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25 Kidlit Portfolio Prompts: Expressions

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.

kidlit portfolio Calvin and Hobbes faces

In real life, a great character actor with a springy, stretchy face is Jim Carrey.

kidlit porfolio Jim Carrey sample face

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:

  1. Happy (duh! lol)
  2. Sad
  3. Angry
  4. Nauseated
  5. Quirky
  6. Sneaky
  7. Scared
  8. Surprised
  9. Excited
  10. Determined
  11. Jealous
  12. Sleepy
  13. Confused
  14. Inspired
  15. Bullying
  16. Anxious
  17. Callous
  18. Caring
  19. Grateful
  20. Grieving
  21. Lonely
  22. Hostile
  23. Outraged
  24. Nurturing
  25. Vindictive

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2 thoughts on “25 Kidlit Portfolio Prompts: Expressions”

  1. Love the emotion list. It’s such a good reminder to try new stuff…..and learn as you try. I also love the new Emotion Thesaurus……it’s fun turning verbal descriptions into visual sketches. Great post

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