Saturday, August 5, 2023

Storytelling by Design with Lee White

Storytelling by Design with Lee White

This workshop for illustrators is about making better images while enhancing the meaning in your work. In this informative session, Lee will show you how to not only simplify complex images, but also how to get to the heart of what you are trying to say. Emphasis will be on understanding how design affects pacing. The workshop will cover when to use a spot vs. a full page spread, how to add effective details, and many other tips to speed your process up and make it more meaningful at the same time.

Lee loves working with watercolor, using a lot of texture while illustrating "big environments with small characters."

His work focuses on a lot of magical elements and fantastical stories, inspired by folklore and fairytales. 

Though he mostly works traditionally, he has developed how to make his digital work look traditional.

"As storytellers, we take a big mess, organize it, and tell a great story."

" A good story is about reducing down to the essence. We can use the analogy of the stars. If you look at a sky full of stars, you can't make sense of it. If you take a few stars, link them together, and make a constellation, now you've got a cool picture of a bear and that's memorable." 

When you begin an illustration, start by asking yourself the basic questions:

1. What are you trying to say?
2. What kind of reaction should your viewer have?
3. What things need to be included?
4. What can be left out?

Concept is the driving voice and each art element needs to point to the concept.

You don't need to include everything when telling a story. All you need is enough info about what is happening at that moment but also, what happened before and what happened after?

"If the concept isn't there on its own, it HAS to be enhanced with technique"

"The biggest problem I see is a bland or uninteresting concept."

"The 2nd biggest problem I see is a confusing or unclear concept."


1. Focal Point

We started with Focal Point as we dove into storytelling!

1. Where should your viewer look?
2. How are you prioritizing that spot?

The art elements are going to tell the viewer where to look. Decide what you want the viewer to pay attention to.

2. Composition/Shape Design

1. How does your design help or hinder your story?

2. Is your image Dynamic or Stable? 
Using a list of keywords, try to portray those emotions in your piece. 

3. What is the feeling you are trying to convey? 
Use shape and design to sell the story.

"Storytelling is about tension and release."

3. Controlling Detail 
Next, Lee expanded on the concept of controlling detail and the different techniques you can utilize to achieve that.

Value Grouping:
"Simplify different areas by grouping them together using value, color, or lighting." This is a great way to control an image of varying complexity. 

Detail Grouping:
This helps guide the eye as well as help the viewer understand what they are seeing. 

There was so much more that Lee covered! This session was JAM PACKED with information that can be immediately applied to your work. 

Lee walked us through each piece and discussed why they worked or didn't work. Super comprehensive and wonderfully broken down for everyone, no matter their level, this session is definitely one I will need to go back to!

If you want to view this session to hear the full content, along with the rest of the conference, register at Replays of the conferences will be available until September 10, 2023.

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Lee White

Lee White spends his days breathing life into his imaginary world. He works primarily in watercolor, but likes to include all sorts of media, such as ink, colored pencil and collage. Lee has illustrated over 27 children's books, including Love, Santa and Kate, Who Tamed The Wind, and This Pretty Planet. He has also done commercial work for various clients, including Marks & Spencer, Amazon, Laika, United Airlines, Verizon, Disney and National Geographic. He is represented by @the_literary_longs at @the_t2_agency.

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