Animal Alphabets and other challenges

Perhaps you haven’t noticed, but I like a good illustration challenge.  Inktober, Holidoodle, Doodle Day, and Animal Alphabets are just the tip of the iceberg with challenges I’ve participated in.  These challenges are both good practice of my skills (they keep me producing) and an assignment to illustrate.  Sort of.

You see, I’m coming to discover that “illustration” as it pertains to picture books (my driving passion) is a different kit-and-caboodle.  You can’t just “draw a picture” and think it works.  NO.  An illustration must “tell a story.”  It must have children (or young animals or babies, etc.) as child readers want to be able to relate to those characters.  You must also have consistency in your illustrations.

Consistency.  That little hobgoblin.  I think this means “if you put a bow in a character’s hair behind her left ear” then it should remain that way in every pic (if that’s a RULE you create for your character).  And to a certain extent it is.  BUT it also means consistency of style.  sigh  This is the real bugger for me.

I’ve been creating an Animal Alphabet series (one per week per the challenge).  This round is endangered animals.  I jumped in at C (Cassowary–what a strange creature!), went back and sketched up A & B (though still not finalized), but really discovered my “pattern” for the series with D (Dugong).  It turned out wonderful and was a culmination of a LOT of different things I’ve been learning.  Then things started to mutate a bit.  They got better and better, but also more realistic.  The beginning few illustrations were more … cartoony?

And then last week’s Hawksbill Turtle blew people away.  My husband wouldn’t stop talking about it.  And the Gorilla before that.  The pressure was on.  Today’s Indian Elephant did NOT turn out as good.  (You can see all of these on my Instagram if you’re curious.)  It was fighting me every step of the way, but I had to remind myself of two things.

Recently I listened to a podcast (Matthew Winner’s “All the Wonders” interview with Vanessa Brantley Newton) and a mentor asked her, “If you’re working to please everyone else, when do you get to be you?”  You’ve got to hone it, to own it (she said and I love it!).  Just enjoy the process!  Plus I saw this cartoon from Debbie Ridpath Ohi (whom I ADORE!) on Facebook this week and … I saved it on my phone.  It will also be my mantra.  I leave it here with you.  Remember ANY art you create is worth the time.  No matter if you think it’s crap (like I do today).  SIGH  And screaming at the painting as I was making it.  It is what it is and I will be kind to myself.  Be kind to yourself as well, dear readers.  And create.

DROhi encourage cartoon

About jenabenton

I'm an elementary school teacher, writer, illustrator and storyteller.

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