The importance of finding a good children’s book illustrator

I’ve been following James Mayhew’s twitter feed #BookIllustrationOfTheDay and it’s been an amazing celebration of illustrators and books.

If you are an author of a children’s book it’s really important to be able to work closely with your illustrator and have the same ‘vision’ for the pictures in your book.  I have been lucky enough to work with a wonderful illustrator, Cherie Jerrard, who has an MA in Illustration from Manchester School of Art.  She’s a fantastic artist and working with her has been one of the joys in creating my books.  When we started on the first book ‘Zig Zag and the Giant Adventure’ we spent a long time looking at other illustrated books and thinking about the ‘style’ we wanted in our books.  In the end we decided on a kind of E.H. Shepherd, Winnie the Pooh style.  We wanted pen and ink line drawings which were not ‘exact’ or ‘precise’ and were a combination of full colour and black and white illustrations.

The characters in the book are strongly defined by her illustrations and it took time to get these right.  For example, ‘Zig Zag the Stripy Spotosaurus’ is the main character in the book and he morphed from a T-Rex  to more of a Diplodocus image.  Once the characters were in place Cherie worked on each illustration for the book, revising and revisiting them so that they would be appealing to younger children.  She includes the right amount of detail to engage their interest and make them want to look back at the book again and again.

During the illustration process I frequently meet up with Cherie in a local coffee shop and go through her latest pictures and revisions of previous ones.  She draws sketch after sketch until she is happy that she has exactly the right image to illustrate the correct part of the story.  I’m not in the least bit artistic, yet somehow she manages to produce the most perfect illustrations for the words I’ve written and I love the quirky, playful elements she introduces.   When I’ve taken copies of ‘Zig Zag and the Giant Adventure’ around to bookshops, libraries or book fairs, it’s the illustrations that sell the book.  What people like is the fact that they are ‘real’ illustrations not purely computer generated images.

We’ve been working on the next book, ‘Zig Zag and the Magic Wood,’ which we hope to publish Autumn 2018.  We are going to launch a Kickstarter project to finance the printing costs and some of our rewards are going to be prints of illustrations from the book and also originals.  Keep an eye out for that by following us on twitter @zigzagandemily or facebook @zigzagthestripyspotosaurus.

Have a look on our website for some of the illustrations from ‘Zig Zag and the Giant Adventure’.  They truly are works of art.