Information about Jim Harris Children’s Books.  Jim’s not-quite-fairytale biography, tips for art students, advice and techniques for illustrating picture books. Jim Harris Children’s Books Home Page Tips for Illustrating Fairy Tales (and Other Children’s Books) Frequently (and Infrequently) Asked Questions about the job of a children’s picture book illustrator.  Facts and trivia about life as an illustrator -- from best-selling children’s artist, Jim Harris Email Jim Harris.  Contact email for teachers, parents, and students. Link to Jim Harris Fantasy Art, Caricatures, Portraits and Sporting Art.  Jim Harris – The Story of a Children’s Book Illustrator.  Learn how Jim became a fairytale artist. Creative Writing Tips from Fairytale Author and Illustrator, Jim Harris Day to Day Life as a Children’s Book Illustrator.  Information for students learning about a picture book illustrator’s job. Illustrating a Picture Book, Start to Finish.  The step by step process of illustrating a children’s picture book.  Activities for Kids.  Easy reading, writing and math activities with funny animals from Jim Harris kids’ books.

Jim Harris gives pointers on creating vibrantly colored children’s illustrations in a little talk about the use of saturated and unsaturated colors in the Southwestern fractured fairy tale Tortoise and the Jackrabbit.

Tortoise and the Jackrabbit


Go on location to Louisiana with artist Jim Harris and see how to develop a central character for the Cajun fairy tale Petite Rouge.

Petite Rouge


Jim Harris gives painting tips from the fairytale book Three Little Dinosaurs.  Even some advice for students about cleaning your paintbrushes!

Three Little Dinosaurs


Jim Harris gives tips for young artists from the popular Southwestern fairy tale, Jack and the Giant. Funny insights about the process of writing and illustrating a book for children.

Jack and the Giant


Dinosaur's Night Before Christmas, a holiday story as told by Jim Harris - the perfect Christmas gift for dinosaur lovers

Dinosaur's Night Before


See the adorable puppy characters that fill another Jim Harris’ wiggly-eyeball book.  Ten Little Puppies who have a knack for getting into trouble!  New 2009!

Ten Little Puppies


Jim explains more about the job of illustrating picture books.  Details about creating artwork for novelty books from the best-selling children’s title, Ten Little Dinosaurs.

Ten Little Dinosaurs


Illustration techniques for students from The Trouble with Cauliflower.   Tips for young artists about how to use texture in illustrations for children’s book paintings.

The Trouble with Cauliflower


Tips for creating fairy tale art from the best-selling, Three Little Javelinas.  Jim Harris tells about the jokes illustrators play with their young readers and tells the stories behind some of his most famous picture-book characters.

The Three Little Javelinas


Illustration advice by artist Jim Harris from The Treasure Hunter.  Jim gives tips for art students about using overlapping objects to define a painting’s foreground and background.

The Treasure Hunter


Tips by illustrator Jim Harris about including parody in children’s books, using the children’s cowboy tale Slim and Miss Prim as an example.

Slim and Miss Prim


So, if I get a job as a children’s book illustrator… what kind of people will I be working with?  Read Jim’s answer to this important question in his discussion of the humorous picture book, The Bible ABC.

Bible ABC


Jim Harris shares illustration techniques from the Cajun fairy tale, Three Little Cajun Pigs.  Learn how to illustrate picture books using visual rhythm and diagonal lines.

Three Little Cajun Pigs


Jim Harris tells about starting out in the job of an illustrator.  Funny stories about life as a ‘starving artist.’

Towns Down Underground

Jim Harris Talks About Illustrating…

The Tortoise And The Jackrabbit.  A very popular fractured fairy tale, written by Susan Lowell and illustrated by Jim Harris.

The Tortoise and the Jackrabbit


Tortoise and the Jackrabbit was a lot of fun to illustrate.  It’s a desert version of the old Tortoise and the Hare fable, with a very cocky Jackrabbit and a very wise Tortoise.

When I first read the manuscript for this book, I knew the desert would have to look totally believable.  I got this image in my head of a really hot, really dry, really Arizona desert.  We’re talking wide-open sand.  Lots of saguaros.  Desert poppies and verbena blooming up everywhere.  And bright blue sky.

(And mountains in the distance, of course.)

‘Tortoise Steps Out’  Southwestern Fairytale art by Jim Harris, from Tortoise and the Jackrabbit.

So how to re-create this with paint?

Well, here are a few little techniques I used…


For the sky I wanted that intense clear-blue-forever feel.  So first thing in these cases, I get out my frisket. (Frisket comes in sheets or in liquid, but the sheets worked best for this book.)

Step one, I lay the frisket over the pencil sketch that I’ve already drawn. 

The frisket sticks to the paper like a huge sheet of tape, but it doesn’t damage the paper when you pull it off later.  So, if you’re getting the idea here, I’m putting a paint-repellant plastic layer of frisket over my whole sketch.  Then I use a craft knife to slice away the frisket in the area that I DO want to get blue-sky paint on.  And I leave covered with frisket all the parts of the painting that I definitely DON’T want to get blue on (like Roadrunner who’s busily putting out race-day signs.)

‘Roadrunner Marks the Course’  From The Tortoise and The Jackrabbit… a desert fairy tale.

Then out comes the airbrush, I gas it up with fresh paint, then buzz, buzz, swish, swish, and a bright blue oval (or whatever shape seems appropriate) of paint appears on my paper .  I make sure when I’m applying it that it fades out on the edges and I’m done!  At this stage it looks like I’ve painted blue all over my character and my mountains, but no fear!  Once the blue is nice and dry, I gently lift off the frisket and presto!  There’s pure paper-white where I’m going to paint Roadrunner and his desert home.

So that’s one trick. 

By the way, if you’ve never used frisket, it’s not very expensive.  You can get a couple sheets or a little bottle at the art store.  When you get it home, experiment around with carving out frisket shapes on a piece of paper and painting over and around them (it works with regular brushes just as well as with an airbrush), and then lifting the frisket to see what you’ve created.

If you get the liquid frisket, try spattering some of it across a paper, then painting blowsy green grass around the spatters, then lifting the frisket and filling in the “holes” (where the frisket was) with saturated colors to make wild flowers peeking out from the grass.  Dab in a few stems under the flowers and WOW… how do you like THAT!!!

Anyway, that brings up another good trick, namely Saturated Colors.

                                    PAINTING WITH SATURATED COLORS

‘Jackrabbit Wakes Up’  A little too late…  as usual.  Not exactly a fairytale ending for the desert braggart!

First, do you know what a “saturated color” is?  It’s a “pure” color.  Very little black mixed into it, if any.  

Obviously then, an UN-saturated color is one that DOES have some black mixed in, sometimes a lot.  We say it’s “grayed down.”

In Tortoise and the Jackrabbit, I used saturated and un-saturated colors to do two opposite things.

Here’s a painting where I used UN-saturated color to make something look far away.  Un-saturated colors tend to do that.

‘Jackrabbit Makes His Boast’  Fairytale art from The Tortoise and the Jackrabbit.

See how the mountains look more gray than the foreground colors?  I did that on purpose to throw them into the distance.

And I purposely used saturated yellow, red and green to pull the cactus in the foreground right up close into your personal zone.  Careful! Those  spines are SHARP!

‘Tortoise in the Desert’  Saturated color in fairy tale illustrations from Jim Harris.

Here’s one of my favorite paintings from Tortoise and the Jackrabbit.  Susan Lowell’s text described this scene as dusty… flat… and hot.  So I airbrushed in some clouds of flying sand and used lots of dusty brown. 

‘Tortoise and the Terrible Fast Monster’  Saturated color to the rescue on Ms. Tortoise’s hat!  Fairy tale art, from Jim Harris.

But it needed something to give it life!  What could it be? 

I know… a spot of saturated color! 

See it? 

It’s the pink on Ms. Tortoise’s hat and purse.  Saturated colors work  well that way—
just a spot or two, and a bland scene comes roaring to life.

Mostly I like that mean old car, though.  In the story he doesn’t really run Ms. Tortoise over.  She’s too tough for that… but he gives it a good try.

You’ll have to check Tortoise and the Jackrabbit out of your library and see how it all turns out.

Happy reading!  (And painting!)


Buy the book The Tortoise and the Jackrabbit  at Amazon.Buy an original illustration from The Tortoise and the Jackrabbit fairytale.

Link to Jim Harris Children’s Books Home PageEmail the page ‘The Tortoise And The Jackrabbit: Illustrating a Fairy Tale with Jim Harris’ to a friend.