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Current styles?

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Are there actually places to look up what drawing and illustrating styles are current within the market for illustrating books?

I also happen to be an illustrator, that I don't discuss that as much, mostly because I have a very particular style. I like drawings to be somewhere in between realistic and cartoony.

Not unrealistic and cartoony enough to give giggles, and not so realistic (like a lot of 3D movies these days) where it's so real it's almost uncanny and bizarre.

Oh and I love backgrounds, the smoky aesthetic of burnt cedar. Not charcoal pencils, but actual charcoal used to create a spooky ambiance for things like haunted houses and such. The kind you can swirl around and play with your fingers to create clouds.
#1 - December 19, 2015, 03:18 AM
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One of the best ways to see what is currently on the market is to go to a bookstore (one that sells new books, not used books) and browse through the books on their shelves. If there isn't a bookstore near you, try going to a library and seek out their newest acquisitions.
#2 - December 19, 2015, 05:41 AM
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Oh sorry I meant are there specific books to look for.^^
#3 - December 19, 2015, 07:08 AM
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Look for books with publication dates after 2012. Not self-published titles because they usually don't follow market trends. Also look at the children's book award winners. If you don't have access to a new book store or your library doesn't have a wide selection of new books, visit the publisher web sites and look at their new and forthcoming titles.

Sign up for the free Children's Marketplace newsletter from Publisher's weekly. They have reviews of forthcoming books twice weekly. Or if you can, get a hold of the Fall and Spring issues of the Children's Book issues that Publishers Weekly prints. The Spring issue will be out in February.
#4 - December 19, 2015, 07:39 AM
« Last Edit: December 19, 2015, 07:41 AM by Wendy Martin »
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IMO the range of styles that you can see in trade books these days is vast--many different styles, many different media. People work digitally, traditionally, and a mix of both.

In addition to the suggestions given here, you might find it useful to take your portfolio to a local SCBWI conference and get a portfolio review. That can be a good and inexpensive way to find out if what you do "works" for trade or is better suited to mass market or educational publishers...
#5 - December 19, 2015, 01:19 PM
Harold Underdown

The Purple Crayon, a children's book editor's site: http://www.underdown.org/
Twitter: http://twitter.com/HUnderdown

I'd need to figure out what the closest chapter is, unless there is a way of meeting online. I'll either need to find the actual traditional drafts, or print off new copies. (I also have a painting I could possibly take as well.)

So 2012 is generally the cut off date then? Market trends are nice but not always everything.
#6 - December 20, 2015, 07:25 AM
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Sarah, this page might help you locate your local chapter: https://www.scbwi.org/region-map/

There are ways to get feedback online, but I strongly recommend an in-person review. And if you are seeking regular illustration work, you need to have a portfolio to show, both in physical form for conferences and meetings, and online, so that someone who has seen a sample you mailed to them can easily see more of your work.
#7 - December 20, 2015, 08:28 AM
Harold Underdown

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Twitter: http://twitter.com/HUnderdown

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Never take original work (or send it) to a portfolio review or publisher. Make sure you send a duplicate copy and check the publisher's submission guidelines before sending anything. I have a number of entries on my blog about what can be useful to illustrate in an illustrator's portfolio, which can be either physical or on the web.
#8 - December 20, 2015, 12:41 PM
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So 2012 is generally the cut off date then? Market trends are nice but not always everything.

There's no official cut off date. The idea is to look at work that's been published in the last 1-3 years so you will know what's been selling for the last 5 or so years (books are bought and illustrators hired a long time before the book actually comes out). As to market trends, it's good to note, but like Harold mentioned above, there's a wide range of styles and mediums these days. Looking at recent books will give you an idea of styles, voice, and story that's out now. Then you can compare that to the work you are doing and see how it compares/contrasts.

As for specific books to look for, look for books pubbed within the last 3 years that are similar to the books you want to publish (PB, MG, GN, etc.). Also look for books that got good reviews, won awards, or sell well (just because it won awards or got good reviews doesn't mean it also sold well, though it might have done both).

If you're using charcoal and black and white, you might consider seeing if your work will fit with middle grade, but there are also picture books and graphic novels that use black and white art.

Good luck!
#9 - December 22, 2015, 09:47 AM
Site - http://sruble.com
Twitter - http://twitter.com/StephanieRuble

picture book: EWE AND AYE (now available as an ebook!)

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At the moment there is a lot of retro/50's looking art (cartoonish) and collage being used. But, the problem with trends is, if you try to catch them, they are over and it's on to the next big thing:) If you have good drawing skills, and the art has child appeal, the trend will often catch up to you:)
The suggestions about pouring through the newer books already out is the best one. Also you can look at the web sites of the Illustrators working today, and Illustrator Agents sites. Many ways to get a feel for if your work is up to a publishers standards and if the style you like to work in is ever used. One agent site to start with is Christina Tugeau http://catugeau.com
#10 - December 23, 2015, 03:23 AM
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Oh and I like what Stephanie said about b/w and middle grade books. So check those newer MG's while at the store (or library so long as the books are current)
#11 - December 23, 2015, 03:28 AM
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Hi Sarah. What you describe the artwork you most favor, it sounds really cool. Do you try to emulate this in your work? When I first started, I was emulating a popular artist of the time, but found my work eventually evolved into my own style. Although, I believe I have a newer style emerging, but still work the other way as well.

When going to the bookstore, I try to peruse what the retailers have deemed worthy of being face-out on their displays and ask myself, what makes this work? I'm often drawn to certain artists, and some of them are displayed face-out often. However, often I learn techniques I hadn't considered when I peruse the other artists. I open those books to learn about the differences in visual story telling. Often, I learn about pacing, secondary story through characters that aren't in the text, using sequential vignettes (as most of the artists I like use full spreads), etc.

Other places you might like to take a look at are websites where illustrators pay to have their portfolios displayed. SCBWI has galleries and one of my favorite websites is this one: www.childrensillustrators.com/   It's a pretty big venue for illustrators with so many styles to check out.
#12 - December 23, 2015, 08:49 AM
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Cynthia, one thing to keep in mind is the books we see faced out the shelves, on display tables, or end of aisles, are paid for spaces by the publisher for that placement and it hasn't anything to do with the retailers choice of what book gets attention. Face out book takes up more shelf space then a spine out book and the publishers have to pay for that book store "real-estate".
It can be very expensive for a publisher, so they likely reserve this for their most popular books or ones they feel are or will be best sellers. It's kind of fascinating how much money it costs for a publisher to make or maintain a best seller:) http://www.fastcompany.com/1470854/bookstore-baksheesh-real-estate-deals-sell-books
#13 - December 24, 2015, 12:33 AM
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So true, especially in the seasonal section of some of the chain stores. I'm not sure about the indies?

 About three years ago, some of the girls that worked in our local B&N said they all chose their favorites in the other part of the children's book section to display face out, albeit, they are always the newer books. Most of the books face out in those stores will be newer works and what the publisher's, their marketing, or if the case is true in the store locally . . . their employees, have deemed with notoriety. Last year, some celebrity Christmas books for children made the seasonal shelf, but there wasn't much movement.

When perusing the books that are spine out, I often find myself looking for my favorites. So checking out some of the highly marketed works that might not necessarily strike me, makes me look for what's making these books a success . . . and I often find a few of those things.
#14 - December 24, 2015, 06:32 AM
Fur Balls & Feathers & Fins, Oh My! Animals Are My Kind of People
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Well if I understand the question, I try to emulate it but the quality varies at times. Sometimes the mood dictates cartoonish, while others dictate more realistic. Like I'm finding men and boys almost impossible to draw.:/

But give me a duck, rabbit, or dog and I have this odd mix of cartoonish and realistic going on. (Sort of like how some stories are considered magic realism, surrealism, or abstract but in a non obtrusive way.)

A good example is my recent painting (I need to get my scanner to work again) where the rabbit was the size of moose do to wonky perspective, but otherwise for the most part looks like a rabbit.
#15 - December 26, 2015, 08:06 PM
« Last Edit: December 26, 2015, 08:09 PM by SarahW »
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Cynthia, saw that Mariha Cary Pic book "All I Want For Christmas Is You" front and centre of the Display table for Holiday Pic books at my local Indigo/Chapters large chain book store. There were others but this one struck me. The Illustrator was obviously told HOW she/he was going to draw the main character.... make the child look like Mariha (hair over one eye, full lips)
So the result is a woman/child, why, oh WHY!!!!!:(
But, big budget the publisher has obviously paid for that prime location in the store right before the holiday, with other high budget holiday favourites. Our Indigo/Chapters store also has something they call "Heathers picks" (Heather being the chains CEO) and each store has "staff picks". I will assume they are their own real choices and not that the publisher reimburses the store/s for picking:)
Sarah, not every Illustrator can draw EVERYTHING equally well. Some can do amazingly great animals but just can't get people right, others visa versa. You build on your strengths (but keep trying to improve weaknesses) If say your rabbit was in the foreground, on a low hill for instance, and the moose in the background, then that perspective would result in a rabbit the size of a moose, for sure:) Perspective is yet one more thing that can be a struggle for some Illustrators and for others, it's second nature.

#16 - December 27, 2015, 02:18 AM
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Oh and I've been known to, if I see a book by an Author or Illustrator who's a friend, face their book cover out:) I'm sure that lasts a whole 10 minutes, till a staffer finds the problem and puts it back spine out but...:)
#17 - December 27, 2015, 02:22 AM
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Oh and I've been known to, if I see a book by an Author or Illustrator who's a friend, face their book cover out:) I'm sure that lasts a whole 10 minutes, till a staffer finds the problem and puts it back spine out but...:)

Ha! I've done that many times myself. :)

Great thread! I am lurking and learning. Thanks!
#18 - December 27, 2015, 02:43 AM
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Art Director, Giuseppe Castellano, says he really hates the word "style." He says he looks at the art and how it fulfills the needs of the book. In my opinion, you should do the best art you can do, in a way that suits your vision. I've been illustrating for decades and I still take classes to improve my drawing, painting and perspective skills. I think any artist worth their salt is always trying to improve and level up.

http://www.gcastellano.com/ for Giuseppe's blog - tons of wisdom. Also follow him on Twitter.
I'm taking classes here right now: http://http://schoolism.com/
Will Terry also has excellent classes geared to kid lit here: https://svslearn.com/

As far a current styles, it depends on the book, the age group and the publisher whether they want realistic, cartoony or other. Just do your best work! :)
#19 - December 27, 2015, 07:42 AM
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Sounds good Sarah. I'm with you on animals versus (in your case males) humans. I love doing anthropomorphic even! And my animals can do so much more than my humans. Go figure!

In talking about realistic/cartoony mix, I think I've been labeled with that a time or two. I try not to let the definitions hold me back as I'm finding fun stretching beyond them. In my high school years, my parents moved a lot. So I had the honor of going to many schools. (I say that with a smirk).

Sophomore year, my art teacher beat us with the shading stick theology.  "There are no true lines in nature." So it was drilled into us that we had to shade to the very edge, with no "lines" showing. The next school I went to in my Junior year brought me to this really cool teacher who saw me drawing a pretty good looking child in bib overalls. He said "that's awesome! But it needs this!" He took my pencil and drew a hard line on the clasp and button. I gasped! But he was right, it gave it the right look, that hard line did. It was then that I realized that some rules work in certain situations, not all, and if you keep going, you'll find what works for your story.  I do believe that most artists develop it, if we call it signature or style. If you can look at someone's work and know who did it without seeing their name, that's it!
#20 - December 27, 2015, 08:52 AM
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Just wanted to jump off of Wendy's post and second Guiseppe Castellano.

And I've taken a bunch of SVS courses (the link Wendy posted to Will Terry and Jake Parker's courses) and plan to take a bunch more. I do the monthly subscription, which makes it super affordable. They have beginner, intermediate, and advanced courses. I even started with a couple beginner since it's been so long since art school the refresher was helpful! I learned things I had forgotten, lol.
#21 - December 27, 2015, 09:42 AM
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Well like one thing that helps me (credit goes to my brother in law also an illustrator that helped me get back into drawing--he did great baseball stuff) was that even if there are no hard lines there are vague shapes.

A good example, if you're doing a period piece (need to brush up on history) a pair of wooden clogs would be two ovals with a carve out bottom center with smoothed edges with a carrot points. That's if you're going for an exaggerated look human sized fairies would wear.

Though a more realistic version of whatever thing the general shape would be subtler.

Like for me a wooden chair is simply a box shape with legs carved into it and through the bottom, and an engraving for decoration on the top, with a fence to keep you from falling off to wonderland.

So like I could do a vague shape of a man (Mr. Clocktime is a stickbug with a top hat.)
#22 - December 27, 2015, 03:33 PM
« Last Edit: December 27, 2015, 03:39 PM by SarahW »
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