Illustrating with CaribbeanReads

As a rule, CaribbeanReads uses Caribbean illustrators. We have a few non-Caribbean illustrators on our go-to list, for example, the first illustrator that I worked with was the phenomenal Ann-Cathrine Loo from the United Kingdom, and I would personally buy her a Caribbean passport to keep her on our list if it came down to that. But the exceptions are few and far between.

There are a few illustrators that we’ve used repeatedly and there is a good reason for that. These are illustrators who deliver excellent work that meets the requested specifications and is delivered in the time frame promised.

The main issue that we face with illustrators, however, is that many do not understand the difference between the art work that one does for sale at a gallery, for example, and the artwork that is placed in a children’s book, and no matter how talented an artist you may be, if you don’t understand this, the whole process of children’s book illustration can go south very quickly. This article discusses a few tips that will help the relationship between the illustrator and the commissioner.

  1. Get as much information as possible about the project. This may seem like a no-brainer, but you would be surprised how many projects get started without a discussion of these crucial questions. These details include:
    • The full text of the story that you are illustrating. If the author seems reluctant to share this, offer to sign a non-disclosure agreement protecting the author’s work. Picture books are not generally very long so this should not be burdensome for you, and reading the entire work will help you to make a connection with the characters and their situations that you can’t make if you are just told what to draw.
    • The size of the book.
    • The plan for the layout, for example, will the artwork and the text be on the same page or on facing pages?
    • The schedule-there should be a deadline for thumbnail sketches, dummy sketches, and the finished product.
    • The publisher’s vision for the book. Although you are the artist, as an illustrator for someone else’s work it is important to follow the publisher’s lead. If you object strongly to the direction in which they want to go this may not be the project for you.
  2. Once you have these details as you progress, keep these steps ideas in mind
    • Once the thumbnails are approved, progress to a more detailed full-size sketches. This should be on facing pages so that you can see the full impact of the page layout. These should be detailed enough that the publisher can see specific issues, for example, if a character is wearing a hat on one page and not on another. The publisher will be able to see clearly what you have in mind and catch any changes while it is easy to make adjustments.
  3. DESIGN
    • If the art and the text will be on the same form, it may be best to plan the location of the text while you are composing the illustration. At the very least, be sure that there is a spot in each illustration clear enough to superimpose the words without the overall image becoming too busy.
    • Work on paper as large as or larger than the planned size of the book.
    • Don’t sign your name to the artwork.
    • Draw to the edges of the page, but don’t put important elements more than a half inch from the sides, top, or bottom of the pages.
  4. DELIVER
    • One of the biggest problems that we face with illustrators is timely delivery. Be realistic about how long the illustrations will take and don’t over promise. A delay in the delivery of the artwork can destroy a project and then, no matter how lovely your drawings are you may never be hired again.

2 Comments

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2 Responses to Illustrating with CaribbeanReads

  1. Have to share this post. So many of our illustrators do not understand what is required from an illustrator of children’s books. Just being able to draw is enough for them. They pay little attention to the rest outlined here. In fairness this is a fairly new discipline for many of them.

    • Carol Mitchell

      Thanks, Hazel. There is so much talent in the Caribbean, some illustrators are already aware of the things I outline, but many are not and it is just a matter of fine-tuning what they already know.

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