Today, I’m pleased to welcome illustrator, Marjorie Gardner to Kids’ Book Capers. Marjorie is the illustrator of many popular children’s books. Her most recent release is Grandpa’s Place, written by James Stead and published by Windy Hollow Books.

Marjorie, have you always enjoyed illustrating?

Yes, ever since a small child. I’ve always loved bright colours and vivid patterns, same as now!

How did you become an illustrator?

I studied at RMIT for three years, completing an Associateship Diploma of Graphic Design.

Where does your inspiration come from?

Everything around me, exhibitions I go to, travel to other countries, movies, television, books…but probably most realistically the manuscript in front of me!


What inspired you most about illustrating Grandpa’s Place?

The words. I immediately conjured up what the characters looked like, and the detail of their daily lives.

Who is your favourite character and why?

Probably the grandfather. I saw him as vulnerable, but independent and interested in life, with set routines and habits, who loved his grandson and valued spending time with him.

How did you decide what the main character would look like?

I just played around with various “looks” until he appeared on the page.

Can you tell us about the illustrating process for this book?

I spent ages doing rough drawings on tracing paper; a lot of them were quite detailed. This was a follow up to “Grandma’s Place” so I was very aware of making it look similar, but different. “Grandpa’s Place” had a lot more other characters in it, and more variety in the outdoor settings.

Once I completed the roughs I showed them to my editor, Cristina Pase of Windy Hollow Books, who onsent them to the author, James Stead for his feedback.

There were a few minor tweaks to be made and then I was given the nod to do the finished art.

What was your favourite part of the illustration process?

The colouring in.

What was the hardest part of the illustration process?

Getting the roughs right. Sometimes it takes forever; sometimes it just works like magic. With “Grandpa’s Place” I had to resist the urge to make his home look too feminine and ordered.

Did you get to collaborate with the author or did you work fairly independently?

The author, James Stead, only saw the roughs when I had finished them. I knew he’d liked what I had done on “Grandma’s Place” so was hopeful he’d like the sequel too.

Can you tell us about the medium you used to illustrate this book?

Once I’ve traced (using a lightbox) the roughs onto Schoellershammer paper with a black Rotring pen, I colour in all the drawings in felt tipped pens. Then I colour them all again with colour pencils. This gives the illustrations a richness and depth, and always seems to reproduce well. I occasionally add very fine details with paint. Final stage is to go over the black lines with a 000 brush and black ink. Done!

No, I don’t work digitally.

How long did it take to illustrate?

Three months

How many books have you illustrated?

About 250. I’ve done many, many educational readers over the years, which cranks up the numbers!

What number is this one?

Not sure, but I’m on the lookout for the next one!

Any tips for people who would like to become children’s book illustrators?

Don’t give up your day job until you have enough clients to sustain you. When I first started I had a part-time job for a number of years till I had enough clients to keep me going.

Look at other peoples’ work, attend galleries and conferences, network as much as you can. Don’t work for nothing; put a high value on yourself.  Always keep to your deadlines. Try to always negotiate royalties, not a flat fee.

Endeavour to meet editors face to face; don’t just rely on email and couriers. And don’t just rely on one publisher/client; if they go under or your favourite editor leaves, you could be in trouble!

Thanks for visiting Kids’ Book Capers, Marjorie and generously sharing your tips. More about Marjorie and her work can be found on her website.