more.
    He / She also has a good point to make if you are uncomfortable with conveying movement in charaters! If you are uncomfortable with it then do more! Loads more! you cant tell a story to kids in a picture book with just 12 images in it with just poses, it simply does not work!
    "To sylise something you have to really nail it down and understand it", My fellowmember and buddy "Jeffx99" (amongst others) went on at me for ages about it until I got it, so I feel its only right to pass that valuable little nugget of information on to others. Draw with pencils and paper until your hands ache and you get realistic gesture poses and action poses and can do them time and time again without fail.

    all the best with the work! Keep grinding your skills and keep posting.

    A great kind hearted lumbering bullock



    http://conceptart.org/forums/showthread.php?t=209918 = my Sketchbook
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  26. #15
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    Giacomo Thanks again for an honest critique. This is what gesturals are supposed to help with right? I think more anatomy studies will help my confidence too..

    Lightship69 Yeah the feedback has been both grounding and extremely helpful. I've shown my work to book publishers and even game studios but the response is always something like they like the work but they want to see more. Thankfully now I (hopefully) won't be providing more work with the same mistakes.
    Thanks for reaffirming the other points and your nuggets of wisdom

    Thank you guys. I was so stuck in a bubble! I forgot what an awesome community CA is

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  27. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by Elissimo View Post
    ...This is what gesturals are supposed to help with right? I think more anatomy studies will help my confidence too...
    Well, I think that all visual artists should spend as much time as possible working from a live model. But what I'm talking about is different--it's the ability to feel and understand how a physical gesture expresses a narrative or a psychological state. (Yeah, I know that sounds really pompous and academic.) Working from a live model, however useful it might be in other ways, doesn't really help much in this regard because the poses don't mean anything in terms of story--it's just a model taking a pose.

    As I said above, dance and yoga classes are good ways to develop it...acting classes are helpful too, as is any sport that involves reacting in real time to what the other players are doing. (Last year I tried to get at it from another angle by making detailed drawings from video stills-- some of which, admittedly pretty clumsy, are on my sketchbook page.)

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  29. #17
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    Giacomo: I really like the movies stills idea ( I can't see myself doing dance or yoga ). My gesturals just capture people doing everyday things but actors express a lot more emotion in their body language. Your stills look great! They make good little composition studies too. Definitely going to try that... I'm really into game of thrones at the moment so it will be fun to draw something which is more engaging to me than people at bus stops thanks for the tip!

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