Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Does the author hire the illustrator?

No. Not usually.

The publisher does actually. In my vast experience illustrating children's book (it's possible I am exaggerating there.) I've only talked to the author once by email, and that was after the book had been released.

Here is the rundown of the illustrating a picture book process. No author involved on my end.

First we spend time sending our illustrations out into the ether of the publishing world and trying to make our website portfolios awesome. More on that here: "How Illustrators Get Work".

Eventually a publisher is going to email or call. For example lets call them Peachtree Publishers in Georgia.

They say, "Hi, how do you say your name?"
I say,  "Mə-nɜl" (Thank you Dashbo's math for help with the phonetics)
They say, "Hi Manelle, we have a project that we would like you to illustrate..."

usually a description of the project follows in this case lets say just for fun it's three board books (cardboard baby books) called In the Garden, At the Beach, and In the Woods, all written by Elizabeth Spurr

I say "Sounds interesting, send me more info."

There is a lot of discussion and emailing. Eventually if I'm taking the job, I get the contract and sign it. The contract will have deadlines, my rights and the publishers which are different for each project, what I'm getting paid and the deadlines for the project.  As you can see this can be a long process.

By this point I have usually seen the manuscript and once the contract is squared away it's finally time to draw. 

The first two things I do, kinda simultaneously, are work on the characters and the thumbnail drawings.

I take the manuscript and have a look at it. In this case it was already broken up by page so I just had to think of how to depict it. This is where I use my thumbnail process. (find more about that here and here)

Here is a picture of the thumbnails I did for "In the Garden"

Here is my original design for the main boy character in the book

After I get the characters figured and the plan for each page of the book I start to draw more detailed sketches.

Here it the first sketch I did for the first spread of the book. (what's a spread?) The words on this page are "Sun. Sky. Tree. Shade."

 This is the original thumbnail of that page

After I have more detailed sketches of the the whole book I send it to the editor and art director and I wait.

hum. hum. hum. la. la. thisisuswating....

Depending on the project you could wait for days or months. (Inevitably they will always get back to you at an inconvenient time, like for example four weeks before your wedding when you still don't have a dress yet. But they are usually willing to work with you. Life Happens)

wearestillwaiting and then...

I get an email that has changes.

I always know it is coming but I always get angry about the changes that are suggested. It's silly. Most of the time I try to be pretty good at keeping my feelings to myself, knowing if I give it time I'll be fine. The rest of the time I hope the people I'm working with on the publishing end are used to working with crazy illustrators and don't get offended or fire me.

In this case they wanted to see changes in the look of the main character, the size of the book, and some other small things.

I liked my first little boy and most frustrated about changing him. But had to admit to myself after we redesigned the little guy that the new boy was better.

Here he is,

and here is the new sketch of the first spread.

Next I get these sketches approved again.

In this case when I heard back there were little if any changes and I had the go ahead to do the painting. I'll talk more about the process later on. But here is my finished painting.

The book comes out May 1st and if you would like you can pre-order it now. In the woods comes this fall, and at the beach next spring.

Love this art? Buy Prints or Cards and Gifts illustrated by Manelle.


  1. Adorable. I love the little boy. He is so stinkin cute. Congratulations.



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