All about books by children’s illustrator Jim Harris.  Jim’s biography, tips for art students, advice and techniques for illustrating picture books. Jim Harris Children’s Books Home Page Helpful Tips and Techniques for Art Students Frequently (and Infrequently) Asked Questions about becoming a children’s picture book illustrator.  Facts and trivia about the job of an illustrator -- from best-selling children’s artist, Jim Harris Email Jim Harris.  Link to Jim Harris Fantasy Art, Caricatures, Portraits and Sporting Art.  Jim Harris – The Story of a Children’s Book Illustrator.  Read about how Jim became a picture book artist. Creative Writing Tips from Author and Illustrator, Jim Harris Day to Day Life as a Children’s Book Illustrator.  Information for students studying about the day to day life of a picture-book illustrator. Illustrating a Picture Book, Start to Finish.  Jim explains the step by step process of illustrating a children’s picture book.  Activities for Kids.  Reading, writing and math activities for kids from Jim Harris’s children’s books.

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

Dinosaur's Night Before


Jim Harris gives pointers on painting 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


Jim explains more about the job of illustrating a picture book.  Details about designing art for a novelty book from the best-selling children’s title, Ten Little Dinosaurs.

Ten Little Dinosaurs


See the adorable puppy characters that fill another Jim Harris’ wiggly-eyeball book.  Ten Little Puppies who can’t seem to stay out of trouble!  New 2009!

Ten Little Puppies


Jim Harris gives tips for young artists from Jack and the Giant. Funny glimpses into the process of writing and illustrating a book for children.

Jack and the Giant


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

Petite Rouge


Jim Harris gives a few art tips from Three Little Dinosaurs.  Information for art students -- about how to use acrylic and oil paints and about cleaning your paintbrush!

Three Little Dinosaurs


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

Trouble with Cauliflower


Art tips from The Three Little Javelinas.  Jim Harris tells about the jokes illustrators play with their young readers and shares the stories behind some of his most famous picture-book characters.

The Three Little Javelinas


Illustration advice by artist Jim Harris from the book  The Treasure Hunter.  Jim gives tips for art students about using overlapping to make paintings and drawings look realistic.

The Treasure Hunter


Jim Harris shares illustration techniques from The Three Little Cajun Pigs.  Learn how to design a picture book using visual rhythm and diagonal lines.

Three Little Cajun Pigs


Tips by illustrator Jim Harris about using parody in children’s books, based on the Southwestern title, Slim and Miss Prim.  Thoughts for creative students about illustrators’ spelling woes, too!

Slim and Miss Prim


So, if I become a children’s book illustrator… who 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 Talks About Illustrating...

Towns Down Underground.  All about badgers, termites and prairie dogs… from the folks at National Geographic.  Illustrations by artist Jim Harris.

Towns Down Underground

A Story from Early in the Life of a Children’s Illustrator


Towns Down Underground is one of the first children’s books I ever illustrated, so it brings back a lot of happy memories for me. 

At the time I was working on it I lived in an old farmhouse that wasn’t in the greatest shape.

The old farmhouse in Indiana.  A great place to start an illustration career…  lots of open space… and nobody cares if you spill a lot of paint.

It had actually been scheduled for demolition just before we moved in – the fire department was going to burn it down and practice their fire-fighting techniques on it – but when the owner found out I wanted to live there, he said “OK, go ahead… just don’t bother me if the electricity doesn’t work, or you can’t get running water.”  So, in a matter of weeks, I sold my house in town and moved to the middle of a 200-acre cornfield in Indiana. 

The farmstead in winter.  A settting that provided inspiration for many paintings early in my illustration career.

It wasn’t really just a cornfield… there was a big abandoned woodlot, six barns (all starting to fall in), a creek at the edge of the farm, white-tail deer roaming around, coyotes howling at night, a red fox family with kits that played on the trashpile behind the chickencoop, plenty of rusting old farm equipment to rearrange into forts and hide-outs, and groundhogs poking their heads out of holes when you least expected it.  

The barn that collapsed.

The electricity really didn’t work too well… it took 3 electricians, a couple visits from the power company, and finally a phone call to my brother (the one who works at a nuclear power station) to figure out what the problem was and fix it. 

The water did indeed run… but the pipes in the house were so old that they were all rusted and the rust got swept into the water, so you if you wanted a glass of water you had to let it “settle out” before you drank it.  After sitting for about 15 minutes the bottom third of the glass of water would be solid rust particles… and then you would close your eyes and drink the water off the top… because you were too thirsty to wait any longer.  Eventually we bought a water softener to fix the problem… and that worked for a while… until lightning struck and blew up the water softener.  After that we just bought our drinking water at the store.


I used a huge room in the upstairs of the farmhouse for my studio… and from up there you could watch white-tail bucks crossing the cornfields, and see the farmer who leased the fields moving slowly back and forth in his tractor, plowing or harvesting his crops, and from time to time you could see…  Sunshine!!!  

Sunshine, the Shetland pony.

Sunshine was a Shetland pony that came to live with us, and she was quite happy to take a kid on a ride to the creek, but if the kid happened to lose his seat, she took it as her cue that the ride was over and it was time to go back to the barn and check whether anyone had by chance deposited a carrot there for her.  Needless to say, she did not feel that it was necessary to wait for the dumped rider to remount… and so way in the distance behind Sunshine you could also see a small person trudging all the way back from the creek.  It was good in one way… the kid learned not to fall off the horse.

One of the downsides of living in the farmhouse was the grass.  There was a LOT of grass… and it took a long time to mow.  One day we were gazing out at the humungous yard, with the century-old walnut trees interspersed through it… and it dawned on us that we could save ourselves heaps of time by selling the riding lawnmower and getting sheep.  The sheep could graze all the grass down and we could sit on lawnchairs and sip tea instead of driving a hot gassy mower around for several hours each week. 

This worked to perfection until we realized that sheep are people too!  You can’t just ignore them, you have to take care of them.  They need wormer, they need hoof baths, they need penicillin when they have runny noses, they need their hair cut, they need tender loving care when they have babies…   and so in the end the sheep cut the grass and we... took care of the sheep (we did NOT have any time to sit on lawnchairs).  But we must not have minded too much, because it was a long time before we sold the sheep and got another gassy lawnmower.

Not all illustrators keep goats… but we did.

So what does all this have to do with Towns Down Underground

Welllll…  just this.

Close to the end of the project, the art director for Towns Down Underground happened to be traveling through our neck of Indiana with her mother and stopped in for a visit. 

I don’t think she was used to illustrators’ using sheep to mow their lawns… but she was kind enough to say NOTHING AT ALL about our unevenly grazed front yard… or about how sheep smell, uh, earthy… or even about hoof-sized dents in her rental car! 

In fact, a few weeks later, when I received the final check for the project, I noticed it was a bit bigger than agreed on.  When I asked about it, the art director explained it was to pay for some changes they had made halfway through the project.   

That was normal enough… but still, it seemed a bit larger than you’d expect for that amount of changes. 
I thought about it for a while and then I noticed something.  That extra bit?  It was just enough to buy a lawnmower.



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