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...

1 comment:

  1. I'm excited to watch you do your illustrations...all those little dots!


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