Children’s Book Illustration Project

Been a very productive summer so far! Rather pleased with how its going actually.

As well as moving into my epic new riverside house in Norwich with some of my best bitches, I’ve actually been a good aspiring freelancer and student, I’ve been getting real life work done and getting more work in as well.

The most recent of which is the initial stages of a really exciting project with Karen Cooke, a to-be-author. I’m going to be working with her on a (hopefully) regular basis to launch her excellent children’s stories into publishing with my illustrations. She has quite a few short stories for young children, aimed at helping them with everyday struggles and specific issues specific children may encounter.

After a meeting with her about her stories, we went to the excellent book shop, The Book Hive, in Norwich town centre. The shop has the best selection of strange and creative children’s books I’ve ever seen. We found some brilliant examples of the exact styles of illustration we mutually agree would work perfectly for her stories and her plans for the illustration’s development.

The focus seemed to be on the quirkier, more textured forms of illustration, ones which avoid the generic bold colours and tight linework of a lot of ‘mass produced’ children’s stories. I somehow feel that these styles of illustration, with the minimal detail and simple, dewy-eyed cute children are getting overused to quite a dramatic extent. So many of the children’s books I’ve come across feature exactly this and, if I were to put myself in a mother’s/father’s shoes, I would glance over these books, only looking at them as a default ‘safe’ present for somebody else’s child perhaps.

Karen and I both agree that a more quirky, perhaps even slightly darker, style would catch the eyes of parents and children alike far more than the standard ‘safe’ design.

I’ve also been asked to look into the use of type within the illustrations. Numerous examples that we looked at involved a handwritten style of type which interacted with the illustrations in one way or another, whether its through simply following the line of the composition or actually forming part of the illustration itself (‘type as image’ sort of thing). I’m going to be looking into this quite extensively I would have thought, the use of type in children’s books seems to be the make or break of a lot of the illustrations I’ve looked at. I definitely want to avoid the whole, type on the left hand page, illustration on the facing right hand page, thing… It very rarely works and when it does it needs a particularly stylised and unique, fashionable quirkiness to it. Otherwise it ends up looking ‘stock’ again…

The stories themselves involve a lot of animal references, which is fortunate! Its been a long time since I drew kid-friendly sort of animal illustrations, its been fun revisiting it.
With the intention of darkening the general feel of the illustrations and adding lots of texture and craziness to them, I can imagine having a tonne of fun with this project…

So far, I’ve only been able to generate quick sketches to get the feel of the style I’d want to use. One of the stories features a rockhopper penguin so I experimented with the type of texture and line I could use to draw one in an interesting and non-cliche way. Below is what I managed to draw out, which I’m very happy with!

Penguin Study

More updates to come, stay tuned!


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