a to z IIllustrations in Children’s books (older children – 9 to 12 years old, or middle grade) has been a hot topic over at the Goodreads Great Middle Grade Reads group.

Every time I find a book with illustrations I notice them more.  There are a surprising number, varying from brilliant to not so helpful.  Sometimes I think really excellent illustrations are less atmospheric than those that are more … stylistic, let’s call it.  Which is interesting, because I would call E H Shephard’s illustrations for Winnie the Pooh more in the atmospheric than excellent, in this case.  Maybe it’s their apparent simplicity, which is in keeping with the stories.

Illustrations in my Princelings books

I decided right at the start of my publishing career that my books needed illustrations to start each chapter.  At one time I thought I’d made a rod for my own back; once I’d started, I couldn’t very well stop in the middle of the series.  Sometimes even the Christmas tales on the Princelings website get their own illustrations.

Last year, I had two books to illustrate, and I happened upon a meme called #Inktober, where artists do pen and ink (or similar) sketches every day through October.  I jumped on the bandwagon to push myself to complete the drawings for Willoughby the Narrator, and The Princelings of the North, books 7 and 8 of my Princelings series.  I found it interesting how much I’ve improved since the first book I did (which really need redoing), but also, how doing one a day really pushed me.  Stylistically I think I’ve improved, but I hope they haven’t lost the atmosphere!

My process

I always start them in pencil, then go over and shade in drawing pen, before erasing the pencil and completing them.  My cover illustrator, Danielle English, got me interested in some new pens she was trying out, which would give me block shading.  Dani is a fine artist, and you can see her work at Kanizo Art on Facebook, her website, Twitter and her new buying page at Society6.  She has a penchant for dragons and strange, steampunk-like beasts!

The trouble with doing them on paper, is that I have to scan and import them.  I’ve been tempted to get a tablet just for drawing, but it seems an indulgence.  I tested an iPad Pro with the Apple Pen and it did seem very easy to draw with.  Can I justify the cost?

At one point, I wondered if I’d get on better with rewriting my Viridian series book if I did illustrations for that, too.  Well, there’s nothing stopping me doing the illustrations, I don’t have to put them in the books!

If you want to see what I did for Princelings 7 and 8, they are all on my Pinterest #Inktober page, but here’s a selection for you.  The funny thing is, since then I’ve been more keen on drawing than writing.  It’s been really hard to get on with the editing!

all pictures copyright 2016-7 J M Pett

Illustrations in children’s books #AtoZChallenge

9 thoughts on “Illustrations in children’s books #AtoZChallenge

  • 11 April, 2017 at 7:14 am

    Illustrating children’s books in pencil/ink drawings like yours, is something my oldest son (20) wants to get into. I have shown him your drawings and he is pleased that he has enough talent, like yours, to do them.

    • 11 April, 2017 at 6:21 pm

      There are so many talented young people out there. Dani was just 19 when she did my first cover illustration, while she was still at college. She’s had some internships since graduating, and one temporary contract where they liked her work but couldn’t keep her on. So she works locally, hoping to get her big break sometime, and does covers for carefully selected authors when she can.

      If your son wants to make a good living, tell him to try accountancy or law. If he wants to do use his art, try buddying up with one of more up and coming authors, and see about doing split-royalty projects for illustrated books, or a flat fee for covers.

      Many indie authors would like an illustrator, but can’t afford an established one. My drawing work is okay because it’s for my books; I wouldn’t put it forward for someone else!

      Good luck!

  • 11 April, 2017 at 7:19 am

    Hi Jemima – I wish I had the talent – it’s one of the frustrating things that’s sort of been holding me back … but it’s great that you can illustrate your own works, as you know what you want to project … I’ll sort something out! Interesting that practice made improvements… congratulations – cheers Hilary

    • 11 April, 2017 at 6:22 pm

      Thanks, Hilary! If you compare the sketches in the first book (although I’ve updated some of them), you’ll see how much they’ve improved!

  • 11 April, 2017 at 3:54 pm

    I’m another of those who wishes I had the talent to do my own illustrations. I think that illustrations, at least chapter-header ones like you use, add some real appeal to kids’ books. I’m tempted to hire my son to do some for Halitor–he doesn’t usually do people or animals, but he does amazing fantasy landscapes and buildings.

    • 11 April, 2017 at 6:27 pm

      I think Dani would say the same, not doing people – although her animals are magical ones and she’s studied hard to get the anatomy of them feasible. Her cats, dragons and hawks are superb!

      • 12 April, 2017 at 5:52 pm

        Her animals are amazing! I need to encourage Eldest Son to look at her work, and think about whether he could do critters too. People are overrated 🙂 (Dani has managed some people for me, at least in silhouette, which is what I like on my covers (so readers can fill in the details about people in their own way).

  • 11 April, 2017 at 8:14 pm

    Great illustrations! They have a very endearing quality, seeming to invite the reader in.

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