It may be a little tongue-in-cheek but there are some things that are hard for illustrators and authors to get their heads around. As with any working relationships, the best way to keep it going and keep everyone happy is to keep talking and be respectful!

We had a chat with Sarah (Happydesigner illustrator) recently about her way of illustrating and her approach to both the work and her clients. Here we dug a little deeper into what makes Sarah tick at work… and what can drive her up the wall!

  1. What’s the best way to approach you about drawing a clients’ characters?

There’s a lot of info on the blog about getting started with illustrating your children’s book here, but there are some things to remember aside from these. The most important thing when you start approaching an illustrator about your book is to be prepared, open minded and remember that others will interpret that character differently from you, so it’s always good to see options. But be ready to listen to my ideas, and I will listen to yours.

  1. When an author chooses their style or character design, is there anything you find can really stall the process?

When an author is not open to suggestions or not happy to listen to other opinions on characters. Whilst I appreciate it is your book, there are also times when you will need to trust me, and to listen to what I have to say. Something that I find very hard to deal with is when I get halfway through the book, having started on all the agreed images and characters, and the author then wants to change the character – again! If you look at the blog about working with me, you will be able to see the cut-off moment for finalising ideas on your book. This is a great way of being able to pace yourself and know when your decisions really are final and can’t be changed.

“[it’s great to] know when your decisions really are final and can’t be changed.”

  1. What’s the best way for an author to present you with style and character ideas; for example their own drawings, a chat over the phone or images they find online?

Eighty per cent of customers provide photo references if they would like a family member referenced, or a pet they’d like me to use for inspiration.
One thing I do suggest is writing me a character profile. We recently wrote a blog all about creating character, which you can read here. We also have a blog about how to bring your character to life and give it depth, which you can read here. These two blogs are really useful starting points when it comes to creating your character and then writing a character profile.

The profile can either be a paragraph or bullet points, explaining who the character is, how they look, what they like etc. Our blog advises you to: “try to really get a feel for who you are writing about. Why are you telling this story about them?”
Being prepared is important, knowing what you want me to do is crucial. Likewise if people tell me, “just draw what you think,” and then I spend hours sketching it all and then they say that’s not how they had envisaged it, that can be incredibly annoying! If you give me free rein then I need to know if there are limits; very rarely do people have no idea as to what their characters should look like, even on a very basic level.

  1. Is there anything you would say is a definite “no no” when it comes to telling you about drawing characters?

Please, please remember that I’m a professional and I don’t appreciate being told how to suck eggs. There’s nothing worse than telling me your husband or six-year-old granddaughter drew it more like you wanted or that I’m not feeling the project! That’s so disrespectful and doesn’t get us anywhere. The best thing is to offer me constructive feedback. So, if your granddaughter drew a picture and you think it’s more what you’re after, perhaps say to me, “Yes this is great, but I have an image that captures what I’m after for this character, do you mind if I send it to you, or explain it to you?” Then you are merely giving me another inspiration point, rather than being, on a basic level, a bit rude. Illustrators have feelings too!

childrens picture book illustration
  1. And are there any definite YES PLEASE! moments when people approach you to draw their books and characters?

Most of the time people are completely open for me to do what I think is best. And most are an immediate sign off! Which is really positive. So, just have a clear idea of what you’re after, and if you are really stuck just ask me for help! I’ve done this job a long time and I’ve illustrated a lot of children’s books, so I am happy to talk through ideas with you and support you in creating this book. I want this to be the best book for you as well!

Keep your eye out for more blogs coming soon, covering lots more aspects of writing your story! Got a request for a topic? Drop us a message on FacebookTwitter or Instagram or email us, hello@happydesigner.co.uk. Happy writing!