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Three Tips For Those Interested In Illustrating Children’s Picture Books

I took this photo during the SCBWI Portfolio Showcase

From time to time, I answer a question on Quora about children’s book illustration. I do this partly because I like to pay it forward but also because I find it a good writing exercise, summarizing my thoughts and process this way.

Q: “How do you become an illustrator or artist for children’s books?

My answer on Quora (tweaked a bit):

As the others who have answered this question so far have pointed out, there is no one right route to becoming a children’s book illustrator.

My own journey, briefly summarized: I have no formal art training (my first job was a computer programmer/analyst, my degree is a B.Sc. in computer science) BUT I have immersed myself in the world of children’s books since early on because I have always wanted to write middle grade novels. After years of rejections (despite having an excellent agent), I realized I needed to get out and network with others in the kidlit community. I started attending SCBWI conferences. A friend convinced me to enter the Portfolio Showcase at their NYC annual conference – I resisted since I had no portfolio, but she helped me put my first together. I ended up winning two awards and being offered a book contract by Simon & Schuster (publisher/editor was one of the judges). My career took off since then. I have since worked with not just S&S but also Random House, HarperCollins and other publishers.

Though I have no formal art training, I have always loved to draw. My main style is simple (some would describe it as “cartoon-y”), not realistic, but I do have multiple illustration styles and am now trying to branch out.

If I was going to give my younger self some basic advice about how to break into children’s book illustration, it would be this:

One more bonus piece of advice: DON’T assume that it’s easy to write or illustrate picture books (that people will want to read).

You can find out more info in my FAQ and my Creating Picture Books resource.