Animal Teachers

51OItgSoBfL._SX342_Late last year my lovely Agent Kirsten, from Bright, contacted me to say Blue Apple had a brief for me. It was to Illustrate a new book by Janet Halfmann called Animal Teachers. So exciting!

The book was all about how different animals teach they’re young to do things, from swimming to cracking nuts. To illustrate the interaction between teacher and child was an interesting part of the brief, Elliott from Blue Apple was also eager to show the world each animal inhabited. A lot of research was spent looking at the types of places each animal was from, the types of flowers and trees they would sit in and the colour palette for each location.

My favourite thing to draw is animals, their textures and mannerisms are constant source of inspiration for me. Also because the book involved some animals I was unable to observe in real life it justified several hours research on youtube watching gems like this:

I gathered a lot of visual reference at the beginning of a brief. It was good for me to understand how the different animals moved, how they stood, how their hair fell, before I started sketching.



I’d do quick pencil sketches and more finished versions in ink to get an idea of how I’d demonstrate all this.

Early experimenting…


Once I was more familiar with the different animals I did rough pencil sketches of the animals and from that figured out the most interesting composition for the activity they were doing then built their environment around them.

Here’s some early sketches of an otter pup splashing around for the “Swimming Lessons” spread.



I ended up going with the top option so I could make more of Mama Otters shape in the final composition, I love the long smooth lines of otters. see final spread below.


Below I have done a quick step by step of the process I went through for most of the  spreads in the book. People are sometimes surprised when I say I use photoshop for my work, assuming all of the drawing is drawn together in a big scene. My normal method (because I like to draw and paint on a larger scale) is to draw the different elements on separate bits of paper, I use a mixture of watercolour, ink and white acrylic paint. Then I scan the drawings and arrange and overlay them all together in photoshop. Hopefully the sequence below explains this better.

A rough pencil sketch of layout for “Food Lessons” spread.


Very rough idea of colour palette blocking areas out in photoshop.Image

Here I’ve started dropping in early painted up versions of the elements. After seeing it on screen, Mama Hen is redrawn with more red and white to give better contrast and chicks are repainted brighter with more fuzz!




Chicks and Mama have been redrawn and now have a nice sandy floor to stand on.Image


We have sky! Some green as I was worried it was looking too much like a desert and an extra coloured up chick -we lost a chick from the initial sketch, sounds a bit brutal now I’m typing it!



Some countryside flowers to help give a sense of place and because I like to do this.




And here’s the final spread after the designer has dropped in the text.




If you’d like to buy a copy of Animal Teachers you can pre-order a copy here.

Thanks for reading



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