As a children’s book illustrator, there are many ways I can be commissioned and not always strictly for books. Earlier in the year, I was asked to illustrate a couple of poems for children’s magazines and I thought I’d share the process of working on these single pieces from start to finish.
Obviously each publisher and even each designer has their own way of doing things but there are a couple of hoops that an illustrator would usually need to jump through.
First, the brief arrives. Sometimes the designer has a very clear idea about how the illustration should look and is prescriptive in the details. Here is the brief from Highlights Magazine explaining how the designer envisages the illustration for the poem, ‘Hippos Hippos’.
Having read the brief, I interpreted it as you can see below. All my drawings are in pencil and easy enough to change and adapt.
Once the designer had discussed it with her team, she replied with the following. It’s clear from her response that she wanted a more photographic and less stylised illustration with details based in reality.
So – Round 2! Although I don’t like getting changes (!), it’s good to remember that I am working for a client who knows their market and hopefully has a clear idea about what they want. As an illustrator, it can be more difficult to work with a designer who has very little idea about what they want from the finished piece and therefore, isn’t able to communicate the brief well. Often, this leads to more changes and confusion- further hard work in the long run….
The spread was then given the go-ahead, completed and sent. At this point, it is usually possible for the designer to return the work again – perhaps suggesting a few tweaks here and there. As my work is created by hand this becomes more problematic than if it was digital but it’s possible to change things using collage or more opaque paint.
The final painting was adjusted slightly by in filling the white area above the title and making the grass clumps less contrasty – and then the project was complete!