Monday, February 10, 2014

Keep drawing, then draw some more

A few years ago, I was fresh off maternity leave…10 years of it. I thought I'd pick up my illustration career where I left off. Well, while I was 'away', the world changed. Internet? Whoa. Now I was competing against illustrators from all over the world! Quite a few with animation backgrounds who could draw like nobody's business. It was clear I'd have to step up my game. I needed to get much, much better at drawing. Gulp! Luckily, I met local illustrator, Tracy Bishop whose drawing talent is amazing. She also has a great critical eye. She got me drawing from life. She critiqued the heck out of my work (still does), and gradually, I got better. I am by no means done. I hope to always improve my skills. But I'm starting to breath easier. I beginning to really feel the flow when I draw. I don't cringe when I look at my current work. It's been a very discouraging process, but also pretty exciting.

Older drawing on the left, newer on the right. Getting there, but not quite where I want to be yet.

It's no surprise that I love drawing animals, but drawing people was not fun for me. I've made a lot of progress on this front as you can see here. There's just much more life in my animals as you can see below.

Drawing well has many benefits like getting hired for jobs, being able to handle whatever scene you'll need to create, and of course, you can't bring a story to life if you're limited in what you can draw.

What I want you to take away from this is that you must draw well, really well, to get work in the children's book world. You can't cut corners. You can't trace photos, you can't overly depend on reference. Draw everyday, even if it's bad drawings, it all helps. Carry a sketchbook everywhere. (I need to do more of this myself.) Think of the training that goes into qualifying for the Olympics or playing college or pro sports. Heck, even if you're just working on staying in shape, you have to work those muscles on a regular basis.

If you go to SCBWI events (and you should be), pay for a portfolio critique. Nothing beats hearing from someone who actually hires illustrators and can tell you what you need to work on. Our local Illustrator's Day has an illustration professor who give critiques, too. He's crazy amazing at seeing the weaknesses in your work and what to do to fix it. It's painful, but much kinder than in art school. Hearing nothing but flowers and light about your work gets you nowhere. You need the truth, because that's the only way you're going to get better and someday get hired. If you want nothing but compliments, show it to your mother.

Here are some great resources for improving your drawing skills, but remember, nothing replaces the practice and observation of real life.

There's so much drawing goodness on Erika Eguia's Pinterst boards! I've started a Character Design board here.

Great drawing books:
Drawn to Life Volume I & II
Character Mentor, Tom Bancroft
Creating Characters with Personality, Tom Bancroft
Vilpu Drawing Manuals, Glenn Vilppu
How to Draw, Scott Robertson

Online classes & tutorials:
School of Visual Storytelling's How to draw everything with Jake Parker
Figure & Gesture Drawing
Sparkbook, Cedric Hohnstadt
Illustrator Alicia Padron is now offering classes.

Good luck and happy drawing!


  1. Just excellent advice, Laura! It is great to see your before and after kids..gosh, there's so much fluid energy in the newer girl..super! And your animals are always full of personality. Thanks for the links, I shall check some of these new books out!

  2. I've always loved your work so much Laura.. ever since I saw it for the first time. :o)
    ps. thanks for the link to my classes. *hugs*