Thursday, August 23, 2012

Review: Illustrating Children's Books

I've had lots of fantasy careers in my lifetime. Here are my top three:

1. foreign correspondent (too chicken though)
2. serious literary novelist (but not so serious that I wouldn't be invited on Oprah's Bookclub)
3. school teacher (turns out that one's actually achievable...tick. But not as lucrative as appearing on Oprah)

But there's one I've had since forever and haven't been able to shake: children's picture book illustrator. I mean, that would be awesome, right?

When I was little I wrote and illustrated little books which I'd staple together. I did that kind of thing in my spare time all through primary school and early high school (a little obsessively, I have to say) but dropped it after that, only indulging in the idea every now and again.

Despite the fact I'm not likely to be the next Lynley Dodd, I'm still interested in the process (and I'd like to write and illustrate a book just for my girls...and before they grow up!).


Illustrating Children's Books: Creating Pictures for Publication by Martin Salisbury is a great overview of how to make a picture book. After giving a brief and fascinating history of the picture book (it didn't come into its own until the 19th century so it's a relatively recent phenomenon) the bulk of the book is about techniques and skills. It covers drawing, media, materials and techniques.


There's a chapter on character development, types of picture books as well as how to make a dummy.


There's information on illustrating for older kids and nonfiction illustration. And the last section advises on the ins and outs getting published.


Martin Salisbury is an illustrator and painter himself as well as being the Course Director for the Master of Arts Degree in Children's Book Illustration at Anglia University, Cambridge, England (now that would be a cool Masters to do!). He also put together the excellent and inspiring book Play Pen, which I reviewed a couple of days ago. So he kinda knows what he's talking about.


If you're interested in illustrating picture books, or are just interested in the process, this book is the perfect starting point. It is designed sequentially to be read cover to cover but it's also a pleasure to flick through and you can dip in and out of it as you wish. There's plenty of visual interest in the page design and the text is informative but not overwhelming. I like this book a lot. I actually borrowed it from my library initially and was so sad when I had to return it that I went out and bought a copy!

I particularly like that the sample images and case studies come from a range of illustration styles so there really is something for everyone in there.

I hope I do make time to write and illustrate a little book for my girls...and when I do, I will be using this book as reference.

Stay tuned tomorrow when I interview someone who actually went ahead and authored, illustrated and self-published their own picture book!



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