When my sister, Rachel, first asked me to illustrate the children’s books she had written, I was both honored and, frankly, a bit intimidated. I had loved drawing and painting as a child and even began college as an art major. However, that had been more than three decades earlier. And, additionally, the media I had used in the past had been primarily charcoal and oil and I didn’t think those were the right media to use for children’s stories.
I spent a few months practicing and looking at children’s books to decide what I wanted to do. I saw that the realistic art that I had received training in was not going to work. Most children’s stories use much more vibrant colors than occur in reality and far more fantastical humans and creatures.
After months of thinking it through I decided that I wanted to use watercolor – and that I wanted to use a children’s watercolor palette to make it almost appear as though a child could do the illustrations. I also wanted to make the children appear somewhat cartoonish but I did not want to feature the adults in the stories at all. I decided that for the most part their faces would be obscured or cut off so that the children would be featured. It also occurred to me that if we didn’t give “Mommy” and “Daddy” faces then children could imagine their own parents in the story. Based on this contribution from one of our young readers, Peyton P., I’m not sure that idea was fully successful!
Illustrating is a creative process rather than a scientific process but there are resources out there to help if this is something you want to do. For me, it was really fun to work on something where there were no rules and where perfection was not required.
One of my favorite children’s books is Where the Wild Things Are based, to a great extent, on the imagination and creativity of the illustrations. Do you have a favorite book based on illustrations? If so feel free to share in the comments section.