Character sketch for a new book I am illustrating

Dayne Sislen character studyThis is an early character sketch for one of the children’s picture books I am illustrating. I am working on two new children’s books right now. Working on two at the same time helps me fill the time gaps in between approvals. When an illustrator works directly for self-publishing authors like I do, it sometimes takes awhile for the authors to approve roughs and the character sketches I send for approval. I like to keep busy, so two books works perfectly.

It is important to keep all correspondence separate, and remember which character and directions go with each book. It also helps if one story is about animals, the other about real children.

Most authors I work with, like me to keep their books a secret while I am working on them so it’s hard to share my progress as I go.

I usually start with rough character sketches. When they are approved by the author I do rough color work-ups like this one of the main characters and major props. Then I do a complete rough dummy of the whole book so I know exactly how many illustrations I will be doing and if they will be one page Illustrations, vignettes or spreads. After this rough break down and a dummy is made, I move into rough sketches of each illustration for each page and plan where the text will be. When these are approved, I make tight pencil drawings for final approval before starting the finished color illustrations. When I work on the finished color illustrations, I first make a tonal rough, then play around with color balance. Finally on to the finished illustration. I work in traditional watercolor, gouache, digital pastel and digital oil. The character study above was done in digital pastel (my current favorite).

There are a lot of steps to the process of illustrating a children’s picture book. Many non-illustrators think illustrators just crank out these drawings in one sitting without any planning. More time is spent on planning, sketching and layout than anything else.

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