Monday, March 28, 2011

Another redo

Here's another "finished" portfolio piece from my picture book dummy:


The cat is not showing up too well against the tree trunk. And the girl's expression is, well, expressionless.

This evening I have been resketching the scene with the darker version of the cat and a slightly better view of the girl's face. Here's what I have worked up so far: 


(Sorry about the uneven quality of the scan. I didn't want to have to rip the page out the sketchbook yet, so I couldn't fully close the lid on the scanner.) I want to do more with this composition, but not tonight. I'm going to try more inking and less of the soft wash in my final pictures.

Tomorrow I don't go into the office, so more time for drawing. Yay!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Adding more character to my characters

Here is a piece I completed last month for the portfolio:


It is part of a picture book project that includes a full dummy and a couple of other "finished" pieces. An art director has now seen it and deemed its character depictions lacking. After her excellent explanation, I am inclined to agree. One gets very little sense of a unique personality here. Neither the girl nor the cat really leap off the page. Soft and sweet as the scene may be, it is forgettable and a good example of why I need to ramp up my characters in general.

This evening I began sketching my way toward improvement:


The cat, Zip, is meant to be a highly curious and active guy. I heightened the color contrast of the cat's fur to reflect his bold personality and shaped the pattern on his back to help highlight his movement through the story. The girl, Penny, has a passion for drawing. I've opened up her face more to reveal its expressions. (If you click on the image, you'll see more detail.) I've darkened her hair so she doesn't fade into the cat's background. 

I need to live with the drawing a little while before I determine what else needs changing. I welcome any ideas/reactions in the comments below.

Next (tomorrow evening, if I have time) I will redraw the other two images I had "completed" for this picture book. Perhaps drawing  Penny and Zip in other scenes will give me fresh ideas for the image above.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Character design game

At last Thursday's #kidlitart twitter chat, illustrator Ryan Wilson suggested a fun exercise to help extend the boundaries of physical diversity in your character set. To get started, you need to dig up one of those old scraps of paper you've used to blot your watercolors on. Unfortunately all of mine have skinny brush strokes, not big, bold splotches. As I am not into drawing snake characters at the moment, I decided to cheat a little bit and create my own sheet of splotchier splotches. To do this, I simply put big dollops of water on the paper (fabriano artistico hot press in this instance) and loaded them with color. I made no effort to control how they dried. This is what it looked like:


Then with my trusty copic multiliner pens, I found faces.


I'm not sure that any of these particular faces will become future illustrations. But it was a fun exercise. It got me thinking about how asymmetrical head shapes and hairdos can be without looking too unnatural. I will probably push those sorts of things further when I design my next characters. I may try this exercise again with larger splotches that can become a character's entire figure - not just the head.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Another Helping Hand

Here's another attempt to revise my "helping hand" portfolio piece. You can click on the image to enlarge it.


The characters are more distinct. Good. There's more muscle tension in the boy and action and emotion in the girl. I like how that's turned out too. But as I look at it now, it seems that the girl is about to smash into the bank, which is too steep in this composition. Also with the apparent speed of her forward motion, it seems that she and the boy should not yet have such a firm grip on one another, but should be reaching toward one another, just about to connect. Sigh.

Now I need to decide whether to take another crack at this scene or move on to another. Or perhaps I could try this one from a different angle. Choices, choices...

What do you think?

Monday, March 21, 2011

Sketching again...

I know I haven't posted anything new in ages, but I have a good excuse. Honest. I have been working on a picture book dummy for the past couple of months. The project was not for a publisher, but for the portfolio. I just didn't want to post the work here in case a publisher actually does want to go with some incarnation of it down the line.

My deadline for the project was March 12th, the date of my SCBWI critique with an art director from a major children's publisher. So the dummy draft is now finished and it and my portfolio have been pored over by a professional.

After receiving the art director's feedback, I have decided to concentrate my energy and (currently) limited time not on picture books but on building up my chapter book/children's novel portfolio pieces. I have also been advised to strengthen the depiction of characters in my work, to make them less generic. So I am pulling out old pieces like this one


and working on ways to ramp it up. Here's pencil sketch I did last night.


I like the pose better. I think it helps to see the girl's face - her fear - but it's not quite there yet. The characters are still not distinctive enough. We'll see what happens if I push the features further. 

Stay tuned!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Website

I've just started constructing a proper illustrator's website. Please take a look and let me know what you think.