News room: 5 Tips for Using Illustrations In Your Book

5 Tips for Using Illustrations In Your Book by Jessica Barrah

As an illustrator, Simon Walpole feels that spending time bringing an author’s world to life should not be considered purely ‘work’. He considers it an honour, an investment of creativity, time and ultimately a labour of love.

Simon shares his top tips here about how authors and illustrators can best work together.

It is my belief that illustrations are not just for children’s books but for all books. My dad had a 1960s reprint of the Charles Dickens 1843 classic A Christmas Carol with illustrations by John Leech and when I was young we used to read it every Christmas. Thirty odd years later the story is not only indelibly etched in my mind, but those iconic illustrations have helped me and many others to help visualise Dickens’ incredible work of fiction.

Here are a few thoughts to consider about having illustrations in your book.

1. Simplicity

This doesn’t mean lacking detail, but that the intent of the chosen passage is clearly depicted. By this I mean each illustration doesn’t necessarily have to be a complete panorama with every blade of grass and every ripple of water featured. It could just be a character, a face, a building, a small portion of what could be a larger piece.

2. In Praise of Monochrome

Other than the obvious costs of colour printing for interior illustrations, it is not essential because monochrome, when done well has a power and depth all its own.

3. Homework

It may not always possible for the illustrator to read the whole book but they should do their homework. In the historical illustrations I have done, whilst not having read the whole book I have done quite extensive research in terms of dress, arms and armour, buildings and so on.

4. Less is more

Be selective in the passages you use, just as an illustration can enhance the story, too many can cause the story to drag. Don’t feel like every scene has to be captured perhaps only selecting key moments.

5. Flexibility

An illustrator should be flexible enough to take instruction, but an author should also have a degree of flexibility which allows them to see things through the illustrators eyes and maybe consider a different point of view.

The illustrations above are by Simon Walpole

My name is Simon Walpole, I’ve been drawing for as long as I can remember and I’m now fortunate enough to be a freelance illustrator. The weapons of my warfare are pencils, pens and watercolours. Although my illustrative passion is Ancient Warfare, fantasy, Sci-Fi and Horror I just love drawing and will have a go at anything. I have worked recently with authors CR May, SJA Turney, Gordon Doherty as well as various magazines and journals. My work can be found here.

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Written by
Jessica Barrah
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Illustration, Books, Manuscript, Writing, Illustrators, Pictures, Advice, Expert, and Self-publishing