I decided to go with D, and I just launched into it. I'm hoping folks can tell me if things are pulling focus and interest. I"m worried there's too much texture in the tree, perhaps, and I need to do something a bit more substantial to the path he's standing on...
@aprilshin I decided to change the boy's facial expression a bit, and have him looking upward with a "sorta" grin... I think that was stronger than the "I'm lonely" vibe I think I was going for... Does that make things a bit clearer? Or at least less complicated?
@Valerie-Light I agree, digital plein air is great. I especially like it because landscapes are my kryptonite and digital allows me to focus on the picture and not worry about mixing paint. These are nice. I like the sunlight on the head stones, and the dappled light on the path. Well done. 🙂👍
@Lex-Haven lovely, sweet characters. I've never seen animals for hair, so points for originality!
Yes, the first illustration is very soft, to the point where it is hard to read. Otherwise, you have chosen a great palette and have nice expression. Adding a smidge more value and a few edges will probably fix a lot of your issues with the piece. (Don't forget shadows too -- the lack of shadows, even light ones, makes the characters look like they're floating. Unless they are?)
The second illustration has more defined edges, but the edges are actually making the illustration harder to read and detracting from your character, who is supposed to be the focal point. The floor and ice cream are so saturated, with stronger values than any used in the main character.
Hope you don't mind -- I took a screenshot to show some examples of what I'm talking about, because sometimes a picture is just easier!
This is the 2nd illustration in black and white so it's easier to see the values. If the intention is to have the ice cream as the focal point, then the illustration is fine as is. But if the intention is for the girl to be the focal point, you can see that with all her lighter values, she gets lost. Because there is so much contrast in the ice cream and background, those elements compete for attention and overpower the girl.
Here is a visual suggestion of just one way to adjust those values:
a3176b89-4e89-475d-9e9b-e4e1b0117129-LH suggested adjustments.jpg
In this example, I lightened the ice cream and the entire background. I also changed the tile color from black to a light gray blue. The girl is darkened considerably and she was given the most saturated colors to help her stand out. The illustration is also cropped to draw more attention to the girl and place her a little off center, which adds interest.
There are lots of ways you can go with this illustration. This is just one example. And it's just a suggestion -- this is your art and you can do whatever you want with it!
Wow, you've given yourself quite the challenge: finding a new style in just a few months! It's great that you're diving into SCBWI and are serious about getting your portfolio ready for the summer conference. As you're doing so, here are a few things to think about:
Make sure your style is consistent. There are a few inconsistencies between these two illustrations, aside from the rendering. In one illustration, the characters have dots for eyes; in the other, the girl has more detailed eyes. Since this is a new style for you, I suggest picking one and sticking to it. For this particular style, I think that the dots for eyes works much better and is much cuter. It also looks like you used different brushes -- not meaning that you have to use only the same few brushes, but you might want to consider it. Again, since this is a new style that you're figuring out, finding some consistency will go a long way to making it look more polished.
Why are you changing your style? Is it for a change? Because you want to? Or you want to work faster? Or is it because you're afraid you won't get work with your more detailed style? If it's the latter, know that is not necessarily the case. There are a ton of children's book illustrators with a more realistic, detailed style--rendering with oils, acrylics, watercolor, digital, and more--and they're consistently getting work. There isn't one "children's book style". You can even work in more than one style. For example, you may want to check out these illustrators: Kadir Nelson, Hannah Harrison, Brian Lies, Matt Myers, Aaron Becker (he has more than one style), Eric Rohmann, Adam Rex (also works in more than one style), Daniel Kirk, David Wiesner, Jerry Pinkney, Erin E. Stead, Jonathan Voss, Christopher Denise, the Fan Brothers, Jason Chin, Floyd Cooper ... there's more but this will get you started. 😉
Check out illustrators whose style is similar to your new style. Not to copy them, but to get some inspiration and to see what's already out there. What are they doing that works? What makes their art appealing? How can you incorporate that into your style? Here are some illustrators with a cute, simple style that you may want to check out: David Walker, Renata Liwska, Emily Winfield Martin, Helen Oxenbury, Charles Santoso, Shahrzad Maydani, Molly Idle, Patrice Barton, Sophie Blackall, Sydney Hanson, Vashti Harrison. And of course, there's more, but this will get you started. 😉
WOW, this turned out to be a long reply! Hope it's helpful. Looking forward to seeing more of your work and where you go with it!
I was taking pictures of these cows so that I could paint them and a farmer stopped to see what I was up to. When I showed him my camera, he said, "OK," and drove off but I could see he thought anyone who found cows worth photographing must be a little strange. Would he have thought it less or more strange that my intent was to paint them?
Anyway, playing with ink and watercolor here. I am very fond of E.H. Shepard's style (Winnie-the-Pooh).
@HeatherB I like the improvements. You can give the baby a dark mane to set it off from the mother. The front legs, below the knee, on the baby are anatomically a bit too long, especially between the lowest joint (pastern) and the hoof. If you shortened them, you could use the black hooves to further separate the baby from the background (mother). Fun facts - Male donkeys are called jacks and females - jennies. I'm pretty sure the babies are called foals just like horses.
I feel like the top image doesn't have much of a story, but the bottom three definitely do, especially the one of the man lifting up the ocean to find a key. Even editorial work tells stories. Just in a different way from kids books. I feel like these images lean more towards editorial. But if they included children, they could be for a kid's book! Look up the book "Let's do Everything and Nothing" by Julia Kuo. It's a recently published picture book with a style very similar to these illustrations!
@AngelinaKizz interesting suggestion about the pan pastel. Have you used that before as a base layer? Do you have to spray it with a workable fixative before adding colored pencil layers?
I used gouache because I already own a tube of white and I didn't want to purchase anything new for an experiment.
Doing experimental illustrations on toned gray because I have a story idea where most of the book will be black and white, and I think the toned gray will be really impactful on the illustrations. But then the end of the book introduces color, and I would want to keep continuity in the artwork and use the same paper throughout. Which is why I'm testing how to use color on toned gray. Whew! Complicated explanation, but that's why I'm doing what I'm doing. 😊
It feels like the attention is placed on the lightening rather than the characters because the trees direct our eyes to the lightening. To balance this out you could change the direction of the trees and make the fox and bunny more animated by having them dramatically reacting to the lightening strike. It seems like they’re not reacting to the lightening at the moment. A good test would be to remove the lightening from the image and if you can tell the characters are reacting to something that isn’t there then that’s good but right now if you removed the lightening we wouldn’t be able to tell for the characters reactions that there’s something going on in that area of the illustration. Hope this helps!
Since you're so new at this, maybe do some studies? I say this because you gotta get used to the programs you're using. Also because you're at a stage where literally any action will lead to improvement.
Doing studies can be a great way to explore different styles as well. Find some art you like and copy it.