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Working For Children

The very vast world of children illustration.

I have borrowed and read Illustrating Children books (Creating pictures for publication) by Martin Salisbury. Which has been a truly interesting read, one thing that is clear before reading and more so after is

“Children have never been offered so rich and diverse a choice of imagery though which to enter the world of stories and knowledge.”

Martin Salisbuy / Herbert Press.

One think that I took away from this book is not to under estimate a child and “dumb” down an image. I could easily re-quote most of the book to apply what I read/learn to this exercise as so much is applied to this exercise.
Also due to the vast nature of children illustrations, I narrowed down to having children book illustrations as a starting point (It is also an area I’m interested in) .
I found another good way to get a feel for the age group is on book company sites such as Usborne.

My children own collection of books was a brilliant source of inspiration for the age groups and fact I’m a huge fan of books such as “Harry Potter” means have this visual library across the ages for reference.
Also their magazines, clothing and honestly this list is endless!

Even so that being said
I wanted to include imagery for the age groups via my pininterest mood board and from this I was able to pin point an artist for each group. I am also aware illustrations very much aware these can cross over age group, in fact Quentin Blake illustrated books can touch upon most of these age groups (if not them all).

Pre-Reader age group (0-3)
Artist Eric Carle / Eric Hill

Pinterest board

Pre-School age group
Artist Axel Scheffler

Pinterest board –

Early reader
Artist – Quentin Blake

pinterest board –

Establish Reader
Artist – Christopher Gibbs

pinterest board –

Older Age groups
Thomas Taylor/Jim Kay

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Untitled_Artwork 3(1)

After picking my age groups, word, animal and activity I created the establish reader first.

Establish reader
Animal – My daughter who is 7 picked this for me.
Establish reader relays less on images/illustrations so I wanted to give the impression of a journey as if I was designing for a cover.
I also created this in procreate, the reason I picked this is I knew I could get the vibe and feeling I wanted with the option to later create using traditional methods if felt it needed that element.
It is also an age group I could explore darker colours, and also appeal to older age groups as well.
I used my pinterest board as a mood board and a starting point.


(Above) early sketchbook work.

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Untitled_Artwork 1(1)

The last one of the three I think conveys the message the best as show movement.
I wasn’t happy, so I went with a forth thumbnail as i felt the mountain to climb is symbolic to many types of journeys and had more shapes for visual interest.

OCA working for children test

I created the first in procreate, moved onto photoshop for final edits and added some hand lettering, I had planned the font to be added in the second and it didn’t seem right. So moved down to try on the wave, I liked elements of this but wasn’t sure.
I shared with others and they had some ideas, in the cloud or mountain, I originally thought a darker element in the background but these was all on the small side.
A student was sharing with me the work of Will Eisner and how he add his fonts into the landscape, I found his work interesting and bookmarked for a later date within the course so have chance to fully explore.
I thought maybe redoing the illustrations, but felt this piece needed to be pushed first. and

OCA - Working with kids 4

I was on the right track, I posted this to my fellow students as soon as I did I knew the “tree” needed to be removed. It wasn’t adding to the design… In fact was taking away from the illustration.
I lost a lot of my negaitive space in the resize to work better with the font that I’ve made it a little busy… So removed that and ended up with a piece I was finally happy with.

I did a lot of new things (Procreate + photoshop mix) a style that I’m not quite there with skillset yet and really had to consider font placement to work with an image.

OCA - Working with kids 5
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(3-5) – I picked this age group because I have a great love for these kind of books.
Animal – Bear, I know this is a bit standard, but was a reason for this choice and that is my son, he is a bear collector and it suits the purpose of this task for what I’m about to do.
Method, Gouache, liquid watercolour and acrylic
I have reasoning for so many images is the fact I wanted to see and explore physically the appeal of each of these, I plan to add textures digitally as well. This age group is illustration heavy, therefore it makes sense to get a better feel for methods that I create my illustrations. (plus see what would work in other target markets as well)
As you can see my painting skills are starting to fine tune!

Scanned version


(above) early sketchbook work and thumbnails.

OCA - working for children illustrations

All above are on A4 paper.
Top – Left to Right: Liquid watercolour, gouache, Ink lines
Bottom left to right: Acrylic, gouache and inked lines

I liked using all these mediums, however I admit I’m feeling the pull toward gouache as a medium.

OCA - Working fo children pre school set

(Above) 1st digitally cleaned up, 2nd with textures and third a sample font.
Textures added – (made myself) from jeans, my daughters wellies and picture of leaves.
Not sure if should add more ?


(Above) sketchbook page inspired by both illustrations. While not an intended age group as I was actually just trying to work of my Acrylic skills, I feel this actually really showcases the word “journey” however the “lead” in this piece is the tiny pink bunny!.

Next thing I wanted to think about was text into relation with this illustrations so could think of what would suit in terms of style.
I think my own “text” is more hand lettering route as feels more illustrated so it’s a huge area for my own self development. I have recently have gotten PROCREATE on a ipad, this was intended for everyday digital sketchbook, however I’ve found I can start easier with my hand written fonts digitally. (likely would enhance after with photoshop/illustrator ) so this is a huge area to experiment and explore.


(above) just a sketch in my sketchbook of the “characters”. Water colour markers and fine liner.

Are the age buckets for children really as clear cut as we’ve made them here?
No, in fact after pre-school age I found the ages of appeal lines are very blurred, if you ask me now at 37 what my favorite illustration is and that is “Harry Potter” the originals without second thought, I started reading when I was around 14 (late teens) and I loved them so much, so my thoughts illustrations can be ageless!
Some things make more sense for an age group, such as touch texture books for babies etc. BUT rules are meant to be broken.
How did the function of image and text differ with age grouping?
The best way to summarise this, is not not by illustration style but by mental mutiricy, can the age grouping understand what you are illustrating ?
Such as with journey, younger would see that as a physical thing such as going on a trip, but later the meaning becomes deeper and could mean personal growth.
All children’s illustration has bright colours?
Actually the first books for babies are best seen in black and white!
I cannot deny I wanted simple bright colours for my pre-reader group, reasons being I wanted to be eye catching, happy and fun. The mood was the most important factor of the colours for me. I do not think you are limited to bright colours, if anything you need to be clever with colours and make them work for the “message”.
An example of this is below from “The Pirate Cruncher” by Jonny Duddle.

I think in this exercise I’ve really started to PUSH myself more, started to think more, about a wider range of design elements with a target audience in mind.
I’ve also used this exercise as a chance to explore mediums and technique in both traditional and digital methods. Not only that, when something isn’t working I’m “fixing” than giving up. I’ve discovered sometimes its a little something that means an image isn’t working.
I’m proud of myself, not due to the finished result but what growth I can see happening. I still know I have much to learn, many bad illustrations to create… I know I can do this!

Points I feel I need to work on include improving skills within procreate.
Move fluid movement withing gouache illustrations (Finding my work a little flat and stiff after painting)
Working with a darker colour palette / shadows / textures and shapes.
Look at more illustrations (away from children books) maybe next time look at children magazines (such as Aquila or breathe teen) as target age groups.

Credits, research and resources

2 thoughts on “Working For Children

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