[Editor’s Note: In response to our announcement last week that Illustration Friday will be focusing more heavily on the art of idea generation, illustrator Shawn Ferreyra reached out with us to share his own process for coming up with new ideas. What follows is an intimate look at Shawn’s idea generation methods in his own words. You too can share your techniques through our contact page.]
I came to illustrating via theater via playwriting via screenwriting via comics. This is one of many exercises I learned back in my playwriting days that I’ve adapted for illustration. I hope this is helpful!
Go to Staples or whatever and get a 3×5 index card holder and fill it with blank 3×5 index cards. Carry it with you at all times along with a sharpie or a felt tip pen. Nothing fancy.
Start an observation diary. Not a diary of your thoughts or feelings. A diary of your observations. On index cards. Not in a notebook. On index cards. One card per observation. Don’t write on both sides. Don’t date your cards.
Overheard a wall street guy say something cringe worthy? Write down what you heard.
Saw an interesting person on the subway? Draw them. No more than 3 minutes.
Street preacher said something crazy? Write it down.
Saw an interesting still life? Draw it. No more than 3 minutes.
Saw a woman reading and laughing out loud hoping someone would ask her what’s funny? Describe it in as few words as possible.
Saw a gorgeous cityscape or landscape? Draw it. No more than 3 minutes.
See someone constantly blinking when they speak? Describe it in as few words as necessary.
Do this for a few weeks, maybe a month. At the end of the month, lay all your cards out on a huge table. Start organizing them. How should you organize them? I don’t know, there is no should. Your mind is going to make you see patterns. You’re going to start to see things that go together. You’re going to start to see bits and pieces coalesce to suddenly become fully realized ideas.
You’re going to start to realize that the cards aren’t just your observations, but fragments of how you perceive the world, what you’re obsessed with, what you’ve been thinking about and wishing for. Your unconscious mind has been meditating and mulling these things over this whole time, and you’ve just tricked yourself into showing them to your conscious mind.
Thanks so much to Shawn Ferreyra for sharing his idea generation process. Want to help make Illustration Friday more of a place of learning? Leave some thoughts in the comments or send us your own process for coming up with ideas and shaking up your conscious mind here.
In the first 5 seconds that an Art Director visits your website, they are making critical judgements about you and your work, for better or worse. That’s why it’s so important to give your landing page the attention it deserves.
How do you make a strong impression in the first 5 seconds?
This happens to be a question that I hear from a lot of Illustrators, which is understandable because your Home page is one of the most important parts of your website, along with your actual portfolio. After all, if you turn Art Directors off with a poorly designed landing page that makes you look like an amateur, they’ll go elsewhere quicker than you can say “Hey, wait! Come back!”
The way I like to think about the design of a landing page is to imagine that you’re an Art Director who has never been to your site before, and consider the impression that your website makes in the first 5 seconds.
Are you putting your best foot forward?
Are you showing off your greatest work?
Is your design clean and clear?
Is your style evident?
Are you making an impact?
What is the first thing the eye is drawn to? The second?
Asking these types of questions can be very worthwhile when designing (or redesigning) your website, because they can help you to take control of the way you “introduce” yourself to your new visitor.
An Outside Perspective
In fact, I would also recommend enlisting the feedback of one or more fellow artists that you trust, just as you might when asking for a critique of your work, because sometimes it can be hard to get an objective viewpoint of your own design. When asking for help, try to ask specific questions, such as the ones listed above, so that the criticism will be more useful to you.
Another enlightening activity is to visit the websites of Illustrators you’ve never seen before, and pay close attention to the way their Home page affects your impression of them. You might even want to have a pen and paper ready to jot down notes of the things that turn you on and/or off about their landing page. Then, you can apply these ideas to your own design.
Keeping Them Around
Remember that the Home page of your portfolio website, just like every other element, has a very specific job to do, which is to impress your potential clients, make them want to see more, and get them to your portfolio as quickly and easily as possible.
Spending a little extra time getting this part right can do a lot to help achieve these goals.
Posted by Thomas James on 08/10/15 under business
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Hello fellow illustrators!
As promised last Friday, we are now in full effect taking Illustration Friday to the next level. The natural evolution of a fun weekly illustration challenge based on ideas is a deeper focus on the art of idea generation itself.
We’re starting small, with a stream of consciousness word list that one might create while brainstorming for this week’s topic of POINTY or any other of our weekly topics. I encourage you to make your own first, perhaps compare it to this list or even email yours to us if you’d like us to consider sharing it in a future blog post.
You will notice that in my own personal word process below I try to let my mind freely linger in one area for a while until some other interesting pathway offers itself up, or not. Sometimes you’ll need to give it a gentle nudge, or step away for a minute. The randomness itself is where the magic can sometimes happen. This process is pretty much guaranteed to take your mind to surprising places. This list took only a few minutes to create, but it could go on and on with further exploration.
As things progress, we’ll be adding a LOT more features to share a variety of approaches to generating good ideas, as described in last week’s 5-minute video, so stay tuned…
SAMPLE WORD LIST
pointing at you/me/…
what’s the point
hammer and nail
king/queen crown, etc.
Want even more inspiration? Check out the entries that have been submitted so far for this week’s topic.
Posted by Thomas James on 08/07/15 under IF news update
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Amy Ng blogs at Pikaland, a popular stop for illustration lovers, students and artists who are looking for answers on how to find a balance between art, creativity and commerce.
It’s a very well known affliction that plague creatives – and I’m using the term creatives very loosely. It could very well mean entrepreneurs, who may have a pool of ideas to tap from for their next venture; or a designer who has a big sketchbook ready to go for their next collection or season. For an artist, it could come to mean experimenting with the use of various medias to come up with a series or even to redefine their personal style as they find ways to mix things up.
Creative people have ideas. Some have too many. Which one should I pick? Which one should come first? What if this doesn’t turn out well? What if I lose time on something that doesn’t work?
It’s an easy breeding ground for doubt and confusion, which can ultimately lead to paralysis.
I have lots of ideas. Some of them didn’t quite turn out, and some of them did. A few years ago I began to keep a sketchbook that listed out my ideas; I filled them with pages of pages of thoughts, comments, figures, sketches and with it, possibilities (although these days, instead of just using a sketchbook, I found that Trello is a great app in helping me sort out my ideas.) And it wasn’t just a continuation of one idea either – every other week I would come up with a new idea; or I would stew on a new idea and blend it with a previous one.
But no matter how many entries there were in my book, I was resigned to the fact that I only had two hands. I know myself enough to know that if I were to dabble in a few ideas, they would never turn out well enough for me to know if it was worth pursuing. So what I did was to just focus on one idea at a time – I owed the idea that much at least. To bring an idea to fruition takes time, dedication and effort; things that I knew would be scattered if I tried to juggle too many at a go.
It was still an experimentation none the less. But I choose to focus on one at a time so that I can properly document and figure things out as I move along. Is it working? Is it not? Can I do better? Do I want to keep doing this? Will I make a difference? I question the idea (and myself) constantly at every step of the way – much like a scientist who keeps a record of an experiment to see its progress.
And once you’re committed to the idea, you need to give it space and room to grow, to breathe, and a chance for it to live out its life. You’ll have to nurture it, see if it can stand on its own two feet, or if you’re lucky – to see if it could fly. But first, you’ll need to make a decision: which idea goes first?
The idea is simple: Pick one. Just one. And start from there.
A good friend reminded me once when I told her that I had trouble picking one idea, and she said this little gem of an advice that I carry to this day: “It’s good to have lots of ideas – this way we can execute them one by one until we’re 60. We’re all set for life!”
I’d like to think that it’s a great way to look forward to the future. Not everything needs to be done right here and now. It’s always prudent to save some of the good stuff for later. Don’t binge on everything at once. Take a bite, savour it, feel it, taste it and really enjoy the experience. Let it change and excite you. Life isn’t a buffet table for you to gorge on (although it can sometimes feel that way!)
Here’s a couple of tips and reminders for those who are still indecisive:
Don’t let fear stop you from experimenting. And fear takes on many forms: fear of failure, fear of missed opportunities, or even plain old irrational fear.
Experiments always leads you somewhere, and often times it leads you down a path you might have considered before. Enjoy it and soak up the process!
Ideas on paper are just worth the paper they’re scribbled on – especially if you don’t start.
If you can juggle a few experiments at a go, by all means feel free to do so! Just be aware that if you drop the ball on one, the rest might follow – and you might not know what the outcome would be if you had focused on just one.
Consider that perhaps life is one big experiment.
That we’re all here just trying to figure out what works for us on many levels. Personally, physically, emotionally, spiritually, and artistically. Finding a way to be able to fuse them altogether somehow, or balance them so that everything is in sync – if only for a moment.
May we never stop trying.
May we never, ever stop experimenting.
[Illustration: Tyler Spangler]
Happy Illustration Friday, fellow creators!
We’re ready to announce this week’s topic, but first please enjoy the wonderful illustration above by Vanessa Brantley-Newton, our Pick of the Week for last week’s topic of GROW. Thanks to everyone who participated with drawings, paintings, sculptures, and more. We love seeing it all!
You can see a gallery of ALL the entries here.
And of course, you can now participate in this week’s topic:
Step 1: Illustrate your interpretation of the current week’s topic (always viewable on the homepage).
Step 2: Post your image onto your blog / flickr / facebook, etc.
Step 3: Come back to Illustration Friday and submit your illustration (see big “Submit your illustration” button on the homepage).
Step 4: Your illustration will then be added to the public Gallery where it will be viewable along with everyone else’s from the IF community!
Submitted by Hannah Weeks for the Illustration Friday topic GROW.
Nick Pitarra helps to kickoff the new comic John Flood this week with another one of his stellar variant covers. His intricate line work channels the work of comics legends Geoff Darrow and Seth Fisher, but at the same time Pitarra brings his own brand of mirth and mayhem to the stage!
Proving that artists should take art contests seriously, Pitarra was famously discovered from his submission to the 2007 Comic Book Idol competition. Apparently, superstar writer/artist Jonathan Hickman was so impressed by Pitarra’s work that he later offered him the job as artist on The Manhattan Projects, which would go on to be a multi-Eisner nominated fan favorite hit!
The Manhattan Projects, a satirical, mind-bending re-imagining of what happened after Albert Einstein and his team built the Atom Bomb, is still going strong today. The series just kicked off Volume 2 and Nick Pitarra’s work continues to get better and better. He’s also become one of the top cover illustrators for a slew of special variant covers for a wide range of titles including Red Skull, Weirdworld, And Then Emily Was Gone, Transformers vs. G.I. Joe, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
You can get the latest Nick Pitarra news & art on his twitter page here.
For more comics related art, you can follow me on my website comicstavern.com – Andy Yates
Illustration by Jennie Bradley
[The following is a guest post by Edward Burns, CEO of Advocate Art illustration agency.]
Advocate Art, a leading children’s illustration agency is celebrating 20 years this year, Edward Burns CEO of Advocate Art gives some folio tips to illustrators wanting to win more children’s book commissions.
Look To The Movies For Guidance
It’s a fundamental fact that stories contain characters – just like a movie contains stars, supporting cast and extras. If you think of the story like a movie and the characters in your folio like a casting director would their roster of actors, it will help you develop them for… well, that next blockbuster!
So no big film is devoid of characters. There are no films with just scenes and narrative – that would be pretty boring. The same goes for children’s books. Ok, there may be a religious title with inspirational scenes and verse, but that is pretty much it. If you don’t have characters in your folio, there is nothing for an editor to pick –simple! Now be honest, can you imagine your characters working as stars in storybooks? Or are they really only going to make it as an extra? Unlike a casting director, you have power to create this cast, rather than rely on the acting skills of your clientele – lets do that!
In short you have to create a selection of characters that can be chosen for a variety of stories. Main actors, sidekicks, the mum & dad and animals (both anthropomorphic and stylized). The more genres you cover, the bigger your rostra of potential actors, the more films (stories) your folio will work for. You may have seen that classic 80’s film called the Goonies? For me, that sets the benchmark for characters covered in most children stories. You have the computer geek; the hero; the overweight funny guy; the older sister; her friend; the sensible older boy plus good guys and bad guys mixed as all ethnicities. You see all the same stereotypes in kids films and cartoons from Madagascar to Power Rangers and repeated in animations of cats, dogs, zoo animals – you name it! The same goes for children’s books, let’s see that bad guy lion or the geeky koala for example or hey, draw them as people!
Cover the bases
Remember, you have to supply the whole cast. A publisher won’t just pick you for the lead character. Your cast needs to encompass all the main characters. A quick trick is to do sheets of doodles, some finished, some just pencil outlines – say a page of monkeys. Another tip is to do a character line up – like a police identity parade.
If you want to do a book about “xyz” have it in your folio
Your cast can be stereotypes for sure, just like actors end up playing the same rolls or get typecast. So if your dream is to do a fairy story, have some fairies on your cast, play to your drawing strengths. Build a cast for roles you want to illustrate or are good at.
We have illustrators who get work because they are simply good at illustrating Hispanic-looking kids, for example. Don’t forget though that each actor needs to be right on the money, there is a lot of competition! And please don’t kid yourself that having a princess in your folio will mean you get a fairy book, it has to be spot on. As an agent, I wait for the Art Director to say, “that’s the girl in my book” as he/she points at maybe the smallest doodle in the corner of a page of your folio.
I recently had an artist comment that it was odd that she was always being selected for period work like fables. I said “Your joking right? Every person in your folio is wearing pantaloons!” I had a similar situation with an artist saying she was fed up with illustrating bible stories, we had to remove all biblical work from her folio and replace them with characters she wanted to do next.
Understand the other side
By understanding what an Art Director is going through to get an artist selected, you will understand why maybe your folio is not working for them. The typical selection process goes like this:-
The Art Director has a publishing meeting where sales marketing and the author are present; they want to see the suggestions for their new cute bear book, for example.
The editor will go in with maybe 6 illustrator suggestions. Examples of their bears (not giraffes or pigs or fairies) – BEARS! And the right bear for the story. It may sound a bit narrow minded creatively that they have to show a bear, perhaps sales don’t have the creative vision to imagine what your bear will look like from looking at a giraffe?! Maybe there are too many bear samples out there for the Art Editor not to need to compromise. Most likely, they really want to nail it at the meeting. The point of the meeting will be to definitively select the artist, that won’t be possible until the author says “That’s my bear in the story!”
“I’m very versatile, just ask me to do what you need”
It’s a classic line I hear from illustrators who don’t have the goods in their folio. Ok it’s not their fault, often they don’t know what the “goods” are. When an Art Director is browsing your work on the web a) you are not there to say the line and b) why should they go to the effort and ask you? C) If you were perfect for the story, or liked bears, you would have drawn one by now!
Please don’t kid yourself that they will call you and ask you for a sample before the meeting of your bear, based on the strength of your giraffe. They won’t have the budget for this so it will be a free sample and they don’t want you to terrorize them for weeks phoning them asking how you got on. Only if they have prior experience with you will they ask you to sample. Folios have become a bit like menus in a restaurant, that’s your choice – the chief won’t do specials.
Characterization. Oscar winners
Ok, the characters have to be good at their craft, good actors, expressive facially and physically animated. They carry narrative from page to page even with dots for eyes and a half moon mouth, for example. It’s all the about the subtleties e.g. the tilt of the head, the turning in of a foot. I’ve seen the best illustrators work with films on in the background, even in the corner of their mac to guide them- Nicholas Cage transferred to a bubbly-headed boy. Show you can do it in your folio by setting yourself a narrative. For example, draw:
-girl is happy walking her puppy,
-girl looses puppy,
-girl thinks she knows where it is
-girl is happy she finds it.
Candid – natural well observed poses
Great illustrators are great actors; they understand human movement and poses. You may have a great eye for colour, a great technique and be quick but if your characters are all wooden, like they have been jig-sawed from thick plywood and the arms are moved using pins, they won’t be able to carry the narrative. It’s like the difference between wedding photos when all the relatives are lined up and the candid shots taken by an 8 year old on her iPod.
A tip is to click away on your phone at your family and friends maybe one Sunday. Draw a giraffe as your grandmother looking surprised or laughing; or your young sister as she concentrates on a magazine, or your mum when she is thoughtful
This is a huge subject so I will bullet point the basics that are relevant for children’s publishing:-
• Production printing processes wash out colours. Softness and subtleties are often lost. Bright colours are best, especially when pitching younger.
• Spend some time understanding colour theory. Warm colours to cold colours evoke moods that will help bring out the narrative.
• Co-ordinate and complement colours. Again use the colour wheel to make sure they are in the same pallet. Keep continuity between colours throughout a page to demonstrate that, but don’t have your whole folio using the same green – vary it.
• Limit your pallet on a folio page of samples to show you have a supreme grasp of colours. Muted colours can add a mood, especially in limited light, or if a scene is set with limited colour choices, like a green frog in a green pond in a green jungle, or a brown rabbit in a dessert etc. Besides, it can be very trendy to limit colours!
• Use fashion magazines to understand what colours are in. Check out popular online fashion/shopping websites and even drop the pallet into your own pallet. Art directors and then the Mums who buy the books for their kids, understand fashion and will make purchases based on what looks right or modern.
• Mix it up. Why can’t a night sky be purple or grass be yellow? By introducing different lighting into your work – vary the obvious.
My favorite website for colour us is https://color.adobe.com/create/color-wheel/ check it out, it will help you through this theoretical science!
Continuity of Character
It basically means- can the same characters be re-drawn? You have to prove you can do it with samples in your folio. It’s one of the most basic and yet often the toughest skills of an illustrator, especially if you have a very naive style. If this is the case, then often there are only subtle differences between the characters. You don’t want the same character pulling the same expression but you also don’t want all the characters to either start looking the same or start drifting into each other.
My best advice is doodle with your character and then set in stone how your character performs, use this as the benchmark before you even start. Sometimes a publisher will want to do this with you – it’s called character development. And don’t be tempted to make changes as you work through the project – you are asking for a re-do!
Are your characters suitable for kids? There is a big difference between Disney or CBBC characters and actors in 18 plus movies. The same goes for Children’s books, don’t have them dressed in sexy clothes, or well developed physically, or too violent, or too scary. In short, no guns, thongs, big breasts, cigarettes or spurting blood. It sounds obvious but it’s so common for illustrators to have in-appropriate characters in a children’s folio. Sure, have them for other markets but not in this folio.
Some illustrators have a different site all together for adult illustration or think of a sure fire way of separating them on your site. There is nothing wrong with having young characters with attitude, hey kids hate “lame” stuff e.g. how the Brats are to Barbie. Having it in your main folio demonstrates that you are not right for this role, it is a big home goal.
How old should your characters be?
There is a rule that generally pretty much everyone is interested in themes that are aspirational to them, but not too aspirational – just the next step. This means you can put yourself into the main role ‘with a little bit of imagination.’ You could be the hero in Die Hard or James Bond or the girls in Sex in the City. Now consider the target age for these stories, they are always just below the age of the characters.
When you are growing up, ‘aspiration’ can be simplified to just a few years older than the target reader, their big sister or brother (because they get to do more). So a 3 year old likes to read about 5 year olds, 5 year olds to 7, 7 year olds to early teens and so on. Don’t go too far, being much older is scary and often un-cool. There are exceptions of course but on the whole it works, so bear in mind this when designing your characters, even animal ones.
The Children’s Book market is broken into board books (think pages that little fingers can turn), picture books for mums to read to children at bedtime, early reading, reluctant reading and chapter books with simple illustrations, plus graphic novels and reference books. In general, illustrated books occupy the much younger market. So as a rule, keep your characters young, say 3-8 and you will be in the range.
Cute. Are they are appealing?
Thinking like a casting agent again, your characters need to be attractive on the whole. Let’s see your Brad Pitt’s and Julia Roberts. The supporting characters can have more interesting faces and the bad guys…well, need to look bad! Stupid guys stupid, clever guys clever and so on. But the most important thing is that the lead guys are attractive/appealing, even if they’re not human characters. Sorry, I don’t make the rules!
If you are not an ‘A-lister’ you at least need to know who is and why. Stories are being re-illustrated all the time, just like films are re-made, so you have to have a style which was illustrated this year or why would you be chosen to refresh a book? It is a trend led-world and no one is more on top of trends than the target buyer of kid’s stories – young Mums!
You need to know what type of eyes are in, what type of outline (key line) textures, of register colours etc. Check out the new releases in your local bookshop – absorb but don’t copy.
Your style is what makes you, you. But it can be adapted and nudged to a degree, can’t it? It has to have empathy with the reader’s age. But also be on trend and decorative – maybe even have some sophistication for the Mum! You need to get down to the child’s level at least and create work that they will enjoy. Too trendy or arty and you can patronize the buyer and the kids won’t get it. (Sure some art directors will love it but I doubt it will sell so there won’t be a second!). Naive characters work best when they are artistically aspirational to kids i.e. you could imagine that the most artistic child in the school could draw this way – i.e. within their reach aspirationally.
Compositions. Set the scene
It’s the location or the scene that will literally form the backdrop for your characters. Don’t have them all on white and avoid too many cliff-edge compositions (i.e. a foreground but no background to the scene, like they are on a cliff-edge.) Include scenes that can help carry a narrative, as in the girl in the park example above. Do take on popular themes e.g. fairies, trucks even classic tales. This is your chance to be the director of the film so adopt their techniques-
Interesting camera angles can really help set the scene. Say the story asks for 3 rabbits cowering from a tractor; have the angle perhaps as if you are in the ditch looking up at the rabbits, with the huge tractor filling the page behind them. It will help the reader empathize with the rabbits, as if they are going to be crushed under the wheels. A bird’s-eye view can also emphasize when characters are all together in a circle or one character is on its own.
Silhouettes. Use these for supporting characters when you want to emphasize a conversation in a busy scene. The main conversation does not need to be in the centre – just sketching the other characters can work as well.
Split scene. Use these if you have over-lapping narrative. It may be too complicated for young children, but really exciting if the text (and Art Director) calls for it.
Look in bookshops regularly, don’t rely on just looking at other artists or agents web sites. They can throw you a curve ball because you may be looking at a folio of an unsuccessful artist! Check out what is out there on the High Street, especially really classic evergreen work. But hey, it’s all in the movies as well – go for the Oscar!
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Posted by Thomas James on 08/05/15 under books,business,children's art,freelance,IF Kids,illustration,resources,tutorial / how-to
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