A Tricky Scene

Imagine a robbery at a newsagents and all manner of scary thoughts cross your mind, the potential for someone to get hurt, weapons, dangerous assailants and theft.  When illustrating a scene like that in a children’s book you have to step carefully.   Even when the tone of the book is funny you have to consider making the scene look dangerous and dramatic without having the illustration look too violent or scary.  At the same time you have to give the artwork a little edge as to not belittle how terrifying a robbery can be.  Performing a illustrated balancing act worthy of a trapeze artist starts with laying out the essential elements from the story and composing a layout. 

Creating a good concept illustration is key to developing the right tone and I’ll do that by taking a very rough sketch and using layout paper just go over it again until I get character, composition and tone the way I want it.   Getting it right at this stage means no later disappointment from the publisher by keeping the intention of the approved signed off concept in line with how the finished image will look like.

My Pen and Ink illustration for the Halloween Bandits

My Pen and Ink illustration for the Halloween Bandits


For my robbery scene, illustrated in pen and ink, I added in a few bystanders, a man protecting his dog, and a boy next to a jar of lollipops.  It really helps of course that my robbers were wearing Halloween masks and that alone helps keep the look fun, dramatic and not too scary. 

Halloween Bandits

Cover illustrations can range from the complex, lots of characters and things going on in a active environment to the simple, an object or person.  The focus when illustrating the cover for Halloween Bandits was to capture some of the quirkiness of character in a dynamic action piece.  After creating the character concept illustrations the key to creating a really punchy image that would leap of the cover was to visualize the energy and movement by varying thickness of the line in ink loosely and quick by hand.

All my commissions are hand drawn illustrations I prefer the spontaneity of a hand rendered artwork, quirks and splatters of ink can add a lot of expression to an illustration.   Pen and ink illustrations when got down on paper quickly can look very bold using different techniques and pens and brushes.

The Halloween Bandits Cover illustration.  Hand drawn illustration in pen and ink.

The Halloween Bandits Cover illustration.  Hand drawn illustration in pen and ink.

For more samples including picture book illustrations, narrative and comic illustration or reluctant reader story artwork, please visit my illustration portfolio.

Illustrations are divided into three galleries.

Editorial illustration and advertising artwork.

Picture book illustrations.

Illustrated books which features illustrations for comic and older/reluctant reader illustration samples.



Illustration Friday this week is all about the nose so to sniff around for a little exposure and have some fun I’ve submitted this fellow, my Basset Hound illustration.  Having a little play with perspective to show the head a little closer and focus on the expression gives shows this pooch’s personality more and makes the illustration quirky. 

As a freelance illustrator I’m commission to draw a wide variety of places, people and animals and my work includes advertising illustrations, editorial illustrations, educational illustrations, narrative artwork for children’s books and picture book illustrations.  Having quick visualization skills I’m also asked to illustrate storyboards and commissioned to illustrate character designs and pitch artworks.

Pencil illustration, coloured up and layered on PhotoShop

Pencil illustration, coloured up and layered on PhotoShop

Hopefully I’m not barking up the wrong tree to say that you’ll find my dog illustration as lovable as I do. Waggy tails all round.

To submit an artwork please go to Illustration Friday

Illustrating a Book Round Up

Illustrating a Book Round Up.

It’s really all about communicating ideas from the moment you start the project, listening to the editor or author discussing their ideas and sharing your own thoughts and taking lead from the story.  The illustration is the end result of that communication; an amalgamation of thought, insight into the story and your own personality that will infer extra detail and nuances that lie between the lines of text. 

An illustrator uses their artistic skill to give those discussions form, through a process of character design illustrations, developing and enhancing the narrative in concept artworks and with feedback refining the artwork further until the illustrations are finished for publication. 

Confidence in your skills and the willingness to push yourself with new techniques or varying or adapting your style that can help communicate the story best will always keep your creative energy flowing keeping the process fresh, fun and show you and your illustrations at their best. There should never be a workman like approach to illustrating a children’s book. Use that opportunity of collaboration to create something you can be proud of putting on your bookshelf.

The quality of the finished book can be determined on how good an illustrator is in storytelling and a good narrative illustrator can enhance the tale that the author has skilfully told into a complete package for the reader to enjoy. 

Pen and ink illustration from The White Arrow Assassin

Pen and ink illustration from The White Arrow Assassin



Illustration Friday

Illustration Friday http://illustrationfriday.com/ run a fun weekly challenge to create or submit an illustration based on a weekly subject. The topic ranges widely and its fun to come up with an illustration and get it out there. I'll post my weekly entry on this site and drop by to have a look to see what I've come up with. 

This week's topic is Tattoos.  This is my pen and ink illustration done quickly in felt pen with some bright colours added on PhotoShop, use your shades when viewing! 

Illustrating a Book pt2 Sketching up the interior

Coming up with the interior illustrations for children’s book is a creative process done in steps, after having got the characters sketched up and approved the next step is creating the scenes that sit alongside the words.

My task as a freelance illustrator is reading the story without pictures with creating the visual narrative in mind.  Reading will naturally fire the imagination and your mind will conjure up images from the descriptions in the story, creatively filling in the picture and the details that lie between the lines.

As I read I will take down notes and sketch I work fast, places and people spill onto a page, drawing concept illustrations, taking bits of layout paper and creating revised drafts on top.  A better idea might come along later and I’ll refine and develop the pencil illustration further till I get something I can show the editor. I’ll finish off my first draft illustrations in pen and ink and email all the interior layouts for feedback.

Below I’ve shown my concept illustration for The White Arrow Assassin by Tim Flanagan that establishes the location of where the story is set.

Pen and ink artwork for my Whitby town scene concept.

Pen and ink artwork for my Whitby town scene concept.

Finished artwork for The White Arrow Assassin comparing the final art and concept shows changes and refinement of my original idea.  Pen and ink illustration with wash.

Finished artwork for The White Arrow Assassin comparing the final art and concept shows changes and refinement of my original idea.  Pen and ink illustration with wash.

Creating children’s book illustrations has to be done with an open mind and a willingness to change ideas and take on-board suggestions.  Feedback is really helpful and as a freelance illustrator good communication with the author/editor really helps.  Receiving feedback isn’t always easy but it is essential if you want to get the most from the creative process, it brings out the best in my skills as an artist in order to create the best illustrations possible for the book.