Tuesday, April 7, 2009


One of the things I took away from the Florida SCBWI Conference was that if you are trying to stand out and show your skills as an illustrator, you can not leave things to chance or hope that an AD can look at your work and imagine how it would fit in with their manuscript. You need to show them!

For instance, if you want to illustrate a children’s book, don’t expect to be noticed by having amazing portfolio pieces that would be perfect in a children’s book, but don’t show your understanding of the publishing world. But, how do you show understanding if you have never been published, you might ask? Well, create your own book. Illustrate and entire book for your portfolio, and have it bound (dummy). It doesn’t have to be an original story; it could be a public domain story that you take to show your strengths as and illustrator. There are many reasons for doing this, but mostly it shows an AD that you can take a character and portray him consistently throughout a story. It also shows that you understand the ins and outs of book publishing such as layout, bleeds, gutter space, word placement, flow, continuity, assembly, story-telling etc.

Hearing this at the conference really made a lot of sense to me. Many years ago I had the opportunity to interview many print graphic designers that were trying to make the transition to web design, and unless they had specific web samples in their portfolio, I could not be sure that they really understood the web world, even if their work was top notch. Designers that had web design samples always had an advantage.
Needless to say, I am now creating my own book dummy to include in my portfolio. I must say that creating one illustration Vs. illustrating an entire book is completely different, and if you are an aspiring children’s book illustrator I highly recommend it.

I am illustrating the Three Billy Goats Gruff. I started out with the character studies of the goats and the troll, shown on previous posts. I need to work on a color version of the characters and change the troll to have one eye. Since the story calls for a one eyed troll (I’m learning that it’s important to be true and honest to the story).

I would like to make more progress but at the moment all I have is a few hours a week for this, so it may be a while before you come to see something other than goats and trolls on this blog.

Below are the thumbnails for the layout. These are based on a 32 page picture book with 4 pages of front matter. The sketches are very loose and a little bigger than a stamp to focus primarily on flow, overall composition and layout. I first started with the text and broke it up into sections/pages to then illustrate that part of the story. There are a few pages that I’m not quite sure about…still making decisions…

ANY comments and criticism are welcomed!


Tom Barrett said...

Wow! Great start, Edrian. Love the different perspectives.

And I wouldn't worry about making the troll a cyclops. I have seen versions where the troll has two eyes. I think you are allowed a bit of interpretation, unless, of course, the version you are using specifically says he has one eye.

Good luck!

Diana Evans said...

oh what a great read Edrian and your book dummy will be wonderful!!!


princesstomato said...

i always get so giddy when i see "the 32 page" workout!
you have lots of great things going on in this! :) thanks for sharing.

Roberta said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Roberta said...

So true Edrian! It's going to be fantastic!!

Bella Sinclair said...

Hey, who ya callin' a dummy? ;)

Edrian, this looks so awesome! Some are single pages, some are spreads, but they all have so much expression. You are incredibly generous to be sharing your experience and journey. I'm so excited to see the progress on this.

An eyepatch could work, too......

Heather said...


I agree that you've got some great expressiveness going on here. One thing that I did notice is that except for the second spread everything seems to happen about the same distance, which is relatively close up. I also noticed you have a number of top left to bottom right diagonals going on. Not sure what any of that means... just some observations I made.