Here are the types of questions and concepts to consider and discuss with a potential illustrator.
- Which children’s illustrators do you like? — There’s a vast difference between Dr. Seuss, Chris Van Allsburg, Clement Hurd, Kay Nielsen, Arthur Rackham — the styles, like the list, are endless. Tell the artist whose style you like. They’re not going to copy anyone’s style; that’s not what artists do. But if they compare themselves to the illustrator of The Wreck of the Zephyr and you’re looking for something like I Had Trouble in Getting to Solla Sollew there’s a disconnect.
- Black and white or color? — Most artists have a preference. In my experience, getting someone who truly understands black and white art is tricky.
- Realistic or cartoonish? — Both have their place in children’s books. Know which you want, and seek someone who’s good at it.
- Detailed or abstract? — Not all children’s books have visual images of characters and scenery. Know, before you even start looking, whether you want a picture of a dog by a tree, or of fear enveloping a memory.
- Will they be working digitally, or old school, on paper or canvas? — Revisions with digital are simpler. In some cases, digital art doesn’t convey the rich detail and tone of something painted on canvas or sketched on paper. Also affects the technical aspects we’ll discuss tomorrow.
- Will they do some sample sketches for a reasonable fee? — If you ask about sample sketches, don’t assume they’ll be free. They might be. But don’t assume.
- Is their existing work a good fit? — If they’ve never done work before like what you need, be very careful about getting sample sketches. Trust your gut, because you can’t trust your eyes if they don’t have extensive samples in the style you need.
- How does their process work? — Your input, revisions, final acceptance. Ask them to describe what it will be like working with them. Don’t assume they think like you do, that the process is what you imagine. Ask.
Remember, you’re not just looking for an artist. You’re looking for someone who’s a good fit as a collaborator in bringing your book’s characters to life. This is not a simple process, but getting it right is most gratifying.
Tomorrow: technical issues to ponder when working with an illustrator.
Friday: a special post showing the path from initial idea to final illustration for my first Ginger story.