First Flight

15th July 2005

Illustrating Children's BooksIllustrating Children's Books by Martin Salisbury is proving to be exactly the right book for me to turn to just now, while I'm designing my garden sketchbook. Salisbury balances the practical side of designing covers and double-page spreads and producing roughs and dummies with the more creative, inspirational side of the business; creating compelling storylines and believable characters.

studies sparrowOne suggestion he makes is to produce a sheet of drawings which show a character in different poses, reacting to situations and other characters; for example receiving bad news or good news.

Characters? When I try to think of a 'character' I can only come up with a cliche. For example, if I choose any male character it's pretty obvious that I would do that, being a man, but if I choose a female character to balance the equation, that's tokenism.

As we're eating out on the patio I take a look around me and decide that a young sparrow would be as good a character as any for the purposes of the exercise.

I start in pencil and go over that in pen and watercolour (above, right). I'm trying to get that mixture of boldness and caution that a sparrow has.


Perhaps if I put the young sparrow in a dramatic situation, such as attempting its first flight by diving off the roof of the shed.

Or show it tugging at vegetation.

pensive bath time
I like this villainous expression; now he really could be a character in a book. But this pensive look would be more suitable for the fledgling I have in mind. Bath time.

bathdown and outMy mind goes blank when it comes to stories so Salisbury's suggestion of letting ideas emerge from drawing the character is definitely the way for me. And I agree with his suggestion of basing a story on familiar surroundings, given a suitable twist of course.

There's probably quite enough drama in a fledgling sparrow's journey from egg to adulthood to fill out a picture book story. Next Page

Richard Bell,