Picture Books II: Illustrate a Story

An Online Skillshare Class by Christine Fleming

Happy Post Thanksgiving! I hope everybody else ate as much pecan pie as I did, and had a relaxing long weekend!

I’ve got some great news to share with you today! This week was the official release 0f my third class on Skillshare! This class is called Picture Books II: Illustrate a Story, and is the second in a two-part series on making your own picture book. You can watch the video above to see what the class is all about, or visit the class page to read more! I’ve already gotten some 2 reviews on the class, including this fantastic blurb from a student:


“This much-anticipated sequel to Picture Books I can’t be missed! This is the most comprehensive set of instructions on book illustration that I have found anywhere on the internet. Christine patiently and thoughtfully takes you through each step of her process, and shows you how to analyze a manuscript, conceptualize your characters, refine the flow and rhythm of your storyboard, and figure out your overall colour palette before finalizing your images in Photoshop. After watching this class, I finally have a plan of attack for illustrating stories on my own. Thank you, Christine!!”

Whoo-hoo! I’m so happy that people are enjoying my classes! I really kicked it up a notch with this class, and focused on having live demonstration tutorial videos instead of all slideshow based videos. I also did the Project Assignment myself, and recorded my entire process from blank page to final colored illustration—and it’s all in the videos! It was kind of scary to record my whole process live, but it turned out to be really exhilarating.

This class has 22 video lessons that make up 4 units:

SKL-pb2-manuscript-blog Picking Apart Picture Books: Learn about he elements of picture book illustrations including composition, color, white space, perspective, style, and typography, revealing spreads from some of her favorite picture books to show strong examples of each concept, as well as my process of breaking down a manuscript.


Developing Your Characters: Learn about my criteria for a successful character and my character development process, from experimenting, researching, refining, and creating a final character model sheet.


Drawing Your Storyboards: Learn how to storyboard a story, from types of illustrations in picture books, setting up your storyboard, breaking up the story, creating rhythm, pacing, and movement, and creating a tiny dummy.


Creating Your Final Illustrations: Learn how to set up your sketches, refine sketches, create final drawings, clean up your drawing in Photoshop, add typography, and digitally color in Photoshop.


Plus, as with the last class, there’s a bonus locked layer of content explaining the step-by-step process of creating an illustrated dummy and how to submit it to publishers! This booklet is available to enrolled students as soon as they post their process work in the Project Gallery.


I’m so excited about this class, and I can’t wait to see everyone’s illustrated spreads! Students can post progress work in the project gallery and view and comment on each others work. I’ll be looking at all the posts as well and giving my own thoughts about everyone’s work! I hope you’ll join me over at Skillshare!

A Good Nose Isn’t That Hard to Find


This series of illustrations is my most recent work for BuzzHootRoar—a team of scientists that run a “graphics-driven blog that shares and explains a scientific concept in 300 words or less—where I am the Artist in Residence. My illustrations accompany an article titled A Good Nose Isn’t That Hard to Find. The article, written by author and dog expert Cat Warren, is about working dogs, and how scientists have tried (and failed) over the years to find an animal or machine that can perform better than a working dog. You can see the series in context and read the article over on BuzzHootRoar! Here are some of the illustrations:











And now for some process work! I began by drawing lots of dogs. ALL the dogs. Even a dog thinking about a banana (I don’t know?)


BHR-a-good-nose-process-1-blog BHR-a-good-nose-process-2-blog

Then I moved on to redrawing some the concepts I liked for the series.



Then I made some color studies in Photoshop to plan out my color palette. This was the study I ended up liking best!


And then I made the final art! This one was a bonus illustration that appeared at the end of the article with our bios. All the other dogs in the series are based on German Shepherds or other working dog breeds, but I couldn’t resist including my own dog, Oni!


BHR-a-good-nose-products-1-blogAnd since you guys requested it last time, I went ahead and made some dog art products and put them up in my Society6 shop! I really like this color combination, and I think these turned out pretty well. You can check out the pieces here!



And this post is all about dogs, so you know I have to include some photos of my favorite dogs! My dog, Oni, is the one on the top left, and the dog leaning next to him is his (real!) brother, Kee’an. Our friends own Kee’an and also Blaze at the bottom.


BHR-a-good-nose-dogs-3-blogAnd this is Oni and another friend’s dog, Zuko, trying to tempt me away from work!

Yay, dogs! Thanks for reading!

Picture Books I: Write Your Story

An Online Skillshare Class by Christine Fleming

Eek! I can finally tell you my newest piece of great news! Today is the official release 0f my second class on Skillshare! This class is called Picture Books I: Write Your Story, and is the first in a two-part series, with the second class, Picture Books II: Illustrate Your Story coming out later in early December out now! You can watch the video above to see what the class is all about, or visit the class page to read more! Here’s a snippit from the class description on the Skillshare site:


In this 50-minute class, you’ll learn Christine’s step-by-step process for molding a vague story idea in your head into a sparkling picture book manuscript… This class is perfect for illustrators, designers, writers, and everyone who has ever thought to themselves, “Now that would make a great picture book.” No prior knowledge of writing, picture books, or publishing is required! By the end, you’ll have everything you need (and the inspirational push!) to write an impeccable picture book.

There are 11 video lessons that make up 4 units:

Exploring Picture Book History: Learn about what a picture book is, it’s purpose, the history of picture books, and the different types of picture books available on the market.


Deconstructing Picture Book Anatomy: Learn all about the structural elements that make up a picture book.


Writing Your Story: Learn how to come up with story ideas, writing your first (terrible) draft, plot structure, point of view, prose, and character development.


Refining Your Manuscript: Learn about common plot issues, writing good openings and endings, cutting word count, making a writer’s dummy to help refine pacing, and my 10-step process to writing a picture book.

Plus, there’s a bonus locked layer of content explaining the step-by-step process to submit your manuscript to publishers! This booklet is available to enrolled students as soon as they post their process work in the Project Gallery. If you’ve ever dreamed of having your book published, this is the information you need on how to properly submit to publishers and get your story in front of the right people.

MC-picture-books-1-promo-blogI’m so excited about this class, and I can’t wait to read everyone’s stories! Students can post progress work in the project gallery and view and comment on each others work. I’ll be looking at all the posts as well and giving my own thoughts about everyone’s work! I’m thrilled to be able to share everything I know about one of my favorite things in the world—picture books! I hope you’ll join me over at Skillshare!

New Work: Cloud Chaser


This series was created as my assignment to create a sequential narrative for the Illustrator Intensive at the SCBWI Carolinas Conference in Charlotte, North Carolina. The Intensive was led by Random House Executive Art Director, Isabel Warren-Lynch and illustrator, Mary Grandpre. The intensive was fantastic, and it was amazing to hear from two people in the picture book industry with such distinguished backgrounds. You can see a more in-depth post I wrote on the conference here.


The story for my sequential narrative is based on my childhood belief that clouds were somewhat solid like cotton balls, and my fantasy of bouncing on clouds like a trampoline. Seeing the reality of what clouds are actually like the first time I flew in a plane when I was young was quite disappointing. This series is a re-imagining of my childhood daydream. You can see the full size images alone in my portfolio. Here is a shot from some character design sketches above, and the pencil drawings of the series below.



And here’s the sequential narrative as a GIF animation!


My skillshare class, Scientific Illustration: Conveying Information with Charm, now has over 400 students! The students are creating great work, and I’m so thrilled people are learning new things and enjoying the class. The course has no end date, so you can enroll and complete the class at any time and at any pace! I’m also hard at work on my next class which I think is something a lot of people will be interested in! You can check out my current class here!

MC-cloud-chaser-MH-blog I’m also still chugging along on one of my in-progress picture books. The feedback I’ve gotten on this book from conferences and editors has been enormously helpful, and I’ve been re-evaluating what I want to communicate with this story and how I can do it best. I love this character and I love this book, but I’m not afraid to break up with parts of it like Ben broke up with J.Lo! I’ve also learned an huge amount about the picture book industry and where I want to be in that industry since I first started this book. So I think it only makes sense for me to go back through it and change certain things based on the knowledge I have now.

That’s all for now! Thanks for reading!

Skillshare Class Challenge Winner!


Today is the day! I’ve been running a challenge in my Skillshare class, Scientific Illustration: Conveying Information with Charm, and today I’m announcing the winner! Here’s a quick description of the challenge:

To compete in the challenge, all you have to do is complete the project as described in the course lessons, but your topic must be somehow related to National Wildlife Day! National Wildlife Day is Sept. 4, and “serves to bring awareness to the number of endangered animals… that need to be preserved and rescued” as well as to “acknowledge U.S. zoos and outstanding animal sanctuaries for everything they do to help preserve this planet’s animals and educate the public about conservation.”

There were some really amazing entries to the challenge, and I loved seeing everyone’s work and their research and process behind the piece. It was difficult to choose a winner, but there can only be one! So, the winner is…

Matan Berson! Matan did a fantastic job with his illustration, from choosing an intriguing and relatively unknown scientific fact, to researching, sketching, experimenting, and final production! Matan researched animals in his local area (Vancouver, Canada) and found out that out of all the local at risk animals, only four are legally protected. So he decided to highlight this discrepancy for his project.

Here are a couple of Matan’s sketches from early in the process:




I was really impressed that Matan also sketched out his composition prior to beginning the final drawing. He considered overall composition, placement of the animals, typography, and how the viewer’s eye would move through the piece. Here’s Matan’s final illustration:


Isn’t it great?! Partway through his process, Matan posted his final pencil and ink drawing of his illustration. At that point in the project, the typography had not yet been added, and the piece was dominated by the four circles of the animals. I commented that perhaps he should consider that having an even number of elements is sometimes too balanced, and an odd number of elements can be more interesting and help a viewer’s eye travel around the image. I can see in Matan’s final piece that he took this suggestion to heart and utilized his typography to create a fifth element and really helped to balance out the piece! I also love that Matan walks the line of a realistic and personality-driven portrayal of the animals. They are drawn quite realistically, but you can still see personality and uniqueness in each animal—I love the slightly grumpy looking owl!

Matan, you’ve created a really strong illustration that successfully conveys your original message with strength, emotion, and personality. Fantastic job, and congratulations on winning the challenge! I can’t wait to see more work from you in the future—keep on illustrating! I’ll be emailing you about your portfolio review over the next few days.

Readers, if you’d like to check out more of Matan’s work, check out his tumblr where he posts fantastic pencil drawings! And you can see Matan’s full project complete with process work in the class project gallery!

Great work everyone who entered, and thanks so much for taking my class! If there’s interest, I will host another challenge for the class in the future! If you haven’t enrolled in the class, and are interested in participating, you can check it out and enroll here!

SCBWI Carolinas Conference


This past weekend I attended the SCBWI Carolinas conference in Charlotte, North Carolina and had such a blast! It’s always so great to meet and talk with other author/illustrators, and this one makes me want to go to a conference every month! If only travel was free! Here are my postcards I took to the conference, above…


…and I also brought bookmarks with me this time, seen here! This conference had a terrific line up of speakers and opportunities to mingle and get feedback on my work. The first day was the Illustrator Intensive, where a group of about 20 illustrators listened to presentations from illustrator Mary GrandPre, and Executive Art Director Isabel Warren-Lynch from Random House.


Mary GrandPre is an illustrator creating “ethereal pastel paintings” with a geometric focus. She began working in editorial, and has transitioned into children’s books, with 7 published picture books. She has also worked as a concept artist, creating environmental concept art for the Dreamworks movie, Antz.


And perhaps you recognize her work from a little book series called Harry Potter? Isabel Warren-Lynch has worked with Mary Grandpre on some of her children’s books, including the illustration of the woman with her cat pictured above, Chin Yu Min and the Ginger Cat.


Their newest picture book together as illustrator and art director is The Noisy Paint Box: The Colors and Sounds of Kandinsky’s Abstract Art, which looks fantastic!


Later in the conference, I had a portfolio review with Isabel Warren-Lynch where she gave me fantastic feedback on my two picture book dummies. I also had a manuscript review with Pieta Pemberton who is an Assistant Editor at Grosset & Dunlap, and she gave me amazing feedback on my dummy as well. With the picture book that she reviewed, I knew that it was good, but not perfect, and I needed some extra help to figure out how to push it that bit farther to make it publish-ready. With Pieta and Isabel’s critique, I now feel like I know what the story was missing and how to make it flow more smoothly and really make an impact! I’m excited to keep working on that dummy to bring it up to the next level.


The opening keynote was given by North Carolinian author Linda Ashman who has written and illustrated over 30 picture books! She was very lively, and a great presenter. She has written many popular picture books on my to-read list, including Rain, and the upcoming Little Baby Buttercup, illustrated by the amazing illustrator You Byun. She also talked about writing and submitting wordless (or nearly wordless) picture book manuscripts (like her book No Dogs Allowed, which was extremely interesting.

Later in the day there was a panel presentation with a group of 3 agents including Susan Hawk from The Bent Agency, Emily Mitchell from Wernick & Pratt, and Christa Heschke from McIntosh & Otis. They also had a lot of advice and talked about their work as agents in the children’s book industry.


The last day of the conference, I attended a break out presentation from Nancy Castaldo, author of many children’s books. Her most recent nonfiction book is a middle grade book called Sniffer Dogs: How Dogs (and Their Noses) Save the World. She also recently wrote Pizza for the Queen, a historical fiction picture book. Her wonderful presentation was about nonfiction children’s books, and we learned how a book must be presented in order to be a REAL nonfiction book. I also spoke with her about historical fiction and what I’m calling (for lack of a word I could find) science fiction.


I’d like to thank everyone I listed above and everyone I didn’t get the chance to mention for everything they did during the conference to make it so entertaining and informative! And thank you Teresa Fannin and Bonnie Adamson for your work in preparation for the conference and running it smoothly. And thank you illustrator leaders Deb Johnson and Stacy Gray! You all made this weekend a spectacular experience!

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