Information about daily life as a children’s picture book illustrator.  Information for students and teachers about illustrating and writing children’s books. Jim Harris Books for Children Home Page Everyday Art Tips and Techniques for Students Learning to Illustrate Children’s Picture Books Frequently Asked Questions about becoming a children’s picture book illustrator.  Best-selling illustrator Jim Harris gives helpful information for students and a glimpse into everyday life as an illustrator. Email Jim Harris.  Contact email for teacher information requests, student illustrator queries, and just saying hi. Link to Information about Jim Harris Fantasy Art, Caricatures, Portrait Art, and Sports Illustration. Jim Harris – Biography of a Children’s Book Illustrator.  Information for students about becoming a children’s book illustrator. Advice for Students about the Writing Process from Picture Book Author and Illustrator, Jim Harris Day by Day in the Life of a Children’s Book Illustrator.  Information for students about a typical day in the life of picture-book illustrator. Illustrating a Picture Book, Start to Finish.  Jim describes the process of illustrating children’s picture books.  Advice for students about the skills needed in the illustration process. Activities for Kids From Popular Children’s Books.  Student writing and math activities based on Jim Harris picture books.

Jim Harris shares the inside-story about illustrating the best-selling Three Little Javelinas.  How he modelled the javelina characters, and insight into the jokes illustrators play with picture-book readers.

The Three Little Javelinas


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

Ten Little Dinosaurs


Jim Harris explains the process of creating the popular Cajun fairytale, Petite Rouge – going on location for creating children’s picture books and creating the central Cajun Red Riding Hood character.

Petite Rouge


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.

Ten Little Puppies


Jim Harris talks about the funny characters he created for Three Little Dinosaurs –  another fractured fairytale.  Information for students interested in an children’s book career about illustrating with oil and acrylic.

Three Little Dinosaurs


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

Tortoise and the Jackrabbit


A peek into the life of a picture-book illustrator and his thought process while illustrating The Trouble with Cauliflower – Also, tips for students about painting textures to create variety in children’s book illustrations.

The Trouble with Cauliflower


Tips for student illustrators from the novelty picture book The Treasure Hunter  --  techniques for students to make their paintings and drawings look realistic.

The Treasure Hunter


Illustration techniques from The Three Little Cajun Pigs – tips from illustrator Jim Harris about  illustrating a picture book using visual rhythm and diagonal lines in artwork.

Three Little Cajun Pigs


Tips by illustrator Jim Harris from Slim and Miss Prim – about using parody in children’s books.  Information for students about famous illustrators’ spelling woes, too!

Slim and Miss Prim


Jim Harris gives information about day to day life early in his illustration career... when he illustrated  Towns Down Underground.

Towns Down Underground


Some information from author and artist Jim Harris about working with editors on creating a children’s picture book.  A peek behind the scenes at Jim’s very fractured fairytale:  ‘Jack and the Giant.’

Jack and the Giant


If you’re thinking of a career in illustrating, read about artist Jim Harris’s experiences with editors and art directors.  Valuable information for new illustrators.

Bible ABC

Jim Harris Talks About ...

‘Chicago Bear’  illustration by Jim Harris.  A rare glimpse into one of the moods endured by a children’s book illustrator in the process of creating a new picture book.

A Day in the Life of an Illustrator


If you’ve thought about becoming an illustrator, you might have wondered what day-to-day life would be like, and what skills you’d need for the job.

Well, no two days are the same. 

And some of the tasks are pretty mundane.

The other day I had to put up an extra blind on one of my studio windows because the summer light was angling in and hitting my computer screen just wrong.  So it helps to know how to use a screwdriver.

Sometimes I have to cut plywood to the right Claude the Gator, from Petite Rouge, illustrated by Jim Harris.  A gator with definite needs in the social-skills department.size as backing for watercolor paper. At which point it helps to know how to use a circular saw.

Every so often I’ll go out to get reference photos.  I might run out to a pig farm to take pictures of little piggies…  for a Three-Little-Pigs book.  In this case it helps to know how to use a camera  (and own a pair of good rubber boots).

If I’m looking for a model for a book, I’ll have to write some ad copy describing the look I’m after (say, “seven years old with red hair and freckles, preferably missing a tooth”).  And then interview people who are interested in the job.  Unfortunately a lot of people who know very well they aren’t seven-with-freckles apply… just hoping to get a chance to model for SOMETHING!

There are times I’ll spend a few hours at the library checking out books… to get a little background info for paintings about, say, dinosaurs or princess costumes.  It helps to know how to find books at the library and not be shy around librarians— they know where ALL the books with dino pictures are.

Sometimes I take a day and work on finding props for my illustrations.  Right now I’m  searching for a fuzzy striped sock and an old-timey red-and-blue quilt for a book cover I’m designing.  Once I find them I’ll get them draped and folded for the best effect and take photos to work from.

Just another day in the life of Miss Prim and her palomino pony, rescuing her cattle from the wicked clutches of the Rustler Gang.  From Slim and Miss Prim, illustrated by Jim Harris.  And then there are the “real art” parts of the job: 

Developing the characters for a new book is one of my favorite parts.  I sit around with my forehead screwed up trying to think of a whole bunch of expressions and body shapes and clothing styles for each character and sketching out possibilities and showing them to my family to see if any of them produce the right reaction.  Mostly I’m looking for “WOW DAD, that’s fabulous.”  

And then I scan the sketches and send them off to the publisher… hoping again to get the same reaction.  (Well, not the DAD bit… )

Another fun part is working out the page designs.  I have to choose what parts of the text to focus on in each illustration… and then use my imagination to add details and scenery.  So it helps to be good at daydreaming.


I work especially hard on giving the spreads a lot of variety.  I might do a page with a character close up “in your face” and then one with the characters fairly small compared to their surroundings.  Then a page that has color bleeding off all four edges followed by one that has just a spot illustration surrounded by oodles of white space.  Then those sketches get emailed to the publisher.  At this point it helps to have a fast internet connection...  and a good scanner.

Mort demonstrates one of your everyday koala bear skills—setting the dining room table.  From The Trouble With Cauliflower, illustrated by Jim Harris.Usually the publisher asks for some changes to the page sketches…  Stuff like:  “Could we see more of Jack’s face on page 3?” (Yep.)  “Does the wolf look too scary on spread 8?” (Well, I thought that was how he was supposed to look!  But I can tone it down if you think it will scare people.)  “Did you really mean for the librarian to be bald on the title page?  (Um, no, let me look at that… oh, sorry, I forgot to sketch that in… trust me, she’ll have hair in the final.)    That kind of stuff.  It helps not to be too touchy about people criticizing your masterpieces.

It can take a few days (or weeks) for a publisher to get around to commenting on your sketches, so that gives me a few free days to tend to other business.

Essentials like…  ordering paper and paint and brushes and ink and pencils and erasers… and making sure we aren’t running low on chocolate chip cookies.  It would help to be a detail person in this department… but I’ve never fully developed that skill.

Every once in a while I check out what’s available in new equipment:  everything from computer screens to the latest in fountain pens and watercolor paint.  That could mean a trip to a big city for a look around, so it’s good to know your way around airports.
(Need to know that for school visits and publishing conventions, too.)

I might receive a manuscript from a publisher to look over and see if I’m interested in illustrating it.  Mostly, I am!Rapunzel (whose day to day life is about to change... in a princely way.)  From the classic fairytale, Rapunzel, illustrated by Jim Harris.

Then, at the top of the list for a day of excitement, there are school visits.  At schools I like to teach perspective drawing, and talk about how to combine paint colors to get the color you want, show how I do airbrushing, and answer questions about books I have illustrated and about life as an illustrator. 

Also great fun is location research.  That’s a fancy name for hopping on a plane and zooming over to some place you’ve never been and photographing everything in sight—just because it’s where your next book “happens.”  (OK, OK, it’s really researching the book’s setting.  I hope all you English teachers are happy now that I used one of your favorite words.)

And last but not least… there’s painting the final illustrations.  Hours and hours and hours of painting.  As you’ve probably guessed… I LOVE IT!!!


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