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Monday, January 9, 2012

Children Picture Book Illustration Process

This week, I'll chat over children picture book illustration process. Sadly, our job is often underestimated and not appreciated properly. Last year, a man boasting "studied design" said to me with contempt, "Children picture book illustration? They draw a big head child(*=distorted composition). Easy piecy," was all his knowledge about our job. I doubted what he had studied.
Picture book illustration is very time consuming. Usually, 32 pages for a trade picture book. Often 1 year contract. But no surprise, a few years take to finish up one project.

1) text analysis,
What's the theme? Who is the target audience?
Brain storm, rough idea for page divide.
2) character design
Drawing, drawing, drawing! Know characters. From this stage, Illustrator develops a text further than the original.
3) Story Board & Dummy Book 
Story board = thumb nailed pages like film cells.
Dummy = miniature of a picture book.
Lots of experiments. So many drawings. Takes a lot of time. Check the dummy repeatedly to see information flow. Pace and space are important. Decide a text's position.
Make "several" dummies. Often Illustrator makes 5-6 dummies. Please figure out 6 by 32. How many pages?
4) Colour
Put colour.
Check the dummy. Lots of experiments.In the process, use all what we have---such as emotions, sensations, memories, research data etc, etc, to depict a given text. Editor helps Illustrator and Publisher gives feedback. Then, Illustrator gets back on the project. Repeat 1) to 4) again and again.

So, Illustrator job classified ad should go like this way;

"Want Children Picture Book Illustrator.
: Feel
reality & fantasy in physical world & inner world.Skills : Draw everything, anything visible and invisible.
Fast job, preferable ( = keep deadline)."

Now, you get why I always keep sketching anything. Last Thursday, I sketched a watchrepair while he was repairing my watch band. Done in really several minutes. These daily sketches become important references.
Seeing is believing.
This Victoria State Library website shows the foremost Australian illustrators working processes.
Ann Spudvilas's video shows the process mentioned above in 3 minutes. I really admire other illustrators. My wonderful mentor Ann James is mothering Australian illustrators. Shaun Tan won an academy award last year.
Unfortunately, it seems Australian picture book illustrators are not internationally known. The American market is the place for a big commercial success. But I love Australia.

tons of unpublished drawings are behind 32 pages. If you come across a picture book illustrator down-&-out from job, please cheer her/him up.
Now, I'm ready for a hand surgery.

Happy painting!!



  1. Big head child, ha! Next time someone say that to a picture book illustrator this one should tell him/her to draw a scary bear that feels scary but in a not scary way and wait for it lol.
    Good luck with the surgery, hope your hand is well soon so you can resume your sketching asap ^_^

  2. Dear Teresa,
    Thanks!! It is! I'll tell you, Terese, I've never seen arrogant people would draw. Nothing.
    I'll get well and come back to the project.
    Hugsʚ(ˆ◡ˆ)ɞ !! Sadami

  3. Sadami, I haven't been here in ever so long and have focused more on my photography/poetry blog. I stepped away from sketching/watercolor as I wanted to play with my eye for composition and my son go me interested in poetry. Now I feel ready to go back to expressing this through drawing and posting on my drawing blog.

    Your artwork has such life, such energy. I have six children and some of the illustrated books I could NEVER part with as I love them as much as my children. Ignore "blockhead" who studied design. And I look forward keeping a closer watch on your blog this year.

  4. That is a lot of work, Sadami. It is sad that some people don't recognize that. Good luck with the project and your surgery!

  5. I am learning from your experience just how involved the book making can take.
    Best wishes for success.
    Best wishes for success in your surgery,
    And lots of hug.

  6. Intéressant de connaître tout ce travail en amont. Reviens vite avec une main toute neuve. Bises !

    Interesting to know all that work upstream. Come back soon with a brand new hand. Kisses!

  7. So much work and when the finished product is in the hands of the public, it's just stupid to not realize or guess at all the work that went into it - best of luck and tons of good wishes on your hand surgery!!!

  8. Sadami, i know I will buy this book one day !!! Go Sadami go ! This is great . Bises.

  9. Hola Sadami! Te deseo un feliz año 2012!
    Tendrás y conseguirás aquello que te propones! Ya lo verás. Lo deseo de corazón.
    Bueno, hacía días que no entraba a hacerte comentarios, ni a tí ni a los demás, porque con los nietos (ocho), las salidas con el grupo de los miércoles y entrar en el blog, contestar a los que me hacen comentarios... no me ha dejado mucho tiempo. Estas fiestas he estado muy ocupado!
    Ahora empezaré a tener más tiempo.
    Esta entrada tuya, los dibujos son geniales, pero la traducción de google no es muy buena y no entiendo mucho.
    Quisiera tener uno de esos libros que ilustras. Es posible?
    Un fuerte abrazo.

  10. Sadami, hope the surgery is good and you have a speedy recovery!

  11. Muy interesante tu comentario, es verdad que la ilustración de los libros para niños no se valora a su justo valor, yo cuando mis hijas eran pequeñas siempre escogía los cuentos que les regalaba en función de la calidad de los dibujos, en realidad la mayoría de los niños , no leen los cuentos, miran los dibujos y se inventan parte de la historia en base a estos dibujos.
    Como siempre muy bien ilustrado tus comentarios como es natural, enhorabuena que tengas mucho éxito con tu proyecto.

  12. 失礼なひとが、いるわねー。

  13. Hi Sadami-

    I always knew book illustration was work, but never gave much thought to the entire process. So much goes into the design, and you are so right about needing to sketch and paint all along. Each page you need to be able to put the subject in any pose. All that reference material becomes an important aid.

    I love how expressively you sketch hands!

    Be well,

  14. Hi, Margaret,
    Thank you for visiting me again! Yes, you've been working on photography/poetry blog and your son writes poems. Busy.
    Take it easy. Starting up drawing and watercolouring may need time and guts. Just have fun. If you have a spare time, come and take a rest at this blog.
    Best wishes, Sadami

  15. Hi,Judy,
    Thank you for the kind cheers. I hope society will more acknowledge the importance of children's literature and picture books.
    Kind regards, Sadami

  16. Dear Teri,
    Oh, thanks millions!
    Lots of hugs!! You, too, take care of yourself. The healing takes time. Take it easy.
    Best wishes&smile,Sadami

  17. Yahoo, Lydie!
    Merci! Je vais comporter une bonne fille et revenez bientôt. Profitez de dessin et de peinture!
    Cheers, Sadami

    Yahoo, Lydie!
    Thank you! I'll behave a good girl and come back soon. Enjoy drawing and painting!
    Cheers, Sadami

  18. Dear sensitive Rhonda,
    Thank you for cheers! You're always kind and caring. I'll get well and come back soon after 31st Jan.
    Cheers, Sadami

  19. Hi, Happy Olivia!
    I'll work on the project and do my best. By the way, did you find a space to put your paintings?
    Cheers, Sadami

  20. Estimado Joshemari,
    Usted es siempre agradable! Gracias. Oh, has estado muy ocupado con sus nietos. Ahahaha, muy bien! Pues bien, el proyecto no se ha convertido en un libro todavía. Cuando se convierte en un libro, voy a hablar de ella en el blog. Gracias por la paciencia para revisar mi blog de traducción web. Espero poder verte en persona y tener una charla un día! Cuidar y disfrutar de la acuarela.
    Grandes abrazos, Sadami

    Dear Joshemari,
    You're always nice!! Thank you. Oh, you've been very busy with the grandkids. Ahahaha, very nice! Well, the project has not become a book yet. When it becomes a book, I'll talk of it on the blog. Thank you for the patience to check my blog by translation web. I hope I can see you in person and have a chat one day! Take care and enjoy watercolour.
    Big hugs, Sadami

    >>>Joshemari said...
    Sadami Hello! I wish you a happy new year 2012!
    You'll get that and you're up to! You'll see. The heart's desire.
    Well, it did not come for days to make comments, or you or anyone else, because with the grandchildren (eight), the outputs with the group on Wednesday and enter the blog, replying to comments that make me .. . I have not much time left. These parties have been busy!
    Now begin to have more time.
    This entry of yours, the pictures are great, but the google translation is not very good and do not understand much.
    I have one of those books they illustrate. Is it possible?
    A big hug.

  21. Wow, Dora!
    Thank you! I'll get well and come back soon. BTW, how has your picture book project been? I hope you enjoy it step by step. Have fun!
    Best wishes,Sadami

  22. Oh, querido Francis,
    Su comentario da en el clavo, cómo un libro de imágenes debe ser. Dado que los niños "leer" imágenes, no palabras. Por lo tanto, debo hacer un libro sencillo y fácil de entender para los niños. Gracias. Su opinión me recuerda que lo más importante en nuestro trabajo.
    Tenga cuidado y tenga un buen día.
    Mis mejores deseos, Sadami

    Oh, dear Francis,
    Your comment is spot on; how a picture book should be. Because children "read" pictures, not words. So, I should make a book simple and easy to understand for children. Thank you. Your say reminds me the most important thing in our job.
    Take care and have a nice day.
    Best wishes, Sadami

    >>>Francis said...
    Very interesting your comment, it is true that the illustration of children's books are not valued at fair value, I when my daughters were small always chose the stories that gave them depending on the quality of the drawings, in reality most children do not read stories, look at the pictures and make up part of the story based on these drawings.
    As always your comments very well illustrated course, congratulations you have much success with your project.

  23. Hi, HaniHani,
    図太い人はいます。こうして色んな人で 社会は成立って入るのでしょう。
    メクジラ立ててるヒマ有ったら、絵を描こう!で、時計の修理を待ってるあいだに描きました。おじちゃんと受付のカワイコちゃんはびっくらこいて居ました。私はいつもその場で描くのです。どこにいくにも、絵の具と紙は一緒です。絵具キットは2年前かな、自分で作りました。手のひらに収まります。元は日本の小さなstationary入れでした。いえいえ、私,普通の人です。あのね、HaniHani, 私がスケッチを始めたの、1998からです。偶然, 絵の雑誌でプロの速がきスケッチを見たの。動きや表情が生き生きと、まるで瞬間を捉えるように出てて、感動。私もしたい!と思ったの。一体何度挫けかけたか。人前なんて怖かったし、なにせ下手で遅かったわ。でも、頑張ったの。それとEnglishで言うでしょう, "You're not the centre of the world!" Hahahaha!あなたのblogにコメントした言葉は私の経験から出ています。少しづつでも、良くなってるのに気づいたら、嬉しかったし、単純に喜びました。一生懸命無我夢中でやって居るうちに気が付いたら、ここまで来てたの。それとネ、あるとき、友人が言ったの、"一生懸命やる、勤勉って才能なのよ"、と。実際、成人学級を垣間見て、いかに諦める人の方が多数かと痛感。私は自分がバカかと思って居ましたが、納得。あなたにその一言を送ります。 そして、いつの間にか、気が付いたら、周りから貴方はとっても前向きでpositiveな人ねえと言われていました!
    Cheers, Sadami

  24. Dear Nanina,
    Thank you very much! You always cheer me up. I'll get back to this blog after the surgery, 31st Jan.
    Big hugs, Sadami

  25. Thank you so much for the insight into what it takes to illustrate a book! I know its a lot of work and I admire anyone who can do it.
    Like anyone who produces something so beautiful, people presume it comes naturally and must be easy. They do not see the work behind the final piece!
    Hugs to you and good luck with the surgery xxx

  26. Dear Pat,
    Thank you very much for a kind say. I admire your incessant creativity, great care for anyone, strong faith, love for forsaken lives, particularly, animals. I'm sure your blog is an oasis for us, visitors. Keep up!
    Pass my hello to Missy.
    Hugs and smile, Sadami

  27. Expléndido Dadami; feliz año desde las antípodas!!!

  28. Hola, Manuel,
    Muchas gracias! Vamos a disfrutar de dibujo y pintura!
    Mis mejores deseos, Sadami

    Hi, Manuel,
    Thank you very much! Let us enjoy drawing and painting!
    Best wishes,Sadami

    >>>Manuel Lores said...
    Sadami splendid, happy new year from the antipodes!

  29. A very interesting post, Sadami. Your sketches are wonderful, as always. I sure love seeing your watch repairman! So much better than a photo of him. I used to work with very high caliber illustrators. I never saw such hard working people (they were all men, no women). They would sometimes work all night and all the next day to get things done and what they did was brilliant. Illustrators (like you) are fabulous! Good luck with your hand surgery--please tell us how it goes! Speedy Recovery!

  30. Hi,Cleste,
    Thank you very much! Like a guild person, you, too, are a brilliant skillful artist that also has a beautiful heart, we know!!! Your paintings and posts always nice and I feel you have a spirit full of empathy and want for justice. Regarding illustrators, yes, we're hard workers...most of us are in poverty, but happily poor. Keep up your nice work. Thank you for cheers. I'll get well soon.

  31. What a wonderful, delightful post! Love your work.

  32. Wow, Sandy! Thank you for coming and cheers for me!! I'm just working on the story board, making some colours and checking black & white. The mentor Ann James helsp me so much. Wish me good luck!
    Cheers, Sadami

  33. it is ...
    manage this process is not easy,
    we had [my husband and I] some experience with books and tabloid thematic;
    know how accurate it is, beyond all these steps, a lot of patience!
    I admire your ability! You take care of everything easily!
    These drawings fast and accurate are amazing!

    thank you for the comments on my blog ..
    and you hit, pictured my daughter;)

    dear, your surgery will be a success! you will gain new levels of energy!
    your hand super active, will be eager to work!
    take care,
    a huge hug \o/

  34. Hi, Denise,
    Thank you for warm cheers. Your work always amazes viewers and sends a strong message. Please keep up.
    Regarding your work on the daughter, of course, I can feel it, your great love for the dear daughter.
    Soon, I'll have a surgery and get well soon!!
    Hugs and smile, Sadami

  35. A surprise for you on my blog, Sadami!
    About the space for my paintings... No solution at the moment, but I will find...;) Bises.

  36. Hi,Olivia,
    Thank you! You're always in my thoughts. Yeah, a space for paintings is artists' common headache. Can't you rent a locker/bigger space in a room? There's business to offer a space in Australia. Consult Art organizations. In Sydney, they regularly ad of a "studio."
    Bises, Sadami

  37. hi sadami wishing you all the best with your hand surgery ... you're right there is so much work involved to create those magic pages for children .. from ideas design concept sketches finished dwgs to finished book the sketches the sea below is excellent.

  38. Hi, Jane,
    Thank you very much. Ah, yes, me, too, love sketching a sea and waves. Come over and let us sketch Narrabeen beach together.

  39. Wonderful post -thanks for shining a light on the illustrators :) I did a sketchbook project for Arthouse Co-op of illustrating a narrative this past year and I have a huge respect for what writer illustrators do. I always admired the illustrators but doing a small book gave me new dimension to such work. Love what you do --all the best!

  40. Dear Meera,
    Thank you for cheers. You, too, everytime make very charming work. I heartily hope your sketch book project will go well. Hang in there! Enjoy them all.
    Best wishes,Sadami

  41. Ah, so many people don't understand what others do. Don't listen to that fellow who obviously has no clue how involved the illustration process really is! I have read thousands of picture books to my classes, and I am always in awe of the amount of beautiful artwork that one artist has created just for that book, so that I can turn the page and briefly admire each one, before reading on. I love your painting at the top, that would be so attractive on a book cover! And thank you for describing the process so well!

  42. Dear Kath,
    Thank you! Very happy to know you enjoy our work with chidlren! We, illustrators are heros for your SO MANY children. At the moment, I've finally finished up the "story board" and got yes. I'm working on each page. Wish me good luck.
    I hope you will have a great fun in painting. Let us know if your name stamp will work or not. Go, go, Kath~~!!

  43. :D yeah, lots of work! Good luck with the surgery.

  44. Oh, Evelyn!!!
    How is your new life? Thanks for the comment. Yeah, I'm working hard. The right hand really needs the surgery. I'll get well!
    Cheers, Sadami