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Week Two: Illustrating Children

Children's book publishers are interested in seeing how illustrators draw children. They want to see if you can make characters that draw the reader in and feel accessible and connected. They want to see how expressive your characters are and if they can tell a story emotionally. They want the reader to feel connected to your characters.  

Diversity is a hot topic right now in the children's book publishing industry. Books have been published from a homogenized perspective, because of our culture, but also because of who works in publishing. Publishers are now making an effort to include diversity in books, but there's increasingly a more diverse group of in-house editors and art directors. Some publishers are sending manuscripts to sensitivity readers before publishing. 

Everyone falls on a spectrum as to how they feel about inclusivity and diverse characters. Personally, I like to create books that feel inclusive, but are not actually about being inclusive. So, for example, I may make a book with a main character that is Latino, but the book isn't just about being Latino. You will notice from the characters I have found to show you that our publishing world still slants towards white as "normal". I think publishing houses and society in general will feel healthier when "normal" includes a diverse range of people.

Also, I think I mentioned in the character week that I often look in a mirror to capture emotion and facial expressions. As a general rule, characters with wider faces and eyes set low on the face take on a "cuter", more babylike appearance, to which we may be more biologically pre-dispositioned.


Here are some book samples with a sensitivity to diversity.


Week Two: Illustrating Everything Else

Since illustrating stories has such a narrative aspect, you may find you need to illustrate items that seem dull or that you never considered illustrating. Being able to illustrate a wide variety of things will give you a strong narrative tool. Instead of trying to get around illustrating the table, or the refrigerator, or a pair of socks, embrace them all as a way to enhance your book's characters and world.  Here is a chance for you to develop your illustration style into a visual vocabulary. Some worlds are created by designing everything within in the world—as in Look for  Ladybug in Plant City. Notice how theres a plant motif to every item in plant city. Look for the ferris wheel. This ferris wheel will only exist in this world.

Notice how everything in Plant City. is designed by the illustrator to describe a unique world. or example, l

Notice in this detail image of the cover how Katherina Manolessou designed each unique element in this world—the bus is made out of a gourd and a train car from a hollowed log.

Other worlds are created by illustrating items as we see them in our world—as in The Lost Christmas. 

Notice the circular cut out in the cover which not only reinforces the idea of looking through a hole for something, but also serves as the "O" in LOST.

Now we get to see the snowman in his environment.

Clever letter ornaments create the title page. Notice the "O"—by using bright yellow, the readers attention is drawn to that letter which promises a seek and find book. Also notice grandpa is face down in the chimney which implies we are entering a topsy turvy world.

Look at the charming details—ice-skates hanging from a snow patch, a plastic bag in the air, a scarf wrapped around a chimney protrusion, a misplaced snowman on top of a tree. The play in scale and placement of various elements suggests an out-of-order world. Also notice the group of snowmen, two of them feel still and three feel more life-like as if they are about to move.

How funny! Grandad is taking a break from decorating and has only put one ornament on the tree. This character is defined by all of the out of placed items—cups under the chair, something sticking out from under the rug, all the picture frames hanging from one little nail, and haphazard darts everywhere.

Also, notice the back and forth from page to page: Brian Cronin shows the kids on the way to Grandad's, the interior of Grandad's house, and then the kids outside Grandad's.

All these misplaced items set the scene. These items are illustrated as if they are part of our world. They have not been designed for an alternative reality—the hats look like hats. The items that Cronin has included in his drawing comprise of a careful selection. They illustrate that everything is out of place, disheveled, and in disarray. And Cronin shows that everything is in disarray and bit odd—notice the peculiar little door in the bottom of front door and the cracked window.

Note the petite scale of the table, the playful mismatched socks, the slanted curtain rod, and the same view shown from inside and outside.

Another chaotic scene of grandpa's belongings.

This book is perfect for a child who might not have the patience for a lot of words and yet is a sophisticated thinker.

Love those chair legs— Cronin has thought through every charming detail—and those details give us a better understanding of Grandpa.

These are sweet sticker books—a good example of illustrating every day things.

The Amusement Park set.

The Travel set.

The Ice Cream set.

Week Two Assignment

The assignment: Characters

If your book has illustrations of children: go through your dummy and make conscious decisions about your characters. You can make notes and sketches. Give your book a look-over from a sensitivity point of view. Diversity sensitivity is about seeing and celebrating individualism and many shades of color and differences in our world. Additionally, I think it's about letting characteristics come through without having them be what identifies the character. See if there are ways to add more range in gender, economic backgrounds, ethnicity, and special needs. 

If your book does not have children, you can apply the same sort of look-over to your non-children characters to make sure you're not using stereo types to identify your characters. 

The assignment: Illustrating Everything Else

Illustrate two pages of objects based on a theme, as seen in the sticker books shown above. Choose a theme related or unrelated to your book.

Can you illustrate these items in a way that is interesting and consistent with your style of illustration?

Can you illustrate these items in a way that enhances the narrative aspect of your illustration?

Have fun!! I'm looking forward to seeing your creations! | Brooklyn, NY 

© 2018 by Kristen Balouch

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