Posted by: Kathy Temean | December 14, 2013

Illustrator Saturday – Gill Guile

gill 10Gill Guile is a published author and an illustrator of children’s books. Some of the published credits of Gill Guile include Jack and the Beanstalk (Little Owl First Readers), Heidi (Little Owl First Readers), Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (Little Owl First Readers), and Sleeping Beauty (Little Owl First Readers).

Gill has illustrated over five hundred children’s books and written around fifty of these. She has been published in twenty-four languages. She has a first class degree in Graphics from Birmingham College of Art and lives in Leeds, England. She lives in West Yorkshire, United Kingdom.

Here is Gill talking about her process:

I start with a brief and do a rough thumbnail sketch then do a full sized rough on tracing paper – very detailed as in attachment. Sometimes I have to add or delete bits and I often do this in photoshop and occasionally  I’ll add the text to make sure all fits. Once the roughs have been approved I trace down the sketch onto art paper and redraw a lot of it with a 4H pencil-rub out the traced lines and start painting with acrylics. I do not use any additives with the acrylics, just water, but not so much that it thins the paint. I like it nice and thick to get good texture.

sketch a

I use Vallejo acrylic gouache AV. ProArte brushes short flat sizes 1 and 4. Fabriano Artistico hot press 140Lbs paper

I never give up on a painting- acrylics are great because you can paint over any mistakes. The more layers you do the better it looks so I often start with a darker shade and add lighter tones to give depth.

I always paint the background first

Once the publisher has approved a rough they don’t see it again until it is finished.

Some publishers like to scan the artwork themselves and some like me to have it scanned professionally- I prefer to do this so I can do any minor amends and maybe add some highlights in Photoshop before I send the files. Occasionally there might be minor changes requested by the publisher. I like to keep the original artwork and often sell it separately once the book has been published.


I like to build a solid relationship with each publisher, that way they get the best out of me because I get to know what they want and they know what I can do and often they push me to try new things- I love that!

Sometimes I work with a publisher for just one book, some for a few years and a few for 10 years or more.


How long have you been illustrating?

Since 1977 when I graduated from art college.


What school did you attend to study art?

Birmingham College of Art. 1st Class Honours Degree in Visual Communication ( Graphics nowadays!)


Can you tell us a little bit about that school?

Graphics was the main subject but there were modules in Life Drawing, Fine Art, Photography, Typography.


What classes were your favorites?

Fine Art and Life Drawing


Did the school find you work?



What type of jobs did you get for your artwork right out of college?

My first job was working in a large studio for the John Waddington’s the company who produce Monopoly and playing cards among other things but I worked on designing stamps for Commonwealth countries mostly.  


Do you feel that the classes you took in college have influenced you style?

No ,but it gave me the time to develop my own creativity and experiment and time is a luxury not afforded once you get to paid employment- every picture has then to earn a fee so there is no time to experiment. However working for 20 or more publishers over the years has led me to different styles because it’s not good to do the same style for each publisher so I adapt my styles to suit each brief and often a publisher will push me in a completely different direction so nowadays I find I can tackle most styles and it keeps me flexible and I never get bored because of the variety.


What was the first thing you did where someone paid you for your artwork?

My first job was working in a large studio for the John Waddington’s the company who produce Monopoly and playing cards among other things but I worked on designing stamps for Commonwealth countries mostly.


What was the first thing you did after your received the money for your first artwork job?

Paid my rent


What do you consider was your first big break?

Wrote and fully illustrated a picture book and sent it to World International Publishing in Manchester. It was called The Magic Train. I did a further 3 books in that series then worked for them for around 8 years freelance- they kept me really busy.


When did you decide you wanted to illustrate a children’s book?

As a child.


What was the first illustration work you did for children?

The King and Matt O’ Mulshon – a Terrapin book published by Hambleside Publishing.


How did that come about?

I took my portfolio to the publishers and they gave me a book to do.- it was simpler in the ’70’s!


I see that you illustrated a Wizard of Oz book for Brimax Books. Could you tell us a little bit about that publisher and how you got that contract?

Probably did around 100 books for them this was just one of the books offered- when I finished one book there were others lined up so I worked continually for them for many years.


I also see you have done a few books with Gill Davies. Did that happen because the two of you developed a good working relationship?

We both worked freelance  for Brimax Books, Index Books and Bumblebee Books- all of whom put us together for quite a few projects but we only ever met twice at Book Fairs.


I read that you have illustrated 500 books and written 50 books. It almost seems like an impossible task. How did you manage to accomplish that feat?

It’s probably nearer 600 now. I work fast and my hours are 5am- 5pm Mon- Fri and often longer if I’m really busy also I work 5-2pm Saturday and 5pm – 10pm Sunday.

I usually have 4-6 book projects on at any one time and work in tandem on them all. I’m currently working on a ‘doll book, a pen and ink Where’s Wally type of book but biblical, a zoo book, a fairy book and a number of front covers all for 5 different publishers- it does get a little manic here sometimes but I love it 🙂


When did you decide you wanted to write and illustrate a picture book?

It was always my aim to illustrate but the writing came when I had an idea for a book- they are often novelty boos- flap or with cut outs- but I don’t often have time to write and I prefer to paint.


What was the title of that book? Were you happy with the results?

The Magic Train. yes I was pleased with it.


Where the pop-up books you did with Diane Pub Co. the first pop-ups you did?

My first pop ups were with Index books I think.


When you work on a pop-up book, do you have to create the pop-ups and make them work or are you only responsible for the artwork?

Usually work with mechanics from a paper engineer but I have originated one or two- nowhere near as good as the professionals though.


How did you get the contract with Harper to illustrate the I Can Read Huff and Puff series?

They contacted me and asked for samples- I was up against half a dozen other artists and luckily got the book- they are great to work for.


Have you done any work for children’s magazines?

Scholastic Magazines UK- The Literacy Times 5-7


Do you have an artist rep or an agent?



What types of things do you do to find illustration work?

I have a portfolio on Children’s Illustrators website and that brings in all my work.


What is your favorite medium to use?

Acrylic gouache.


Not counting your paint and brushes, what is the one thing in your studio that you could not live without?

pc for scanning roughs.


Do you try to spend a specific amount of time working on your craft?

74 hrs per week minimum



Do you take pictures or do any types of research before you start a project?

If I need to draw something specific I’ll look on the internet- eg catamaran or a weaver bird etc.


Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?

Yes all my work comes from there – no more knocking on doors.


Do you use Photoshop with your illustrations?

To scan my roughs or check and clean up scanned artwork before sending files but not for originating artwork.


Do you own or have you used a Graphic Drawing Tablet in your illustrating?



Do you think your style has changed over the years? Have your materials changed?

My style changes constantly. I’ve used to use gouache and some airbrushing but now prefer acrylic gouache with lots of texture.


What things did you do that attributed to being so successful?

I never miss a deadline, work very long hours and believe in being flexible and courteous with the publishers.


Do you have any career dreams that you want to fulfill?

No I have a job I love already.


Do you have any material type tips you can share with us? Example: Paint or paper that you love – the best place to buy – a new product that you’ve tried – A how to tip, etc.

AV vellejo acrylics- fantastic quality. I buy them online from


Any words of wisdom on how to become a successful writer or illustrator?

See what’s current in Children’s book shops. read briefs carefully- never miss a deadline.

Thank you Gill for sharing your journey and process with us. Please make sure to keep us informed of your future successes. We would love to hear about them.  Gill’s email is:

Please take a minute to leave Gill a comment about her work. Thanks!

Talk tomorrow,



  1. One word to describe Gill Guile’s work – AWESOME!!!


  2. Gill, your work is wonderful. I’m so glad you shared with us!


  3. Hi Kathy, I love these segments.
    And Gil, your art is simply awesome. Love the colors and the depth.
    I too work with arcylics, and I’m glad to see I’m not the only one who doesn’t have a Wacom tablet. Thank you for sharing your work and process.


  4. Absolutely adorable art. I especially like the tornado. Great stuff. Thanks for posting it.


  5. The subject matter may all be different, but what’s definitely common in every one is breathtaking color and expression. FanTAStic!

    Thanks, Kathy and Gill, for sharing this beautiful work 😀


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