P.J. Lynch: Story illustration A-Z

P.J. Lynch: Story illustration A-Z

The childhood thrill of make-believe looms large for Dublin-based artist P.J. Lynch, 2X winner of England’s Kate Greenaway Medal for IllustrationHe may not come out and say this. But you can’t feel it in his children’s book illustrations and murals, YouTube videos, and lectures about art and painting in Ireland and the U.S.

He puts pretending first, which makes his formidable technical skills as a draftsman and painter accessible to all.

Lynch created two remarkable murals on the theme of Gulliver’s Travels for the Johnston Central Library — in Cavan County, Ireland (where Johnathan Swift wrote most of his classic satire.)

In the video, Lynch shows us how he acted out the character roles for one of the large panel paintings.

Illustrators are actors, as Howard Pyle suggested to his students more than 100 years ago.

In the above BBC film, short Lynch talks about illustrating the old Norwegian folk tale East of the Sun and West of the Moon and how he asked his mom, girlfriend, neighbor “and anyone who was handy” to pose for him as characters in Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen.

In the videos above and below an older Lynch walks us through the stages of creating illustrations for American Frank Stockton’s The Bee-man of Orn. 

He shows us how he uses the computer to re-arrange his drawings and compose his scenes to best effect.

Elements from his piles of sketches can be “moved about like paper cut-outs,” he says.

“The great thing is they can be enlarged or reduced and you can even change the shape of them. You can even flip them over, like this…”

“Then all I have to do is paint the pictures,” Lynch says with a hint of drollness.

Some of these pictures will take up to a month to complete, he says.  He’ll make sketch after sketch “before the image ever starts to take shape.”

His watercolor demo speaks for itself. In the end, he adds touches of gouache for highlights. You’ll enjoy peeking into his blog, where you’ll find more examples of his spellbinding art.

Check out illustrator and teacher Will Terry’s guest post on preparing your picture book dummy to send to publishers.  The post is part of the terrific on-going PBDummy Challenge series by illustrators on the #KidLitArt blog.

Will offers some great video courses on illustration and other art-making at his Folio Academy website. My favorites are How to Illustrate a Children’s Book and his two Photoshop video courses. You can read more about them here.

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Are you interested in writing children’s books as well as taking pictures for them? You can download two free examination copies of the Children’s Writer newsletter at the newsletter’s website here.

The newsletter is a publication of the Institute of Children’s Literature. Writer Mary Furlong has profiled Make Your Splashes – Make Your Marks! (On Your Mark, Get Set…Illustrate!) in this month’s edition of the Children’s Writer  (June 2012).

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Discover an instant way to righteously better drawing in these free videos.

About The Author

Mark Mitchell

Award-winning children's book author-illustrator Mark G. Mitchell teaches classes in watercolor and children's book illustration at The Contemporary Art School in Austin, Texas.


  1. Sheryl Gwyther

    Thank you for this post, Mark. I thoroughly enjoyed it especially the watercolour demonstration of the dragon.

  2. Adrienne

    What a masterful watercolor demos — so inspiring!

  3. Charisse Melliza

    PJ Lynch is one of my favorite illustrators. His videos are really helpful and inspiring..thank you Mark for sharing these information.

  4. Nick Harris

    Many thanks for these Mark. Superb stuff. I’ve been a fan of master Lynch ever since I got hold of his version of Melisande many years ago. Lost track of him a bit in the melee of great illustrators out there. Wonderful to be able to put a voice to the talent and then have his watercolour technique demonstrated also. What a treat!

  5. PJ

    Hi Mark
    many thanks for the post
    best regards

    • Mark Mitchell

      Much honored, PJ. Your work, posts and videos inspire all who see it!

  6. Virginia Rinkel

    Did get these to load. Great inspiration from PJ. Thanks for posting.

  7. Virginia Rinkel

    The watercolor demo helped me see other ways to stretch paper, and also the gouache addition at the end was helpful – giving credence for the use of gouache in mostly watercolor. Thanks for posting this.

    • Mark Mitchell

      Well thank you for reading and watching, Virginia! Anytime you’d like to do an illustration or painting or children’s book related piece (including children’s books on agrarian topics like chestnut harvests and your illustration work on your chestnut growers book!), please let me know.



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