Writer Links: Children’s Book Art Direction, Design, and Illustration

Illustrator Carolyn Flores's studio
Illustrator Carolyn Flores’s studio


Book Design by Alvina Ling from Blue Rose Girls. PEEK: “Personally, I trust our designers and their vision, and love working with them on cover designs. In some cases, I have an idea of what I want the cover to look like, but oftentimes I’ll wait and see what the designer comes up with first so as not to taint their creativity.”

How to Be a Children’s Book Illustrator: online course (with accompanying blog) from author-illustrator Mark G. Mitchell. PEEK: “Comprehensive, illustrated lessons come in PDF sessions that you can download and save. Monthly online group calls with teacher Mark G. Mitchell provide a valuable (but still fun) interactive component. Students also have 24-hour access to the Children’s Book Illustration Wiggio group site where they can chat with each other and Mark, check messages, review portfolios and share files and links.”

Illustrator Paul O. Zelinsky in his studio

Interview: Illustrator Paul O. Zelinsky on the Business Side of Children’s Book Illustration by Elisabeth Norton from Cynsations. PEEK: “My first criterion (and I’m sorry if this seems pompous) is whether the story makes me think that our overcrowded world, with no shortage of books in it already, would be notably worse off without this new addition. (Which is sort of like saying how much do I like it, but not quite).”

Literary Agents for Illustrators: “Author/illustrator is a creator who specializes in both writing and illustrating. Some agents are only interested in manuscripts for visual works (picture books, graphic novels) from authors who also illustrate. I’ve tried to indicate agents who are interested specifically in author/illustrators.”

Picture Book Manuscripts and Illustrations by Harold Underdown from The Purple Crayon. Q&A article covering commonly asked questions about picture book submissions. Topics include: connecting with an illustrator, illustration notes, visual references, package submissions, and authors who themselves are also professional illustrators.

What Agents, Editors and Art Directors Look for Online from Debbie Ridpath Ohi. PEEK: “77% of respondents said that when they are considering taking on a new client, author and illustrator, they always research them online.”

Awards and Grants

Awards and Grants for Illustrators from SCBWI. CYN NOTE: includes Art SpotPortfolio AwardsStudent Illustrator ScholarshipNarrative Art AwardDon Freeman Work-in-Progress GrantFeatured IllustratorDraw This! and Bologna Illustrator Gallery (BIG)

Art Director Interviews

Interview: Art Director Lucy Ruth Cummins of Simon & Schuster by Jaime from CocoaStomp. PEEK: “Often if I’m totally ‘in the zone’ working on a book, I’ll have a hard time checking out the moment the whistle blows. Really flowing with a project is such a wonderful feeling, and squandering that flow is something I try never to do.”

Art director Laurent Linn and illustrator Debbie Ridpath Ohi

Interview: Art Director Laurent Linn of Simon & Schuster by Lee Wind from I’m Here. I’m Queer. What the Hell Do I Read? PEEK: “It’s truly the artist’s overall style, really. The medium, the color palettes, composition, character and scene design…. All these elements, put together with the artist’s personal vision and talents, add up to one’s unique ‘voice’ or ‘style.'” SEE ALSO Interview: Art Director Laurent Linn of Simon & Schuster by Gabriela Nicole Gonzalez from Cynsations.

Interview: Art Director Martha Rago of HarperCollins by Anita Loughrey from Cynsations. PEEK: “The art director should have a positive and effective relationship with the artist, gaging when and how much information will be absorbed and useful.” SEE ALSO Interview: Art Director Martha Rago of HarperCollins by Rachelle Meyer from Cynsations.

Interview: Art Director David Saylor of Scholastic by Anita Loughrey from Cynsations. PEEK: “Portfolios that are uneven are distressing, meaning that there’s a mix of good work but too much that’s not up to par. I’m not a fan of gimmicky portfolios either: let the work speak for itself.”

Interview: Art Director Cecilia Yung of Penguin by Anita Loughrey from Cynsations. PEEK: “I look at technical issues like anatomy and perspective. I look at legibility of an image to make sure that it is understandable and conveys the content and intent of the story. I look at expressions, body language, and the palette to make sure they express the emotion of the story. I look at how one scene relates to another to create a narrative.”

Interview: Associate Art Directors Tracy Shaw and Alison Impey of Little, Brown by Alvina Ling from Blue Rose Girls. PEEK from Tracy: “…the weirdest places I’ve found inspiration would have to be either a chewing gum ad or a perfume sample label.”

Book Designer Interview

Interview: Book Designer Irene Vandervoort from Christine Kole MacLean. PEEK: “I read all of the books whether I like them or not. And I have to design some of them whether I like them or not. I think you can always learn something. Book design is a journey that gets tweaked along the way.”


10 Things I Hate About Your Web Portfolio from Editorial Anonymous. PEEK: “If you can do people, show me that. If you can’t—if your proportions are always a bit off and you can’t get a 3/4 profile right and you can’t figure out why your children just look like short adults, then for the love of mike, don’t do people.”

Linear Perspective in Illustration by Mark G. Mitchell from Cynsations. PEEK: “You’re setting your point of view, where you imagine yourself as you surmise the view you’re creating on paper, where you fancy your own eyes to be while you’re standing, sitting or lying, watching your story scene. This becomes the point of view for everyone who looks at your picture.”