Thursday, November 4, 2010

Fastsketching: Putting the fun over technical perfection - by Debbie Ridpath Ohi

Since getting a Mentorship and Honor Award at the 2010 Summer SCBWI conference, I've been doing a lot of illustrating as well as immersing myself in the world of children's picture books. I've always loved picture books, but had usually focused on the writing rather than the art.
Now, I find myself looking at picture books from an entirely new perspective. Well, maybe not ENTIRELY new. I used to be able to read through a picture book in a relatively short time but now it takes me ages because I can't help but notice so many other aspects: the layout, the colors, the line, the way the story's been paginated, light and shadow, etc.
I go visit a bookstore at least once a week to browse over the children's picture book section and I inevitably have to set my iPhone alarm to remind me of the time because it's SO easy to lose myself for several hours otherwise.
Anyway, I was recently lucky enough to have a conversation with a well-respected publisher and art director about one of my picture book stories. They like my story, so now we're working on my art. I agonized over the sample spreads I sent them, researching perspective and other technicalstuff that most of you already learned in art school but that I never did (the last "art training" I had was in ninth grade).
I spent a lot of time making sure the perspective was right and that I had a lot of details in the background, that everything looked polished. And then I sent it in.
The problem, however, is the word "polish." My natural drawing style ISN'T particularly polished. When I draw for fun just for myself, I usually draw very quickly and with very few lines, not particularly caring about technical perfection but instead trying to capture the ESSENCE of what I'm drawing instead.
The overall message from the art director and publisher: My artwork was missing the element that so appealed to them in my SCBWI portfolio, my unique voice.
So...I'm going back to square one and put the fun back in, and to not worry so much about the technical details. My friend Beckett Gladney (YES, the same Beckett who picked out my portfolio pieces and forced me to enter the SCBWI portfolio showcase) suggests that I do a lot more sketching on my iPad and also to limit the time for each sketch so I can't afford to fuss with details. I'm going to do this, but also tried this exercise on my regular computer as well.
And it was REALLY FUN, plus enlightening.
Here's my first attempt at "fastsketching" (I just invented that word :-)):
Oops, just noticed that I accidentally pasted two of the same fastsketches into the compilation. Ah well.
In any case, I'm going to try to do a LOT more of this. Rather than overload the Mentees blog with my sketches, I'll only post them occasionally here but will likely be inundating my doodle blog.
Good luck with your drawing, all!

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