New Children’s Illustrations And A Sad Update

Childrens Illustration, General, Uncategorized

Not a lot of activity on the bookshelves from me in 2016, but that’s because I’ve been illustrating titles due in 2017 for amazing publishers including Macmillan/FSG, Hodder, Benchmark, Igloo and Miles Kelly. I can’t upload that work to my folio just yet, but I have just added some older ‘new’ work if you fancy taking a peek. I promise I haven’t hung up my pencil case and joined the circus…

It’s not like 2016 has been a quiet year, last week was the launch of the Rising Stars Reading Planet series from Hodder. My title is ‘The Big Show’ and was heaps of fun to work on.

And I managed a whole lot of drawings for Inktober. I Instagram-ed like crazy with these, my sketchbook was getting papped every day (well, at least 26 times during October). I tried with Facebook and Twitter … I really tried. Seriously, I did but unless I fork out the coin, my illustrations just seem to get filed in the basement.

I even managed to sort out my Etsy store (to some degree)…

etsy

 

The Bad Bit

I had an agreement in place with a fabulous printer and got my website shop in good order. Then I got an email with the very sad news that the printer was closing down with pretty much immediate effect. Beep. And now I’m getting emails asking about the Christmas products I had for sale. Double beep.

I’m working on finding a new supplier but in the meantime I’ve had to move products over to my Society6 store (which is still pretty cool because I can sell clocks, unicorn t-shirts and leggings too). I’ll keep you all updated on the Christmas ornaments, but for now please enjoy these mugs. Back soon with some news!

mugs

Three Wise Monkeys

Childrens Illustration, Drawings, Editorial Illustration, General, Goodies, Tutorials

While I’m formulating The Best Blog Post Ever, here are a few bits of what of been up to (so my blog doesn’t feel like the Marie Celeste).

Three Wise Monkeys

 

Martial Arts IllustrationHTD_Mermaid_1500pxw

 

Illustration Camp – Avoiding ‘Clip Art’ Style

Childrens Illustration, General, Illustration Camp Post, Resources, Techniques

Have you ever compared two things and wondered why one looks amazing and worth every penny while the other looks, well, average? I have. I do it all the time. For example:

Two coats in a shop (because you know how much I love my analogies).

Coat A is £10.56. It has minimal styling and is made of a non-textured synthetic fibre. It’s a bog standard sludgy brown colour and has average looking buttons and slit pockets with no visible tailoring.

Coat B is £50.56. It has modern styling and it’s made from soft wool. It’s an unusual bright cerise-red colour with big shiny over-sized buttons and the pockets have flaps and zips. The tailoring is immaculate.

Coat B has had a lot more time, research and imagination spent on it. Better materials have been used. Essentially, it’s a different kind of coat.

An illustration of two coats

Coat A took about 20 seconds to draw…

 

Now, imagine Coat A is clip art and Coat B is bespoke illustration. It’s that simple. Add bells and whistles or your output will look like it belongs on a CD called 10,000 Royalty Free Images For Your Web and Online Projects for Personal Use Only that comes free with a computer magazine. Nothing wrong with that if that’s what you were aiming for but if you were aiming somewhere else, it’s more than just mildly disappointing. So, are you ready for my super important advice… *insert trumpetty music here*

You have to invest time into what you’re doing because when you don’t, it shows. It really shows.

That’s it. For a large scale illustration, put the hours in. There will still be occasions where an art director will ask for 15 re-draws and you’ll want to re-evaluate your career choices but it happens. I personally don’t know of anyone who gets it right first time, every time. I’m not saying they don’t exist, just that you don’t need to worry about them because you probably won’t meet one unless you pay for the privilege.

You cannot build a portfolio in a day. If you asked some of my students from the Portfolio Crash course I ran last Autumn, they’ll tell you how difficult it was to get 12 pieces together in 3 months. Very hard work. And you may be just developing your folio with personal work but I’m making the assumption that you want to bag a paid commission at some point. The people who commission you will never think ‘Aww, she must have been pushed for time on this piece of development work. I bet she’d draw proper hands if she’d been getting paid to do it…’ Instead, they make the logical assumption that you can’t draw hands.

But what about those small scale illustrations, you know, the little vignettes and warm up sketches that you see on illustrators pages, walls and timelines every now and again – how are they done in 20 minutes or so, I hear you all ask.

Self moderation, common sense, a strong critical eye and a little bit fairy dust. There are things I still can’t put my finger on and those are the bits where you need good instincts and fantastic powers of research. If you draw a character with dead-eye, you have to be prepared to figure out why and how to fix it. If you can’t draw hands, find a solution.

You can tell the difference between something drawn in a paint program and a graphics program. Or, if you’re one of those lesser-spotted traditional artists, something drawn with a blunt crayon or with a dip-pen and ink – you have to consider every choice you make carefully to build a professional portfolio.

Seven Ways to Make Your Illustration More Exciting

  1. Don’t skimp on detail Textiles, foliage, furnishings all have detail – draw that detail. Use marks, textures and/or shadow.
  2. Don’t use a mono-line Vary your line widths or your work could look flat and a bit vanilla.
  3. Avoid dead-eye Focus your characters gaze and use eyebrows/facial expressions to your advantage or forever use dot eyes. Easy.
  4. Vary poses No one wants to see a dead-eye clown, from the front and with his hands by his side. Be imaginative.
  5. Consider colour Relationships should be well thought out – consider fashion choices, interior design, setting etc.
  6. Anatomical detail Thumb on wrong side of hand, anyone? Three joints in one arm? One huge foot? Make sure your basic anatomy is right.
  7. Good subject knowledge Research – you have the world at your fingertips in the form of many web browsers. Use them and never just guess. Guessing is bad.

Some illustrators do use a mono-line, some might use flat colour too but usually it’s part of a very distinctive style that has been researched and built upon. If this is the way you want to go, find those illustrators and examine their work in detail until you understand why it works for them. Don’t copy, just pick it apart until you instinctively understand it.

We all make mistakes, sometimes big, sometimes small and sometimes because an AD has a different idea for a project than what you initially hand over. Personally, I’ve had work published where I’d love to request it back and tidy bits up or change colours or re-design characters but I have a feeling that it will always be that way. That’s my own progression taking place, never being 100% happy is what keeps you pushing on and striving to improve.

Whatever stage you’re at, keep going and keep learning.

(This post is not aimed at clip art makers, it’s aimed at beginner/self taught children’s illustrators. I have to point that out because I’m not looking to offend anyone. I could go into detail about clip art but I really don’t want to get that kind of discussion going. To put it in context, a clip art creator needs to yield a high output of work to make money. Bespoke illustration needs time and therefore needs to be well paid for anyone to sustain it as a career.)

[authors category=”Maxine Lee-Mackie”]

A Tiny Tantrum

Childrens Illustration, General

Character development – I think I’ll call her Amelia…

Hoppers

Childrens Illustration, General

Hoppers mean trouble…

Birthday Badger…

Childrens Illustration, General

I have been busy, honest! I’m sorting through and cataloguing all of my recent work so I’ll post some new illustrations here as I get to them – the rest are available over at Bright or in my web portfolio. First up – Mr. Badger…

Book Dummy – A Very Late Update About Pi-Rat!

Childrens Illustration, Childrens Writing, Drawings, Techniques, Tutorials

As I was sitting here, delicately nibbling a doughnut (stuffing my face) it hit me that I never actually came back and updated my book dummy adventures. For those of you that were following or just like to read a happy ending, I’ll do it now (as soon as I’ve finished this cake).

That was lovely.

As I mentioned in my last ‘dummy’ post, I digitally submitted it to four literary agents. I sat back and started to think about my next idea. Then I got an email from one of the four the same week -I was completely taken off guard…brilliant!

After speaking initially with Lauren I knew straight away that I was going to accept her offer of representation. The conversation was laid back, Lauren was lovely and I felt at ease to ask questions (even the stupid ones). As I’d done my research beforehand, I already knew that on a professional level, this was one of the four agencies I wanted the most. At this point I withdrew my submission from the other three (one of them sent me a lovely email about my dummy and wished me well for the future too, which was nice).

So, the update is, I was offered representation (literary and illustration) by Bright and I have to say, I’m over the moon about it.

As for the dummy itself, it needs some tweaking…but it’s looking better with each one. In between tweaks, I’ve written and started to develop another.

My portfolio at Bright is HERE where you can also see a couple of colour roughs from the dummy.

Thanks to everyone that followed my process, I hope its been helpful,

Max 

http://www.maxinelee.com/book-dummy-process/

Updated to add the finished product -here it is on Amazon – Meet Pi-Rat!