For Critique - Prescott Hill

Attached is a freshly finished independent illustration I have been working on in between the cracks of the past ten days. I'm presenting it to the blog for public ...(gulp) critique.

Illustrator Day has been a catalyst and a bit of a wake up call for me. Up to this point I have been happily producing my art in vector form, which has my medium of choice since 2002. However, the portfolio critique opened my eyes to the fact that if I truly want to full engage in literary illustration, I need to retool my skills away from my commercial illustration mode to something more organic. I also need to drop a lot of my portfolio pieces in favor of some fresh art focused on children's book illustration.

I've entitled the attached "The Maker Mouse," and it's the first of my fresh pieces. Wicked-pedia states: "Maker mice are the problem-solving geeks of the animal world. Unlike pious church mice, maker mice make their home in the attics or floor boards of schools and libraries. They believe it is possible to solve any problem with imagination, a piece of wire, and anything else at hand, (or paw). Lost a spare key, or an ear ring? Your broken iPod seemed to repair itself? You just might have been visited by a maker mouse."

It's been a very long while since I have done anything "painterly" so, this is an experiment to see if I still have the chops. It is also an exploration of using light to set the emotional tone and focus of a composition. The whole shebang was composed in Autodesk SketchBook Pro, (much better choice for this sort of thing than Photoshop), and built over a scanned pencil rough.

This is the first piece I've done using SketchBook Pro exclusively, and I like the results.
- Prescott Hill


  1. I'm not qualified to critique, but I love this picture.

  2. Hi Prescott,
    I adore the composition and the mouse. Spot on! I'd watch the less defined areas. Rather than looking loose, they look a bit pixelated and digital - that will go against you with ADs. You also might want to work the light source a bit more. See this piece by Macky Pamintuan to see what I mean: http://mackyart.com/mackyart1/etc.html#2 . You might want to go a bit more warm - right now the light reads as somewhat unclear. I'm going to send you an illustration by Anton Petrov that also uses light color in a creative way. Overall, I think this is a great start and has potential to be a shining portfolio piece - good for you! :) e

  3. Prescott,
    You certainly started our online critique with a bang. Nice piece! You definitely still have the chops. I like the way you used lighting to define the composition, but you have also used other compositional elements to lead us in and around the picture. The perspective of the trinkets in the front lead us right to the mouse. The slant of his board, position of his body, even the lines of the paper roll beneath, lead us up a diagonal, around the background and back down again to peruse the interesting drawings on the wall. Yet you have kept the background just out of focus and limited its detail, so we don't get lost and forget the star of the show. He and his immediate surroundings are in sharp focus with just the right amount of detail. I love the soft light coming through his ear. The palette is great! Colorful, yet limited and muted just enough.

    You are so wise to use the critique session to adapt. Computer generated illustration is a great way to produce our work quickly and try alternative views (love those adjustment layers and Command-Z!) Yet, I think everyone still loves to see the hand-drawn mark. You have done a nice job of combining the two. Kudos!

  4. I hesitate to comment,but take it for consideration only. The blue sphere at the bottom keeps my eye going back and forth from it to the mouse. You may not need it in your illustration. There is a lot happening. Zoom in on the mouse and gradually zoom out and see if you can get the desired result by cropping the image some. Again, this is just my observation. You may want to move the watch that's directly behind the mouses' head to another location so it doesn't work against the emphasis on your mouse. If you copy your illustration and try these couple things and compare it as you try these changes, and just use your professional judgement with my suggestions.

  5. Everyone seems to have covered it. I do disagree with Sally's comment, "She's not qualified". Most of best comments I've received over the years have come from folks who couldn't draw flies if you covered them with honey. They are our audience and their opinions are hugely important.

    Mark Braught

  6. Hi Prescott!
    We didn't get a chance to meet at illustrator's day because I couldn't go at the last minute :(. Anyhow, this is a sweet little image! I connect with this little shy artist, because I'm a little shy artist too. I love all the details that make up his little art studio space just placed under a ray of light. I do wish the hole where the light comes from was developed a little more. That seems a bit rushed. Also. Is the mouse looking right at his work or just above it? Not sure as I am looking on my cell phone at this image. I always struggle with my character's eyes looking where I mean them too.
    Hope to meet you at some point!
    -Shanda McCloskey

  7. Wow! Thanks for the great feedback everyone! I'm taking everything you all suggest under consideration as I revisit this piece in a few days. (Need to let it ferment a bit.) The lighting and some of the other elements can be pushed a bit more, for sure.

    BTW Kathleen, your blog is outstanding and has been bookmarked!

  8. Prescott,
    My family relocated to Georgia just under a month ago so this is my first post with Southern Breeze. I write and illustrate and was an active member of SCBWI-IL. I am currently illustrating my first book digitally and am hesitant to use Corel Painter Essentials because I can't draw circles or ellipses with it. I am unfamiliar with sketchbook but after seeing your mouse, I googled it to check it out. Was this your first piece with this program? Your art looks clean and I love the details.

    My only comment has already been mentioned above and that is that I am having trouble understanding the light source. While I enjoy the many highlights, there are inconsistencies of where that light is coming from. My favorite part of this piece is the details in the aged papers on the wall of his hole.

    Well done!
    -Alison Hertz

  9. I like it! One of the things that appeals to me is all of the little items tucked into the image. My mind races around trying to find them all and figure out just what they are.

    I'll agree with Rick that the blue sphere seems to be catching my attention a bit more than you probably intended. Plus I can't quite decide what it is and that nags at me. Also, the marker seemed out of proportion to me. Shouldn't it be larger? Maybe that is just my logical side coming out.

    Commenting as an audience member, and not an artist, I think this image makes me want to read the text which would accompany it!


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