Sunday, 22 August 2010

Illustrating Children's Books Part 1: Portfolio Advice




I am often emailed by new illustrators, asking for advice on contacting publishers. However, it's really important that the folio you show is exactly right. So, before you consider your work ready to show, here are some fundamental things you should check:

Characterisation is paramount.

Picture books are always totally character-lead and those characters have to be ones that children can believe in and take to their hearts. 



Some illustrators specialise in either animals or children, but since you are starting out and want to maximise your appeal, try both young children and various animals characters. 

Remember though - the story must revolve around characters that are truly alive, with distinct personalities. Though cute and adorable is important, try all sorts, including 'baddies'.
You must also show a wide range of emotions, not just 'happy'. Picture book characters will go through adventures where they might need to be angry, lonely, jealous, miserable, cunning...

Draw them doing real things too, not just standing around. Try giving them everyday tasks that get them interacting with their environment and other characters.

Creating individual 'worlds' for them to inhabit is also very important. Look at the range of picture books that are being published at the moment for inspiration.


It helps to illustrate a specific story. This not only gives you ideas, but will demonstrate how you interpret text, which is just as important as your drawing ability. Traditional tales or nursery rhymes can be an easy starting point for experimentation; they will give you a subject matter to interpret, and will not be too hampered by existing illustrations.


A few other tips:

1 - Only put in work you are really proud of: quality is more important than quantity. You need between 10 and 20 pieces, but there should be no padding.


2 - Don't try to be all things to all people - decide what style of work you are best at and then perfect it.

3 - Put your best illustration at the very beginning of the portfolio, and your second best at the very end: that way you start with a bang but also finish on a high note!


Picture books is a lovely field to work in, but hard to break into and requires research, careful targeting of your folio and a lot of determination. Once you are certain your work is right, here's how to get a publisher to look at your new folio.

15 comments:

June said...

Thank you once again for words of wisdom that I can direct new illustrators to. Hearing this from someone so talented, it will be better advice than I can offer :)

Kaili said...

Thankyou for your insightful advice Lynne! As an aspiring illustrator, I love it when illustrators already established and successful in the field, take the time to share pointers with beginners like me :) Thankyou very much!

Oksancia said...

Great post and wonderful advice! Thank toy very much! :)

Tami Traylor said...

Lynne, Thanks for sharing excellent advice for aspiring illustrators! I look forward to reading your future posts on the subject.

claire barone art said...

BRILLIANT LYNN THANKS FOR SOME ADVICE YOUR BLOG IS A BRILLIANT READ AND YOU SHOULD BE VERY PROUD OF YOURSELF TO PRODUCE SUCH FAB WORK CLAIRE....

Swan Artworks said...

Fantastic advice, thankyou so much - though I am a very long way off yet in building a portfolio... The advice will all get stored up ready for future reference!
Don't believe I have commented before but I have enjoyed your blog for quite some while :)
Carrie...

Vicki said...

Thank you Lynne for taking the time to write such great advice. Greatly appreciated.
Vicki

Lynne Chapman said...

So glad you are finding the advice helpful and interesting!

Tomás Serrano said...

Excellent post!

Adelina Pintea said...

Excellent and succinct!Especially where you talk about characterisation. Most often children's illustrators who are starting out commit mistakes such as uneven sizing of characters across pages, inconsistent colouring and lack of detail.

Lynne the Pencil said...

All good points Adelina. Glad you agree. I find the hardest thing when offering this kind of general advice is trying to remember all the things you know so well that you've almost forgotten them at a conscious level!

Mary said...

Really interesting and helpful !! Thank you!! :D

Anonymous said...

Amazing exhibition of Your work. I wish my daughter and son could see it. Is it still open or was it just in 2011? Your work is very inspiring. X

Lynne the Pencil said...

Thank you!

No, unfortunately it was not a permanent exhibition. It is still in storage and might be rehoused at some time in the future, but I'm afraid there are no plans.

So glad you like my work though :-)

Inge Leonora-den Ouden said...

Hi Lynne, you are really wonderful! You make such nice illustrations ... but that is not all! You give such useful advice for starting illustrators. I see I have to work more to fill my portfolio. Thank you very much. -Inge-