Watch ustyme books art director Nick Balian review your and others' work and answer your questions in the live session on Thursday, January 28

Nick Balian has illustrated 11 classic tales for digital children's publisher ustyme, including Aesop’s Fox Fables, ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas, The Three Billy Goats Gruff and the upcoming Hansel and Gretel. 

For this month's Guest Group Critique he's set to review your illustration art from his perspectives as art director and staff illustrator for ustyme and long experience in graphic design, animation and theater.

Get all the details on how to participate and where to upload your work when you subscribe!

Click the orange button above. You'll find options to subscribe to monthly Guest Group Critiques (for only $8.95) or purchase a seat in just this month's session with Nick.

Monthly group critiques are 'perfect practice'

They tell you...

  • What isn't working

  • When to push harder

  • When to just stop

And help you to...

  • Get a fresh perspective

    Our guest critiquers – illustrators, author-illustrators, children’s literary agents, art directors, maybe an editor or two  – examine your final in a spirit of teaching and mentoring.

  • Think more like a pro

    Watch up close and personal how full-time creatives evaluate and troubleshoot their own and others’ pieces.

  • Prepare for that thing

    That upcoming kidlit (or illustrators’) conference, important promotional mailing, post or sit-down with a client.

  • Sharpen your discernment powers

    Remind you of those bedrock principles of draftsmanship, design and communication. (Funny how they keep bringing you back to those.)

  • Meet your tribe

    Your colleagues and the expert practioners. Who share their What I Wish I Knew Then stories and become your contacts in ‘the biz.’ (It’s called networking.)

  • Get better at getting better

    Practice with critiques helps you understand the hierarchy of feedback and how to navigate it wisely – knowing what’s valid for you now, vs. what to set aside for later.

A smart critique will make the difference

Denise Fleming received the Caldecott Honor for In the Small, Small Pond (Henry Holt and Company.)

Her concept books for the very young, distinguished by great language and rambunctiously beautiful art are a staple in public and elementary school libraries across the country.

Author and popular writing teacher Jodell Sadler directs KidLit College, which provides classes on how to craft musical language, irresistible comic timing and "Wow" pacing for children's picture books and other topics of interest to children's writers and author-illustrators.

In December's interactive live critique Jodell and Denise examined 30 illustration submissions. They came with their prepared notes of recommendations to make the pieces better.

They pulled no punches. Sometimes they drew on copies of the art to suggest corrections or compositional changes. 

They talked with viewers and each other about the need for more 'story' in the pictures and brainstormed ideas for heightening character interaction and elements to add to scenes to create reader anticipation and compel 'page turns.'

Jodell visited the websites of some of the submitting artists and made helpful suggestions.

Catch the replays of Denise and Jodell's insight-packed double-header session and many other exciting live events from last year – and participate in new live critique sessions with KidLit professionals every month!

Group critiques – in the studio classroom or around a cafe table with friends – have been training artists for centuries.

Subscribe HereFor monthly critiques, including January 28 session

Be part of the conversation. Only $8.95 per month.

Improvement comes from consistent focus

You don't have to upload your work to every session. You just have to listen.

You'll benefit by being there. It's like practicing the proverbial golf swing in your mind. Whether it's your work or someone else's being discussed, you'll take away invaluable knowledge to help you later. When it's just you behind the monitor or at the table or monitor making the 200 decisions required to complete a picture.

You don't have to go it alone...

With a subscription you can participate in all of our monthly live critique programs and immediately access replays of the sessions we enjoyed last year by these top illustrators and teachers:

Click on the photos to see their websites!

Mira Reisberg

Mira Reisberg

Karien Naude

Karien Naude

Karien Naude

Chris Schechner

Author-illustrator Jeff Crosby

Jeff Crosby

Marsha Riti

Marsha Riti

Christy Stallop

Christy Stallop

C.S. Jennings

C.S. Jennings

Annette Simon

Annette Simon

Mark Mitchell

Mark Mitchell, moderator

Denise Fleming

Denise Fleming

Wendy Martin

Wendy Martin

Mary Sullivan

Mary Sullivan

Jodell Sadler and KidLit College

Jodell Sadler

It's a bit like art school...

But for $8.95 per month.

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Try out the subscription and see what you think of the next Marks and Splashes Guest Group Critique session. If you find it not hugely helpful or just not your cup of tea, write me (c/o the How To Be A Children’s Book Illustrator blog) and I’ll refund you same day, no questions asked, no worries and we’re still friends. Your replays of all of the past Guest Critiques are on us until then.

Remember that you can easily with a click cancel your subscription anytime through PayPal. (Or write me c/o the blog and I’ll help you. –Mark M.)