A Lesson from KidLitVic 2019

I missed out on the Illustrator Showcase this year, and I was super disappointed about it. But missing out meant I felt more compelled to get a Portfolio Assessment, and that was the best decision I could have made.

I’ve spent most of the last year in a kind of hibernation. I was focussed on moving my art in directions I’m happy with, telling stories I want to tell, and developing techniques without too much outside influence. I think that was a good decision, and will be incredibly helpful moving forward. But I did also need a reminder to move forward, and the advice Susannah Chambers (of Allen & Unwin) gave me really helped me realise that.

In short, I had been so focussed on the stories that I personally want to tell, that I had forgotten the practical side of things. Form with no function, as it were. So, while my dream project may be to do full page illustrations for a weird collection of middle grade sci fi poetry… there aren’t that many projects like that floating around. And it’s not like it’s the only thing I’m interested in.

Specifically, Susannah pointed out that usually, as a junior/middle-grade illustrator, you don’t often get the luxury of full pages to work with. And if that’s all that’s in my portfolio, then it can seem like I’m either not interested in making the kind of illustrations they need, or that I can’t.

To turn all of this into another field: I love wearing short denim shorts. I would be happy wearing them every single day. Except that obviously I can’t or I would be cold and miserable. And there are tons of winter clothes I love wearing too, so it’s all good. But my portfolio shouldn’t just be filled with denim shorts or no one will ever hire me to wear bootcut jeans and cute sweaters. Yeah?

That is to say, I need to survey where I’m at right now, and find where it intersects with illustrations that people want, and then show them that I can do that (and want to!) by posting about it on the internet. Publishers are busy people, making books is risky, and they need to know I’m up for the project.

And also, separately, I need to continue my development work in a safe space free of outside influences, so I can look across at that and use it as a guide to stop me accidentally buying skinny jeans when I know I hate wearing them. But that’s for another post.

Goldie Roth

Goldie_Final_flat_3

This piece is fan art of Lian Tanner’s Museum of Thieves. Goldie, the main character, is just about to venture forth into her new life as a runaway. She’s a determined kid, but she’s just spent all day crying, and is alone for the first time in her life.

goldie thumbs

I really wanted to capture the city as an imposing secondary character, and to include the Great Hall as an obvious focal point, looming over the scene. I settled on a close-up view of Goldie, so I could show her expression, and the (plot-relevant) ribbon around her wrist.

Stylistically, I tried to call on middle-grade illustrations I love. From Helquist to Riddell, I find there’s a common thread of stylised but rendered. That is, things don’t necessarily need to be fully realistic, but they should have a sense of solidity, of depth and detail. You want to feel that the world continues beyond the pictures. 

Goldie at Docks2

From there, I collaged the picture together – painting and drawing bits and pieces, scanning them in, and layering them up. I’ve been trying really hard to bring my ‘sketchbook style’ into complex finished pictures, and collaging is what’s working best at present. The scan below is what I used as a guideline for various elements. Other parts of the picture (like Goldie herself) were drawn almost entirely digitally. And, yes, that hair was super fun to draw.

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For fun, and because I’ve been told I really need to show I can work in vignettes (more on that in a later post!), here’s a quick alternate version with just Goldie and the boat:

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Have a nice Sunday, friends, and expect some more blogging sometime soon 🙂