“SCBWI Illustrator’s Day – Critiques and Learning”
I just returned from a full day of critiques, portfolio reviews and meetings with agents & art directors at the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators – “Illustrator’s Day” in Princeton, NJ. It was a very productive learning day for me. I love doing the SCBWI events because I always come away with so much valuable information and it’s great to connect with others in the field.
The above image was the “before” illustration completed as a 2 page spread assignment for the group critique. I chose to work from a book called “The Critter Sitter”, originally beautifully illustrated by Chuck Richards. I didn’t look at Chuck’s book until after I did the illustration because I didn’t want to be influenced at all.
Art Director Donna Mark, (Bloomsbury/Walker Publishing) was my assigned mentor and some of the comments and suggestions from her as well as the other illustrators in the group were as follows:
1.Not sure that the dark purple background is working. Possibly make it look more like a kitchen background or lighten it up.
2.The boy, Henry is too small and disproportionate to the door, as well as the proportions of the frog and cat in the foreground.
3.The dog is at an angle that looks like he is not running out of the door but staying inside the house.
So here is my attempt at fixing some of the problems…
Here is the first sketch that was initially submitted to the Art Director for review before starting any painting…
Donna suggested that I include much more to the scene since there was so much going on in the text for this page spread. I revised the sketch several times to try to include the dog as well. In addition to the critique, there was a great workshop for illustrators given by Leeza Hernandez, and I also got to meet with agent Christina Tugeau. Great tips and helpful suggestions were gained from both. I look forward to the next Illustrator’s Day event with NJ SCBWI.
Since I began promoting myself in the area of Children’s Book Illustration, I have had a number of people inquire about providing illustrations for their “book that they have written and always wanted to publish”. I decided to put together some resource information for this month’s topic to shed some light on the process a picture book illustrator may go through.
I hope to also dispell the myth that as a writer you need to hire an artist and have the illustrations completed to submit along with your written manuscript. Here’s what I tell people that ask me about illustrating a book they are interested in getting published… “Send the manuscript to the publisher, without illustrations. It will be judged on it’s own merit and if the publisher is interested, they will find an illustrator that fits the project, …that’s just how it’s done”.
Instead of going into any more detail, there is a great article on that subject here at Harold Underdown’s site, The Purple Crayon
Since publishers are looking to match-up illustrators with manuscripts that they like, an illustration project for a picture book will most-likely come directly from an editor or art director at a publishing house. The publisher may send a manuscript to several illustrators at the same time and ask for a sample page or two in order to select the exact style they are looking for. At that point they will narrow their selection down to one illustrator.
From the Illustrator’s side…
Once they decide on an illustrator, a contract is drawn up between the illustrator and publisher containing details of due dates, royalties, etc. If you don’t have an agent working with you on this it is a good idea to have an IP, (intelectual property) attorney take a look at it for you. Once all the legal stuff is out of the way the illustrator starts sketching and preparing a sketch “dummy” of the book. It’s a rough mini-version of the book page layout. This helps to see how the book flows from page to page and helps in laying out color and text position. Make sure to check with the publisher for specifics on the book size dimensions and how many pages, etc. Typically that is around 28-32 pages with between 500-800 words for a picture book, (max is 1000). Rough sketches of the page spreads are submitted to the publisher first before any color work is started. Once you get the go-ahead on the sketches, it’s time to add the color. Here is a bit more information and sample layout of the pages for a picture book from Kathy Temean’s blog.
Personally, I like to add one more step in there and do a “color” rough that shows the publisher what you have in mind. The color mock up shown at the beginning of this article was put together using print-outs of the color roughs that were sent to the publisher. I use this mock up, (complete with numbered pages) throughout the entire time I am working on the final illustrations in order to keep everything organized. Once the illustrations are finalized and sent to the publisher, you can be sure there will be some changes, (much easier to do if you are working digitally). The publisher then produces the book, usually within about 6 months to a year. You can be sure I will post the announcement here when “A Sweater for Duncan” is released next Fall. 🙂
This month’s featured website or blog…”illustrator Sahin Ersoz”
I came across Sahin Ersoz website several years ago and find myself still going back for a visit every so often. I love his style of characters and animation. He has done several Disney projects. Enjoy… be sure to check out the sketches!
Science, Nature and Children’s Books – Get The Facts!
A reminder to those of us, (myself included) illustrating for the children’s publishing industry, to make sure we get our facts right. A little “up-front” research goes a long way, even for a children’s picture book.
Simply making a cute character or a colorful scene is not enough when it comes to works including or about nature or science. An example is an up-coming picture book that features an Emperor Penguin. Since they are only found in the South, Antarctica… a phrase that says “the best Penguin in the North” would not be accurate. And if an illustration of a Polar Bear is shown as the Penguin’s friend, this would not be accurate because Polar Bears are not found in Antarctica! Now, I’m not saying to throw all creativity out the window and keep everything literal, I am just saying that as a general rule of good practice it’s not a bad idea to do some real research first so that your characters are not too far out of their element! 😉
This of course is a much more important point to watch if the book is meant for educational distribution in schools. In the picture book, “A Sweater for Duncan” (to be released by Raven Tree Press in the Fall of 2010), the Emperor Penguin is surrounded by other animals found in the Antarctic such as Weddell Seals, Adelie Penguins, and Blue-Eyed Shags. Yes… I said Blue-Eyed Shags!
I am also currently working on a sketch for a 2 page spread which includes a tree frog and crickets… once again, I am researching first since I don’t want to use a poisonous tree frog, (even though that would give me the most color!) This sketch will be finished into a final color image and it is for an upcoming “illustrator’s day” conference in Princeton, NJ on Nov. 15th. I will have a December article on that event.
Here are a few interesting links to check out on the subject of reference…
Illustrator Thomas James reviews a great resource called posemaniac for help with accuracy in human poses… Pose reference.
Here are some great sketches and the “ever-so-important” reference that was used by illustrator Tony DiTerlizzi… (great work Tony)
There is so much available for use as reference on the internet that it makes it easy to do research first. Be prepared before even attempting your sketches. Watch videos, scan through magazines and books. Get to know your subject before you ever lay a pencil to the paper. This goes for non-realistic characters as well as realistic ones. But most of all have fun learning all you can about the subject or area your story takes place. I have to say that in preparing myself for this book, I learned so much about Antarctica that I never knew before… and had so much fun developing all the characters! 🙂 I can’t wait for the book to come out next Fall. “Happy researching everyone!”
“Transitioning from Traditional to Digital Illustration”
One of the first things I can tell you if you are planning on going digital with your illustration abilities is to make sure your computer can handle the amount of space needed for large graphic files. They become huge very quickly, especially if you are painting raster images, (explained later in this article).
I also recommend getting a tablet and pen such as the Wacom tablet. (http://www.wacom.com) Though that is not necessary to create your art digitally, it does make the transition a bit easier especially if you are a painter. It also helps to have a good scanner. One that can get you scans of at least 300 dpi resolution. There is a good link for setting up a Wacom tablet here… http://www.gomediazine.com/design-tip/set-wacom-awesome-results/
Wacom Tablet & Pen
There are several ways to produce digital illustration. 3d modeling programs are usually the first to come to mind however if you have been painting and drawing traditionally and have no time to learn a 3d program, you may want to try painting directly in Adobe Photoshop, (http://www.adobe.com) or creating vector illustrations directly in a drawing program such as Adobe Illustrator. I mention these programs because these are the ones I use. There are many different programs to choose from and the preference is up to you, although the Adobe CS programs are the most popular in the industry. The two prominent styles to work digitally in are…
Vector illustration: (Adobe Illustrator or similar drawing program)
Raster illustration:(Adobe Photoshop or similar photo/painting program)
What is the difference between vector and raster digital Illustration?
Below you will see examples of the two different styles… I begin with a pencil sketch that is scanned into the computer as a B&W jpg file, then I place it on the page in the program file that I am working on and begin to work over the top of the sketch adding color and layers as I go.
Scalable Vector graphics, (SVG) are created in drawing programs such as Adobe Illustrator and have a clean smooth line or curve. They are made up of solid or gradient color fills and can be scaled to any size and retain the quality of the image for reproduction purposes. It is a much smaller file size than a raster image and can easily be sent via email. These bitmap graphics are usually files with extensions such as .EPS, .AI, BMP, .PDF
Rasterized, pixelated images are usually created in a photo-editing program such as Adobe Photoshop and can also include manipulated photographs. The digital illustration done in a raster style is made up of very tiny squares called pixels. My raster images are usually more painterly with a broader range of effects and brushes available in the Photoshop pallet, (a favorite brush of mine is #63). This file tends to be larger than the vector art file. These are usually files with extensions such as .PSD, .TIFF, .JPG
As you can see, I have started out with a scanned image of my original pencil sketch in the images shown above. In the next sample I will show you a raster illustration that was done completely in Adobe Photoshop from start to finish without the sketch as a starting point. I start out with basic solid shapes and then add color with the use of Photoshop brushes. The final image shows a detailed area of the bacon strip illustration.
Digital Raster Bacon Illustration
Once the illustration is complete you can save the file with a CMYK color mode for reproduction purposes.
I find that painting this way using the pen and tablet is a very satisfying transition from traditional to digital painting. You may be frustrated with the tablet in the
beginning because you have to get used to the fact that you are staring straight ahead at your screen while you are painting with the pen in hand off to the side. Don’t give up.
You DO get used to it. And after a while it becomes comfortable enough that you don’t even think about it.
Well, I hope this sheds some light on the subject of digital painting for those of you who may be thinking of giving it a shot.
(click on the “about” tab above to see more about Deystudio, LLC)
AN ADDED NOTE, (from my software engineer brother Rob):
“A BMP file is not a vector image (it’s an abbreviation for bitmap). To help clarify, a vector file is simply a text file that states where and how to draw each line (from x,y to x,y coordinates). These are easily scaled to a new size, by using a multiplier on ALL the coordinates. A raster file contains a binary value to define the color for each pixel (or bit) in the image (or map). These files don’t scale at all properly, but one technique is to use the same pixel 4 times to double the image size (for upscaling, pixels are copied, so the perceived resolution doesn’t really change, it appears to us as larger pixels, even though there are more pixels). Downscaling just removes pixels, which usually makes the image look worse. I don’t think a PDF file is vector or raster. The PDF format is proprietary, and is intended to print the same on any printer, which is not normally possible with raster and vector files”.