Becoming a children’s book illustrator is far from easy, even though you may be a great artists knowing how to draw does not automatically mean that you will be a good illustrator. Often you will have to illustrate work by other writers, and this means you have to interpret what they mean; you have to get inside their heads and sync with their imagination.
Also do be fooled into thinking that fewer words means an easier illustrating job. In some children’s and picture books, characters evolve in the illustrations without being mentioned in the text. The illustrator may create a moment just before the scene is mentioned in the text, this is sometimes done to add weight to the words that follow.
Don’t be Afraid of Embracing Your Inner Child
The illustrations and the text must work together to tell the story, and one without the other simply is not as powerful. And to really capture the imagination of the reader you must think back to what excited you as a child. For instance, a child will not question why a cat happens to be pink, it is just a pink cat and get on with it.
Embrace what used to excite you as a child and what you loved to draw, throw away any inhibitions and always think of your target audience. But remember that it is vital in your work that you are never condescending, children are young and inexperienced, but seldom stupid.
Create Your Own Style to Marry Up with the Narrative
Obviously if you are illustrating for another writer then you must understand the text fully and try to develop your own style to embellish the drawings. To do this you must have a strong collaboration with the author, so that you can capture and embellish their thoughts.
You can portray a mood written in the text by adding various facial features such as eye-lining, or perhaps the body language of the characters. This is the true art of the illustrator, taking one hundred words and making them into one descriptive scene in a drawing.
Of course, there are writer/illustrators and though the illustrations may be easier as you have created the characters in your head, the writing may be a challenge. One great tip is to develop the narrative and drawings together. Don’t just write a book and try to illustrate it later, the great children’s books develop over a long period as a back-and-forth relationship with the words and the art.
Whatever you do, keep to schedule and the time limits put down by the publisher and writer. The cardinal sin with any illustrating is to promise something and not deliver. The consequences of tardy work can be catastrophic as it could delay so many other processes.
Children’s book illustrating can be a tough world, but it can also be a highly rewarding one. So, aim for the magic, make the words leap off the page with your drawings so the whole collective ignites.