May 18, 2017

The Making of an Illustrated Children's Picture Book: Part 1

Hello :)

I've been a bit quiet overall, in my shop and social media. I have been working on a couple of illustration jobs, and whilst I'd like to say I have been updating my shop and prolifically making art and updating my social media frequently as well, I've had to admit I am not superwoman and am letting go of the expectation to try and squeeze everything in. (But that nagging feeling that I should be able to fit it all in is still there!)

But when I put too much on my plate I freeze and become overwhelmed and have the tendency to procrastinate. So I am taking a break from a few aspects of my business so I can put more of my efforts into some illustration work (and a commission I have too) for a while. But I will keep blogging!


Playing around with style for a new book

One of the illustration jobs I'm working on is a new children's picture book! Yay! And people seem so interested in the process that I thought I would share a bit of it here on the blog.

Here's how it happens (for me).

After receiving the story, I will read it a few times and daydream. I will often make scribbles right on the sides of the manuscript.

I will enter a period of constantly thinking about it, so even whilst I'm doing the dishes, or going to sleep for the night, my mind will be churning and turning over ideas.

I purchase a sketch book solely for the job, to keep all of my work and sketches and ideas together. Even if I happen to do sketches on loose bits of paper when the urge strikes and I don't have my book with me, I will glue them in later to keep it all organised and in the one place.


My first work comes in the form of research and preliminary character sketches and ideas. They will often go through a period of transformation, due to me changing aspects until I'm happy, or with the publishers/ authors input and suggestions. Sometimes the characters evolve quite a bit through this process. I will do pencil drawings, and usually get out the paints & coloured pencils too to start playing around with final rendering style ideas.

This particular book's characters are mainly clouds, which are tricky and ever changing evolving forms, that play with light and colour. They are not solid objects that you can predict where the light falls, and their form changes depending on how much water they're holding, or what time of day it is, or how windy it is. So a character that changes all the time... challenging!


Because my work is usually quite conceptual, verging on the abstract and intuitive (not realistic) style, I felt the need to study some clouds. I looked at real clouds, photos of clouds, and illustrations and traditional paintings of clouds. I studied how they block the light, where the light comes through, and their form. I looked at how they have soft fluffy edges, and then sometimes they have sharp edges.

A cloud study. In particular I want to capture light and luminosity in the illustrations for this children's book

I want my illustrations to look arty and sketchy. I think there's lots of potential for beautiful textural art whilst playing around with rain, sunsets, wind and light. 

The next step after both I and the publisher are happy enough with the preliminary sketches, is to decide which text goes on what pages. Picture books are usually 32 pages, or else in multiples of four due to the manufacturing process of a book. You have to allow for a title page and imprint page and all that, if you pick up a picture book you can count how they're in multiples of four, some finish on the very last page, others a couple before. Every book is different. Some imprint pages are on the back side of the endpapers, some are not. (The endpapers are the those decorative pages at the front and end of a book that are usually a different type of paper. We're talking hard cover books here, and the endpapers are in addition to the 32 pages.) We also have to choose the size of a book. Children's picture book sizes are as varied and different as people are! 

A few quick story board sketches (what's with that mans hand!? Can you see it!? Lol)

Once those things are decided it's time to storyboard the thing out. I choose to go pretty rough at this stage, some go surprisingly detailed (those dedicated souls). I think if you go too detailed at this stage it can be a waste of time incase there are a lot of changes to be made (such as text being shunted around to different pages & illustration concepts needing to be redrawn). This is where each page is sketched out, with it's corresponding text. 

I also include my thoughts or notes alongside the storyboard roughs too. I don't like to add a lot of thoughts there though, as I think it's good for people to see it first with their own thoughts untainted by my thoughts and then we can talk about all our thoughts together later on. So many thoughts :)
More detail will be added in final roughs when the story board is approved

After the story board is finished, it's submitted for approval, and here's where sometimes a lot of changes and back and forth-ing happens. This is the stage I'm at at the moment. I've done the story boarding for all of the pages, and have a meeting lined up to go over it all. 

Once the story board is all approved and everyone is happy, it's time to go onto the final roughs where I can add in lots more detail. For instance, in the above picture I have just represented where houses will be, they yet don't have any individuality or detail, but that will come in the final rough.

There are so many decisions along the way for a picture book, it's like a choose-your-own-adventure with a zillion different options at each stage. Does the text overlay the illustrations? How much white space is in the book? Is the text on white space? Are there illustrations on every page? Are the illustrations in vignettes? What style will the illustrations be? Will they be digital or traditionally drawn? Realistic or stylised? And so on and so on...

And each publisher and author and illustrator combo have different ways of working too. Sometimes the author doesn't have a lot of input, sometimes they do. 

If you have any questions I'd love to hear them in the comments & I hope you enjoyed part 1 of making an illustrated children's picture book.

Jules :)

5 comments:

Jutta said...

Hello Jules,
Thank you for the insight on making magic! I am currently working on my very first picture book. I'm all by myself here and don't have a publisher yet. This means I will have to send it to publishers all finished, right? Or would it be helpfull to send them roughes and a porrfolio so they see my style?
Best wishes, Jutta

Jules Madden said...

That's a good question Jutta :) You'd have to look at individual publishers submission guidelines as each do things differently. Normally publishers only want you to submit the manuscript and then they choose the illustrator, so usually they do not like finished books being submitted. (As they will be involved in the whole creative process.) As an illustrator I submitted my folio to prospective publishers and gained work that way. It's not usually the author that chooses the illustrator. These days lots of people are choosing to self publish too, so that may be an option that you could look into. The industry is always changing, I once saw a publisher who opened up submissions to people pitching books and they wanted 3 double page spreads finished already, which I had never heard of before. I hope that info has been of some help! :)

Jutta said...

Wow, thank you a lot!
This is really helpfull and means I will have to concentrate on my folio instead. As for self publishing:I don't want go there. So I'll postpone my personal project and try to get into the industry.
I wish you all the best for your project :)
Thanks again, Jutta

Jess said...

Really informative Jules! I made a picture book once with a friend and we self published but I cringe in shame when I see it now lol! I didn't have a clue how to illustrate a book! Yours looks fantastic, love the cloud character!xx

Jules Madden said...

Thank you :) I totally get cringing at old work- I do that to all my old stuff! Though I'm sure your book was beautiful!

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