Childrens Illustration – a Students Story

Maxine Lee has very kindly written a few paragraphs for us and sent us a piece of work for us to post on the college news blog. We have actually use Maxine piece in this years student of the year poster, hopefully Maxine will submit one of her pieces for the competition. We wish her the best of luck with her future work.

“I’ve always been interested in arts and crafts but didn’t really pursue it until I had my first son in 1999 – at that point I was dead set on multimedia and web design and did an HND in Multimedia Arts. By the end of that course I was more interested in the arts side and went on to do a BA in Digital Arts which included lots of animation and film work. As soon as Id completed my degree I went on to teach Graphics and Multimedia whilst working freelance as a designer, web designer and digital illustrator for editorial. Basically I was stretching myself too thin and with the arrival of my second son in 2007 I took a step back and realised I needed more focus.

After a long maternity break I went back to work part time but this time as an Art Technician as the lecturing Id been doing beforehand took up lots of my spare time with paperwork etc.. I also decided to concentrate on the one area that I truly love which is illustrating for children. My work up to this point had been almost completely digital as I have had no traditional art training past A Level where I had studied sculpture/fine art. Its been a steep learning curve but I’ve found acrylics suit my way of working best – thick, bright colours and simple characters. I still get frustrated at times but if I could give any advice it would be to plan your colour scheme before sitting down to paint, unless you have a white background, never paint onto a completely white piece of paper, make sure you know every inch of what you are about to paint and relax…I always listen to my favourite music whilst Im working.”

Singer of Starlight – a students story & a guide to the painting

Sarah Bowie has been extremely successful in the time she has been completing the Children’s Illustration Diploma course. Sarah’s work is featured in our student gallery and one of her final pieces for the course is depicted below along with a guide of how Sarah created this unique piece of artwork. Sarah has very kindly written a piece for us below and we are thrilled that she has already completed a set of illustrations for a book. We wish Sarah all the best in her future career.



Like so many people I had no idea what I wanted to do when I left school at 17.  Rather, perhaps I knew deep down what I wanted to do, but was overwhelmed with what I should be doing.  Even though I had spent my childhood drawing and writing stories, I ended up studying marketing, which is a subject I had absolutely no affinity with whatsoever.  Of course, the moment I graduated and began working in financial services I realised what a terrible mistake I had made.  It was a slow, long journey – attending life-drawing classes in the evening after a very stressful day in a busy bank.  I thought about going back to art college full-time, but not only was it very expensive, I just didn’t feel it was right for me.  After several years of experimenting with various painting and drawing techniques I realised what I wanted to do was children’s book illustration and ultimately writing too.  I knew that this is what I had been searching for all those years.  However I found it incredibly difficult to remain focused and put a portfolio together.  I’d get disheartened and give up on pieces before they were finished.  That’s where London Art College comes in.  I was idly surfing the web one day when I stumbled across this distance-learning course in children’s book illustration.  I signed up straight away!  The course was well structured and gave sample briefs similar to what one might get in real life.  Jan, the tutor, was always friendly and encouraging and really helped me to build confidence in my own ability.  At the completion of each brief I felt a great sense of achievement, and had something tangible to put in my portfolio.  Just before I finished the course I got a commission to illustrate a picture book for a small publishing company.  I’m busy working on that now, and I really feel that Jan and the London Art College were instrumental in helping me to focus and build confidence in my work.

Info Regarding ‘Singer of Starlight’

I really wanted to get a ‘worn’ feel to this picture, like an old print.  While I love working digitally, I love the textures you get from prints, paint and pencils that I just don’t think you can fully emulate digitally.  There was no plan as I approached this piece, just a lot of playing about.  Here’s what I did:

  • A pencil drawing (ie girl and granny) done the ‘old-fashioned’ way on paper and scanned into photoshop
  • A sheet of sepia watercolour on thick, spongy paper which I tore into with a compass needle and scalpel (to add texture)
  • A monoprint (simply black printing ink on an acetate that happened to have holes punched in it)
  • I scanned these in in layers beneath the line drawing, and played around with  rubbing out here and there so that some areas show more sepia and some more black ink.
  • I then over-painted with various photoshop brushes to fill in the characters and add in more black where needed.

Really this was just a lot of experimentation.  It’s handy knowing how to use photoshop and then being able to combine it with more traditional techniques.

Students Story – Childrens Illustration

Debi has just completed the Children’s illustration Diploma course and we are proud to showcase her work along with her story on this blog. I hope that you find it inspiring.



“…..After being diagnosed with restrictive health problems in 2005 i needed to find a focus in my life.
I was watching the wonderful Charles Evans programme one day and he really inspired me to pick up my paints again and have a go, I have no formal art training as such and reneged on a place at Art College in the 70’s in favour of getting a job….i needed to fund getting to my Punk rock gigs somehow!

I have worked as a Detail Painter in the past, painting fine china and plaques, after re-discovering the joy of painting again i decided that that was all the therapy i needed, i have always loved Illustration and would sit for hours from a young age trying to emulate the beautiful, highly detailed illustrations in my Faery story books. I wondered if there might be a Home Study course somewhere on this subject, fired up the computer and found this almost straight away!

I enrolled as soon as i could and with the gentle, encouraging and wonderfully humerous tuition of Jan I could feel my confidence returning, I am nearly at the end of the course now and it has taken me a little longer than some due to my health problems ( and the soiree’s into the Pet Portrait world! thanks Melanie and the members of Pet Portrait forum for their wonderful help when i needed to earn some money to fund art materials! )

My goal at the moment is to finish the course and strive to do the best work I can ( and get the trim marks and bleed right for once!!! not my strongest point! ) then embark on the follow up course and see where I end up, but for the moment im enjoying the journey immensely!…”
Debi aka Moonstone