Illustrating Books – How to Start?

A few years ago, I illustrated a book of children’s poems. Written by Uve Friederich, M.D. as a legacy to the wonderments of childhood, he titled it “The World of Bridgett and Emily: Poems for All Grandchildren.”

My source of inspiration was the author’s granddaughter, Bridgett.  Her sparkly, dark eyes and hair – both almost jet black – and facial expressions were the starting point for the paintings. Then, I used the images Uve’s words conveyed. Most described Mother Nature along the rocky New England coastline that surrounded his family and him – the sights and smells of the seaside, its tides, shells, ladybugs and snails.

Here’s one of many source photos I took of Bridgett, and then some of the published paintings:

Bridgett – Grandchild as a muse
(photo: Meg Fitzpatrick)

Illustration for poem, “Bumble Bee Queen”
Gouache and Indian ink on Arches paper | 10” x 14” | Artist: Meg Fitzpatrick

Illustration for poem, “Lady Bug”
Gouache, Acrylic paint and Indian ink on Arches paper | 14” x 13” | Artist: Meg Fitzpatrick

Poem “Rest by The Brook” | Acrylic, Watercolor and Indian ink | 10-1/2” x 14” | Artist: Meg Fitzpatrick

Now, I’ve been commissioned to illustrate another book of poems. Once again I ‘m deciding on the best way to translate the author’s words into images.

So, I decided to spend this Saturday at the Dallas Museum of Art (DMA) to get inspired. The museum held BooksmART, a daylong festival for kids, families and adults to hear authors and illustrators talk about their books and how they create them.

Featured guest and winner of the 2012 Caldecott Medal for A Ball for Daisy, Chris Raschka invited kids to join him on the stage and act out his stories as he read this book.

Chris Raschka welcomes a young admirer to the stage after he drew images of his two cats, Alma and Alaska Wolf Joe which are behind him.
(photo: Meg Fitzpatrick)

Known for his role on the TV series, Private Practice, Taye Diggs teamed with illustrator Shane W. Evans, recent winner of the 2012 Coretta Scott King Book Award, to create the popular book, Chocolate Me!. Shane (see below) gave a drawing demo, and then instructed the children who packed his workshop to draw stars and dreams of their imagined future.

Shane Evans, co-author of Chocolate Me!, serenades the kids and families as they draw.
(photo: Meg Fitzpatrick)

For the next two weeks I’ll be finishing the paintings – six in all – for the book, A Crop of Riddles. Fifty poems, in total, explore an 85-year old gentleman’s musings about a world and life full of so many questions and so few answers.  His sharp intelligence, mature age and European background have nudged me towards sketching and layering images with a mid-century modern aesthetic in both color and design.

One poet, Uve Friederich, M.D., inspired me to create a world of childlike delights. Another poet this time has led me to series of compositions with a very different style. Next blog post will be examples from this particular journey.

Until next time in two weeks, Sunday, June 23rd.

PS:   I did see Moonrise Kingdom and recommend another beautifully filmed, soundtracked and edited Wes Anderson film. He stays true to his quirky exploration of outsiders looking in.

10 thoughts on “Illustrating Books – How to Start?

  1. I especially love the eyes, of the characters in your first book of illustrations, and also in the photos of the kids and authors at the DMA, looking at each other, or just out at the world,

    • Wendi –

      The BooksmART events at the DMA this weekend were great. The gathering got my juices flowing for my next set of commissioned illustrations.

      Also, I was impressed with the free eye exam and glasses for kids ages 5 -16 donated by glass manufacturer Essilor and their Vision Foundation to further the cause of literacy.


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