Sunday, June 24, 2012

#136 My Illustration Techniques

     Welcome to our new readers from Brazil! My stats indicate that someone from your country has visited my blog.  I was especially excited about it because you represent the first from South America to join us.  

    We now have readers from 41 different countries and six continents, and it makes me wonder if there are any young readers with computers on the continent of Antarctica.  Perhaps not...

     I promised to explain my illustration techniques this time.  Let me begin by telling you that I am not a trained illustrator (probably not a surprise to you!)  I took art classes at three different universities, but never at specialized commercial or graphic arts schools.  The pictures in my seven children's books are more like sketches than polished illustrations.

     In the Mind of a Cat is about my cat, Topper, and I had originally intended to use photographs of him because he is very photogenic.  

     Eventually, though I came to realize that the photos would be inconsistent with my other books, and I decided to use those I had already taken as a starting place and then create drawings similar to those in my previous works.

     This is the process that evolved for one of the illustrations.  I wanted to show Topper on his "Kitty Condo", and had already taken some pictures.  These were two of them. I liked the angle and setting of the first, but his pose in the second.

     Next, I did a rough sketch on a folded sheet of computer paper.  It looked like this:

     My "serious" materials are Strathmore watercolor paper, black permanent fine-line markers, and colored "watercolor" pencils.  These pencils allow me to "paint with water" after I color with the pencils. This is the type of paper I use:

     Using a pencil and eraser, I carefully drew the picture, then outlined it with the fine-line marker.  It looked like this at that point:

   I colored it with my watercolor pencils:

     Then I painted it with water and let it dry. It needed  another layer of colored pencil and water for further definition at this point.  

     Then I got really busy with the fine line marker--sharpening up the lines, adding background details, and texturing with little dots.  The dots take a lot of time, but they add depth and dimension to the pictures.  It was finished then.  I just had to scan it into my computer, crop and size it.  Sometimes I edit the colors on my computer if I feel it needs it.

     The finished illustration looks like this:

     Here are a couple others I have done for Topper's book.

     I intend to use a dozen or more of these, and they are time-consuming, so please don't expect to see In the Mind of a Cat listed on or Barnes & Noble for a couple more months.

     However, this blog post may allow you to see the illustrations from my other books with new eyes.  The following titles are listed "by Lynda" for either $2.99 or $3.99 on for Kindle eReaders .

Monkey Tales
Circles In the Wind
Margaret's Christmas Cookies
Tiny Others (Agent C Series)
Pomegranate (Agent C Series)
White Rabbit Time (Agent C Series)
Lucky Alana (Agent C Series) 

     The first four in the list above are also listed on the Barnes and Noble site for their Nook eReaders.  The final three will be added within a few weeks.  The prices are identical on both sites.

     Next time:  I will discuss where I get the ideas for my stories.

     Please join us...

     And remember, summertime is reading time.


Wednesday, June 13, 2012

#135 Illustrations

     Let's talk about illustrations today.  

     Picture books have lovely illustrations, don't you agree? Did you realize that they are not just for children?  

     Nonfiction books often have color photographs as well as scientific charts, graphs and diagrams. Graphic novels tell their stories with pictures and speech balloons, something like comic books.

     So why do chapter books usually have pictures only on their covers?

     In 1866 when Alice In Wonderland was first published, an illustrator named John Tenniel illustrated it with woodcut prints.  He cut each and every design into a wooden block, then rolled ink on it and pressed it  down on the pages.  Books were very expensive, and only wealthy families had them for their children.  Later, Tenniel used colored inks on the blocks, and Alice finally had her familiar blue dress!

     As photography and other printing processes developed, some very good illustrators began to use oil paintings for book illustrations.  One of my favorite artists is N.C. Wyeth, who painted some classic characters from Treasure Island, Robinson Crusoe, Rip Van Winkle, The Yearling, and many others.  These illustrations appeared as "colored plates" and were displayed on a full page of special paper.  My own children's Bible illustrations were colored plates like these.

    But they were also expensive to produce.  As children's reading and library books became more popular, some people felt that children who were able to read the words should create pictures in their own minds from the descriptions in the stories.  There may be some truth to this technique because most mature readers do exactly that.

     I believe, however, that a few illustrations are welcome to developing readers, and some wonderful authors like Avi, who wrote Iron Thunder seem to agree with me.

     My latest book, In the Mind of a Cat, will have a lot of illustrations.  Today, I will publish three of them.

     This is Topper, my cat.  Sometimes I think I know what is going on in his mind.  In my book I will tell you what I believe he is thinking about.  My idea will be identified with a picture of me:

     Then you will see a picture of Topper, and a description of what is really going on in his mind.  That picture will look like this:

     In my next post, I will show you my illustration process from sketch through pencil, fine line black marker, watercolor pencil, and finishing touches.

     I hope you have enjoyed my discussion about illustrations.  If you are interested in a list of wonderful illustrated books, you might want to look up the Caldecott Medal winners on the internet.

     Just one more thing.  I have begun to publish my books for Barnes & Noble's Nook eReader.  Margaret's Christmas Cookies is currently available for $2.99, and Monkey Tales will likely join it in the next two days!

    (And all seven of my books are still available for the Kindle eReader from

    Please keep reading...