How To Be A Children's Book Illustrator

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

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A robust new world of illustrated children’s nonfiction?

Lionel Bender, editor

“A nonfiction writer is a storyteller who has sworn an oath to tell the truth.” A great quote from Newbery Award winning children’s nonfiction author Russell Freedman.  Of course nonfiction has a very special place in literature and school libraries. It’s the bedrock of publishing. Last week’s post held up an effective example, the biographical picture… 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 You Wear Red

"Little Red Riding Hood" by Gustave Dore

“Little Red Riding Hood” Engraving (left) by Gustave Dore. We’ve talked here recently about ‘pushing the darks’, referring to dark values — those ‘lower depths’ of the gray scale so important in graphic composition and painting. Essential in storytelling, too, right? I thought the Disney movie version of Into the Woods did a good job delivering Stephen Sondheim‘s wise… 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