Illustration Friday

Cover illustration for Halloween Bandits a Lawrence Pinkley Adventure. Illustrated in pen and ink using brushes, art pen, brush pens

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Drawing On Glass

Normally I hit the drawing board when doing an illustration, using paper, whatever weight or type that suits what I’m using to make a mark on it. 

Drawing on a window is a little bit more tricky and to get it right I plan out first what I’m going to draw on it.  Starting like I would in any commission I sketch my ideas down and create a layout on paper so I’ve got a good guide before I illustrate on the window.

Getting started on Café Calluna’s windows for The Enchanted Forest.

Getting started on Café Calluna’s windows for The Enchanted Forest.

Normally when you stare down a page to begin an artwork all you get is that big white surface filling your view and challenging you to make your first mark.  With a window you struggle with the view ahead, people passing, reluctantly featuring in someone’s selfie with you drawing in it, incidents of road rage and an endless procession of delivery vans. Life passes by and occasionally interacts if you stir a person’s curiosity.  My work for me is normally in a comfort zone and a place where you don’t get that kind of distraction but its so much fun to get out there.  That’s why opportunities to draw in public with window illustrations or chalk art and even live drawing are so great to do.  A chance for real time feedback, sharing my skills and observations. 

Give me some chalk pens and a window to draw on.

Give me some chalk pens and a window to draw on.

Any live drawing event whether it’s in a meeting room fleshing out an idea on paper with a client or in a conference hall recording an event with illustration is a great opportunity for an artist to stimulate and push their skills and share with others.  Making creativity a shared and more interactive experience is a wonderful thing to be part of.  

WIndow at night.

WIndow at night.

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



Illustrating a Book Pt3 Working on Interior Illustrations

Hand drawn illustrations for the book are created on that old reliable medium of paper.  By using layout paper for the roughs and developing revised drafts over the top you create layers or a history of development of that particular illustration.  When doing the final illustrations in pen and ink I use better quality paper or board, scanning the artwork in then return to using layers in PhotoShop. Again it’s a process of building up the art, beginning with the pen and ink illustration and adding on top or below a new layer that adds to the picture.

Using layers this way gives so much control and the possibility of enhancing the illustration.  The style of the artwork will inform the kind of treatment you give to your layers. Scanning in textures or washes and making the layer setting overlay can give the effect of a hand rendered wash when using software and another layer to colour the illustration.

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   The White Arrow Assassin by Tim Flanagan. Left to right: Pen and ink illustration on a layer, Next shows simple shading on a separate normal setting, Last is the texture this is an ink wash on good paper scanned in and set on an overlay layer on top of the shading layer.

The White Arrow Assassin by Tim Flanagan. Left to right: Pen and ink illustration on a layer, Next shows simple shading on a separate normal setting, Last is the texture this is an ink wash on good paper scanned in and set on an overlay layer on top of the shading layer.

Depending on the project this process can involve a few layers to achieve a simple hand rendered look of a line and wash illustration. More complicated illustrations can have many more, the line art can be on several layers and composited together from a foreground to background object or character. Colour added to each layer on a separate layer the line art on a multiplying layer setting so that the colour can be seen below. Textures and lighting added each to different layers to achieve depth, atmosphere and enhance any action in the scene.

It can sound complicated and I hope I did not make it sound like goobledygook! Practice and experience in pushing your skills and solving problems on the way will gives you the skills in confidently creating a layered illustration.

As a freelance illustrator with experience in creating book cover artwork, children’s book and picture book illustrations I create each artwork with the brief, story and finished product in mind.  I’ve built up confidence in using layers to create the illustration, my top tip is to keep a master copy with layers to be able to edit or grab elements or characters to use elsewhere in the book.  The back cover springs to mind as a place wherea ‘drop in’ works well as it always needs a little illustration to sit with the blurb.  Building up the artwork in this way, having the experience in understanding how a book is promoted, the print process and digital release makes you a more valuable resource to the publisher/author. Having their confidence in your skills and professionalism as an illustrator will create further opportunity to collaborate with them again. 

Illustration Friday

Illustration Friday 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!