Children’s drawings

I have recently been trying to anthromorphise my drawings. I find it difficult. ¬†Maybe I am trying too hard. I watch my 8 year old son who seems to manage it with such ease (but then I think he practises much more than I do and maybe that’s the moral of this story).

Joseph – age 8

I just love the expression on the shark’s face, the little piggy looks stunned and the crocodile has no idea what’s behind her!

The Art Of Creating Character

Nina with two of the books she has illustrated

On the fourth and final day of this years SCBWI Australia & NZ Conference programme I attended as illustrator masterclass with the lovely Nina Rycroft. I don’t have many notes for this class, the reason being that it was very hands-on, which is exactly what you want when it is a practical class. She demonstrated the following:


  • how she presents her work (sample pieces) to publishers
  • what a ‘tear sheet’ is (something I had never heard of)
  • how she draws the first thumbnails for the whole story concept
  • the various stages she goes through to get to the final piece
  • if your animal characters move from left to right this helps the children read the book in the correct direction
  • do not paint any detail where the fold of the page will be
  • don’t particularly illustrate in order of the story
  • mark out the ‘crop marks’ and ‘fold marks’


  • consider where the text will go
  • left hand text should generally be higher than right hand/page text so children scan the words in the correct direction
Each picture book is an accumulation of lots of sketches, practise and hard work.
One of the areas I requested Nina to cover along with other class participants is that of anthropomorphic techniques. (Anthropomorphic = ascribing human traits to non-human things. Think of the clock and teacups in Beauty & the Beast). Generally I am a realistic drawer/painter. I can draw what I see but have a lot of trouble doing it from imagination. So this was a great lesson for me. Here are some of my examples:
The dancer

Nina is a big believer in acting out what it is you are trying to draw. So if you are drawing a dancer, stand, move, dance in the position you are trying to illustrate. feel where the weight is. How is the body balanced? Feel as well as  observe.

Close up of dancer’s face
Practising facial expressions

Move your face into the expression you are trying to draw. then try to convey this with amnimal faces.

Happy, sad and angry pigs.

I learnt so much from this masterclass and Nina was a great teacher. Now all I need to do is practise and find my own style!

Work in progress – Child writing #1

Today I have been trying to illustrate and create a character that I am currently writing about for a children’s picture book. The theme of the story ¬†is set in the 1920’s and a young girl is writing letters to her father who is sailing to Australia from Jersey, Channel Islands for work.

First quick sketch in pencil


I actually need to get my daughter to pose for me in this position so I can sketch the body posture more accurately.

Adding the first colours in watercolour

Painting digitally is a strange experience. But I do like the control over any mistakes made. They can just be ‘undone’ at the click of a button.

More colour and detail.


As I only have black and white photos of my ancestors, I had to do a quick Google search to check what colours clothing fabric would have been in the 1920’s.

Adding more detail


To be continued…

Quick sketch – in the rain

We’ve had a lot of rain in Sydney lately!

In order to become an illustrator for children’s picture book you must practice the skill of drawing as much as you can. This is the only way you can become better at the skill. I’m a mood sketcher, painter, drawer. I do it whenever the mood grabs me. This can be often or seldom at all. In between those times I practise my writing. This system works for me.

The sketch above is my attempt to try and develop my skill at drawing characters. Although the girl is a little elongated in places there are parts of it I like (the jacket with buttons) and parts I can see are terribly wrong (her neck length, etc).

At college I drew from life. Life drawings, portraits and sculptures of the body. Drawing from imagination is incredibly difficult for me.

I get a lot of my inspiration from watching other artists illustrating and reading their blogs. Here are a few that you might find useful:

Helen Craig – Book Illustrator

Pixel Shavings


Eric Carle at work