Using References for Illustration







When I first became interested in illustration, I had the pleasure of meeting children’s book artist Holly Hannon (THE LITTLEST PAIR, THE LITTLEST FROG, JACK RABBIT AND THE BEAN STALK). I was working on a couple of projects at the time, and I met with Holly for help on improving them. It was then I learned that illustrators don’t have to come up with pictures from their "mind's eye”. Instead, they often use a photo or live reference on which to base their drawings.

This past fall, I had the pleasure of attending a conference for children’s writers and illustrators. Some of the meetings were taught by two wonderful children’s book artists, Karen Lee and Consie Powell. When an attendee asked about using references, Karen and Consie also concurred -- a reference file of pictures is a very valuable tool.

For example, in drawing of the squirrel and the wheelbarrow above, I used several different references. I drew the squirrel from an actual photo of a squirrel. To get his arms and feet in the right position as well as the correct perspective of the wheelbarrow, I had my daughter push a wheelbarrow while I took her picture. For the acorns, I found a few acorns outside, then placed them on the table at different angles to get the various views of the acorns in the wheelbarrow. Put together, it made a nice illustration, all from real-life references.



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