How To Be A Children's Book Illustrator

Mark Mitchell's blog on children's book illustration, artists and art instruction

‘Pictures worth a thousand words’

Poster paint to set the scenes

Oga resized

I can’t get over these anime background artists with their battered brushes and messy jars of cheap paint. It’s fascinating to hear them talk and watch them at work. It’s children’s book illustration taken to the nth power. The below video delves deeper than we looked last time into the subject of anime backgrounds. It rests finally on Kazuo Oga’s most intense challenge,… Read More

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… 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

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

Painting old buildings

Illustrator James Gurney at work

  Oh, my.  Yes, painting old buildings in watercolor not latex. You’ll want to see illustrator and fine-arts painter James Gurney dash off a plein air urbanscape — before the time’s up on his parking meter. Former National Geographic illustrator of archeological/historical subjects, author-illustrator of books for children and adults and an exquisite, if occasionally quirky teacher of drawing… Read More

Minimally drawn Miffy


Hey Miffy you’re so fine. You’re so fine you blow my mind — hey Miffy! Or Nijntje, as this children’s book character by illustrator author Dick Bruna is known in Holland and much of Europe. She’s a girl who wears lightly the distinction of being, at least according to the London Telegraph the most popular rabbit in the world. There’s not a… Read More

Celebrating children’s picture books!

Peter McCarty's Henry in Love

  Below, a sweet picture book trailer by author-illustrator Peter McCarty for his incomparable Chloe (HarperCollins Childrens).   You can see art samples from the winners of the New York Times Best Illustrated Books Awards for 2014 here and enjoy best-selling picture book author Chris Barton’s post about why children’s picture books are important here. Picture Book Month is an international literacy… Read More

Terrible in pink?

T is for Terrible

  A Terrible Lizard’s soliloquy moves us to empathy, or maybe not in the gorgeously tactile T is for Terrible (Macmillan)– a 2005 Bank Street Best Children’s Book of the Year by Peter McCarty. Children’s novelist Julie Lake (Galveston’s Summer of the Storm) walks us through the Paleozoic pastel pages, while I handle the not-so-steadicam. We recorded after hours in  Julie’s primary school library that… Read More