Information about illustrating children’s books by illustrator Jim Harris.  The biography of an illustrator, tips for picture book illustrators, steps in illustrating a picture book, and activities from Jim’s picture books for students. Jim Harris Children’s Books Home Page Tips for Students About Techniques for Illustrating Children’s Picture Books Frequently (and Infrequently) Asked Questions about how Jim became a children’s picture book illustrator.  Facts for students learning about illustration careers. Email Jim Harris.  Email contact for teacher comments, student questions, and just saying hello. Link to Pages about Jim Harris Fantasy Art, Caricature Art, Sports Art and Portrait Art. Jim Harris – Biography of a Picture Book Illustrator Tips for Writers by Children’s Author and Illustrator, Jim Harris A Day in the Life of an Illustrator.  Information about day to day life as a children’s book illustrator for students. Illustrating a Picture Book, Start to Finish.  Jim explains the process of creating artwork for a children’s picture book. Activities for Kids.  Activities for students and teachers, from the popular picture books illustrated by Jim Harris.

Jim Harris talks about Petite Rouge – Read a story by Jim about going on location for illustrating children’s picture books.  Information about one of the perks of an illustration career!

Petite Rouge


Jim Harris talks about Three Little Dinosaurs –  Information for students interested in an illustration career about illustrating picture books with oil and acrylic.

Ten Little Dinosaurs


Jim Harris talks about Towns Down Underground –  and the process of becoming an illustrator.  Explains Jim’s steps to an illustration career.

Towns Down Underground


Jim Harris talks about Slim and Miss Prim – and the process of using parody in a children’s book illustration.  And famous illustrators’ troubles with spelling, too.

Slim and Miss Prim


Jim Harris talks about The Trouble with Cauliflower – and how illustrators use texture to achieve variety in children’s book illustrations.

The Trouble with Cauliflower


Jim Harris talks about The Three Little Javelinas – and the jokes illustrators play with their readers.  Also, information about how illustrators come up with the characters for their picture books.

The Three Little Javelinas


Jim Harris talks about The Treasure Hunter --  and the illustration technique of using overlapping to make paintings and drawings look realistic.

The Treasure Hunter


Jim Harris’ new wiggly-eyeball book.  Ten Little Puppies who can’t seem to stay out of trouble.  A new title in the best-selling children’s wiggly-eyeball series.

Ten Little Puppies


Jim Harris’ talks about Three Little Cajun Pigs – and how to illustrate a picture book using visual rhythm and diagonal lines in artwork.

Three Little Cajun Pigs


More comments from Jim Harris about an illustrator’s life… working with authors, editors and art directors.  A tale with a happy ending (involving chocolate-chip cookies).

Bible ABC


Jim Harris explains why ‘Jack and the Giant’ is so silly.  (It would have been worse, if it hadn’t been for the editors!)

Jack and the Giant


The Three Little Dinosaurs… are up against the Big Bad Tyrannosaurus Rex!  Jim uses this popular kids title to explain some of his illustration techniques… like washing out your brushes!!!

Three Little Dinosaurs


Tips by Jim Harris from the ever-popular ‘Tortoise and the Jackrabbit,’ written by Susan Lowell.  Learn about painting with frisket and using saturated colors in your illustration artwork

Tortoise and the Jackrabbit


Here’s another Cajun version of a classic fairytale by writer Mike Artell—this time it’s Jack and the Beanstalk who turn up down on the Louisiana bayou!  Detailed watercolor illustrations by artist Jim Harris.

Jacques And De Beanstalk

Jim Harris – The True History


Jim Harris… in a very early stage of becoming a children’s book illustrator.  No wonder he’s so good at illustrating javelinas!

There’s usually a little biography about me on the jacket flap of my books, and I always think to myself that it really could use some clarification. 

For instance, in the back of  Jack and the Giant  it says…

Jim Harris began his career in North Carolina, using baby food as paint and his high chair tray as a canvas.

That’s true. But it goes on…

Jim’s work has appeared in numerous national magazines, at least as many as his parents left lying around open.”

 And that is also true… I was a big scribbler.  This did not make my mother cheerful, particularly when I scribbled on the walls.  However, in my own defence, I would like to mention that once, when I was a teenager and our family moved across town, the people buying our house made it a condition of the sale that the drawings on my bedroom walls – cartoons of my dad playing golf -- were not to be erased, defaced, etc. etc.  (So there is something to be said for drawing on the walls.)

‘Clemson Tiger’  One of Jim’s early illustrations… using acrylic, oils and a tad of house paint.  It won an award of merit from the New York Society of Illustrators.

Anyway, then it says …

“Among Jim’s honors and awards are a silver medal from the New York Society of Illustrators ….blah, blah, blah” 

And finally we reach this little note:


Now this is the part I feel could stand some clarification.  Because the fact of the matter is that I have been a lucky finalist in the Publisher’s Clearing House Sweepstakes for TWENTY YEARS RUNNING!  If that isn’t impressive, I don’t know what is.  One weird thing – I don’t know how to explain this – is that even though I’ve been a finalist so many times, I’ve never actually won any money.  (But that’s okay.  I’ve gotten to read a lot of interesting magazine articles.)

There were actually a lot of other exciting things that happened to me while I was a ‘Camel Quencher’  An illustration from later in Jim’s illustration career…  created for students reading Ranger Rick magazine.kid in North Carolina (including  helping to start one airport runway on fire at the age of 9), but mostly I spent my spare time drawing and painting.

I had two friends, Joe and Pete, who liked to draw too.  Often we would meet at Joe’s house and do something like an art assembly line:  Joe would draw the cars, then I would put the people in the cars, and last of all Pete added anything else we needed, like trees, roads, animals, etc.  It was a pretty good system.

When I got to high school I still spent most of my time painting.  Once, in English class, when I should have been taking notes, my teacher discovered me drawing a caricature of her instead.  I expected to get in trouble, but instead she invited me to join the school yearbook staff (which she advised) and become the staff artist.  This mostly involved drawing caricatures of the various teachers in the school, and this produced a little bit of a problem.  The trouble was that the only way to get a caricature to look funny is to exaggerate the subject’s  features… and usually not the ones they’re most proud of.  One of the teachers I assaulted with my art was the school wrestling coach, a man who possessed the temperament of a gorilla with a toothache, (which might explain why I went about the rest of the year looking like a shaggy-haired pretzel.)

‘Elephant Dreams’  A little creature who isn’t sure if he’d rather be an elephant or pursue a career as a children’s book illustrator. At about 15 I made a major career decision... and decided to become a professional basketball star.  The first stage in reaching this goal was, I deduced, playing basketball on my high school team.  But, there were a lot people ahead of me in line for becoming a basketball star, and I got tired of waiting...  (also I got saddle sores from sitting on that hard bench so long).

So I thought maybe I’d become a mathematician. 

I really liked math and eventually I got a college degree in math education. 

But before I could become a math teacher, I took a summer job drawing cartoons. 
That turned out to be so much fun that I got to thinking that it might be nice to do work for lots of different companies… doing all kinds of art. 

A sort of artistic freedom and sense of creative adventure beckoned.
So that’s what I did.  I quit my job. And became a free-lance illustrator. 
As of right then, anybody who wanted to could hire me to do art. 
And right away, I was free.‘Home Run’   An illustration from the very first brochure Jim sent out to art directors in the process of becoming a children’s book illustrator.
Yes, indeedy.
Free, free, free!
No boss, no co-workers, no boring conferences. 
Also, no money, no food, no car. 
There were times when I actually hit the poverty level.
But usually I was way below that.

One of my acquaintances took pity on me and said they owned a farmhouse that had been scheduled to be demolished (just for practice by the local fire department) but they would let me live there with my young family if I didn’t bother them with details like getting electrical service to the property, providing functioning plumbing, repelling invasions by rats, and the like. 

They had a deal.

‘Abandoned Barn’  An old barn painting dedicated to one of Jim’s favorite art teachers… an expert on techniques for painting old barns.

So we moved to the countryside of Indiana.   Which you can read about here.
Eventually -- and I’m sure it was due to the kindness of God -- people and companies of all sorts did begin asking me to do artwork for them, and it did turn out to be a wonderful life. 

I painted calendars, and greeting cards…

‘Santa’s Workshop’   A greeting card illustration featuring a couple of 3D illustrators… with a few fancy illustration techniques of their own.










And lots of magazine illustrations, and some collector plates…

‘Twin Scoops’  A collector’s plate illustration from early in Jim’s illustration career.  One girl and one kitten modelled for the double pairs of twins… a popular illustration technique.









But I always wanted to do a children’s picture book.
Then, one day, I got the chance to do one, with an invitation to illustrate The Three Little Javelinas by Susan Lowell.  And sure enough, I loved it as much as I thought I would.
Many books later, I still do!


Link to Jim Harris Children’s Books Home PageEmail the page ‘Jim Harris Biography -- Steps to Becoming a Children’s Book Illustrator’ to a friend.

Images and Text © 2009 Jim Harris. All Rights Reserved