Just for fun. A monoprint from a printmaking class.
I recently read an article by Anne Sibley O’Brien in the SCBWI bulletin specifically geared toward improving skills in drawing different races. She gave plenty of helpful tips on building a racially diverse group of characters in my portfolio. She suggested drawing children of different races without any reference, researching artists who are skilled in this area, keeping a photo file, sketching “stock” faces of different races and then individualizing them, asking for others’ feedback, and sketching at a playground or other public place. It seems so technical and overly thorough, but I know that by focusing on this now, it’ll become second-nature in the future.
Below is a cover illustration I did for a class project a couple of years ago. At that time, I wanted to include racially diverse characters, but I felt ultimately that the kids all looked similar, just with different skin tone (sure, the hair is different too, but I’m talking about eyes, ears, and noses here). It was a good starting place (and, of course, a lot of fun to make!). This year I hope to individualize my characters–make each one unique and stand out from the others. I believe this will make for a richer and fuller body of work.
Article by Anne Sibley O’Brien:
O’Brien, Anne Sibley. “Drawing Race.” SCBWI Bulletin Jan. 2012: 11. Print.
As my art and characters continue to develop, I often feel the limitations of my own experiences. For example, I am a white middle class individual–like so many. And there really isn’t anything wrong with that. I have a unique set of experiences that makes me who I am! However, it does make character development more challenging because I tend to draw what I know, and that includes a lot of white people. It’s not the whole picture. Especially when illustrating for children, I want to make sure my characters are diverse. That way all different races of children will be able to see themselves in my stories. They’ll be able to empathize and connect with the characters–which is the whole point, right?
Take a look at this blog Coloring Between the Lines by Anne Sibley O’Brien. Her posts provide a thoughtful look on being a children’s book author/illustrator in a “world of color.”