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How To Be A Children's Book Illustrator

Mark Mitchell's blog on children's book illustration and illustrators

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Backgrounds to transport you

Ghibli Backgrounds by Kazuo Oga

Kazua Oga’s hand-painted backgrounds contribute hugely to the impact of The Tale of Princess Kaguya, as they have to all of the animated films he’s art directed. Illustrator Mariya Prytula steered me to this video,  At the Master’s Workshop. We watches over his shoulder as the 62 year old Oga completes a scene, Paulowia Rain.  He ruminates a little on his process and how he starts with only a rough… Read More

Takahata’s Transcendent Fairy Tale

From the Tale of Princess Kaguya

Based on a 1,000 year old fairy tale, The Tale of Princess Kaguya breaks your heart as it inspires you to love your life. The (originally called) Tale of the Bamboo Cutter has been the source of a number of different literary and media treatments in Japan. Ghibli Studio co-founder Isao Takahata took eight years to direct this animated feature version, completing… Read More

Picture books on the library conference floor

Art by Don Tate for "The Amazing Times of John Roy Lynch"

The hilarious picture book The Day The Crayons Quit, (Philomel) by Drew Daywalt and illustrated by Oliver Jeffers (mostly, he says, with his left hand) trounced the competition for this year’s Texas Bluebonnet Award.  (The image on the left is by illustrator Don Tate for another book, The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch by Chris Barton that you’ll see more about… Read More

The real Dr. Seuss

Green eggs and ham by Dr. Seuss

Yesterday elementary schools across the country pounced upon the National Education Association’s Read Across America Day and its patron saint, The Cat in the Hat — I mean, Dr. Seuss, aka Theodore Geisel. Three things you might not know about Geisel, whose March 2 birthdate the NEA commandeers evey year for its celebration of young readers and reading ed awareness: There really… Read More

Illustrators, earn your Raccoon Badge of Honor?

Vector Illustration by Wendy Martin, advocate for children's book illustrators

Vector art illustration — not just for business logos and T-shirt designs anymore.  Children’s book illustrators like Wendy Martin use it in their fine art creation and the books they illustrate for publishers of all kinds. The short video below catches a short dialogue between Wendy and I on this topic during last week’s Marks and Splashes group critique.… Read More

When Wearing Red

"Little Red" by Gustave Dore

Engraving (left) by Gustave Dore. We’ve talked here recently about ‘pushing darks’ and ‘heading into the darks.’ Referring to dark values — those lower depths of the gray scale so essential in painting and graphic composition. Essential in storytelling, too, yes? I enjoyed seeing the Disney version of Into the Woods. I think the movie did its job as a… Read More

‘Illustrating’ with watercolor

Watercolor portrait by Hangel Montero

Illustrating with watercolor requires deliberate thinking about the pattern of darks in the overall composition. Darks are the most interesting part of a painting’s value pattern (light, midtone and dark configuration.) In recent weeks we’ve been on the subject of ‘pushing the darks’ — especially in watercolor. I can’t let the topic pass without sharing… Read More

‘Charging’ up your watercolor

John Salmon demo watercolor

Why do we always seem to paint so lightly with watercolor? Why do our paintings tend to miss that dependable artist’s ‘best friend’, a dark passage? The omission rarely occurs for artists and illustrators working in oil, acrylics or digitally. It’s easy to brush on black or a thick dark color straight from the tube, jar or digital bucket. But with watercolor… Read More

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