For a children’s book illustrator, having a strong portfolio is essential. Most art directors, agents, and editors will tell you that they like to see illustrators develop one signature style. This way, when they have a story to be illustrated, they think about what illustration style would best suit the text. Then they can narrow down their choices to just the illustrators who create art in that style.
For example, Eric Carle and Leo Lionni are well-known for their painted paper collages. Chris Van Allsburg and David Wiesner are known for their realistic, almost surrealist illustrations. David Diaz has more of a bold, fine art style with black lines. Lois Ehlert uses flat shapes and bold colors for her simple illustrations. And Raul Colón uses his signature scratch lines in his soft colored pencil work. Can you identify each of the artist's work below? Take the little quiz here!
However, developing a signature style doesn’t happen overnight for everyone. It can take time to discover what medium you like to work in, how you want to draw your characters, and what color scheme or “look” to your illustrations best suits you.
Instead of using the term signature style, though, I prefer “signature voice.” The reason is because an illustrator can use different mediums and drawing techniques but still carry some similar quality or aspect across any medium or style. A children’s book illustrator could have one drawing style for educational work, one for mass market books, and one for trade publishing. But the illustrator should use some similarities across the styles – whether it’s the way the artist draws the characters’ eyes, or the textures used, or similar sketchy lines, etc. – in order to have that voice that people will also be able to recognize.
So how can you find your voice? Well, I’m still developing my own. But maybe Adam Levine can help me.
Oh, wait. That’s a different Voice.
Here’s some advice regarding finding your voice that I’ve heard and read about, Even though these talk more about illustrating, writers can also apply this mentality to finding their voice with their writing:
- Sketch a lot! Designate a certain amount of time each day to draw
- Work on consistency when drawing characters in a sequence
- Learn and practice the basics – study anatomy of people and animals, study and learn about perspective, color theory and lighting/value
- Study other people’s illustrations and see what styles and mediums you’re drawn to (no pun intended J). Practice making art like some of your favorite illustrators – try the mediums and methods they use. Then see if you can find your own way of working in a similar way that can become eventually develop into your own style.
- Find something that you can add or use in your illustrations that you can carry over to other illustrations, even if you use a different medium.
- Be patient – keep experimenting and persevering, and someday something will click.
If you’re really bold, try a different medium or technique that not many people are using in illustrations. This could help you stand out among other artists. And someday soon you could get that call or email that says “I think you’d be the perfect fit to illustrate our book.”
Meet the Friday Blogonauts
First Fridays will feature Bryan Patrick Avery, published writer , man of mystery, and professional magician among other things.
Second Fridays will feature awesome multi-award winning author Marsha Diane Arnold who will be writing about character-driven and/or nature-based books and/or anything she likes :)
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Fifth Fridays will feature the fabulous Carl Angel award-winning multi-published Illustrator and graphic designer.
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