Two Versions of a Picture Book Spread

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Here are two versions of the same spread in a picture book I recently completed. The first is basically a tinted drawing. The second, a colorful watercolor. Here, briefly, is the backstory…

I imagined detailed densely drawn graphite illustrations for this project for months as I developed the dummy book. After finishing the first tinted drawing, I decided that because this was quite different from my previous works, It would be a good idea to send it to the editor to get her approval. She showed it around the office and the consensus was that it wasn’t colorful enough for the audience (primarily quite young children). So it was back to the drawing board, for me. The second version is quite different and more akin to my usual stuff. I agree that the colorful version is appropriate for this project, but I’m drawn to the first version, and will find a way to use this style in the future.

Version 2

Version 1

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18 responses »

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  2. As always, I’m blown away Brad.
    Beautiful work… it reminds me of Thomas Hart Benton’s paintings… of which I’m a huge fan.

    I also would like to see how the two styles would mix together… foreground / background with some happy middle ground for balance. Definately would be a fun experiment.

    I also think that it is fine to offer both style options. If you feel passionately about the darker style (which I think you should) you might just offer it on your website as a second option. Clever marketing would be the key I think… and knowing which samples to send to which editors… something which could be a bit tricky.

    It reminds me a bit of the deviation that Loren Long made with his book Otis. He’s so well-known for his bright, colorful fluid illustrations and took a total deviation into a limited and somewhat muted color palette with that book. Yet, it is still apparent that it is his work when you see them side by side.

    I think it’s important to constantly reinvent yourself and sometimes it is difficult to know which direction people will respond to. I definately look forward to seeing where you take your work this year.

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  4. Wow! I love both versions. The composition is so dynamic – so much movement. (That’s one thing I need to work on more.) I love the line of cows.

    Here’s an idea ā€“ maybe you can do more pieces like the muted one and propose that style as a different option for MG and YA books.

  5. Hi all! I just signed up for this wonderful critique blog! What a great idea!!

    I’ll try to post when I can but I have a deadline for two assignments due in a couple days so I will need to do it later BUT just had to comment on your work, Brad…this is an amazing piece! Love the movement in your art and the style is so timeless. I really like both of these and depending on the text I can see how either one could work well. The subdued piece gives a more historic feel and I LOVE the textures but the color one also has a nostalgic feel and might have a wider audience.

    That being said, I would have a very difficult time choosing which is my favorite. šŸ™‚

  6. You know what occurred to me that could be amazing? To have a couple central characters in the foreground that are your bright style and then the rest of the composition in the muted colors. That would be VERY cool. I feel many of Peter DeSeve’s pieces are like that.

  7. I love these pieces! The flow of movement is superbly done – it almost seems liquid! I’m drawn to the line of cows, each positioned differently but clearly meandering along the trail as a group. I also like to explore the activity back at the woodshed. Awesome. I’m with you – I find myself more drawn to the darker version, but I get why the editor would go the other way. The right project with that the muted look is going to blow peoples minds. I also like how you offset the fence line so it didn’t get lost in the fold of the book. Very nice stuff!

  8. Wow….gorgeous composition and movement, Brad!
    You have such a way of drawing the eye in and out of a scene. You know when to pull back on
    lights and shadows.
    I’d love to know the background of the story … I think Katie was right in her assessment that the color piece gives the feeling of a brighter, happier farm. So, if that’s what the story is about, the color piece is probably the better choice.

    But boy do I LOVE the look of the tinted drawing! I think it’s the perfect style for slightly older or editorial work… or something spooky like Kate B mentioned.
    It’s great to see you experimenting, Brad. And it WILL pay off later!

    • The story is simple, and light, and happy, so the colorful illustration is a better partner with the text than the tinted drawing. The setting is a pre-industrial farm (no electricity or indoor plumbing), so a case could be made for b/w or muted color art.

  9. I also prefer the brighter version. The more subdued version really carries a darker mood with it visually. Depending on the editorial though, the moodiness of the illustration might very well be perfect for this scene.

    Are your editors more accustomed to receiving colorful work from you or are they open to new directions from you?

    Also, Version 2’s bright hues help separate the characters from one another with more depth of field
    while Version 1 appears to be more even in tone like a surface design might be….

    BEAUTIFUL work! It has a Thomas Hart Benton quality to it!

    • I think the folks I work with have certain expectations of color and style based on my portfolio, but expect me to adjust to the current project.

  10. Brad, I could look at this picture all morning. I think that is a sign of a great illustration. I especially love the hip bones of the cow. There is so much visual interest there. I also enjoy the V shaped composition. It creates a movement to the piece.

    I appreciate both styles but I am drawn more to the bright imagery. I am not sure what the story is about but with the brighter one I feel as if the characters are happy and content to work on the farm. The dark/muted colors make me feel as if life is a bit of grind and hardship for the farmers. So I guess the color would be dictated by the message.

    I think the wash image would be a great style for editorial illustration.

  11. I like them both, for different reasons.

    First: how did you tint the drawing? Colored ink over the graphite? I enjoy the texture of the pencil through the color, but I love to see the “bones” of a drawing through color. Perhaps this style could be used for an older audience. It has a nice, antique feel, which could work for many types of books, from ones set in the past, to ones that are more spooky.

    And I always love it when artists push their boundaries and evolve. It will pay off later! I’d like to see more. A different setting and time period?

    • I started with a very light line drawing, followed by soft watercolor washes. Next came the drawing, rendered with warm grey colored pencil, 4B, and 6B pencils. I finished up with more watercolor.

  12. I like the more colorful one better. Not just because the colors pop more (though there is that), but because it seems more detailed and finised. The clouds and the bushes in the background look better. I love that closest fencepost. In the paler one, the top of the ax man’s head kinda fades into the roof of the house, but it doesn’t on the more colorful one.

    The paler version is an interesting style, but I think for most things the more colorful style is more appealing. It might be interesting to see what this same scene would look like in greyscale.

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