Saturday, February 13, 2016

Giuseppe Castellano: Building an Effective Portfolio

Giuseppe Castellano, senior art director at Penguin Random House, gave a great talk on children's book illustration in general, not just as it relates to single portfolio pieces.

He feels a lot of artists' work is often too 'children's booky' looking. A lot of the samples he sees have very standard color choices and character choices—the skies are blue, the grass is green, the girl is white, the details aren't necessarily different enough to be interesting, or they seem there to over explain the scene to kids, not allowing them to use their imaginations to fill in the story gaps.

Giuseppe picked out a few Tomie dePaola Award gallery pieces from this year's contest to highlight what images WERE NOT too 'children's booky' looking and had clearly been developed beyond the standard tropes he is hoping we learn to avoid.

The first piece he liked was by Tatiana Escallon. Giuseppe loved that it looks handmade, and not cleaned up/shiny digital. The play and pull of the shapes with each other and within the composition are dynamic, the colors are fun, there are a lot of "gaps" for the reader to fill in with their imagination.

Tatiana Escallon

The next piece he liked was by Claire Lordon. Also has a handmade look, this time it's a screenprint. He liked the play of the colors against each other.

Claire Lordon

Rivkah LaFille's piece appealed to Giuseppe because of its great line work and limited palette. He felt like this piece looked like a sophisticated piece of art you'd see up on a wall and told us, "Children's books should be like mini art galleries... Give kids more credit that they can appreciate fine, complex art."

Rivkah LaFille

Giuseppe gave the room a very cool handout and had them do some simple but awesome, in-class exercises. I'll leave you with a little bit of his thoughts about color:

Color is absolutely a character in your story, says Giuseppe, it's the foundation you build a piece of art on. That doesn't mean it has to be loud, wild crayon color everywhere, he says, "Color choices are like music, you can have loud and soft areas."

Some examples of great color Giuseppe shared are M. Sasek and Ezra Jack Keats's work:

And holy crap, you guys, follow Giuseppe on Twitter and check out the classes he offers via The Illustration Department! I know I will.

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