OVERALL: Jennifer thought the idea of pirates at a shopping mall was original and very appealing in that it doesn't conform to traditional pirate activities. I knew it was overly wordy and she agreed with me. She also mentioned I needed to vary the posturing and gestures of my characters which is something I know I need to work on. A lot of my sketches looked like the pirates were posing for a photograph. I already started to fix this issue before receiving her critique in order to prep my dummy for submission to an SCBWI Falling Leaves Master Class Retreat.
|The Captain is still a bit posed, but I kind of like him looking at the reader, shrugging and thinking, "What do we do now?". Working on the shading and adding some more details - texture to the ship, another pirate in the crow's nest...|
DUMMY/ARTWORK: She found my illustration sample nicely bold, with an animation style that was popular in the marketplace. Yay! I'm marketable! This was a worry of mine since my style isn't the traditional picture book hand-drawn style. This fear actually caused me to change it up a bit, using the pencil tool in Adobe Illustrator and my Wacom tablet in an attempt to create a hand-drawn look as opposed to my usual pen tool/mouse technique. I liked the result, but in an effort to stay true to myself and what I do best I revised that page for my Falling Leaves submission. I made a few character and color changes as well. I feel much more comfortable with the revised pen tool version. Here are the two pieces:
Can I copyright that scarecrow pose? Are the pirates on the ends doing the "YMCA"?
She also mentioned utilizing vignettes on some of the spreads. We've discussed this numerous times in #kidlitart chats and I had actually planned on adding some, but I was so wrapped up in writing the story I let those important visual details slip by. Lesson learned.
STORY: Jennifer really liked the plot as well as the pirate lingo I used, which she mentioned makes for a fine read-aloud book. Again, she pointed out that the text was a bit too long with too much unnecessary filler. I really like her idea of using dialog text in word bubbles as I think that would work really well with my illustration style. She directed me to at a few places where it took her a few beats to figure out the connection between a few of the story points. What seemed obvious to me (and my wonderful wife who read through this almost as many times as I did) wasn't to her - an objective reader. Once again, another set of eyes...
There's certainly plenty of constructive criticism in Jennifer's critique to keep me fueled and inspired while I make improvements on the dummy. I couldn't have asked for a more positive experience.
Additional thanks go to Wendy Martin, Bonnie Adamson, and my peers at #kidlitart. I couldn't have gotten this far without your knowledge and support. I hope I can eventually be as helpful to beginning picture book authors/illustrators as you guys and gals have been to me.
FALLING LEAVES: The day after receiving my critique from Jennifer I found out I was accepted to the Falling Leaves Retreat. I'm craaaaaazy excited for this opportunity to show off my illustrations and picture book dummy to folks in the PB industry. I'll schmooze with editors from Candlewick, Scholastic, Holiday House, Marshall Cavendish and Sterling and well as an AD from Sterling. Workshops, writing exercises, manuscript and portfolio critiques at a beautiful Adirondack retreat and conference center the first weekend in November. I'll be sure to share lots of info, stories and photos.