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Children's book illustration: Picture book, Better Than A Superhero. Publisher: Even Before Publishing
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The Visual Economy – how important are illustrations in picture books?

Georgia, a student at the CATC Design School was working on an article on ‘The Visual Economy’ exploring importance of illustrations in children’s books verses the written story. In her article she wrote, (quote) “They say ‘a picture is worth a 1000 words’ is becoming more and more relevant in today’s society as the world we live in becomes more and more visual. Research (*) has shown that 80% of people remember what they see and do, compared to only 20% of people who remember what they read. These days, 93% of communication is non-verbal but visual, and this is a current trend in children’s books.” (end quote) Georgia emailed me asking what I thought on this topic and the article in question. This was an email I thought needed a considered response as it is a hot topic in the industry and was recently raised at the SCBWI Conference in Sydney this year. I wrote back and added some of the points below:

I believe the illustrations engage the children for a longer period of time and add additional layers one story. As an Illustrator I know the responsibility this entails. We have to illustrate images that capture and hold the attention of a child so they will want to re-read a book over and over again. We illustrate a moment in time but also leaving something to the imagination. We also have to manipulate a page turn, illustrating curiosity for the next page and next part of the story. If executed well, a wordless picture book will stand alone as does a good story. Maybe the question remains … what appeals to children of this visual age more?

Sacrificial text

An author’s words are often culled to make way for an illustration or sometimes altered. An illustration not only tells the original story but also adds additional dimension. Are the illustrations in a picture book of most importance? I personally believe so and many illustrators would agree with me. I am both an author and illustrator and I believe picture books rely on the illustrations to not only entertain the child (and adult) reader but draw a buyer into a purchase. Not many books would fly off the selves without a good cover or inside illustrations in the children’s market.

Page turn

The spread above is a page from one of my latest picture books, Better Than A Superhero written by Belinda Francis. It is a good example of how I had to think outside the clique of biblical imagery to invent something that was fresh and that a child would relate to. I didn’t want to produce yet another Christian book filled with predictable biblical imagery. Sometime it is relevant but let’s be original where possible! I chose to illustrate the story through the eyes of a child. I used the little boy’s toys as he tells the story and here we see him in a gallery wondering about the big picture; who created the universe and how incredible they must be. The text and image leaves the child wondering what is on the next page.

Georgia’s article is an interesting topic. In this industry, too often authors are celebrated above the illustrators for the publication of a picture book, the illustrator sometimes barley acknowledged. We are always a second credit on a cover, sometimes a smaller credit and something even removed! It is a bone of contention in the industry and was raised at a recent conference by a well-known and popular illustrator. A picture book is a collaboration of the story idea and the image that bring it to full visual life. Illustrations are imperative when creating a picture book, but like you point out (Georgia expressed in her article), a picture book can stand alone with illustrations and no text and create a wonderful adventure. It is after all – a picture book.

Inspiration for the imagination

A text story is reliant on the child’s imagination and literacy skills or a parental reader but a wordless picture book is an independent reading experience, uninterrupted or interfered. They can give a child a feeling of empowerment and build their imagination. The child is invited to investigate what the illustrator sees and imagine for themselves.

I have a growing collection of wordless picture books. It is my intention to publish a wordless picture book in the near future. I have one written and fleshed out ready. These are what I consider purist picture books. They have their entitled position on my bookshelf where I consider them as artisan books.

It is a good question though. It shouldn’t be a matter of superiority or pride, but of creating a wonderful experience for a child solely with illustrations, story or in collaboration.

And of course there are other creative things children can do with books…

child imagination picture books.

(*) Research reference: https://www.wyzowl.com/blog/power-visual-communication-infographic/

 

 

Cloud nine. Engagement, wedding or Valentine day card illustration. #illo52weeks theme clouds. Dogs in love.
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Drawings memories and making cards

It is nice to create cards for your loved ones. For a bit of fun (don’t laugh) I thought I would show you the birthday card I made my daughter from an old sketchbook image. The drawing is of my then little girl holding her favourite bunny toy. I sketched this portrait in 1996. This is one good reason to date your drawings. Old sketchbooks are like diaries and can preserve precious memories like this.
Sketchbook drawing from 1996 of my daughter. Old sketchbooks are like diaries.
There is something gorgeous about sepia art work. Maybe it is nostalgic of old photographs and history. Creating new history this week my eldest daughter (yes the one with the bunny) will be officially engaged to be married. I am refusing to feel old–okay!

I couldn’t resist using my cloud 9 illustration from of the #illo52weeks illustration challenges, clouds, for a card to congratulate the happy couple. It was drawn in my toned sketchbook so I printed it on photo paper. I then added some bling with some heart embellishments.

I am not sure weather I will colour this illustration any further. I quite like it as is. What do you think?

Cloud nine. Engagement, wedding or Valentine day card illustration. #illo52weeks theme clouds. Dogs in love.

Cloud nine. Engagement, wedding or Valentine day card illustration. #illo52weeks theme clouds.

Children's drawings for picture book Celia and Nonna. Grace and Nikkisha.
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When children’s books are even more about the kids

Children’s books should be ALL about the kids, After all they ARE “children’s books” after all – right?

Creators can get caught up with the perception that it’s “their” book but the simple fact remains – it is ALL about the kids. The child reader is the one we get to bless with our new books – or is it just the reader? Celia became a quadruple blessing with a bonuses as the book unfolded. Let me explain…

The many child stars of Celia

There are five-in-one girls in my new children’s book book Celia and Nonna. Firstly there is the Celia in the author, Victoria Lane. The story is very much part of the little girt in her and reflects a special relationship to her. But when I created the character Celia 4 other little girls became involved.

First, let me introduce my star, Miss Shelby, child #2…

My cute child model for a new picture book Celia and Nonna. Shelby

Six year old Shelby was my adorable model for Celia. I needed a cooperative little girl for all the poses. In my mind the character Celia called for some tricky foreshortened poses within the page compositions. When I spotted Shelby on her mum’s Facebook page, I asked if I could visit and take photos and if she thought Shelby could pose. Could?…would?… Shelby was a dream to photograph! They say it is hard to work with kids and animals but Miss Shelby duplicated everything described. I would show her the dummy book thumbnails and demonstrated the pose and she mimicked it exactly. In 10 minutes we had ample posed photographs for the story. What a pro! Well done Miss Shelby – THANK YOU so much for being my Celia.

Child #3 who wanted to make picture books…

It was very easy to relate to Celia as she reminded me of the little girl I was. I love to make things for others. My mother encouraged us create our gifts – not buy them. I was taught the value of giving was not in what it costs but the heart’s intention. Nice one mum!

I identified created objects with items that would give others pleasure. I loved to wrap up little creations and pass them to friends and family. Navigating my world through my art and crafts was my way of making my world happier too and drawing was my favourite past time. When I felt unaccepted I found solace in drawing and paining as I could see improvement and words from others couldn’t take that away. Until I became a Christian that continued to be my comfort. It was pretty much the one thing I felt I could do well. I wanted to make children’s book back then but it wasn’t until 2009 I finally gave myself permission to take them plunge – and plunge I did!

My final 2 children, my two awesome artists, Nikkisha and Grace

Children's drawings for picture book Celia and Nonna. Grace and Nikkisha.

Children’s drawings for picture book Celia and Nonna. Grace and Nikkisha’s drawings are replicated in the page spreads.

Two more children were invited on board when an idea to include a real child’s drawings in the spreads. It was a childhood dream to create picture books so I thought I’d make a little publishing dream come true for someone else. My AWESOME publisher at Ford Street was happy and let me go ahead. He was brilliant to work with! I put a call out for children to draw something Celia would draw for her Nonna and got 2 drawings in time to use. Nikkisha (age 5) drew  lovely bees and flowers in her grandmother’s garden. You can see Nikkisha and her grandmother. Grace (age 7) drew the park with a tree, a car tyre swing, a bird and bee. Both drawings are wonderful.

I duplicated them in the pastel style of the books with a little editing (words removed and alterations to Celia and Nonna) but they are still very close to the originals. I wanted the girls to see they were still their drawings. I love your drawings girls! This element in the book was a lot of fun for me as an illustrator but it isn’t easy to duplicate the gorgeous art of children. Thank you for your contribution Grace and Nikkisha!

The children’s involvement was a highlight of creating this picture book. Positioning my mind to always be relating to the child reader, I can imagine and feel the excitement for these girls – LOVE IT!

Open Dyslexic Font in Children’s books

To top it off my publisher agreed to let me use open Dyslexic font in the book. I had come across the font in LinkedIn on a discussion thread and was eager to adopt it. If by using this font more children would enjoy the experience of reading books I was on board. My publisher felt the same. I told you he was awesome.

I don’t have family with dyslexia but I have a heart for literacy for all so whatever works I want to  adopt were possible. I have had some discussion with parents and specialist teachers who have said it does help many children – whoo hoo!

After already adopting the font I was told by a girl in her early twenties that she had only recently discovered she had dyslexia and had struggle for years to study as a result – how awful! Hopefully this is a small step to a better reading world in that area. Thanks again Ford Street!

Celia and Nonna. Picture books about grandparent and child.

Celia and Nonna can be purchase from this site (click image) or where all good books are sold.

Celia and Nonna is a significant and heart-warming picture book about the special bond between children and grandparents – and what happens when life changes. Grandparents ageing is a universal experience, yet it is rarely told in picture book form. In this story, young Celia finds a delightful and positive way to navigate this confusing time.

Daily Doodle Happy Hippo birthday card. Childrens illustration
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I can’t stop drawing, drawing, drawing!

Scribble, scribble, scribble. I carry my sketchbook everywhere and now I have my baby Cintiq in my lap TV time means more drawing time. My family like to wind down with the TV and I like o draw. Why the influx of extra drawing? Well….apart from working on the sketch stage of an awesome new book, I have added Daily Doodle to my routine more. I don’t participate every day, but pick a few to challenge myself .Here is a catch up on some of my Daily Doodle drawing…

Drawing is the key ingredient to a strong portfolio. The more you draw the stronger your work will be. The best illustrators draw exceptionally well. A sketchbook can be your best friend. When I see illustrators with piles of sketchbooks I almost need a bucket to drool in! I regret not drawing in my own sketchbooks more often but now I do a lot; illustrating at church my notes (I remember the message a lot better this way), sketching whenever it is not anti-social, early before the kids wake, when my husband is training – any time I can.

This year I know my work has advanced because of the amount of drawing I’m doing. I have always had the skill to copy and draw but imaginative drawing is another ball game all together. My imaginative drawing has strengthened as a result of the challenge themes. Just like writing challenges or other goals you commit to, you end up far more productive when faced and focused on a regular challenge.

This week I found a quiet cafe/restaurant with a sitting area where I can work away from my studio. A get away like this was needed to get me out of the studio and my desk. I intend to meet with others ans scribble in the near future and encourage others to start drawing more. It is SO MUCH FUN!

How often are you drawing? Maybe do a little today?

Lucky 13 Contemporary Exhibition of Children's' book illustrators. Hill of Content Bookshop Melbourne.Kim fleming, Vince Agostino, Kayleen West, Annie White, Ben Wood, Karen Erasmus, Sara Acton, Adam Carruthers, Mandy Foot, Rhiannon Mowat, Mitch Vane, Shane McGowan, Nicky Johnston
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Contemporary Children’s Book Artists Melbourne Display

Children’s Book Illustration Exhibition

I will be joining the following illustrators in a display in July at the Hill of Content Bookshop where we will have our books and illustrations on display and for sale for 2 weeks only.

Illustrators: Kim fleming, Vince Agostino, Kayleen West, Annie White, Ben Wood, Karen Erasmus, Sara Acton, Adam Carruthers, Mandy Foot, Rhiannon Mowat, Mitch Vane, Shane McGowan, Nicky Johnston

Where?

Illustrators Australia’s Children’s Illustration Display
Hill of Content Bookshop, 86 Bourke Street Melbourne Victoria
Phone: 03 9662 9472
Monday 30th June for 2 weeks for the school holiday period.

Children's illustration. Tortoise and the hare. Rockets - Let's get the party started. Toned sketchbook
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I Think I Am In Love

I am in sketchbook heaven right now. I have wanted a toned sketchbook for a very long time and finally ordered a few from overseas. My American friends, you have all the goodies – It isn’t fair! I would love better access to some of the home-wares and art supplies you have. I found someone who would delivered here and a cheaper than the ones I have seen in art shops.

Children's illustration. Tortoise and the hare. Rockets - Let's get the party started. Toned sketchbook

Children’s illustration. Tortoise and the hare. Rockets – Let’s get the party started. Toned sketchbook

This is the first drawing in my new sketchbook. I love this paper! It isn’t that thick but is smooth and grey lead is easily removed repeatedly. The sepia and white pencils look great. It is a great base to colour digitally too. It will be difficult to go back to white paper for sketching now I have been spoiled. I can see why so many illustrators and animators use toned paper.

Here you will find a coloured one I did for a get well soon card illustration, and for #illo52weeks dots.

I have been having a lot of fun creatively this month. I launched a fun and educational video on creative drawing, Eye and Imagination, which evolved from the #illo52 week theme “eye”.

I have been dabbling in the Daily Doodle drawing challenge in my TV down time and produced a colouring page download.

Work is consistent. I am in the middle of the sketching stage for a ABC picture book for Xist Publishing; my newest project.

Along with the author Victoria Lane, I will be launching a picture book, Celia and Nonna with Ford Street at the SCBWI Sydney Conference and in Melbourne at end of August.

Celia and Nonna,. Picture book by Victoria Lane and Kayleen West

Celia and Nonna,. Picture book by Victoria Lane and Kayleen West

I have some work in progress images from Celia and Nonna. I will share something soon and talk about how a the book was put together.

 

Welcome to your new home gift card illustration. Boxes word illustration challenge #illo52weeks
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52 Week Gift Card Challenge – #21 Boxes

Welcome to your new home gift card illustration. Boxes word illustration challenge #illo52weeks

Welcome to your new home gift card illustration. Boxes – Word illustration challenge #illo52weeks

A “welcome to your new home” gift card illustration – sketch stage. Of course one must unpack teddy first. Her mum has opened the kitchen box for accessing coffee ASAP – I soooo understand that. Caffeine is essential in any house move, several in fact. I shudder at the thought!

My last move was 4 years ago and still a nightmare I remember. The home owner hadn’t moved out when we arrived and left the house in a very dirty state. We had to do a frantic call out for help to half clean the essentials before we moved in. The removalists damaged several things, took cigarette breaks every 5 seconds and left us that night with half of our possessions on our front lawn. Yes we were expecting rain too and NO the removalist wouldn’t repair or compensate for the damage he caused. I won’t be moving again in a hurry.

I am thinking of adding a cat in the kitchen box to magnify the curiosity of the pets. I’ll have only its tail seen, poking up out of the box. Cats get into everything and know no boundaries. What do you think?

Interestingly, an obscure theme like boxes seemed impossible at first but in fact was easy once I began. I avoid painting the subject like a still life. Those days are over. I prefer more story. I also wanted to ensure I did a gift card illustration this time. I need to finish it in watercolour now. I will pop it on my blog when it is done.

The next word challenge is eye. I have already been working on this and it turned out to be an even bigger surprise. I’ll have something very different to show and tell next time; something I use as an activity in schools and hopefully a fun video idea. Stay tuned!

Kids Show and Tell Invitation

Teachers and parents: If you children are inspired by anything I share on my website blog I would love to see what they are creating and celebrate some of those creations. I would love to start an online gallery for kids to show and tell. If you have anything you want to share email me via my contact page. I would love to see!

School of fish. Mixed media children's illustration.
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52 Week Gift Card Challenge – #19 Fish

This would have been the most busiest months ever for me, but I am still on board with this personal challenge. I can’t believe we are up to week 19 and I have actually kept up! I feel like waving a superwoman cape at you 🙂

It was time for some mixed media and collage. Why? Because my sketchbook had a few blank pages from Copic markers leaching through the pages. The moleskin book is thick but those inks are pretty powerful.

I re-purposed an older classic, Alice in wonderland, that was sadly falling apart. It wasn’t an antique (I did check) but had those lovely aged-coloured pages in it. My 20 cent purchase from the COM opportunity shop has not only been read by 3 extra children, but will now be recycled into many future mixed media creations. What a life this little book has lived and what a bargain!

I might turn this one into a thank you card for teachers. A profession that is much appreciated in this home.

School of fish. Mixed media children's illustration.

School of fish. Mixed media children’s illustration.

Angels watching over me. #illo52weeks challenge. Illustration in ink and coloured in watercolour and Photoshop.
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52 Week Gift Card Challenge – #18 Celestial Body

Two very different style illustrations from me this week for the 52 week illustration theme challenge: Celestial bodies.

I have been experimenting with pattern in my sketchbook and they have evolved from that. The lower illustration was evolved whilst listening to revelation on my iPad. A rather eventful book in the bible, especially when Michael and his angles fight the devil.

On a very different note, the whimsical reflection of angels going about protecting and praising makes me feel pretty happy when I look at it. I did a big whoopsy though. I drew it with a spelling error – thank goodness for Photoshop! I spelt guardian – gardian!

You will see more pattern form me. I will be launching from this idea for a picture book – fun!

So where does the “gift card” part of the challenge come in? Well, I haven’t deviated too much. In time, I will pull some of the image from the top illustration and use it for that and a surface design project.

Angels watching over me. #illo52weeks challenge. Illustration in ink and coloured in watercolour and Photoshop.

Angels watching over me. #illo52weeks challenge. Illustration in ink and coloured in watercolour and Photoshop.

Celestial Bodies. Michael the angel. #illo52weeks challenge. Illustration Photoshop. Revelation 12:7 Then there was war in heaven. Michale and his angels fought against the dragon and his angels.

Celestial Bodies. Michael the angel. #illo52weeks challenge. Illustration Photoshop.

Better Than A Superhero. Picture book by Belinda Francis and Kayleen West. Wombat Books, Even Before Publishing.
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Children’s toys in Better Than A Superhero

This week Belinda Francis and I are celebrating the release of our book Better Than A Superhero. I have to say the the response to this new release has been pretty positive already. This is so encouraging as it is Belinda’s debut picture book. Belinda featured in the Queensland Times news with a rather flattering caption “Belinda is following in Ednid’s steps.” (referring to the author Enid Blyton.) Well I am sure Belinda is quite capable and I was honored to be asked to illustrate Better Than A Superhero. Belinda is also celebrating the birth of a gorgeous new bubby.

Better Than A Superhero. Picture book by Belinda Francis and Kayleen West. Wombat Books, Even Before Publishing.

Better Than A Superhero. New picture book by Belinda Francis and Kayleen West. Even Before Publishing.

When brainstorming the book I wanted to be as original as possible. There are so many book about Jesus even if not about this kind of friendship so I wanted the illustrations to be different. The story is talking to the reader about how awesome Jesus is and how we can have a best friend type relationship with him. Rather than have another religious looking Christian book I decided to make it fun and used the child and his toys as props. The child talks about Jesus using his toys to play-role the story. I hope it brings a smile to many children and helps draw them into a closer relationship with our superhero – Jesus.

Props used in Better Than A Superhero may be found in a child's room. Picture book by Belinda Francis and Kayleen West. Even Before Publishing

Props used in Better Than A Superhero may be found in a child’s room.

Buy picture the book

52 week illustration challenge. Gift card Challenge #illo52weeks simplicity #1
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Simplify Creative Breaks and Downtime.

Is there any such thing? Yes in a strange kind of way – in my world anyway.

I have an unusual style of visual or creative downtime. Usually my downtime results in free creative time. I will be working on a book or attending to business duties and need a break, what do I do? Usually more illustrating or writing – lately illustrating.

The creative challenge I am involved in (#illo52weeks) is really satisfying me artistically. I get to scribble and experiment to my heart’s desire (time restricted) and come up with fresh work for my portfolio (once finished) or blog (work in progress).

I have been flat out working long hours over the past month and have welcomed the latest theme, simplicity. This theme gave me permission to back off the complexity of my illustrations and to my delight resulted in some pretty cute stuff.

This is what I came up with:

52 week illustration challenge. Gift card Challenge #illo52weeks simplicity #1

52 week illustration challenge. Gift card Challenge #illo52weeks simplicity #1

All these were done in Adobe Photoshop while listening to a rather helpful audio eBook by Katie Davis. Yes I will have to re-listen as I was somewhat distracted.

My bunny theme from the last 2 weeks:

52 week illustration challenge. Gift card Challenge #illo52weeks simplicity #2

52 week illustration challenge. Gift card Challenge #illo52weeks simplicity #2

This one was at the end of today using a sketch from my sketchbook doodles. I thought I would try a little more texture in the background.

52 week illustration challenge. Gift card Challenge #illo52weeks simplicity #3

52 week illustration challenge. Gift card Challenge #illo52weeks simplicity #3

52 week illustration challenge. Gift card Challenge #illo52weeks architecture - Candy Land
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Illustration Challenge Catchup – architecture, numbers and water

3 weeks of Illustration Catch up

Topics: architecture, numbers and water. These are the beginnings of some illustrations in progress. I think my little rabbits below may appear in future challenges also. I am very fond of these little guys.

All 3 illustrations are works in progress and painted digitally after initially drawing them in my sketchbook with a 2B pencil. Candyland was painted on my iPad and the others in Photoshop. I hope to finish them once my next book is finished, in-between working on the following.

52 week illustration challenge. Gift card Challenge #illo52weeks architecture - Candy Land

52 week illustration challenge. Gift card Challenge #illo52weeks Week 11- architecture – Candy Land

52 week illustration challenge. Gift card Challenge #illo52weeks numbers - baby rabbits

52 week illustration challenge. Gift card Challenge #illo52weeks Week 12 – numbers

52 week illustration challenge. Gift card Challenge #illo52weeks water - baby rabbits

52 week illustration challenge. Gift card Challenge #illo52weeks Week 13 – water

You can see the finished illustration for water here: http://kayleenwest.com.au/portfolio/bunnies-for-scbwi-illustrators-portfolio/