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Well, I've done it now... Paid up and ready to start an illustration course!

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I have the spotlight trained on my face as I write...

Q How do you find the assignments so far, Siski?
A I felt like I had no idea what the heck I was doing when I did the first one (wet-in-wet in various colours, then cutting out shapes – leaves/flowers/sun – to create a scene). I felt a little more comfortable doing a watercolour painting to a 'proper' publishing brief (s/s, bleed, all that malarky). But it was very new and different for me to have limitations – my MC had to be a tree seed (not a plant seed so no pretty dandelion seeds!), I had to leave white space along the bottom for text (exactly where I would usually put lots of bright flowers) and draw the viewer's eye to the MC (the seed) while making it bright, engaging and bold. That said, I enjoyed using my imagination to get around the 'problems' and ended up with an ant's eye view looking up at the seed spiralling down and flowers leaning upward into the sky.

Q Do you get to look at all the course assignments in advance, or do they assign the next one after they return the first one?
I've got a big binder with all the instructions, advice, as well as the briefs and exercises. There are about six in total I think, that you have to submit to the college.

Q Or is it more of a series of works, so you can really practice illustrating the same characters in different ways?
A This is something I haven't done yet, but is coming in the next brief when we choose an animal and then have to illustrate it in various different ways.

Q And how expensive is expensive? In the hundreds or the thousands?
A It was £350, so around 550 US dollars? That would be cheap for a course where you attended a class and got one-on-one comments from a tutor (in person) but this is a long-distance course. No materials (except the binder with course info in, art advice and instruction in), no classroom to pay for, and although i can email my tutor at any time with questions, and she gives me personalised critiques on my work, it can't be the same as being in a class.

For me, however, it's ideal. I need some kind of pressure - like that of knowing I should be submitting illustrations to my tutor - to really get going on something. I have the time to paint and draw but only if I MAKE the time. If there's no course, I find other more important things to fill that time. Because I've paid up, I'm forcing myself to draw and paint things I wouldn't usually and to really work on what I can do.

Q Do they concentrate more on composition or do they also focus on media techniques?
This is difficult for me to answer as so far I've only submitted watercolour and as that's my favourite medium I think she didn't have much to say about my technique. The next brief involves pen and ink... I imagine she'll make comments on my technique there as it'll be downright awful! She's made a lot of comments (all good, thankfully) about composition. There are other courses at the college that deal specifically with watercolour, gouache, oils and so on.

Here's their website: I looked into some of the people who've taken the course and there are some who've gone on to get paid for their illustration work. These people, however, were very likely skilled before they did the course. If you didn't have some level of ability the course would be impossibly difficult (or just not as useful as another more basic course might be). The course appears to suit people who can draw or paint (not professionally, but could hand-make a Christmas card, say, without being ashamed to send it out!) but want to learn more about adapting that skill to illustrating children's books. I'll get even more out of it, I think, because I'm also learning to use mediums I've never touched before, as well as attempting to draw things I don't usually (cars, buildings, plumbing, that kind of thing!).

Phew, well I think I've answered your questions quite fully there! I would thoroughly recommend it if you need the structure or to discipline yourself to do more work for a portfolio, or if you just want to force yourself to spend more time on your art (like me!). Of course, the diploma at the end is meaningless in professional terms, so don't do it if you're after something for your CV.

Anyway, bla bla bla. I could yabber on forever, so feel free to ask any more questions if you want!
#31 - October 17, 2010, 06:09 PM

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PS Here's the link directly to the children's illustration course. If you scroll right down, you can see samples of what some other course attendees have done. These are obviously the cream of the crop.
#32 - October 17, 2010, 06:46 PM

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wow, nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition (sorry, lol...did I just out myself as a geek?)...but man, you were prepared for it!! thanks so much for answering in such detail!!  :thankyou

I've got a background in Fine Arts and graphic design and pre-press, but not illustration specifically. I'm almost done my first dummy, and am working on the storyboards for two more...but I'm always looking to improve my skills and learn new things, and like you, I find I make more time for this stuff (kids are demanding!!) if I commit to a course or something. When I first decided it was time to take this all seriously and really work on craft, I did a course for writing for kids the same way. It helped me stay immersed and focused.

I hope you get lots out of this...always room for more in the writer/illustrator club!!  :paint

#33 - October 17, 2010, 07:50 PM
THIS LITTLE PIGGY (AN OWNER'S MANUAL), Aladdin PIX June 2017 :pigsnort
KUNG POW CHICKEN 1-4, Scholastic 2014 :chicken


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