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How To Be A Children's Book Illustrator

Mark Mitchell's blog on children's book illustration, illustrators and 'fine art' fun

‘Pictures worth a thousand words’

Funny bunnies – an artist’s perspective

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Oh my gosh. It rhymes and shows bunny children with only half their clothes on sometimes. Despite such notorious picture book no-no’s, I think you’ll quickly bond with this furry rodent family and their quaint fixer-upper on the river’s edge. Children’s novelist Julie Lake (Galveston: Summer of the Storm, Texas Christian University Press) and I take a ‘picture walk’ through… Read More

Children’s Illustration: Completely Different

Caldecott Honor children's illustration by Denise Fleming

In last month’s marvelous Group Critique of children’s illustration by Caldecott Honor author-illustrator Denise Fleming and the popular writing teacher Jodell Sadler, we heard something – I can’t think of a better adjective for it now – disruptive. As she relaxed toward the end of the generous two-plus hour critique, Denise talked about the joy and the imperative, really of learning… Read More

Watercolor winter and inked lines that say Christmas

Christmas in the Country by Cynthia Rylant

In 2002 a special picture book came out with exquisite Yuletide reminiscence by Newbery Medal author Cynthia Rylant and unforgettable watercolor and line art by Caldecott Honor illustrator Diane Goode. Author Julie Lake and I wanted to explore its pages with you on this Christmas Day, 2015! The book is Christmas in the Country (Scholastic) and you’ll want to have… Read More

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