Archive for the ‘artwork for children’ Category

Let me say straight out that I found the instructions for making one of these fold-it-yourself books on this site, by the lovely Nancy I. Sanders, who shares so much of her wisdom about writing for children and schools via her many books. Previously, I have made my own dummies in a totally different way – less fun but maybe easier for including lots of pages.

Today I didn’t want many pages. But I did want twice as many as provided by one sheet of A4. So I simply made two and worked out which panels had to be glued together to make them one. This gives 12 mini pages and a cover and back.

And why a small one and not a 32-page picture book? Because I am still interested in writing for early readers or those who will only read something less threatening than a book, and perhaps also those children who like facts more than fiction.

I still had to pay attention to choice of words, and also how to put them on the page, leaving space for some line drawings in ink. And this is only a draft and a trial. But I thought I’d share the link and image, in case it’s exactly what you were needing to know. Chances are you are ahead of me and knew how to do this already!

You could use any layout software if you want to do it in type rather than handwriting – I used Pages on the Mac and deleted the grid before printing. Handwriting is all good though.

If you have children or grandchildren and want to write a very short bedtime story and put a few line drawings in, that would be a great way to do it.

Better still, with slightly older kids, your could write the story together, get them to learn how to fold it (for any future stories they write), and get them to put a few illustrations in! Simple is best 🙂

Here is a picture of my finished booklet.

Screen Shot 2018-03-13 at 11.14.25



I will start writing again next month. I’ve found myself some time by stopping counselling young people and running drug and alcohol group work. All really fulfilling activities and worthwhile in terms of outcomes, which I’ve done for the last 13 years. But I don’t believe in an afterlife and there are only so many hours in this one! So I really want to spend more time writing and illustrating and that is what I shall be doing with the time I’ve freed up.

I’ve sold many articles, stories, novels (and puzzles and brochures) over the years. It’s something I can do. It just got pushed out by the editing and proofreading, both of which bring in a more reliable income. So, encouraged by last year’s win in a short story competition and the knowledge that I know how to write and sell, I’m embarking on bringing together some threads. I shall write about or for children and young people – perhaps articles to pitch to magazines and newspapers, as before (but specialising in my more recent experiences professionally) or stories that are either real or fantastic but contain an emotional or mental health truth. As indeed all stories must. These will also be inspired by the needs of young people I’ve met over the years.

It feels like a plan. But in this month of ‘not working much’ (by intention – some people have foreign holidays!), I’ve designed two book covers for two slightly updated fairy tales. One goat is a girl, so no “Billy” in the title! And the Pied Piper is a girl – plus the person refusing to pay her is a business man. I enjoyed drawing and painting the components in watercolour, and also used Procreate App and Photoshop to assemble them. Maybe I’ll write the stories too!

two fairy tale covers


Every now and then I remember to practise drawing the same character from different viewpoints doing different things. You may remember this attempt. I was at it again in the last couple of days, only this time I gave him (or is it a her with shortish hair?) some huge objects to manhandle. I was just being whimsical. But then some ideas came to mind.


He feels little in his family. Maybe he has a skill no one really notices. Maybe there is some incident when he knows he could help but no one even glances at him.

So what happens? *shrugs* Well, maybe he has to surreptitiously assemble the things he needs, in order to do whatever he needs to do to sort it out! So, stretching my brain a bit… he, um, steals the sharpener to sharpen the pencil, then draws the image and finally paints it.

That latter image was meant to be pastel sticks but looks more like watercolour paints – except for the lack of a mixing lid! He struggles to lug this one to his bedroom…

So yes, I don’t have time right now because a 400-page book has to be proofread this week for a publisher. But this is how a story could grow in my head, needing many revisions obviously, but perhaps it could be made to work if I really wanted to.

Nice to have conjured up a spark on a cold, icy day 🙂 Happy new year to you all.


I often try to draw the same character doing different things. Keeping the style, keeping the character recognisable: it’s all grist to the mill in children’s illustration.

I thought of these two kids last week and drew the first image out in ink. I used permanent ink for the characters and soluble ink for the background – I wanted to keep the focus on the characters, who would be coloured, and leave the background as monotone after some moving around of the soluble ink for shading. The digital work was done in Photoshop and Clip Studio Paint – I just love the blending brush in CSP and often choose to colour there too, leaving any initial cleaning up of scanned line work and the post-processing manipulation for PS.

When I had done both images, as an afterthought, I made the background of the first one look cooler as it was outside, and the background of the other look warmer as it was inside. And I double-checked they were dressed in the same clothes here – although in the course of a book this might not be so.

I think probably they go better in reverse order actually – they have a lovely shared natter and then he bids her farewell on the doorstep and goes home! The third image shows the sequence all together: ringing to ask to come round, sharing together in the warmth, and saying goodbye.



I spent yesterday upgrading (ruining?) my illustration portfolio site. I think it works now. At one point it had no home page and now it probably has two of every page, but if I delete one, the other goes too. Since I first started with WordPress, they have upped their offerings, complexity, usefulness and instructions so much that I find it hard to manage my way through to do what I want.

I had two aims in mind:

  1. Limit what was on the site so that art directors could immediately find relevant, good stuff.
  2. Make the landing page be the portfolio itself. In other words ‘About’ could be less obvious at first.

You know how they say, with editing your novel, ‘kill your darlings’? Well, I’ve removed my fine art and my sketches and my photo artistry images. I’ll decide what to do with those later. They are not going to aid my illustration aims, so they had to go. Focus, focus!

What is left is a portfolio of editorial illustration and a portfolio of children’s illustration. I shall regularly add new work and remove older stuff. There’s a lot of competition out there and I need to make it easier to be seen, and to develop my style in each discipline to be recognisable. Hopefully desirable too.

The two portfolios that now remain sit side by side (by some miracle at midnight!) and my next aim is to make the images within them sit in a block too. I have no idea how, but it can be done, they say.

If you want to look and offer feedback, that would be great. If you understand how the Qua theme works, even better. I’m all ears 🙂 You can find me at

Here is my latest biro girl with background. Exam results came out last week.

certificate girl

I spent a long time doing biro sketches of children last year. I still love using a scribbly biro and have been tempted to ditch heavier ink outlines and revert to type!

Anyway, I just painted this little toddler tennis star and was wondering about a background for him. I decided to sketch the flowers in his garden in biro (ball point, if you call it that), and then simply locked the unused pixels on the flower layer and brushed various colours over the linework to make a background without it being intrusive.

I had my doubts at first, despite liking it, but then changed it to mono to check the tonal range of the whole piece, and it’s not bad. In a picture book, it would need some darker darks somewhere.

I’ll put both colour and mono versions here so you can see for yourself what you think of ‘coloured’ biro backgrounds of this sort! The mono version would probably work quite well for a chapter book illustrated in black and white. I think I always assumed they were done in shades of grey but recently saw some artist finals for a chapter book and they were in colour, although eventually printed in mono. I live and learn!

tennis toddler with flowers

tennis toddler with flowers 2



I wrote a short chapter book which would divide into six chapters. It seemed reasonable for the target age group to have a six-year-old girl going to a new school, having just moved into a new home. It would need colour illustrations on every page, I think, to encourage the new reader to read, even if being read to. The (dreaded, compulsory!) synopsis starts like this:

Jess hates her new house because it is draughty, noisy and ghostly. She also hates her new school because she has, as yet, no friends. Grandad has stopped travelling and moved into the attic. He remarks that his beautiful stones are magical and not to be touched. Jess creeps up at night to borrow one to help her solve her problems at school. But his caged mouse challenges her and demands cheese for his silence, after which he lets her take it, with warnings about telling on her if she loses it.

Obviously, things must go wrong with the stone and at the end she must have won a friend – by normal means using her skills – and be reconciled to the new house. Otherwise, where is the story?

It starts likes this:

Jess hated her new house. The bedroom door moaned and groaned all night. She tried propping it open. She tried pressing it shut. She tried pushing her slippers against it.

But: Creak! Squeak! 

Moan… groan…  

Cold air brushed against her face. 

A scuffle on the floor: mouse or ghost?

Jess shivered and pulled the covers over her head.

It was nearly morning before she fell asleep. She dreamt that tree roots were curling round her feet. When she woke, the quilt was twisted round her legs and the wind was whistling round her toes. 

She pulled her uniform on and ran down to the kitchen, where Mum was frying bacon. 

“I hate this house,” she said. “And I hate my new school.”

Anyway, I decided to sketch the bit near the end before the final thing happens, where we read:

Later, Jess lay in the dark listening to the door creaking and groaning, despite the pile of books she’d dumped in front of it. The wind blew cold about her ears.

Then I painted it digitally.

jess and books

It’s not intended to be neat and tidy. And I want to add a scene in the same style with Grandad in his attic room showing the melée of things from his travels, including the cage and its mouse (that is, or perhaps is not, also magical). I can see it in my mind’s eye, preferably with the sun streaming in, not darkness like here! But it will be hard to do, whether neat and tidy or scribbly!

This is not a story I would want to illustrate myself, though. More of an accompaniment to submitting a manuscript. But it was fun to try.