What Does A Children’s Book Illustrator Do?

"I have always been interested in drawing and making sketches. I happened to be doing some sketches of kids playing football in the park when a woman came up to me and asked if I had thought about becoming a children’s book illustrator. I said no not because I have already decided that I did not want to become one but because I didn’t even realize that such a profession existed. Can you please give me more information about this? What does a children’s book illustrator do?"

asked by Leo P. from Orlando, Florida

A children’s book illustrator comes up with the drawings needed to illustrate the story found in children’s books. By using his artistic knowledge and skill, he dramatizes the story and makes it more colorful and interesting. It is through his drawings that the story comes alive. They create the illustrations for both fiction and non-fiction books using various styles.

Although computers have become widely-used by many illustrators to get their work done, some still prefer to use traditional methods like painting to create the drawings. These are then digitally scanned before they are finally published.

A children’s book illustrator can either work for publishing companies or they may do their work on a freelance basis. If it is the latter, they typically find their clients themselves by connecting with people they know in the industry or marketing their work through websites and other means. However they choose to practice their profession, children’s book illustrators work with publishers every step of the way, from planning to execution.

In a conventional arrangement, the publisher provides the completed story to the illustrator and lets him read it so he can come up with what he believes is the most appropriate way to illustrate the storyline. It is then the publishers job to make a storyboard layout so that each page will have an accompanying illustration. The children’s book illustrator also does this to ensure that there is visual continuity in each page.

They then creates the preliminary work and gets the publisher’s approval before proceeding with doing the final work. In this kind of setup, the illustrator and the author of the book rarely ever get the chance to meet. In newer arrangements, such as in the world of self-publishing, an author may seek out and work directly with the children’s book illustrator.

Artistic ability and style matters greatly in this profession as publishers seek out illustrators who they feel would be the one who will be able to deliver the story visually. Thus, aspiring illustrators are encouraged to master a particular illustration style and showcase this in their portfolios so they can show prospective clients samples of their work.

Children’s book illustrators should also have patience. Illustrating a children’s book can take a very long time, with drawings getting returned for revisions from the client. The job can also be stressful especially when deadlines are looming. The illustrator should be able to take all these in stride and still deliver the work asked for by clients.

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