Firstly, It depends upon which area you wish to specialise in. As I specialise in children’s literature, I can only advise on what to put into a portfolio for this specialism. There are of course cross overs with every type of specialism. Some illustrators specialise within a specialism, one may specialise in people another in animals , although a good artist should be able to be proficient. In the beginning you should aim for between 15–20 pieces of your best work. and hopefully you will have already found your style, because a portfolio should be in a consistent style.This is your trade mark, it is your personal identity. The subject matter is important although can vary from illustrator to illustrator, however, In general, a good way to think of it is as it is in life, ie People: You should try and include young children, adults, and the elderly. in different poses and with different emotions. different ethnicities. Animals: young and old, different emotions and anthropomorphism. flying, etc. environment: rural, urban, night and day, weather: water, rain, Fantasy: unusual situations (imagination) Children like the unusual, they delight in the profound and the crazy. creatures, monsters, mythical creatures, try and include dynamism, movement, speed, odd angles, unusual positions. (difficulty in drawing) there should be Character designs. some monochrome work. spot illustrations, some half page, full page, double page spread, book cover. You can include a piece of work with a few of these elements in one image. Every illustrator is in a constant flux with their portfolio , and it evolves over time, as your work , style and working methods/techniques mature you will find your work will become more complex and dynamic, and you will drop images that once you thought where your best work. Another technique to show a lot of different scenarios and characters is to have a seperate section on your website for drawings. As I have done myself. This also shows your aptitude for drawing which is important when sending plans/visuals to clients, who like to see them in your site. Take a look at my website, I have around 30 images at this moment in time, I have tried to show something of everything, in my own style, that is all you need to do yourself. potential commissioners want to see consistency, (own style) and a breadth of life scenarios if you achieve this, you will have a good portfolio.
As an active member of the association of Illustrators, I am guided in my practice by the code of conduct for illustrators that they produce on behalf of its members. The association works hard to raise standards, and promote the profile of Illustrators within the Industry. Professional practice is paramount for the professional Illustrator, both as an individual practitioner and for the industry as a whole. Without an organisation that actively promotes the professional stature of Illustrators, there would be very little recourse when dealing with commissioners. There would be low standards and an undermining of the professionalism of illustration. Without regulation, In short the industry, would collapse into itself, and be resigned to history as a worthless occupation. Below is a copy of the Code of conduct supplied to members of the association of illustrators:
Anthropomorphism is nothing new within the art world and especially within the illustration industry. As humans we actively engage with, and treat our pets as if they were human beings we name them, (sometimes human names) converse with them groom them, and treat them as family members, sometimes pampering them as if they were children. Of course human children grow up observing this behaviour, dressing the dog and going on space adventures with the cat. This is reflected within Children's literature which is full of animals because of the interesting characters and relatable human antics. Anthropomorphism, is an integral part of human history, since the believed beginning of art history humans created sculptures of humans with animal heads over 30,000 years ago, advancing into the development of subsequent cultures and religions, from illuminated texts to needle crafts the act of humanizing animals has been a major influence in the development of modern culture. As cultures developed through time, many traditional stories and myths, where passed down through generations, and with the advent of printing presses over traditional etching techniques, and larger production runs, books became increasingly accessible for everyone to enjoy, rather just for the elite. Artists such as William Hogarth, and Wilhelm Von Kaulbach in the 19th century utilised etching techniques to create satirical anthropomorphic illustrations.
THE BRUISER, C. CHURCHILL (once the Rev’d !) in the Character of a Russian Hercules,
Grinning cat taken from ' Alice's adventures in wonderland'.
Illustrators such as Beatrix potter working at the turn of the century, where part of a transition whereby the availability of children's books was beginning to expand to the masses through developing printing technology. By the turn of the century and the subsequent world wars, the marketplace begin to expand and anthropomorphic books and board games are seen more readily. A good amount of this forward progress is thanks to the Uncle Wiggily series by Howard Garis. The Uncle Wiggily series and its contemporaries illustrate the next advancement in the evolution of anthropomorphism in children’s literature. Instead of being animals living in fear of humans, this world has in fact moved to the point where humans are unnecessary for the story, so they are removed. It should be noted that as art transitioned from the 16th to 17th century, degrees of anthropomorphism began to move in unique directions. No longer animals were those who merely talked or walked divided between two or four feet, creatures began wearing clothes, living in homes and having complicated family structures develop.
Howard Garis . Uncle Wiggily and the Sleds 1910-present
Illustrated by George Carlson
Thanks to previous generations, children have begun to think more creatively, and are more likely to grasp the ideas involved in a purely animal setting.This expunging of humans begins a new chapter in children’s literature, no longer being held back by the constraints of our own reality, authors and illustrators have the opportunity to effectively create new universes for their characters to play in. Though many more artists could be mentioned to describe the variety of styles present in the current marketplace, such as Jon Klassen, Ursula Vernon, and John Manders, the works of Boutavant and Brett succinctly illustrate the range that is possible. In a general sense, as the world population has increased, so to has the variety of possible outcomes and artists to fill the needs. In any section of the market, it is possible for any particular style to be relevant and represented. As the world moves forward, and we continue to explore new avenues for anthropomorphism in art, it will be exciting to see what develops, be it realism or abstracted, traditionally painted or digital. The important thing is that children continue to enjoy and learn from these interesting animals and the worlds they inhabit. As an Illustrator of children's literature I am constantly evaluating my own practise. My style has evolved to such a degree that I don't have any trouble drawing anything I can imagine. Anthropomorphism offers an excellent vehicle for expressing ideas, as it affords an in depth analysis of an imagination, and along with the culturally informed universality of personification, it continues to offer a stimulating vehicle for illustrating children's literature. I have decided to concentrate wholly on producing anthropomorphic work, for the foreseeable future. Over the last month or so I have developed further my ideas and produced four personification illustrations. My style has evolved to encompass a bright and modern aesthetic. Although they are mainly created with traditional media. Artists today have a vast plethora of digital tools to enable a whole new aesthetic, buts let not forget that too much one sided digital work may endanger an artists originality and also lead to a mass of work that all looks the same. I have tried most digital software and can tell you that although most offer promises of an exact replica of traditional media outcomes, this is just not true, you cannot replicate the reality of traditionally produced work digitally. Technology is not there yet. Digital tools are exactly that, a tool, and not a replacement. I have included new digital tools to my visual vocabulary that are utilised to further enhance the images. Utilising digital tools also prepares the work for web and print options, being able to manipulate the environments and augment the differing size and DPI measurements is a vital step in an illustrators arsenal. My work may have a traditional 'feel' but with its simplified forms and colors , along with relevant deconstruction to create the most pleasing aesthetic for children viewers, it is also thoroughly modern and of today.
Well here I am again exploring the happy world of children's illustration.There are lots of skills needed to be a children's illustrator, but for today I want to focus on one in particular, That of Character design. In my last post I discussed and showed examples of character design drawings. To follow this path further, I decided to create some pieces for my portfolio that would illustrate how I would accomplish character design within my finished artwork style. One of the main elements of character design of course is how an illustrator accomplishes continuity of characters through multiple images within a prospective publication.This is termed sequencing. Sequencing is also used in animation where characters are continually generated through multiple frames. The ability to carry an individual or group of characters through stages of emotion and physical differences is an important one in any artists skill set. especially within the children's illustration oeuvre.It is not terribly easy to accomplish. Varying human physiology and emotional status distorts features, making for a difficult task when designing on a two dimensional plane, with very few lines and shapes available, to facilitate a believable representation An understanding of anatomy is important, as is an understanding of how emotions affect facial features. at the same time maintaining your style, a style that hopefully is based aesthetically within the paradigm of children friendly illustration aesthetic.. I decided to complete four character illustrations, two of each gender, with varying subtle age differences. I also wanted to include interior and exterior images, with single a multiple figures within them. I have illustrated the characters in different postures and completing different tasks, as It would be within a story context. There are obviously many more situations and characters one could create, but I think I have given an indication to prospective commissioners that I am able to fulfil the sequencing of characters objective. (along with some of the other work within my portfolio) I will pursue character design further in my next set of illustrations, this time I will utilise anthropomorphic principles to create animal characters. Below are the four completed child character design illustrations described.
As you can see I have added relevant text as an indication of the story context, and positioned the images within a structured page layout, the first three for a full page, and the last for a two page layout with a gap left for the middle spine. The format also offers an possibility of how the images may be rearranged and used as independent spot illustrations.
Well here it is, 50 years of age. half way through life, middle age, and maybe a time for reflection.
I am in a very fortunate position, in a sense, because my life has dictated a role and path for me to follow. I have been an artist ever since I was born, whether I knew it or not, I was destined to be an artist. My life has taken many turns, but I have forever been fascinated with creation, and making things. and its only now at this age that I am in the position to practise what I've always aimed for. I love what I do and continue to dream of success, not only for myself but also for my daughter who I hope one day will see me for what i am and understand my passion and vision. my life is good and bad just like any other human being travelling through their own existence.personally speaking, my father is passed, and my mother is in latter stage dementia, lost but not forgotten and who i will meet again one day in the brightest of life, I believe it. I am not religious but I do believe in my god, that is something that is there that I cant explain, that sees every one of us and knows everything about us. no particular denomination, just an entity, an omnipotent presence. Well what ever mind set you personally come from , I hope you are content and fulfilled as I am. I look after myself physically as far as current medical science predicts, I smoke 4-5 roll ups a day, and don't inhale, I partake in the very occasional whisky. I should exercise more often, I've put more weight on that I believe I should have, but generally I am in good physical health. I don't get colds and flue very often, if not at all, my body hasn't given up on me in any way, and I appear at least externally to be fit and healthy. I am aware that I don't necessarily look my age, I'm only saying this because whenever I tell people my age they don't believe me , most take ten years off my real age. I'm very miss trusting of this however as I'm all too aware of the ravages of time, and so I think I'm just behind a bit, and life will catch up on me, and will eventually show its glory in my physicality, eventually.
I enter this new year with hope and passion. I continue to work every day and push forward with my plans to further my illustration career. At the present time, I am working solely upon drawing, I realise that I need to show a breadth of ability to potential commissioners, I have had some very good advice from illustration agents about what I should include in my portfolio, and so I am working towards this, with added optimism.Drawing is like an old friend to me, I feel whole when I'm drawing, its very meditative and life enhancing, I enjoy it very much indeed, it wasn't always as easy, in fact in the early days it was almost purgatory, as well as enjoyable, but I suppose that the learning process. an artist never stops learning of course, it just becomes easier the more you practise. I love my daughter very much indeed she is 13 now, from my divorce 10 years ago.When my ex wife eventually lets me see her which is usually 3 weekly, I find myself gushing with parental father daughter advice. I also show her my work as I've always done throughout her life. generally speaking she really likes my work, and gives me pointers as to what she believes is the right thing to create. At the present time I'm working on a favourite subject of mine, that of anamorphism, I will complete around five sheets of A2 drawings for my portfolio to add to a newly acquired drawing tab for my website. I will continue to add to this over time, Below are a couple of examples :
As we all know the human body is extremely complex and the individual mind within each of us decides how our bodies interact with the world. Human emotion and the mannerisms it creates makes for a challenging thing for an artist to draw. If we then attempt to draw children, we are then faced with extra challenges. Children not only possess a smaller stature, but they also have their own set of nuances. My own personal style has been formulated over time developed by the very act of living, my susceptibility to read everything perhaps more diligently than many (sensitivity) my preference for detail and a modality that is expressed through knowledge of codifying images to fit a perceived norm, That is, infantilizing, cuteness, and universal mannerisms that constitute everyone else's experience and knowledge of how children make their way in the world. Aside from emotional content, how do we represent naivety, for example. I guess this is only a perceived notion, within a drawn image context, or is it the overall universal visual cues we receive when viewing a drawn image of a child. we all know how a child of a certain age 'looks' but how do we translate this knowledge into a visualisation. Children have smaller features than adults, Their heads appear larger compared to the size of their bodies, they appear to have slightly larger eyes because their faces are more compacted generally, and because the nose for example is generally closer to their eye line. Their ears appear to be larger, because visually their heads are smaller. They tend to have bulbous cheeks (puppy fat as its known). They tend to have round rather than long faces. their hands are smaller as are their limbs. An illustrator can take these visual cues, alongside the use of universal coding, to exaggerate all these elements, thus reinforcing the overall universal iconography.Through infantilization the illustrator can exaggerate eye size, along with the ear and nose size, exaggerating slenderness of limbs, and slight stretching can produce good results. My style has been arrived at partly because I wished to produce humour in my work which is an obvious universal notion creating a sense of well being and happiness. A quality anyone would want for young minds eyes. Codifying humour, is well documented within what we call cartooning. Cartooning has a very long history with many, often famous protagonists of the art form. I had researched cartooning as part of my university studies, and in turn that knowledge has influenced my own style. I utilise many of the universal cues in my work The overall look of my style may appear cartoon like, however, I have developed it further to produce more of a drawing than a cartoon, I have further developed the general naturalism, further enhancing realism. To a point that is, until I feel comfortable that the image still retains the freshness and simplified form of a true cartoon. The drawings below are examples of how I have exaggerated and further infantilised the individual characters. This is the initial 'raw' line drawing, My style is such that after this stage I may develop the marks further and once colour is added very fine differences to the initial drawing may be seen although most of the time any changes are so subtle that they are not easily seen.
I don't use reference material, I draw from my imagination, I think right i am going to draw a little girl for example, I then start at a point, sometimes I start with the curve of a face, or the nose, any point in fact, I don't have a formula, I have seen some artists make grids or make a cross , or draw a head shape and fill it in, I just concentrate on producing, its a very arbitrary process. I just draw a line to indicate where it would be. I tend to focus on creating an individual character rather than focusing on the technical aspects of achieving it, a character begins to appear as more lines are produced this forces me to conjure up the image from my imagination, which in turn adds to the spontaneity of the drawing and the overall aesthetic.Working this way allows my style to show through more readily because I am thinking on my feet , quickly evaluating as i proceed. If I was periodically averting my eyes away from the work to view and compute reference material then the disruption in my thought process would be hindered and the work in my view would consequently become more stale, and preconceived, issues I am trying to avoid. As I want tiny quirks and foibles to be present (I don't like to call them mistakes) adding to the naive quality of the illustration which I am trying to accommodate. The aim of producing this work was to indicate to potential commissioner's how I would envisage a character design for them, and supply them with drawings that could be chosen first time or developed further, or re evaluated completely as and when they desired.
Finally, I have my website up and running with 20 images in my portfolio. It has taken nearly six months to do the work and set everything up. This however, is only the first step in any illustrators business endeavours. Now comes the harder stuff (in my personal view anyway) The practise of marketing and gaining contacts who will also hopefully be commissioners too.It is well known that artists inn general are not the best at this part of the business. It does require creativity, but marketing/gaining commissions , is fraught with potential pain and despair, alongside the occasional fruitful, happy occasion. Knock backs and refusal to acknowledge you and your work are common place. One reason why so many illustrators prioritise looking for an agent who will help with most of the leg work, and help promote you. I myself have applied for a few in the past with other styles of illustration, and so I am used to rejection. However, I do also remain positive as I believe there is a good market for my work. its just a case of finding a good match. Anyway the focus for this post is what my plans are for marketing and gaining commissioners, and i hope that my way of going about this will offer insight for anyone else in the same boat. One of my first jobs was to register with the Association of Illustrators, I have been with them before for other style, and know too well how important they are for a multitude of reasons. A subscription offers a 20 image portfolio on their site. (Here is mine: https://theaoi.com/folios/john-hogan-childrens-book-illustration/) Not to mention, as part of their membership another free 10 image portfolio with the Directory of Illustration which is an AMerican version and international too.) The AOI are there to offer support and guidance for illustrators and offer a comprehensive business overview and advice, both legal and rudimentary, including a Illustrators code of conduct. The AOI validates you and your work within a professional framework. I cant recommend it more, its membership is invaluable for any illustrator. Once signed up there is access to other marketing and gaining contacts. For the legal side of the business , apart from the online information, there are publications to purchase for a reduced fee.. One of the main ones is the illustrators guide to law and business practise, which is very useful.
One of my marketing plans is to (in the new year) send postcards to as many potential commissioners as I can. I will be printing a selected piece of artwork from my portfolio, onto a 5x7 postcard double sided to include my website and contact details. I will be sending out 50 at a time to all the contacts that I have found through some of the literature supplied by the AOI, The AOI offer (for a small fee) a directory of over 300 contacts (names and addresses) within the industry, including publishers and literary agents amongst other potential clients.
Outside of the AOI I have also purchased another essential publication which offers another host of possible contacts within the industry. Over 300 in fact. apart from excellent general advice to the professional illustrator.
Alongside these publications I am also signing up for membership of bikini lists.https://www.bikinilists.com/ with a potential market place of over 65,000 this is the go to platform for contacts within the creative industries. It isn't cheap, but Its well worth the outlay.
the service offers automation of email sending which takes out a lot of the donkey work.
So if people don't know you are there, they don't know what you do, and you want this, so it has to be an important part of your marketing strategy. The second phase in my marketing near future plans, is marketing through social media. We all understand how important social media is in any marketing strategy. On my website I have placed links to all my social media accounts. I belong to 7 altogether but I will be signing up to more as i go forward.Social media marketing is very time consuming, but has huge potential rewards.I also plan to fully utilise my you tube channel by making and uploading process and information videos in the new year. So as you can see there is a lot of work to do, aside from actually continuing to develop my portfolio, its going to be hard work , with a lot of pain and rejection, but this is all part of promoting yourself to your best ability, its just a case of knowing how and where to do it, and so I hope what I have shared here may help you in this regard.
I thought I would share my process with you as I am completing the 19th illustration for my portfolio. It is an insight into the way an artist/illustrator uses all their visual technical ability and the way they design a work. I am a children's illustrator and so my style is focused aesthetically on simplified form and colour. Infantilised elements and exaggerated forms. The initial idea for the work has been floating around my mind for a while. I wanted to produce an illustration that would include a number of different monster characters. I came up with The monsters reunion. I wanted to have a small boy in amongst the monsters, with the text/story, ( I will include later when its finished ) to include a monster named Rob, who is a friend of the boy and has introduced him to the annual monster reunion. I wanted to include some flying dragon like creatures and a city in the far background. I also wanted to place a large bridge and an enclosing wall, then I thought well some monsters would be seated and some having drinks. I began the drawing with the foreground monsters and worked forwards/upwards including two tables etc. The initial drawing is the point where the basic design is mapped into the work, It is worked out at the concept stage where I have a focal point and all the elements should work as a whole to focus the viewers gaze. Occasionally I will produce a thumbnail or plan sketch/drawing. Commissioners may require this, but for self initiated work I generally just start drawing pick a starting point, I think it was the foreground character on the right on this occasion) Then I work outwards from there composing the design as I proceed.The drawing stage took me around 6 hours to produce, the illustration is A2 in size, and I have filled the sheet almost completely. When I had completed the drawing I then applied spray mount to the rear and then glue the drawing down upon a sheet of white mount board. I have shown in the image below the starting point for the first layer of paint (watercolour).
Initial drawing and a start on the paint.
The first layer of watercolour is applied in a thin wash, I cover the whole area quite quickly The colours are chosen arbitrarily, I obviously don't know what a monster in reality looks like and so I am picking the colours randomly and thinking on my feet so to speak, where each colour should go and what the right colour should be. When I say the right colour I mean not just for each character to work with the next, I also mean that these base colours are important as they are the basis of the design by colour. Do individual coloured elements work as a pictorial whole, is the colour balance correct. I have in my minds eye a general feel I want to achieve, and aim for that. I am also mindful of the light source, and the strength of the application of the washes as I need to create depth with a foreground, middle and background, I tend to lay in a nominally lighter tone wash for the first paint layer. I work from top to bottom until all, the drawing is covered in colour. As you can see from the image below, the first paint layer is very light, a vague indication of form is indicated, but as yet there are no shadows or dark tones The first layer of paint takes around 4-5 hours.When its dry I begin the whole process again, for the second layer of paint. following this time, the first paint colour , I lay a slightly thicker wash over the top of the first. I may begin to define certain areas of interest, and or find ways in which to promote or not promote areas with thickness of wash and variation of some tones of colour.I began from the sky and worked down for the second paint layer.
First paint block in layer
The first and second layer are very close to each other in tone, and so I will jump ahead one layer and show you the third layer. You may say why don't you just paint the whole picture in opaque paint to begin with, and just add highlights and darks all at once? Well, my technique has been developed, over time, through experimentation. In the past I realised that I could gauge the nuances of the paint and visual aspects as the work progresses in a more sensitive way, which enables me to play with tonality and depth of field more readily, because I vary the paint transparency very finitely giving me more scope as I develop the work. If I just painted it all thickly from the first I would have to manage all the nuances at the end, and as I've tried this before I found that the painting becomes something other than what I am trying to accomplish with my style. ie a painted drawing, rather than a painting of a drawing. I am also aiming to produce a light rich, work, and by utilising the white of the paper for my whites I can create a far more airy generalised light. Also if I complete the whites as I go, this cuts down the time of production. As you can see by the third layer things are beginning to become more defined, as I build the opacity and the strength of tone. I tend to define the eyes at this point. The psychological impact of producing work this way always is always the same , the thing is I am not looking at anything else for reference. From the second layer point, I equate with climbing a hill, You can vaguely see the top , but you know you have to do a lot more walking uphill, You just keep building and building until you reach the top, when you look over the top of the hill that's when the work is virtually complete.
The third watercolour layer
The fourth layer is when I begin to use the coloured pencils exclusively. I have experimented with many types of coloured pencil to find the best feel texture and depth I prefer, and require for my style. I eventually settled on three types that I use exclusively in my work. The first is a cheap pencil you can buy in a supermarket, they are generally poor quality and quite hard and difficult to gain any colour mark from them, I use this fact to my advantage, for certain jobs within a picture, I dont use the often but when they are needed they are invaluable.The second type I use is Derwent procolour.They are really rich and you can attain great depth when they are mixed and layered on top of each other, they are really nice to use with strong colour definition. and the third coloured pencil I always use is Derwent coloured drawing pencils, these are particularly dense, almost like a pastel, if you need to fill an area quickly they are perfect, and for strength of depth they are brilliant. they have a slightly deeper depth achievement than the pro colours both are excellent. So, using watercolour as abase layer enables me to build quite quickly from the third layer of paint with coloured pencils. Using this technique I can also leave areas without pencil intervention, and these areas can be used to fade areas and make less opaque for background and far away areas. Plus, the base layer of paint gives a solid ground. the paint layers are the mid tones and highlight definition, The pencil stage is for the dark low tones, which almost immediately bring the picture into view and define everything, Its with the pencils that the good stuff happens with development of form and depth of field, and the hill I was talking about earlier suddenly the top is in view and you begin to run, instead of plod.
I have around 80 pencil colours at my disposal, The colours can also be mixed to a degree. I also use various graphite pencils, I use a 6 H for lights work and a 4,and 6 B for the darks and variations of the two for detail. The forth layer then is a building process upon the grounding of the base watercolour. I have started with this particular illustration at the foreground, but this is not always the case, for other pieces. The two characters on the left and right where blocked in as with a few others in the semi foreground. The reason for starting here is two fold, firstly I can gauge the strength of application whilst being wary of how this interacts with the middle and background, all the time gaining a feel of the whole ambiance and the work required to facilitate the whole, in a comprehensive ideal. and secondly, the light source is further defined. and sets the scene for the rest of the picture plane.The light source in this case is coming from the back of the composition. I use this technique of the behind light quite often in my work as it adds to the illusion of depth quite readily. This particular illustration, because of its many characters, and subsequent depth indicators, offers a complex scene to gauge correctly, There are many ways to achieve depth of field, one of the most common, involves, lessening the opaque levels as it recedes, into the background, another way is to lessen, and /or adjust tonal variations. In this instance, I began with the foreground characters building high opaque colouration to the foremost characters. As you can see some areas are not clear at the moment, and will only become apparent when other areas have been established. its a matter of engaging with the image as a whole , adjusting and rectifying as you proceed. the stage I have shown here is not entirely finished this will not happen until the whole image is near to completion and then a final overview layer is applied, in the last layers I also build further detail into the work. The pencil stage is not without the use of extra watercolour, here and there, again altering the tonality and opaqueness as you proceed.
Stage 1. Beginning of the forth layer Pencil and paint
From now on the illustration is built up piece by piece, I tend to focus on one element/character at a time, building it up until it fees right for the time being, as long as the tonality is just about ready for details, I will go onto another element and build that until that element fits with its surroundings, in tone and colour depth. I work across the illustration in this particular case because of the depth of field, and the multitude of characters. I need to make sure in this instance, that the foreground, semi foreground, and the mid ground are unified as far as strength of colour is concerned as you will see in the stages after this one, that it starts to look as if there is depth (the illusion) because I have paid attention at this stage to the points outlined above. In the image below you can see that I have now completed to a large degree, the foreground semi foreground and the mid ground. There is only a slight variation in the tonality and depth of colour at this point, I will probably keep reinforcing each as required as time goes by. I have started adding more detail generally, and have worked up further the foreground characters. The initial colour selection at the beginning of the paint is now becoming apparent as the base tones can be used to build complexity and the design by colour of the illustration, is proving its self. An image works when the structural design and the colouration design knit together and balance the work. The focal point is the boy, and Rob the monster. that's where the structure of the design will be pointing towards, I have done this with pointing fingers and other gestures like the monster on the left waving, the glasses of the foreground monster. (offers another pointing diagonal) the stripy head of the monster on the right holding up his glass is another design pointer. The flying monsters white bellies offer another visual pointer and the bridge on the left mirrors slightly the monster belly is another design mechanism.there are other smaller indicators as to where the eye will travel and the direction I would like the viewer to visualise the work.The colour design is generally quite logical, where there is a red tone, there is another red tone opposite , or near opposite, which counter balances the composition. The same is true of any other primary or secondary colour. either a single colour on its own or a block of colour across a number of objects, it should all be balanced. At this stage when everything is not yet worked up this design will not be completely apparent, but I give you heads up so you can see where there should be relevant tonality/colour when the work is completed, for the whole illustration design to work
Stage 2 of the forth layer progression
As you can see,in the image below, I have now begun to work on the middle ground, including the bridge, work on the background buildings and the sky, I have only to work on the flying creatures being the last thing I haven't touched since the last paint layer. To suggest depth I have changed/lessened the tonality to a degree, and worked up some of the colours and detail, I have also worked into the previous work from yesterday, strengthening areas in colouration and detail. The blacks I have used for example, are less dense, as is the general colour, to assist in the illusion of depth (being further away to the eye) I hope you can see better now the colour composition, and how the colours relate to each other to assist in the overall design of the work. You can see the Greens are in a arrow shape bank, with Bob being the tip. The reds are evenly dispersed throughout the image weighing each other up and the picture as a whole, as are the blues, and yellows which are dispersed so that a colour balance exists throughout the design. The development of the flying creatures will be particularly interesting as they are mostly within 2 pictorial distances, the heads being closer than the the majority of the rest of the body. In particular The head of the flying monster on the right is almost the same level as the stripy head monster.The flying monster in the centre is mainly in front of Bob and the boy, the boy is looking up at it. The monster figure on the bridge is behind all of them.Once the rest of the work has been worked up , then the next layer is when I look at the whole image and decide which areas require more information and depth, the rest is fine tuning until I believe its finished. I am working in sections on this illustration because of its complexity .When I produce smaller less complex work, I tend to review and work into the image as a whole.
Stage 3 working towards the rear
The image below is another 6 hours work on this illustration. As you can see, I have now blocked in the majority of the illustration, I have only the monster on the bridge to bring up to the same level as the rest. I have worked further into the sky and the buildings. reinforced the monsters in the foreground, and begun to develop the flying monsters.I am nearing completion now and will probably finish within another day or so. It is a crowded piece and fairly complicated and so there are a number of problem areas to remedy, mostly to do with readability, and there is a lot more detail to be finalised, along with some colour adjustment, in some areas. I liken it to tuning in a radio, the devil is in the detail, and just the right amount for each element, will dictate the image as a whole, fine tuning is a funny thing, I mean when is something finished? I guess when it finally works, in my eyes at least, There is a lot to be said for leaving it out of sight for a while, when you think its finished. Then on re evaluation with fresh eyes, issues may present themselves. Its always an agonising process, finishing. I desperately want it to be right. Because There is nothing to compare it to, no reality, its a question of relying upon your experience and knowledge and whether the work fits within the parameters of my initial Idea and my minds visualisation. I mean I wouldn't of even started the work if my initial mind visual didn't work, the actual illustration is the physical product of my imagination.
Stage 4 further working in.
Below is an image of another 6-8 hours work. The work is now finished. As you can see, I have further strengthened all the foreground monsters, inclusive of modifying one of the monsters mouths, I did initially, want a monster with a grumpy closed mouth but on reflection, I needed more detail in that area with a complimentary colour and so I opened his mouth wider. The foreground creatures required further work as did the background figures and the city in the further background along with the bridge.with some more work on the flying monsters. To finish off I processed the work digitally, cropping, and adding a white background, and then adding the text I had written down at the beginning of the process enabling me to illustrate part of a story. And that's it..My process.
I have completed eighteen pieces of work to date with the nineteenth well on the way, and so I am near to the final twenty I require for a comprehensive overview portfolio, for my upcoming website. With this in mind I have now begun to finalise my work one by one. I am doing this in two ways, the first is to put my work through digital editing software to enable the best viewing for the web. I use two packages, the first is Picasa I use this to crop and fine tune the individual pieces, to ensure utmost clarity, colour, and exposure, This is very minimal, but it is necessary, mainly to make up for the inadequacies of photography. I photograph my work myself after a few misfortunate episodes with a few photographers and the poor results they offered me. Now the daylight isn't as good as in the warmer months, it is more difficult to get it right. waiting for a sunny day in the UK in the winter lol. The second digital software I use is Gimp. I have found this an excellent package, in a lot of ways better than photoshop, and it certainly has the majority of functionality of photoshop. Again I use this software to fine tune the images, and in some cases I do use a tablet and pen to touch up areas that may require it. However, this is largely unnecessary. I am trying to produce beautiful artwork , I have worked hard on my technique with traditional media, to perfect the techniques to enable the right 'feel' I am trying to create. That of a warm depth, that only traditional media offers.however as soon as it is introduced to the digital format, things change, not only for the artwork, but also the way others may view it, with regards to differing computer screens and resolutions etc. And so because the process of trying to arrive at the correct visual dynamics as in reality a certain amount of adjustment is required to replace what is lost going from reality to digital and trying to achieve a solid grounding by which everyone will 'see' the work. I have experimented widely with digital methods, to achieve this and now I have a standard application I stick to. like I say, its minimal intervention but it is necessary. I have also begun to position my work within the context that the work was intended for, namely I have begun to introduce text as mock ups . This serves the purpose of enabling the viewer to see the illustration as was intended, ie in a book/page layout. I believe this is good for two reasons, it shows the context of the work to the original story/text it was made to illustrate. And it further supplies the viewer with the reality of the story, and potentially bringing a more pronounced enjoyment of the illustration. It is also good for prospective agents,publishers, and commissioners to see the work in context. And so I have been adding text to each of my illustrations, I have also digitally drawn around the work to strengthen the white page, enabling a more pronounced professional bias. The process would in fact be used by the graphic designer, before going to print. amongst other manipulations, and so I am preempting this, to a degree also. Obviously there are a number of ways to add text to images within a book format, and so what I have achieved is an indication of what could be done and how the work would look within a text context. There are hundreds of fonts, sizes and layouts possible, I am just offering an alternative an indication. I have designed my illustrations variously to encompass all the relevant formats , for example I have produced some for Insets within a page or possibly a rap around text option., some for half pages and others for full pages, I am also aware of the potential bleed an image may have for a prospective publication and this would be a requirement from the commissioner.
I am very pleased that my new website dedicated to children's book illustration is near to completion, by the end of November I should be in the position to finally publish it. I researched extensively to find a web designer that would offer the kind of website I was looking for, essentially a portfolio website, that also offered extensive SEO optimisation. I eventually came across a husband and wife partnership, who were also professionally qualified in Marketing. The website designers are :https://www.red-website-design.co.uk/ and the host is wordpress. My domain name is certified and will be johnhoganchildrensbookillustration.com. I am now in the process of adding text and images to the website. I have also designed and produced my Logo and avatar, below:
Below are a selection of the final images that have undergone the process as described above, I am a perfectionist and so I hope they are complete now , the first three are actually part of a book I am writing and illustrating in my spare time. Little Jack's big adventure.
Here I am again with an update of my work and life as a children's book illustrator. I have been busy lately trying to get the best out of photography to show my work in its best light. Believe me I have tried countless times to achieve the best quality photos, I have tried taking my own pictures outside and in, in different lighting conditions, at different times of the day etc. with both my mobile phone and a new camera , which at the point of purchase I was promised it was the best thing since sliced bread, (I know they would say that) anyway I thought I would give it a go. The results are better than my i phone, but only by a small margin. It doesn't over expose to the extent of the phone but lacks in other areas instead. Anyway, after lots of trial and error I finally decided to have my work photographed professionally to see if they could do any better.Now i told all the photographers concerned that i wanted the best they could do as the images were intended for not just my website, but eventually they would be used for sending out postcards etc to publishers /agents etc, i was expecting high results. First I tried a local wedding photographer who swore they could capture anything extremely well. In short, they didn't, I was very disappointed. suffice it to say it ruined my work. and so, I left with the guys voice proclaiming 'well you will never get a true representation of reality with a camera' ringing in my ears. I tried again thinking it was just my bad luck, with another local photographer. Now I will say that they both had premises and 20 years experience, so I was expecting something half decent. The next lady this time was very sweet 'yes i will have them with you in 3 days, I was so looking forward , and...pow! unbelievable! again work ruined, believe me it was bad, terrible in fact. Now I'm not one for giving up, I thought I am going about this all wrong, I need to find a commercial photographer. I tried the Bark website. pretty handy for finding someone for your project. I looked up commercial photographers and within a few hours I had a phone call from a photographer, based in Chester he was extremely professional and talked at length about the technicalities of achieving the best results, I was hooked, and after considering hard the hefty price tag/hike I thought this is it. He picked the work up and promised the images in a few days.This guys work was amazing he had 15 years experience, was a Getty photographer and specialised in commercial still life subjects for packaging/advertising etc. I was exited at the prospect of brilliant photography....A few days later he sent them via an email link, before he would return with my originals later in the day...Oh my god!! They were awful , absolutely terrible, what had I done to deserve this I thought 3 separate photographers all promising they could do a great job... all rubbish!, my own attempts were better, far better, with no specialist camera or lighting equipment. I was and still am perplexed , I did receive my work back and had a nice word with the photographer.He was adamant they were great , and even came in to where I live to view them on my computer along with my own attempts, he still didn't see it!He sent me his invoice, then there were a few email returns until he said that he would try again with the ones he had taken to make them good, I'm still waiting, and I am not at all convinced of any improvement. now oi know what your thinking 3 different photographers , your thinking it must be me, I must be wrong or I'm the one who is not looking at them right. believe me they were that bad I was going to put some of them here to illustrate but they are so bad that I thought it not the best idea. I am an artist/ illustrator, I create my own reality I stage the scene and design the set, I conduct all the lighting depth of field, tonality etc etc, I must have some insight into what is good and what is not good surely. One of the reasons I am not fond of wholly digital work is because apart from it all looking the same, it doesn't allow for finite nuances , I don't care what the moguls say. If photography is not what it is made out to be, and that in its revolution of art and how it has forced artists to partake in all things digital, then I am not convinced. I know everything eventually becomes a digital representation in the end, but if its not like reality and doesn't reflect reality in the truest sense then there is some injustice going on , how many images seen on line are not a true representation, it brings into question the validity of what we are given to view. Anyway that's my rant over. To be quite honest I thought it would be quite straight forward to photograph my work. My work in the flesh so to speak is a good distance away from the photographic reality I am achieving presently. The depth of tone and colour is far more pronounced, and the light is far more finite and underrepresented in the current photographs. Until I can find the best way to reproduce it to its best, all I can do is post what I have until hopefully I am ready to publish my website with the best photographic examples. If anyone has any advice please feel free to post in the comments below, I would be eternally grateful.
Someone asked me via social media recently who my influences are. I have many, indeed along the road of development and style change, my hero's of illustration altered, however, some of the main illustrators, i have admired have never changed they include Ralph Steadman, Ronald Searle, and Quentin Blake. As my style emerged, and knowledge grew, I found others that would inspire me and the direction my work would take, two in particular are Chris Riddell,(Uk) children's laureate and Jim Harris (American) both are expert draughtsman in the traditional sense, both work mainly with traditional media, both work within naturalistic, and anapromorphic paradigms, and to me are what true illustrators are, you wont find any wholly digital working illustrators in my hero list. I have recently finished my seventeenth work of the twenty I am aiming to complete before I re launch my website. I had a plan to start with single figures and small groups then the latter ones would be more complex in design with a multitude of characters, and more akin to full or double page layout illustrations.The next three will continue to develop more complex designs. The first below, is a work inspired by my postman who said he had been chased by a dog one day. I took this idea and as I wanted to make some monster pictures I decided to place a monster instead of a dog, that the postman was running away from:
Charlie the friendly monster meets the postman.
Its raining cats and Frogs.(How many cats and frogs can you find)
The above image and the one below are designed to show that a image can be produced with an area left without any image for the text to be placed. The above work was inspired by those picture books that offer some kind of interaction from the children, in this case counting is advocated. as you can see with these two designs I have placed the characters centrally with differing frontal elevation perspectives.. Again this work is self initiated for my portfolio. The way I have produced the illustrations is to illustrate how my style can be manipulated, within a page. If the work was a real commission then there would be more finite requirements, that would need to be adhered to, such as working within a specific page size framework and allowing the correct bleed of the artwork to fit within the printing parameters. By the way If you would like to follow my progress as I go then My Instagram page is where I post work as I complete it, along with Work in progress drawings, and other drawings that I complete: https://www.instagram.com/johnhoganchildrensillustrator/