Children’s books are wonderful things. For some reason, a well-written book for kids touches something deep down in me. Just ask my girls… they have seen their mother cry while reading the last chapter of The House at Pooh Corner, as well as the final pages of The Little Match Girl. We lived and breathed the Little House on the Prairie series. I can almost quote Let’s Grow a Garden and Hands, Hands, Fingers, Thumb word-for-word. And one of the things I love best about children’s books are the pictures.
Oh, the pictures! From Dr. Suess and his zany creatures to Garth Williams and his scenes of country life. From Tasha Tudor‘s vignettes of childhood past to David Wiesner‘s flying frogs. Since I was a kid myself, I can remember studying the pictures in children’s books, and wondering how the artists learned how to draw stories. I wanted to do that.
A couple of years ago, I had an idea for a kids’ book about George Washington, and started playing around with drawings for it. And quickly realized I needed some professional help. So I went looking to see if there was an online course that taught Children’s Book Illustration. I found a couple that looked interesting, but I kept visiting the website of one in particular… Mark Mitchell’s Make Your Splashes – Make Your Marks! Mark’s course focused on watercolor, which is my favorite medium. And I really liked his illustration style. Looking over the course information, I also saw that the lessons weren’t “canned” assignments that everyone did, but lessons on the principles of illustration that I could apply to my own projects. The course was also VERY reasonably priced, and still is. I think now, I’m most impressed at how Mark is continually adding to the course… videos, updated lessons, and more. I can definitely recommend his course to anyone interested in learning how to illustrate for children!
One thing that has been really helpful and REALLY fun is Mark’s monthly online critique sessions with his past and present students. Lots of advice can be found there, along with oodles of inspiration! And I’ve discovered that most children’s book artists are really big kids themselves.
Something I didn’t expect to happen during the course, was to get hired to illustrate someone else’s book! When illustration opportunities come to Mark’s attention, he’ll often e-mail his students about them. One morning last year, I received an e-mail from Mark about a man who was looking for an illustrator. On a whim, I did a super quick watercolor sketch, and sent it to the author.
And Jeff Byington e-mailed me back! Before I knew it, we had come to an agreement for me to illustrate his book, and I hadn’t even finished all the lessons in the course yet! Illustrating Zero and One was one of the best hands-on learning experiences I’ve had, and I thought the process would make a fun series of blog posts. Hope you enjoy them!