Thinking about art style for children

Posted: May 1, 2015 in Uncategorized
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In my main job, I get to see a lot of children’s books, which I send out for review. Yes, they’re therapeutic stories but that doesn’t detract from the quality of the illustrations. And I always study them in detail before letting them wend their way. I mean, I wouldn’t want to waste their short sojourn at my house!

Here are three very different examples from recent publications. The first is from Camille Gibbs’ book, One Marble a Day, published by Hinton House. She uses a few tools and techniques in order to convey the child’s experiences, but her main illustration style in both her books (the other is A Sky of Diamonds) is like this:

Detail from One Marble a Day by Camille Gibbs

Detail from One Marble a Day by Camille Gibbs

I think she may use watercolour and an ink outline but on top of that maybe coloured pencils (or perhaps Promarkers?) to shade and decorate. It has an effective child-like and naive feel to it which is attractive to child readers. I like her distinctive way of doing the eyelashes!

Another very different style that has passed through my hands is that of Lisa Spillane in her book Smiling Heart Meditations with Lisa and Ted and Bingo. It’s published by Singing Dragon and the excerpt here shows her use of collage and multimedia.

Detail from Smiling Heart Meditations by Lisa Spillane

Detail from Smiling Heart Meditations by Lisa Spillane

She appears to have used cut-outs of her own art, brown wrapping paper, photo fragments, newsprint and possibly, in other pages, patterns pasted in Photoshop or similar (I’m doing a lot of guessing here!). I think I’d quite like to try this kind of art but maybe not for my own books. On the other hand, these two examples seem to show an up-to-date type of illustration that is coming more and more into children’s books. As if we’re not trying to make the pictures photorealistic. This aspect, I do like. And at the very least, it might encourage young children to make their own pictures!

And then there is the almost-sketchbook style of Emmi Smid in her book Luna’s Red Hat, published by Jessica Kingsley.

Detail from Emmi Smid's Luna's red Hat

Detail from Emmi Smid’s Luna’s Red Hat

This seems to be watercolour and perhaps some coloured pencil – a very popular mix of media in children’s illustration – but with fluid pen lines and very loose washes. Super effective. Not quite my thing, but I learn from every style I study and hopefully will continue to develop my own ‘thing’ in due course.

Here’s one I did recently. I can see how it lacks the finesse of these published examples, but that’s not a shortcoming – more of a learning point. Isn’t it??

on stage

  1. i really like your illustration. it is so expressive. like a little story in one drawing. very impressed. don’t change.

    Liked by 1 person

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