Many times, when an artist starts to build a kidlit portfolio, they paint many images of happy children.
But think about it. How many children do you know that are happy 24/7? Zero. Right?
When illustrating a book, the main character will experience a range of emotions that follow the story arc. Art directors will be looking at the sample illustrations in your kidlit portfolio to see if you can portray recognizable expressions, in a consistent manner for the length of a book. At a minimum that’s 15 images. Fifteen images with the same character being happy, sad, disgruntled, bored, angry — what have you.
Take a look at your kidlit portfolio. What emotions do you see portrayed in your art? Are all your characters happy and laughing? Is every image upbeat and joyful? You’ll need to expand your repertoire if the answers to these questions is yes. The human face is a masterful collection of muscles and skin. It’s your job as an artist to show this in your kidlit portfolio.
A great character with a huge array of expressions is Calvin of “Calvin and Hobbs” fame.
In real life, a great character actor with a springy, stretchy face is Jim Carrey.
I use reference books to see what the face looks like. These are some of my favorites.
I also stalk anime artists. But don’t copy what others are doing — recreate the expression in your own style. Sometimes it helps to trace what others have done to get the information set in your drawing muscles. Practice drawing a particular emotion and expression again and again, until you’ve nailed it before adding it to your kidlit portfolio.
25 Expressions to build your kidlit portfolio:
- Happy (duh! lol)