Thursday, March 06, 2008

Preliminary Sketch (work in progress)

©Kathleen Rietz
As you can see from my blog, I have been focusing on my sketchbook a lot lately. I am really trying to develop my style of people and children and animals, and try to convey more emotion in my work. I think really good children's book illustrations are the ones which find a way to adhere you to the characters on an emotional level....maybe it is a scene which jogs a memory from your own childhood, or reminds you of the kids you have now. Or maybe it evokes a memory of a carefree day, a day at the park with your grandparents, your nerves on your first day of school, a childhood crush, winning a spelling bee, or maybe floating on a vacation lake on an innertube on a warm day and looking at shapes in the clouds overhead. This is a sketch I began last night. There is a lot missing, and I want to add more, but wanted to post it before I do. My hope is to fill my sketchbook with lots of these sketches and then work on some finished color illustrations based on some of my sketches.

Sometimes I find that toddlers and infants in my illustrations end up looking like dolls instead of children. Does this look like a person to you, or too much like a doll? I know it is hard to see in this drawing, but the baby is grasping the mother's thumb, as babies like to do. I just don't thnk it reads very well.

I plan on adding an older child to the right side of the composition, and maybe a kitten curled up next to the mother. There is still a lot I want to do and right now I am just doodling and planning.


  1. Kate, I think you're creating some faboo illustrations, the softness and spontaneity of children is difficult to capture and keep natural, and you're doing a beautiful job!!

  2. Kate, you have such a wonderful, well-done, soft style to your work and they all look effortless with their just-sketchy-enough lines!
    Everybody is so cute too!
    Thank you for your comment and for adding me to your list! I need to make myself a list...
    I think this baby looks like a child but if it does look like a doll at all it's because of its scale. I think he/she is too small to expect it to be sitting like that in a lap listening to a story.
    The holding of mom's finger is really sweet. And yes, I'm realizing that more accessories add sooooo much to an illustration.

  3. Kate, I actually did think that the infant was a doll, so my comment was going to be "the child who is reading to the doll looks a little too mature." Then I read your commentary on infant vs. doll. I love the idea of the sketch. It would also be cute as a little girl reading to her doll... either way, very sweet! Elizabeth

  4. Thanks...I appreciate your comments. I have a lot to still do with this sketch, so that really helps me.

  5. I love the sketch. The kid looks like a baby for sure. Very, very cute -- your work's lookin' FAB.. My only small piece of technical feedback is that the baby looks really small.

  6. Oh -- I think i misundeerstood. The baby is supposed to be doll!! Woops.

    Are you around this weekend to chat? Let me know your sched.


  7. Kate I'm so happy you are doing all this beautiful and loving scenes. To me your pencil sketches as well as your sepia illustrations are something precious and rare to find. I think you have a great talent.. I really hope you know that.

    Now to answer your question, I honestly think your kids always look like kids. In fact, I have mentioned several times how I'm amazed at their features and they truly seem real and unique. On this illustrations I think the mom does look like mom, no problem there at all. The baby I feel is too small to sit up straight and read a book. Usually baby's over 4 months can do that, 3 minimum and she is too small to be that age in comparison to her mom. If you like her that small then you can maybe have her on her Mom's arm like laying back but seeing the book too. If you prefer she is sitting up, then I think she needs to be bigger in size. I love the grabbing of the finger.. please don't change that.

    I think the sentiment is there and this is a gorgeous piece!!! I love it Kate :o)

  8. At first I thought this was a sketch of a little girl and her doll, but then I realized it was supposed to be a baby with its mom. Maybe if the baby looked a little older it would help.I love the idea of a curled up cat though, that would make a very cozy scene.

  9. Thanks everyone! So the baby is too small. That I wondered about as I was drawing it. I want to work on the mom's haor a litle bit. It started out more whispy and modern, but then it got heavy when I darkened up the piece.

    Honestly, I often times think I would be better at this if I had had my own kids....I guess that is my handicap as a children's book illustrator. Thanks everyone! I value your help so much! Especially those of you who have kids or are around kids a lot.

    Thanks to all!

  10. HI Kathleen

    I love this's adorable ...I love your style and the passion shines through your work...


  11. I think the expression of the baby is very much in line with the style of the drawing. I do love the little gesture of thumb-holding that is so precious between mother and child. Really beautiful Kate.

  12. I think that, if you draw the baby a little bigger, it will be spot on. At first glance, before reading your post, I thought the baby was a doll but only because of size. Apart from that observation, I think your illustration is wonderful!

  13. So SweeT! I was convinced by the mother's posture - she is softly curved in a protective way around her baby.
    SO glad to have found your blog! Looking forward to following your work.

  14. As someone who's done this a lot in the last nine months, I couldn't resist adding a little more.

    I think the baby looks like a doll because he lacks visual weight. He sits up so straight and a little higher up then I would think he belonged. I think if he were nestled more deeply into the crook of the arm, and given a little more substance, he's read clearer.

    Regardless, it's still a very lovely sketch, and I can't wait to see it in color. :)

  15. Great style! I love the way you capture the atmosphere... this one is really "quiet" to me! love it! : )


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