Working on children’s illustration

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…

Starting with the handmade

I really like to do original artwork by hand – maybe sketching or watercolour or acrylics or whatever. I know it’s not on trend really, but this is what I do. The items can always be treated in any fashion in Photoshop afterwards. But for my recent illustration for “the current reduction in insects being squashed on car windscreens” (what a thought, nicely clean but ecologically worrying!), I assembled rather more than usual – a whole horde of insects in fact. And then I coloured them in fabulous colours because the shapes had to be recognisable but the colours not….

Mixed media, hand made or digital?

Ticking upload boxes on portfolio sites, such as the Association of Illustrators in the UK and the Directory of Illustration in the US is always problematic for me. Nearly everything these days ends up digital. If you just scan it in and send it to the client, I guess it is hand made. Anything added and it could be deemed digital. On the other hand, visibly digital is quite different from using digital means to an end (isn’t it completely obvious who has used Illustrator or some special Photoshop brushes?). So what are art directors expecting if they key in…

Healthy self-criticism!

  I was illustrating the concept of using criticisms of your self as fuel for achievement – especially if the crits are weighed alongside your positives. I came up with four basic ideas, and picked one to develop. When I’d done what was instinctive and ‘me’, and before I put the hands right, I looked at it and thought: that’s unbalanced and bitty. Well it was: So I set about deconstructing the Photoshop layer file and discarding the bits I wouldn’t use again. In writing, we always say ‘Kill your darlings’. Same for illustration, I guess. I liked my bits of paper where…

Mixed skills needed!

Editorial illustration demands so much more than just being an artist. Not only do you need to keep in mind the basic art requirements of composition, content and values – which includes checking it reads in black and white plus leading the viewer’s eye to the most important thing – but some element of “up-to-date-ness” and perhaps even an ability to use an essence of cartooning, for example. I find this variable set of add-on needs stimulating. For instance, I was depicting Donald Trump and his declared “USA first” ideas and how they might deter people who would choose to go…

Character continuity

I often try to draw the same character doing different things. Keeping the style, keeping the character recognisable: it’s all grist to the mill in children’s illustration. I thought of these two kids last week and drew the first image out in ink. I used permanent ink for the characters and soluble ink for the background – I wanted to keep the focus on the characters, who would be coloured, and leave the background as monotone after some moving around of the soluble ink for shading. The digital work was done in Photoshop and Clip Studio Paint – I just love the blending brush in CSP and often choose…

Journey of an illustration

I read the news about the latest plan to fine CEOs if their firms conducted unwarranted cold calling. Immediately an image sprang to mind (well that’s what you would want in the heat of a commission, obviously, if it were one!). So I sketched it out. I knew straight away the pool of tears was OTT and thought I’d better have a few different ideas. I also knew I’d need some snakes and some telephones photos to make a more accurate image, even if I stuck to my normal hand-drawn, sketchy feel. So I came up with the idea of a sledgehammer because…