When I visited Ann James, illustrator of Ready Set Skip!, at Books Illustrated, she mentioned that there’s an Australia-wide shortage of book illustrators. To help address the problem, she’s recently taught two workshops on book illustration for aboriginal artists, sponsored by Magabala Books.
Becoming a children’s book illustrator isn’t always a direct path. Ann started out as an art teacher. Gaye Chapman, illustrator of Breakfast with Buddha, had been a graphic designer and professional painter for many years when her first children’s book, Heart of the Tiger, came out in 2004. Sally Rippin, illustrator of Becoming Buddha, started out writing and illustrating picture books, first published in 1996. Her novel, Chenxi and the Foreigner, begun while she was studying Chinese painting in China years earlier, was published in 2002, and an adult version is now in process. Sally teaches writing for children at Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, where Ann is now studying with an eye to writing children’s books in addition to illustrating them.
Ann James and her partner, Ann Haddon, long-time promotors of children’s book illustration as an art genre, also produced Making Pictures: Techniques for Illustrating Children’s Books. They have had an exhibition space for children’s book art at their studio/bookshop for years and have recently begun organizing traveling exhibitions of children’s book illustrations on multiple continents.
While these illustrious illustrators illustrate books, their stories illustrate the many paths that can lead to a career in children’s book illustration.