Working on children’s illustration

girl and bird

I have used a number of styles over the years to illustrate children and settings for stories. It would be just so easy to copy the prevailing style and say job done. But then, who would hire me? Art directors have trusted illustrators already who do those styles and do them well.

Many at the moment are prepared or finished off in Illustrator, it seems. This is not an app I like for my main artwork. And lots of other images of children have super-sized faces and very flexible and stylised arms and legs. I do love them. Just that it seems no point in copying them. Especially when it isn’t what comes naturally to me.

At one point, I did a lot of biro scribbly ones with coloured-line backgrounds. Good for sketching but maybe less good for publishing. I do like messy page illustrations though!

I have moved on now to doing children and adults interacting – but concentrating more on the emotion in the image. I often leave out the nose and mouth, because the eye contact alone, or the body posture itself, seems to indicate everything that is needed. For these, I use pencil as the starting place for all of them. Then ink and then a scan.

The ink has sometimes been soluble, so the shadows are moved out from the ink with a brush and water. In others, I’ve added the shadows with shades of grey in Faber Castell brush pens before the scan. And yet others have the dark and light tones added in Photoshop after rendering, by using Multiply or Screen layer mode respectively.

I think each has its merits. The soluble ink adds a watercolour-y look; the FC pens add a more comic/defined style of shading; and the layer-styles method is a bit more flexible for individual bits, because I can adjust what’s needed after the event. The other two methods are done before the scan and pretty well set in stone at that point.

Here’s a selection of some of these later images that are now in my portfolio above.

childrens images
Hand-drawn in ink, coloured digitally ©Eleanor Patrick

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