Ten Picture Books with Resources about the Illustrators’ Processes by Helen Labun Jordan

I’m not a visual artist. I lack all visual artist sensibilities. In high school, I drew a charcoal picture of a lizard statue sitting under a flower vase that looked pretty much like the objects in front of me. I framed it, hung it up, called it a day artist-wise, and never thought about shadowing or foreshortening or perspective lines again.


Today, part of my job at Bear Pond Books is to help coordinate a series where authors and illustrators talk with teachers and librarians about using books in the classroom. It turns out that you don’t have to be artistically inclined yourself to learn a lot from artists talking about their work. Hearing illustrators share the different ways they think about crafting stories is inherently interesting to me because it’s a glimpse into someone else’s unique creative process. And it gives me new perspective on all the stories around us – including ones that don’t involve any words.


I’ve moved from listening to local artists speak in our bookstore series to also looking for other places illustrators discuss their work. The result – this top ten list of picture books paired with interviews or videos that give a glimpse of their illustrators’ processes.

viva frida

Viva Frida – Yuyi Morales

Start with a photo essay on the making of Viva Frida on Seven Impossible Things. There’s also a short video of the process on the MacMillan Kids publishing page.
neighborhood sharks

Neighborhood Sharks – Katherine Roy

Start with “The Process of Making a Picture Book” interview on The Picturebooking Podcast.  You can also see notes from works in progress on Katherine’s website: www.katherineroy.com



Quest – Aaron Becker

See what he did with this interview on the Let’s Get Busy podcast.


Lost and Found

Lost and Found – Oliver Jeffers

Start with It’s Nice That interview.  This interview includes both a short, funny video about a typical day for Jeffers and notes that he does a lot of other, non-children’s art. You can see examples of that work here: http://www.oliverjeffers.com


Swamp Angel

Swamp Angel – Paul O.  Zelinksy

Start with an interview with Nancy Pearl on Book Lust.


Josephine cover

Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker – Christian Robinson

Begin with an interview from the Design of the Picture Book blog.  Also check out this animated short about dancing (found on Robinson’s blog The Art of Fun).


Locomotive – Brian Floca

Look at “Pen, Ink, Watercolor, Repeat” by Brian Floca in Horn Book – a brief reflection on working off the screen.


The Baby Tree

The Baby Tree – Sophie Blackall

Begin with “Drawn from my Father’s Adventures” – a blog where she illustrates stories that her father tells about his life. Technically that’s not her creative process, but it’s still really cool. And for a bonus to make up for cheating on theme, check out a short piece on the studio space Blackall shares with other illustrators (including Floca), from Pen and Oink 



Beekle – Dan Santat

If you want to feel really tired, listen to Dan Santat talk about his work schedule. Here’s a quick interview on Book Riot and an extended interview on the Let’s Get Busy podcast.


sam and dave dig a hole

Sam and Dave Dig a Hole – Jon Klassen (& Mac Barnett)

Start with Jon Klassen’s video “The Complexity of Conveying Simple Emotions” from The Globe and Mail and, for a writer bonus, here is Mac Barnett’s TED talk on “Why A Good Book is a Secret Door.”


Helen Labun Jordan is the events coordinator at Bear Pond Books in Montpelier, Vermont (@BearPondBooks). She writes about author-educator connections at http://montpelierbearpond.blogspot.com