Sunday, November 8, 2009

How to Illustrate for Children? Oh, That's Simple.

I'm currently studying Illustration at the Arts University College at Bournemouth in my second year. I've been given a brief where I need to design 5 rough ideas and 3 final images for a children's book. The brief is that I've got to pick 5 religions and pick one section from their story about creation and illustrate it for a child. I've been given no text as of yet so I need to be mindful that the text will take up at least a third of the double page spread I've got to design for each image.

And so as I was reading through your blog and all your posts, i was wondering whether you had any advice about how I should go about this and if you could give me some information about what's successful in the realm of children's books.
I don't know how to answer this. For one thing, I'm an editor, not an art director. And for another thing, it sounds like you don't know what your question is. Which part of this assignment are you confused about? If it's the whole assignment, you should talk to your teacher.

I'm sorry not to be more help, but specific questions engender specific answers.


christine tripp said...

I've been given no text as of yet so I need to be mindful that the text will take up at least a third of the double page spread I've got to design for each image.

Poor kid, that's a heck of a challenge.... to illustrate a spread with no knowledge of what the heck the story is about, nor what the text will be???
Perhaps that's the answer for her.
She/He should go to the teacher and say, excuse me, but if you want me to illustrate this book, I need the full manuscript to understand the characters and the particular scenes I am to illustrate. If the challenge is to act like a working illustrator, then do:)

(I could never have handled art school, ack!)

Nicola Morgan said...

Well, I just had an email from someone who wants to write a book and she was asking if I could advise as to what she should put in it.

Words? And possibly pics, too.

ae said...

Talk to your teacher who in this situation is your art director. It seems that you are now the designer as well as the illustrator though, so...

Ask questions like: Do you think a panel would work better than having the text integrated into the art?

What kind of font would work best? (Fonts and their sizes etc. determine how much space the text will take up) Show and suggest fonts you like that you think work well with your art and that are easy to read.

Ask about the gutter once you have the sketches done.

Ask about the tone of the book. Is it supposed to elegant/educational/cute and cuddly...?

Then go to a bookstore/library and look at all the children's current religious books and see how they were done. :)

Anonymous said...

If you're confused about what you need to do, as EA suggests, talk with your instructor.

If you're not confused, do your own work.

(I say this as a professor)

Debbie said...

Hey EA, I was wondering if you had any suggestions on places to go for info on illustrating for children's books? My Mother-in-Law really wants to get into illustration, and has some background, but if there's anyplace I could direct her to (like a blog or something) that'd be great. Thanks!

joelle said...

Maybe I'm misunderstanding the question, but it seems like the artist wants to know about what picture books look like, how they're laid out, how they are different from say a magazine illustration. My advice is go to the library and get about 30 picture books. In particular, pick up the ones that kids pull of the shelves to look at and leave behind. Read them all. Study them. Take them back and get 30 more. Repeat until you get a feeling for picture books.

Haste yee back ;-) said...

Turn the spread page in blank.

Add this line of text below blank page...

It snowed.

Haste yee back ;-)

Vacuum Queen said...

Well geez...if the assignment comes across as very open, then go for it and fill the pages with your own creations. If you want more guidelines, then you're just drawing what someone else is asking you to draw. That's not very realistic. I imagine a real working illustrator gets to think out of the box if he wants to.

Make your own story in your head and create. Kinda like a Project Runway task. :)

ratu lakhsmita indira said...

man, chill...

christine tripp said...

I'm still scratching my head over the illustrator not being given text, let alone the manuscript. It's not about how much room to leave for the text (as the student seems to be concerned about, but how do you know what elements to illustrate without the story???
Perhaps the text is to be written after the fact, to go with the illustration?
Whatever the case, in my opinion the class is not educating these students for the real world of illustration. I would assume that is the purpose of schooling, no?
I suppose all that the student can do is research the 5 religions she decides on, get their take on "creation" and illustrate it in a simple format for a child to understand. I don't think the age group of the children was mentioned? That would be important (she/he may have been told though)
While I don't get the impression the illustrator will be responsible for placing or choosing the text/font, and since there is no hint of how that will be decided nor by who, I wouldn't consider it. Paint the spread without worrying about text and the designer can adapt it to the art. Example, dark and stormy sky, white text, light wash for background, black text.

christine tripp said...

Nicola, that's a good one... yes words might be something to consider:)

Last week I may have passed on something I will regret someday.
I received an email from an "author", offering me a "once in a life time" opportunity to illustrate the next "Harry Potter" (her words, not mine)
HP is a novel, her's a pic book and I stress pic book because what she attached to her mail was a rough outline of ideas. Page 1 "draw child waking up" Page 2 "draw child dressing" Page 3 "draw child eating cereal" etc, etc... OG!
Of course, attached to all of this was a photo of her child, to be used as reference:)
She ended her letter with, "after the book is illustrated, perhaps you could take it to your publisher"
She has generously proposed splitting her royalties with me hahah

Anonymous said...

I think she should get a refund and find a new school. Sounds like so many situations where academicians have no idea of the real world outside of the ivy covered halls in which they teach--or fail to do so.

Anonymous said...

I don't really know what you mean, anon 9:11. It seems pretty clear that the instructor wants the student to pick five creation stories, come up with a design idea for one part of each, and final images for three of those.

How you get that the instructor is either not doing her job or doesn't understand the real world?

I've read many suggestions from illustrators that newbies should take a scene from a classic book and illustrate it to show the newbies' talents and individual interpretation.

How is this any different?

Sergio Ruzzier said...

>Haste yee back ;-) said...
>Turn the spread page in blank.
>Add this line of text below blank >page...

>It snowed.

There is a whole book done this way, "Little White Riding Hood" by the wonderful Bruno Munari.

shelley said...

"She ended her letter with, "after the book is illustrated, perhaps you could take it to your publisher"
She has generously proposed splitting her royalties with me hahah"

You've just described 60% of the projects posted on

The 'royalties' part always gets me.

Anonymous said...

In the grown up world working with others sometimes means you have to go to colleagues and nicely pry information from them that is not being provided. I know I do at my job.

Your teacher (who may be dilinquent...I don't really know), may just be an example of what you might have to deal with down the road in every day work situations.

I still maintain that you approach him her with your queries.

Such is life.

WV is Borup: The passed tents of bearup...(watch out there is bear in yout tent!)