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teacher avatar Anne Catharine Blake, MA, MFA, author/illustrator

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

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About This Class

Class Description

Have you ever wanted to develop an illustration style for illustrating children’s books?

In this class, we’re going to look at your natural drawing tendencies and preferences to help you develop your style and identify where your style may fit into the various categories of illustrated children’s book.


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Anne Catharine Blake, MA, MFA


Level: All Levels

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1. INTRODUCTION: Hi, My name is Anne Catharine Blake. Welcome to this episode of Children's book illustration. Discover your style in this class will move through several practice exercises, looking at your unique way of making lines and shapes. Using patterns and textures. Selecting inspiring color combinations discover themes that are personal to you for developing your illustrations. The course project is to create a style roadmap with an illustration based on what you discovered about yourself in the class and where your style might fit into the many categories of illustrated Children's books, such as board books, picture books, easy readers, chapter books, middle grade and graphic novels. So if this sounds like a fun challenge, grab your favorite sketchbook your iPad, get comfy and I will see you in my class! 2. ART SUPPLIES: drawing. It's important to choose drawing tools you feel most comfortable using. So gather your favorite pens, pencils, brushes or your iPad. Whatever you love for drawing, I will be using colored pencils and pens with waterproof ink and my iPad. You'll also need something for color, like water, color, color, pencils, pastels, etcetera. So whatever it is you like to use for color, grab those tools and maybe Paris scissors for cutting paper. A mixed media sketchbook can work well for the course exercises and the final project, a pick of paper that works best for your preferred medium and, most importantly, a paper you like to use. I will be using a mixed media smooth velum surface sketchbook colored pencil paper. My iPad and I have an assortment of textured papers that I might use for experimenting. I've included drawing templates. It's for each exercise and final project. These could be downloaded under the projects and resource tab, since printer paper isn't the best for drawing or painting on its fine to do your exercises in your sketchbook and then just attach your drawings to the tablet later, you'll see me doing this in many of the videos or he cannot blow the template to your iPad 00:01:18.220 --> 00:01:18.220 . The templates are really just a guide, so feel free to use them as you please. And don't let them restrict your creative process. If you have questions during the class, please post below. I read and respond to all your comments and questions. I also look and respond all your class projects. Now that you've gathered everything you need for the class, make yourself comfortable and let's get started. 3. LINES & SHAPES EXERCISE: to begin this exercise, print the templates, lines and shapes and my style road map. These are located under the projects and resource tab. Get your sketchbook or your iPad and your favorite drawing tools. I'm using mixed media drawing paper and then attaching it to the template. Since my printer paper isn't great for drowing with color pencils and pens, it really doesn't matter how you work. The idea is just to relax and draw what comes naturally. Your unique way of making marks on paper when you're not really thinking too much about it is what we're going for. It's fine to complete several pages if it helps you loosen up and relax, there's no right or wrong way to do this exercise. Once you've completed the drawing portion, we'll take a closer look at what you've created. If you need to pause here to complete the exercise, then do so okay, so let's take a closer look at the exercise. So ask yourself the following questions. What are your favorite kinds of lines and shapes that you made? And why, are they mostly straight or curvy lines and shapes at any point? Did you feel like using a ruler to drawing precise lines and shapes, or maybe even drawing on grid paper. If you're working on paper. Maybe you were inspired to work on your iPad instead. Maybe that was more natural. What about shapes? Did you feel like cutting out shapes with paper? I noticed that many of my lines are very curvy. I don't think I have any straight lines anywhere. And many of my shapes look like speech balloons. So what did you notice? Right down your insights. Okay. On to question two. What other things do you like? With similar lines and shapes such as art, decor, wardrobe, etcetera? I noticed that I often choose similar soft, curvy design lines in clothing and furniture. You know, my art table that you'll see in the videos has similar soft, curvy lines. What did you discover? Write it down. Okay, in the last question, question three. Do any of your favorite books artists, designers or illustrators use similar lines and shapes? Some of my favorite art is line art and comics, and I love the soft lines of Impressionist painter Monet. What did you discover? Is there something you can learn from your favorites by studying their work more closely. What insights did you have? Write it down. Now that you have more insight into your preferences for making lines and shapes, take some of your favorites and add them to the my style road map. I added my favorites. The soft pencil, curvy lines. I added a mixed in some broken color, and I added the speech balloons. This information to help you develop the final illustration at the end of the class. All right, excellent work. Let's move on to the next exercise. 4. PATTERNS & TEXTURES EXERCISE: To begin this exercise, print out the pattern and textures template and gather your drawing tools, sketchbook or iPad. If you want, you can cut out patterns and textures. I'm going to cut up some papers that I've collected over the years, and I'm gonna play with colored pencils to create some textures and patterns and just see what happens. I don't want to think about it too much. The idea is, just relax and play. It's fine to create several pages just to help you loosen up and relax and then take your favorite ones and add them to the template. You may want to pause the video while you're drawing and come back once you've completed the exercise. Now let's take a closer look at what you've created. Questions to ask. Question one. What are my favorite patterns and textures? And why did you create a variety of patterns and textures, Or maybe patterns and textures didn't inspire you at all? What about cutting out patterns and textures? I noticed that I like the smooth paper, but then I like creating the texture with the pencils, and then I also like the subtle graph paper pattern that I cut out. So what did you notice? Write down your insights. Question two. What other things do I like have similar patterns and textures, such as an art, decor, wardrobe, etcetera? One of things that I noticed is I don't have a lot of patterns and textures around me, and whatever I do have, it's very soft and very gentle. What did you notice? Write it down and the last question. Question three. Do any of my favorite books, artists, designers or illustrators use similar texture and pattern? What did you discover? I was reminded of one of my favorite Children's books, Mr Rabbit and the Lovely Present, illustrated by the late, great Maurice Sendak. It has a similar soft light feel. What insights did you have? Write it down. Now that you have more insights into your preference for pattern and texture, take some of your favorites and add them to the style roadmap template. I was really surprised to see how inspired I was by creating texture just by layering color pencils. And then I really like that graph paper, which I wasn't expecting at all. Now let's move on to the next exercise 5. COLOR COMBINATION EXERCISE: To begin this exercise, print out the color combination template. You can use color pencils, paints or whatever you like to use for color. Try to keep her color combinations to 3 to 6 colors. You can start with your favorite color. Or maybe you were inspired by some of the colors we used in the previous lessons. There's no right or wrong way to do this exercise. The idea is just to relax and color. It's fine to complete several pages to help you relax and loosen up. If you need to pause here while you complete the exercise, go ahead. Let's take a closer look at your color combinations and ask yourself this question. Question one. What are my favorite color combinations? Was it hard to limit yourself to 3 to 6 colors? Or did a limited color palette feel right? Or maybe you didn't like Color it all you like black and white, with maybe some grey shading, I noticed. I like blending several colors to create new colors. What insights did you have? Write it down. Question two. What other things do you like with similar color combinations such as art, decor, wardrobe, etcetera. I noticed that I have a fairly limited color palette, but those colors come in a wide range of values, and there's an overall softness about them. What did you notice? Write it down and finally, question three. Do you have any favorite books, artists, designers or illustrators that use similar color combinations? How are they using color? What can you learn by studying their work? Are you inspired to add more colors to your combinations, maybe colors that you haven't even thought of using before? What are your insights? Write them down. Now that you have more insight into your preferences for color combinations , take some of your favorites and add them to your my style road map. I really like the layered colors and the softness and the movement from the colors that I used in the pattern texture exercise. I also use my color wheel to help refine some of the colors. And then I added it to my road map. Understanding your favorite color combinations will help you develop a color palette that resonates with your drawing style. Now let's move on to the next exercise 6. CHILDREN'S BOOK CATEGORIES: Before we move on to finishing the style roadmap let's take a closer look at the different categories of illustrated Children's books. While kids often read across many categories of Children's books, depending on their reading level, book publishers categorized Children's books by specific age group, reading levels and grade level. So in illustrating or writing for kids, we must understand which category best fits our style, preferred subjects and characters. I have included some links on the resource pages that you can print. These are the ones that help me along My journey, The most influential to my success, was joining the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. It's an international organization. You don't have to be published to be a member, and the cost is reasonable. It was the path I took to learn more about the industry to meet agents, art directors and editors at the conferences. I met ane editor and asked her if she had published any board books. She said no, but she would love to start. I went home after the conference and sent her to book proposals for two different series. She bought them both one of those was the sheep series now celebrating it's 20th anniversary with, an anniversary addition, coming out this Christmas. So be sure to check out the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, also known as SCBWI and see if there is a chapter near you. So now let's take a closer look at illustrated Children's books. Beginning with the youngest age group baby books and board books, ages 0 to 3, the illustrations are usually very simple lines and shapes. The stories are very simple concepts like opposites and sounds or simple events and a young child's life, like getting dressed or using the potty. The characters are often babies up to three, sometimes four years of age. Sometime the characters are baby animals or even toys like cars and trucks. The books are often interactive with cloth or thick pages, so it's easier for babies and toddlers to handle. Many of these books are written and illustrated by the same person. I've done many of these books, starting with a simple concept and simple text and characters that appeal to small Children . I was inspired by my childhood living on a sheep farm, and my kids and grandkids have been inspiration and models for characters and stories. Maybe this age group inspires you too. Picture books aged 3 to 8. Often when people think of Children's books, they think of picture books. Picture books are written to be read to Children, and the characters are roughly the same age. 3-8. These can come in a variety of styles, from very cartoon like and very simple to very realistic. Some are real works of art, and they often appeal to both children and adults. The characters can be animals, kids, aliens, insects, plants, just to name a few. And sometimes there are adults in the story. The adults might be quirky like in the Doughnut Chef. Or they could be the childhood story of a famous person like Jane Goodall in the book Me Jane. Whatever the story, problem in the story is usually solved by the main kid character or the kid like character . In addition to fiction, poetry, biography, nonfiction, these books also can deal with very serious subjects like death and divorce as long as it's not too heavy and is written in a way that kids would understand. I've illustrated many books for this age group on serious topics like anger management, death and dying, new baby siblings with health problems, just to name a few. So maybe this group resonates with your ideas and styles as well. Easy readers also called early readers. beginner readers ages approximately 5 to 7. Kindergarten through grade three. These are often distributed to schools by educational publishers. They have simple stories to be read by beginner readers. The color illustrations are mixed in to help interpret the text making it easier to learn to read. There are also trade publishers who publish beginner readers. The style and characters are often very contemporary and fun that engage beginner readers. Think of Dr Seuss. This is really a fun age group of kids to work with because they're learning to read on their own for the first time. I've worked with many publishers on many kinds of books, both fiction and non fiction, published in English as well as other languages. I was inspired by this age group because as a kid I had dyslexia, and it took me a really long time to figure out reading. Maybe you have had similar experience that inspires you to create for this age group Chapter books. These books come in generally two different age groups. Group one Ages 6 to 7. Kindergarten through grade three. These books are divided into very short chapters, with color illustrations mixing with the text. Group two ages 8 to 10 Grades 3 to 5. These are also divided into chapters, but they're longer chapters with fewer illustrations, and many of the illustrations are just black and white illustrations. The characters and chapter books are often a little bit higher end of the age group. So in the first group, age seven and in the second group age ten. Middle-Grade Ages 8 to 12 . In this category the characters are usually a little older than the reader by a year or so and can have contemporary themes, historical, futuristic, mystery, science fiction, etcetera. As far as illustration go, they don't usually have illustrations. Sometimes they'll have a few black and white illustrations. Color, not very often, but the covers are always in color, and they're often quite realistic. Today, graphic novels are for all age and the age of the characters. the themes, subjects, etcetera will be the same as what we just discussed. But what's different is the format and the pacing of the illustrations because they're using panels and a variation of panels to tell the story. And then the way the text is added with speech balloons. They come in a wide variety of styles, from comic too realistic. There is a lot of room to be creative and original. I've done three different series of comics for magazines and newspapers over the years , all inspired by either my childhood or experience as a parent or grandparent. I also did a graphic novel anthology for all ages. What I love best about graphic novels for kids is the format. So if a kid is learning to read or struggling to read, a full color graphic novel feels a little bit more grown up than reading, maybe a picture book or a board book. And it really gives older, struggling readers more opportunity to build confidence and want to read. I wish they had these when I was a kid. It would have made such a huge difference to my young life. So maybe this category inspires you too. Now that you have an overview of the various categories of illustrated Children's books, let's move on to the next exercise 7. THEMES EXERCISE: To begin this exercise, print out the themes template. In the first column make a list of your favorite hobbies. Consider adding your favorite hobbies from your childhood or hobbies that you didn't like, but you had to participate in as a child. Or maybe hobbies that you would love to try but haven't had time to try yet. Whatever it comes to mind, write it down in the next column, write, what are your favorite subjects? Think about what your favorite subjects were when you were a kid. Or maybe there were subjects that were really difficult that you didn't like when you were a kid. Whatever comes to mind, write it down. Okay, in the last column, what are your favorite characters? Are they animals, farm animals, wild animals, pets, bugs? Or maybe they're superheroes or comedians? What about aliens or monsters or magical creatures or even kids? How old do you think they are? Whatever feels right added to the list. Okay, let's take a closer look now at your favorites. Now what can you combine from each of the columns to create a theme? So just play around until something strikes you. I went with gardening for my favorite hobby. For my favorite subject, I put mystery and graphic novels and for characters, I went with animals more specifically, a dog and a cat. So I have two characters. Write down what you like. Question two. Do any of the combinations inspire an illustration? What is a setting? Who are the characters? What are they doing? What did you discover? Write down your ideas. In the last video exercise, we looked at the various categories of illustrated Children's books. From what you learned, Ask yourself the following question. What age group and book category does the theme fit? If you're still not sure try searching your favorites on Pinterest or Google. I search kids books on gardening for my hobbies, kids mysteries, graphic novels for my subject, and dogs and cat characters in kids books. to help me to find my subject and age group. I was also inspired by our pets Hala and Joey, so I might use them to help me develop my characters. And I settled on a graphic novel mystery for grade 3 to 5. So add your favorite combinations, age group and book category to your style road map and then we'll move on to create an illustration based on all you've learned. 8. FINAL STYLE ROAD MAP & ILLUSTRATION: Now that you've completed all the exercises on style roadmap, use what you've learned to create a drawing using your preferred lines, shapes, patterns, texture, color and themes. The subject and category of illustrated children's book you think works best best to complete a drawing. So I'm using the expressive color lines to create characters and the boxes, since I'm going with a graphic novel for great 3 to 5, I'm using family pets. Hala the cat and Joey the dog as my inspiration. They both have very expressive ears, and I want to capture that in this rough drawing that I'm doing for this exercise. I will develop these characters later in upcoming Discover Your Characters Episode. If you are drawing characters, don't worry too much about getting them perfect. The idea here is just to play around with style and have fun. The other thing I noticed when we were working on the patterns and textures exercises how much fun I had creating patterns of pencils. I also love the combined traditional and digital illustration. So I took a picture of the three patterns that we created and the sketch and uploaded to my iPad and that I opened them in Procreate. Using layers, I added the patterns as the color. I really like the directions is going. I hope you're having some fun and ahh ha moments as you're working on your final drawing, I like to keep my exercises and style roadmaps in a binder for future references. Also, I can use it to create new combinations of things and try out and experiment. This has really inspired me to be creative, and I've had some version of this for the last 30 years. I hope this will help you stay inspired too and help you grow your own visual voice because no one else could do that but you. I'm really looking forward to seeing your finished style roadmap and your illustration and hearing more about what you've discovered. To share your project with me in the class click on projects and resource and then click project upload. If you enjoy this class, please recommend the class, and if you can write a few words to why you enjoy the class, this will help other students who might be interested. If you have any questions, please post below. I read and respond all your comments and questions, and I look and respond to all your class projects. Thank you so much for joining me for this episode of Children's book illustration. Discover your style. Please follow me on skill share for upcoming classes in this series. Until next time bye for now.