Always something to learn

Childrens book illustration trends are cyclical. Every four or five years methods from the past resurface. But digital work is on the increase. Each year the are better skilled illustrators producing wonderful work without using paint and paper. Some of us ‘old-schoolers’ find it hard to keep up.

We are used to taking our time and our illustration rituals rely heavily on the feel, the smell and the sound of mark making on paper and the length of time takes for paint to dry. We have learned to use this time to apply laser focus on our task.

Seeing as its the person who makes the art, rather than the tools, its not fair to argue one way is better than the other. In fact the argument worth having is about why we don’t try the other method. There is always something to learn.

I’ve been exploring a digital way of working for probably the last ten years and have found a way that suits and that is presentable. It doesn’t take any less time or effort but the look of the work is finally something that can be shared. I’ve been doing that with the mini portraits of women astronauts, and have used digital paint to make pictures for Stars With Flaming Tales, a poetry collection by Valerie Bloom and an entry to the John Blanke project. Later this year my first picture book with digital art will arrive and that’s really exciting!

It would be great to use this new skill to open avenues of work in different, new territories. The best part is painting on paper with paint has also become more enjoyable as a result. I still sketch/think on paper, preferring to make and keep a physical record of ideas.

Digital illustrations from Ken Wilson-Max

It seems as though all the creative bases are covered, routines remain the same, pretty much, and output of work is as prolific ever. All it took was a small risk, a bucket load of patience and many internal conversations.

How do you learn?

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