Portfolio Review III - Megan Thomas
For my third review, I contacted illustrator Megan Thomas. I love her use of block colours and really simple cel-shading to get across volume. I have trouble with going into too much detail in my art, and I’d love to get across shape and depth in such a simple way, to know just where to put shading for it to be effective.
Here is her feedback:
I’ve typed out my notes for you below and broken it down into the portfolio layout itself and your work.
- I think the PDF portfolio set up might be too much, it’s very busy and quite complicated. It doesn’t allow you to zoom in into a piece properly to see detail. If you’re going to stick with it, I’d get rid of the wood texture in the background and go with white or a light grey, I think it detracts from your work otherwise.
-I’d say a pdf with pages is a better choice as it’s straightforward and from experience, a lot of clients have no patience and if something frustrates them, they will move on very quickly (probably to someone else). Simple is best, let your work do the work, not the layout. :)
-I do however like the download link your portfolio provides, it allows clients to save the individual works they like very easily. This could be a plus (and one I’d recommend carrying over onto your portfolio website as well, be it making work available by right-click-save-as or including a download button.
-If you do decide to stick with this portfolio layout, the text on the popups is illegible in reader.
-The file itself is quite slow to scroll through, which may be a combination of the background and image sizes. I know you’ll have a book and a website, but sometimes clients request a PDF portfolio as well, so you want to make sure the file size isn’t too cumbersome. Yours is currently 18mb, I’d recommend between 5-7mb AT MOST. A lot of email filters will trash anything bigger. When making a digital portfolio your work only has to be 72 dpi, which will lower file sizes in PDFs overall.
-Think about the order of your work. Right now it looks as if you’ve put kind with kind, instead, think about starting and ending on strong notes, using the middle of your book for “weaker” pieces. People remember the last thing they see, so make sure you want them to remember it and never include anything you’re not proud of in your book.
-Rather than that header bar with your information, I recommend a nicely designed cover page.
-(the following are things I’ve found as I’ve worked, though tutors may have different opinions): Media type under each piece is redundant so no need to include it. If the client cares, they’ll ask. Your online portfolio can include this information if you wish, but when communicating with clients directly by book or pdf, they really don’t care how you do it, it’s your style they’re after.
-I like how you’ve sized your work on the page, always make it big!
-I know Ian likes the icons on each page, but I’ve been told they’re unnecessary, so this is really a personal choice, but instead of your logo, maybe use the clients logo if available instead, if you decide to keep them.
-Be thoughtful about the text (font and spacing), don’t just use default texts and colours, consider how it works with your work.
I totally agree about the layout and design of the PDF. I’m not happy with it - I wanted to make it in inDesign, but I don’t have it at home and I didn’t get a chance to make it at college before Easter, so I had to stick with Acrobat. I’ll definitely be making a new one!
-I’ll start out by saying my favourite piece is your book cover for Josie Dew. Compositionally I think they’re strongest, though you do have a lot of strength in your character design as well.
I agree that one of my strongest pieces is the Josie Dew cover, but I didn’t get a great mark for that project. Apparently the flat shading didn’t show off what I could do enough, and that there was an ‘underlying sense of complacency’ about it. Being that it had to be pretty simple as it was shape based, and there couldn’t be too much detail because there was also an animated version, I was pretty unhappy with the mark I got. But it’s nice to know you think it’s strong, thanks!
-You asked how to simplify your characters - I’d say it’s something you learn over time, but do be conscious of it. Assuming you work with layers as you work digitally, try turning layers on and off and see how a piece works without that particular detail. A lot of my work usually ends with 10 or so more layers than are necessary and at that point, I go in and see what’s really needed. Having a discerning eye is key. Another trick is to think in shapes, break faces et down into shapes, this will help you see what’s redundant. Also, get opinions from colleagues or even family, they can come in handy.
-If you have any of your work in context (eg. the shirt design on an actual design, get it photographed and include that alongside (or instead of if it’s clear enough) the original work so people can see it in “action”.
I was told by someone else I should have my shirt design mocked up, too - I’m going to do just that.
- I don’t know what area you want to go into when you finish uni, or if you even know yet, but I’d recommend separating your characters into their own portfolio book if you want to go down that route as they’re quite different to your other work and are strong on their own.
Ultimately I’d like to be a concept artist of some kind, I’ll take that advice about having a separate portfolio for characters, as I think some kind of character artist is more specifically the route I’d like to go down.
- You appear to have a good understanding of colour as well, which is great!
-I prefer your character design (the man shown in different outfits) and book covers to your portraits. I think you’ve been successful in simplifying these pieces, but they are done in a different style so that maybe it. You also have a great understanding of the human figure which is a good strength to have (so many illustrators don’t).
-I like how you’ve implemented texture into the wind and the willows cover, I’d be interested to see that in other pieces, like the deer/fox image next to it. I think it adds a warmth to your work.
I couldn’t really add texture to the Orchard competition entry because it would have been applied to the wall on vinyl so it had to be flat colours. But, as it’s own piece, I’d really love to work on it, add some shading etc, so I’ll certainly put a texture in there too.
-I’ve just downloaded the alphabet piece at the end to get a closer look and it’s also great! I like your use of the limited colour palette, though I think a bit of texture/roughness (if that makes sense) would do this piece favours as well. :)
Overall, your work is lovely and I look forward to seeing where you take it!
Anyway, I hope that’s helped and if you have any questions about what I’ve said (or want any other advice), please do get in touch. I’ll see you at your final show in June as well, I look forward to seeing your exhibition.
This was a great review, super thorough and I like that she gave feedback on my actual PDF too, along with my work itself. Thanks Megan!