Illustrating a Children’s Book

So, as one might imagine, I am working on a number of projects at the moment, probably the largest is called “Stuffy.”  Stuffy is the name of the main character in the children’s book that I am in the process of illustrating.  As is often the case when doing something for the first time, the task has proven larger and more labor intensive then it first appeared.  So, how have I tackled this beast?  Read on…

Planning and Story

So first, and probably not surprisingly, I sat down with the author of the children’s book.  We went over the text of the book and some general ideas of how things might look and parts in the story which had some visual hang ups.  Going through the story with a fine toothed comb brought up a few issues which probably would have gone unnoticed by most, if not all, if the story was not being brought to life visually on a page.  A few setting inconsistencies, some misunderstanding of scale and distance regarding set pieces and layout.  Once worked out I took the next step.

Storyboarding the Children’s Book

I actually sat down in bed with my sketch pad and drew out the storyboard in one go while my Wife watched 24 and my 2 year old Son ran around the room with his cars crashing into everything in his path.  I drew out thumbnail sized pages with basic sketches, marked where the text would go, and made small notes to the side.  Once laid out, it was obvious that this was going to be a big project.  It worked out to be 45 pages which is pretty large for a children’s book.  With this worked out I moved on to…

Sketching, Inking, and Coloring a Test Page

I had in mind a couple of styles that I thought would fit the story and genre well.  I began by sketching out the basic character styles in pencil and charcoal then I moved on to the backgrounds and secondary characters.  Once sketched out and refined to a point I was happy with I got out my india ink brush pen and inked the lines.  Finally I applied a bright, kid friendly, color palette to finish out the test page.  I took this page and the storyboard to the author to review and collaborate.  Everything went great!  She loved it all and was overjoyed to see things coming together.  Her story was on its way to becoming a polished and brightly illustrated children’s book.

Where Things Stand

That brings us up to the present for the most part.  With everything approved and given a green light I now stand in front of a 45 page illustration project. Whew!  Fun but definitely labor intensive.  I’m hoping to be able to get the pages done in about 30 working days, but it’s going on hold for right now as I’ve gotten some more pressing projects that need attention.

Here is an early basic sketch of one of the characters as well as color swatches.

Michael Simpson