Monday, August 15, 2011

'Whimsy', or, 'Come Ye Unto These Yellow Shores'

Hey, guys,

This is another illustratour piece. I'd like some critique, if you have any. I am going to stop for a minute and finish this when I hear back from some of you and my friend in Connecticut. Impressions? Likes? Dislikes?

I also included some of the sketches/studies I did for this piece.

I'm really happy with how this piece turned out. Making some changes based on the critiques of some of the awesome people from this blog, and from my best friend, Chris, and from my own observations, I was able to come up with a very unified image I can beproud of. I am really happy with the change in the cloud location. The one touching both the boat and the castle. You can see in the first images, that cloud was awkwardly tangent in several places. Just nudging it a little to the right made all the difference in the world and helped to create a convincing sense of 'space' and develops a heirarchy of shape from foreground to background. The changes I made to the ship helped it to become to centre of focus while not coming off too strong, or heavy handed. I made a change I did not post here, where I really cranked up the ship. It was a lot more complicated in design, and a bold blood red. It was very strong and hard to look at. Toning it back down and removing some of the design elements helped a great deal. I hope you guys like this. And feel free to critique away! It's not perfect and I can use the information for later pieces (this one is finished, for now).


  1. This is going to sound ironic coming from me, but can you tell us more about it? —the target audience and the context of the project, I mean.

    It's cute, and I like the way you've subdued the clouds and wind in the final, but you may have de-emphasized some important elements as well. Hard to tell without knowing the story. It looks as if the sun is creating some wind to help a toy boat get to a sand castle. The relationships are a bit ambiguous. If the boat is a central player in the story, maybe it should be given a bit more character.

  2. Thanks, Chuck. This is geared toward children. I'm updating my portfolio with some design samples and some digital work for a children's toy job in Connecticut. The story behind this is a whimsical one. It is supposed to feature a place where the boat is not necessarily going to the castle, but could. I wanted to feature some playful elements that work well together but have no central story (except where you put one). I imagine a story, and the boat IS a central player. I actually left off a flag that was billowing behind the ship. It was small, but now that you mention the character (which I agree with, completely. I had thought something was missing or off with that little boat) I will go back in and stylize it a bit more, maybe make the flag a trailing, ribbon-like element. Thanks, Chuck. I appreciate the feedback. It's interesting that you mention the story, though. I had imagined a kind of narrative where people live in a world that is much like a Baron Munchausen environment. I actually drew much of the inspiration from that movie and from medieval cartographic themes. I like the idea that the world of this piece is much like the imagination of a medieval traveler (which is not unlike that of an imaginative child, I think). I don't necessarily want to make the castle a destination, which is why it is more neutral and secondary to the ship (which is left of centre, and a focal point). The idea is DESTINATIONS. Where is it possible to go in a world like this? A child's imagination? Anywhere :)

  3. Justin, If this is to impress people in the toy industry, and the boat is a central component, I'd maybe forget about the sun and focus on the boat, the castle, who lives on and in them, and how the two work together. I'd try to describe an expanded system with many vessels of various kinds, and maybe include animals that live in the ocean.

    Toy people think in terms of sets with a unified theme, but with varying features and characters. You're right that the story doesn't need a lot of detail. It's more important to create a basic premise and include enough fun features to encourage children to make up the stories.

  4. It is interesting, the image on the right actually reads the best with the black outline.I agree with Chuck that if this is a portfolio piece to blow away toy type people, it needs unifying characters. Who uses the boat and castle?

  5. I made some changes that downplay the sun and emphasize the ship, while at the same time, bringing the castle forward without making it dominant. I am not overly concerned with fleshing out the world of this place. It is whimsy, and that is enough, I think. I appreciate the suggestions, though, Chuck. This is for young children, and might find a hypothetical use as a puzzle design. So I focused on bright colours and simple, shape-oriented design, and symbols that are easy to recognize. I have a couple other pieces to do, so this may be all I fix on this image, unless there are some glaring errours in composition or layout. It was not designed with an actual toy in mind, other than maybe a floor puzzle made of big pieces.

  6. Seriously, though, i value your critiques. So, keep 'em coming. cause if I don't use them here, they are still valid and give me information for future projects (and, who knows, I have a week, so I may retool this a little more). Thanks a lot, guys. I really appreciate the time you take to give me feedback on this stuff.

  7. Justin, first, this is a striking piece. It's the composition and the line weights that kept my glance immediately.

    To strengthen the piece, I would use the colored line work more intentionally. My eyes go where there's the biggest contrast between the linework and the color.

    Let me use the fourth picture as an example. The two places I see immediately are the sun's eyes (black lines) and the wood of the boat (high contrast with the boat's color).

    This makes me think that you're telling a story about the eyes and the wood, which I don't think is your intention.

    If the boat and the wind are important, for example, make all the lines of the boat and all the lines of the wind dark, and lighten the lines around the sun's eyes.

    On the other hand, if you want to let the reader choose his/her own point of entry, then you could use the color of the lines as depth cues. The closer the line is to the reader, the darker it is. The further back you go in the picture, the lighter the line could become.

    This is Brian, completely geeking out about cartoons.