Posted by: Kathy Temean | July 8, 2018

Illustrator Sunday – Evi Gstöttner Critique

Hi, everyone. I am sending this out again, since I missed some important work that Mira sent, which I know you will not want to miss.

Over the past 30 years, Dr. Mira Reisberg has worn just about every hat in the children’s book industry including award-winning illustrator, author, and children’s literary agent. Mira holds a PhD in Education and Cultural Studies with a focus on Children’s Literature. She taught university level children’s book courses before starting her own international online school – the Children’s Book Academy. Mira’s students have published or contracted over 215 books and won just about every North American children’s book award. Her first edited and art-directed acquisitions at Clear Fork/Spork will be available at the end of 2018 and early 2019. She feels very grateful to help make the world a better and more joyful place through children’s books. Mira is especially excited to be co-teaching The Craft and Business of Illustrating Children’s Books with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Art Director Andrea Miller starting August 20th right here

Here is Mira:

Hi Evi, I really like this first image because of the relational qualities and the organic shapes that you are using. It’s very lovely and I appreciate that you brought some warmth into the piece with the bird’s legs and beaks and the brown flowers in the front. And while I like the monochromatic quality of the mostly blue palette, I feel that the elements that are most important get lost in your composition because of this as well as because everything has very similar values and intensity.

This is something that I see a lot of people struggle with, and is sometimes referred to as figure/ground, meaning that the figures get lost in in the background. Another reason why I’m a big fan of contrasting figure/ground is because with young children, it can be very hard for them to differentiate what’s going on.  I did a down and dirty, super quick play with this to show you what happens if you move that background back further by lightening it to make it recede a little more and put a different kind of blue overlay on the ground, it differentiates the setting from the birds a little so that we focus on them more.

Now remember I’m one person with strong opinions and as many people as see this that’s how many opinions you’ll get so it’s important to take what you like and leave the rest while honoring your own vision as well. There is so much to love about this image, whether you take my suggestions or not.

For this next image, and once again I think you’ve got a great way with characters, and I think that’s one of your strengths, which is a very important one. One of my favorite things to say to students and clients is get the drama out of your life and into your work, and while there’s nothing wrong with this image, I think you could amp the drama up a little by playing with scale. Once again I did a little down and dirty Photoshop tweak by playing with scale while simply keeping the little bird at the same size and making everything else a lot bigger and playing with the levels to darken the darks. Something else that you could do that might make it a little more fun is to have two of the birds in the back looking at each other as if to say what on earth is going on?  I am a great lover of subtext and second story going on in the visuals and just having fun little details that kids can catch. Overall it’s a lovely piece.

I think this pencil sketch is really adorable. It’s got great scale between the bird and the mice and it’s very relational, which I also love. It really looks like they’re communicating. I love the body language and movement and how are you are guiding the viewer’s eye  to the right to turn the page and how are you are playing with all those wonderful interrelated organic shapes. And of course I love the high contrast and the ease of figure ground here. I really hope that you were open and interested in tweaking those others, especially the first one, but the second one as well, to see if you can have more of the simplicity that you show in this sketch. When I look at them all together you have created a wonderfully consistent universe that I totally believe in, and then apart from the cold, makes me want to visit.

Evi Gstöttner Bio:

I am an artist and illustrator with an MA in Children’s Book Illustrations.

I love drawing and creating pictures that bring words and stories to life. For picture book illustrations I work mostly in watercolors but sometimes use other mediums such as collage, acrylics and Photoshop. My work is very decorative and I like to create pictures with lots of details.

Some things that I love and that inspire me are patterned papers, fabrics and delicate lace as well as mysterious boxes filled with colourful stones, soft feathers, scented flowers and other magical things.

Mira thank you for Evi’s critique.

CALL FOR ILLUSTRATORS: Art Director Andrea Miller at HMH or Dr. Mira Reisberg at Clearfork/Spork could critique your submission on Illustrator Sunday. It starts on July 8th for seven Sundays in a row. This is a limited opportunity to get your work seen by an art director. Illustrators should send in 2 or 3 consecutive illustrations that could be used in a picture book to kathy.temean(at) Please put July/Aug Illustrator Sunday in the subject line, put illustrations in the body of the email and include a picture of yourself and your bio. All .jpgs need to at least be 500 pixels wide.

Talk tomorrow,


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