Summer School, Part 2: Picture Book Drawing Fundamentals

The first class I’m taking in the Children’s Book Illustration certificate program is ART 568, Picture Book Drawing Fundamentals. It’s taught by the lovely Lauren Mills, who has a portfolio of the most sensitive portraiture, sculpture, and illustration (to those of my friends who may be worried by such things, you might want to stick to checking out her illustration work, as her other work does occasionally feature classical-style nudes)–you may recognize her picture book The Rag Coat, which is one I remember loving when I was younger.

I’ve taken several drawing fundamentals-type classes in my life, and this was the first one that actually applied the basics of composition, perspective, proportion, etc., toward a particular goal–that is, creating an engaging image that communicates exactly what you want it to, in the manner you want it to. I suppose this is the true purpose of all drawing classes, but I have never been in a class where it “clicked” quite the way it did in this one.

This class was difficult for me because I tend towards a little wonkiness in my drawings, and it took a lot of patience to work with such precision. I am certain it was good for me, though. As with any venture, it is good to know and be able to follow the rules before making your choices about which ones to break!


Lauren started us at the very beginning, with basic perspective.


Then we began applying perspective to a generic bear character.

This was a revelation for me! I’d learned perspective before, but (as obvious as it seems now) I had never learned to apply the same principles not just to scenes and buildings, but also to bodies and characters.


To assist us with drawing our bears in perspective, and with light and shadow, we modeled characters in plasticine (a type of non-drying clay), and lit them inside cardboard boxes.


We did value and composition studies.


To begin drawing clothes and fabric, we started by copying a master drawing of a draped cloth.


Then we used that knowledge to give our bears clothes.



We began incorporating movement into our drawings.


We learned human proportions and studied movement by sketching these basic frames from photos of dancers.



We drew facial features and learned their placement on the face.


To help with drawing faces, we sculpted a head, starting with a basic skull shape.



We experimented with pen and ink, using a crow quill pen.


We copied master portraits using vine charcoal.

This was my first experience using charcoal, and I quite enjoyed it–it’s a very forgiving medium. Lauren described it as almost like sculpting, the way it allows you to apply tone, remove it, build it back up, and continue to work with it until you achieve the effect you want.


We acquired a ton of handouts over the course of the term, which I compiled into a notebook for future reference. I’m sure I will be coming back to this information for years to come!


For one of our final projects, we had a three-year-old (the daughter of a faculty member) come to the studio and model for us, so that we could learn how to take reference photos and practice drawing from them. Then we each picked out poses we liked, and planned a composition using our reference. This is the photo I chose to work from.


The planning stage.


And here is the final piece! I’m happy with the result–I feel like it truly reflects a culmination of everything we have learned this term, and I don’t think I could have produced this illustration before having taken this class.

Even this lengthy post reflects only a fraction of the work we did in the last five weeks! It has been so challenging and so rewarding. We have one more final project before the end of the term: creation of a magical forest scene. I’ll post that one once it’s finished next week!

If you missed it, check out part 1 of this series, in which I introduce you to the magic of Hollins University.

Up next: part 3, Picture Book Media!

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3 thoughts on “Summer School, Part 2: Picture Book Drawing Fundamentals

  1. [...] hope you enjoyed the little tour! Up next: Picture Book Drawing Fundamentals. Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:Like2 bloggers like [...]

  2. christinied says:

    You are so talented ^_^ There was so much emotion in that final illustration – the sadness of the excluded bunny, the curiosity of the bear, the engagement of the girl. So wonderful! I can’t wait until you post more stuff :D

  3. [...] summer. I hope you’ve enjoyed it! Don’t forget to check out part 1 (about Hollins) and part 2 (about my drawing class)! Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like this. [...]

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