Annie Wilkinson is the youngest of eight children and the mother of two. She works in a variety of mediums including traditional and digital, creating bright and whimsical illustrations for both books and products. She also has a background in design and as a fine artist, two skills that she calls upon quite frequently when illustrating. She is currently working on her own picture book.
Simon & Schuster – Macmillan
LadyBird Books – Hallmark
CJ Educations – American Greetings
Oxford University Press – Hasbro
Yeowon Media – National Geographic
HERE IS ANNIE EXPLAINING HER PROCESS:
All of my work is done on the iPad. For the project for Story Corner, the guidelines were really loose – the story was to take place in outer space, after that I had a lot of free reign to draw whatever I like.
So I started with some quick thumbnails, using the app Paper by 53. I had some loose concepts – riding space beasts, hanging out in a space garden, swimming with ‘star fish’.
I like to share the thumbnails with the client to see if they’re happy with the general idea and composition, and if they are I then work on more refined sketches. Mostly I use the Vellum app to create my sketches.
There’s also an app called Art Studio that functions like Photoshop, I can make selections and move things around if I need to refine the composition a little.
When the sketches are finalized, I create the colour versions in Paintbook, which is a vector drawing app.
Sometimes at this stage, depending in the spread size, I might have to export the pdf file to my computer and add textures in photoshop.
Since these we’re going to be playing cards, The iPad could actually handle their print size, so I added my textures using iColorama.
If I find the textures wash out some of the details then I will paint over some of the edges and add more shadows and highlights using either Photoshop or procreate.
How long have you been illustrating?
I have been illustrating as a job for about 6 years, but for about 5 of them I was also working as a web & graphic designer . This is the first year that I am solely illustrating. I have always loved drawing!
Where do you live?
I live in Vancouver, BC Canada
Did you go to school to study art?
I have not. I am completely self-taught, but I do dream about going to art school some day – maybe when the kids are old enough.
What area of art did you study?
I took an independent course with Geraldo Valerio “http://www.geraldovalerio.com” a Brazilian illustrator who was for a time living in Vancouver. I had belonged to a drawing Meetup group, and on a message board there, several people had mentioned taking his course on illustrating children’s books and how it was better than anything offered by the universities or libraries.
After my first illustration job, when I started to realize it was something I might really like to do, I thought I should learn more about it and enrolled in his course. It was extremely helpful to have someone with experience to turn to! Even though he’s no longer in Vancouver, we still email every now and then and I still ask him for advice.
What was the first art related work that you did for money?
Prior to working as an illustrator, I played in bands for many years, and toured a lot. These would have been my first paying art jobs.
What was the first job you took after you graduated from school?
I did take a multimedia course about 15 years ago that was a very basic introduction to Adobe & Macromedia (who originally created Flash) software – it was just enough to get you going on everything and it was up to you if you wanted to take it further. I had expected that I would move into web design from there, but my first job after finishing that program was illustrating and animating Ecards in Flash for a Toronto company. It’s funny now that I think about it, it didn’t give me the idea that I would be an illustrator! I think probably because looking back at it my illustrations were fairly crude!
How did you find your first illustrating work?
Robeez Baby Shoes gave me what I consider my first real illustration job – they had a job posting for a web designer, and I applied and sent them a link to my online portfolio, which also contained some of my artwork. They got back to me saying the job had been filled but would I be interested in doing the illustrations for their shoes. Prior to this it hadn’t even occurred to me to be an illustrator! (Robeez shoes designs)
Have you done any illustrating work for a US publisher?
I have done work for a few publishers, including Simon & Schuster, National Geographic, as well as a handful of educational publishers.
How did you start doing greeting cards?
Not long after the Robeez job I was contacted by the Bright Agency in the UK http://www.thebrightagency.com, and I have been with them ever since. Another illustrator who was also working for Robeez, Ken Gamage http://www.sparklefishworld.com told me about http://www.childrensillustrators.com which is based in the UK, and I believe this is where Bright found me. Bright works in both publishing and art licensing, so my greeting card work was through them.
What made you want to illustrate children’s books?
I had not thought originally that I could even be an illustrator! I was always drawing but in my mind it was just a hobby. I met another illustrator when our bands played a show together, Jenn Playford, http://www.jennplayford.com, who I think at the time had just got her first illustration job, and her telling me about it put the idea in to my head. I didn’t really do anything about it until I got the Robeez job though! I guess children’s books seemed the best fit for me, given the way I draw, which tends to be cute and colorful.
How many books have you illustrated?
I’m not sure I can count them all! I’ve done around 4 books for the Korean market, 1 in New Zealand, 3 in Canada, a few in the UK, and maybe 10-15 for the US market, which would mostly include the educational market.
What was your first picture book?
My first picture job was with Rubicon Publishing in Canada, with AD Rebecca Buchanan, now over at Pajama Press, she was lovely to work with.
When and how did that happen?
They found me on a portfolio site, practically the day I finished my How To course with Geraldo, so I was pretty glad I’d taken the course. It was called “Splish-Splash” and had 4 illustrators illustrating about 4 pages each, so it was the perfect job to start with.
Of the picture books that you have published, which one is your favorite?
It may be because it was the most recent one I illustrated and so am not tired of looking at it yet! I’m actually still working on it, but it’s called Nanna’s Magic Globe for Benchmark publishing. Another favourite I did recently was for Story Corner, which is a brand new company in the Uk – not a picture book but illustrated story cards, where the child lays out the cards and then tells their own story – that was a particularly fun job for me because I was allowed input in what happened in the story, and also because it involved telling the story in a non-linear fashion. (Thumbnails in paper by 53, Sketches in Vellum, final art for Story Corner)
When did you decide to get involved in children’s illustrtation?
A big thing that happened was having kids of my own, and reading books to them – there are so many beautiful picture books out there! I particularly love Isabelle Arsenault and Oliver Jeffers, whose work really borders on fine art. I also am a big fan of Sophie Blackall, Peter Brown, Giselle Potter – there’s so many!
How did you connect with LadyBird Books?
This was a job through my agent – I had done a test illustration for The Secret Garden (which also happened to be one of my favourite books as a child!) and my AD thought my rendition of Dickon made a good Peter Pan, so I got to do both books.
(The Secret Garden, Ladybird Books)
How did the get the contract to do My Wonderful Clothes for Korean Publisher, English Hunt?
I was approached by them, this book was slightly different than the other books I’d done in the Korean market as it was an English reader. I love working with Korean publishers as they are so invested in picturebooks!
(My Wonderful Clothes, EnglishHunt)
What do you consider is your first big success?
Getting paid to draw! To be honest, it’s still an ongoing thing – I’m one of those people who can be their own worst critic, and I’m still trying to make art that impresses me as much as other illustrators work can.
How did that come about?
How do you promote your work to get more business?
I have a few portfolio sites that I try to keep updated regularly, and most of them have news sections which I find helpful. I also started sending out email newsletters to keep in touch with previous clients, I do one every 6-8 weeks or so. When things are slow I remind my agent I need work.
What materials do you use to paint your color illustrations?
All my work is done digitally. Originally it was done traditionally because I was never comfortable drawing with a graphics tablet, where your hand is drawing in one place and your eyes are somewhere else. In the beginning I would have loved a Cintiq but couldn’t afford one, then I got an ipad. I went from oil pastel drawings to vector illustrations, because the limitation of the iPad is the print size of your drawings. I grew to love it so much that I only occasionally think about the Cintiq still.
(Personal work, ipad)
Do you use do any black and white illustrations?
I have not done many, except for the comics I like to do in my spare time.
What type of paint and other materials do you use to when illustrating a picture book?
Everything is done on the iPad, even sketching. I discovered I hate the tedium of scanning! I tend to do thumbnails first, generally in Paper by 53 or a Bamboo Paper, sketches in Vellum, and color in Paintbook, which is like Adobe Illustrator except that it behaves much like a pixel based painting app, rather than making shapes. I usually export this as a pdf and then do final touch ups in Photoshop on my mac. The funny thing is that I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with digital – it certainly makes it easier to make amendments and clients love layered files, but I just love the look of traditional materials. So I’m always trying to make that aspect better. Ultimately, a good drawing and good composition is the most important thing!
Has your style changed over the years? Materials?
I’m really hoping it’s getting better! I am always, always trying to make my work better. I’m getting in to using textures a lot lately. There’s a great ipad app called iColorama which let’s you paint your textures using masks, and then I usually do a little finishing work using Procreate, which is a great painting app but can only print up to around 10-11 inches, which makes it difficult to do spreads. I have been known to deal with single pages when the app can’t handlethe spread size and then stitch them back together in photoshop.
Have you done illustrations for any children’s magazines?
I have done work for Laybug and Cricket in the US.
(Cricket Magazine Nov/Dec 2013 issue)
Have you done any work for educational publishers?
Tons! A lot of my work comes from Educational publishers and so for that I am grateful 🙂
What is the one thing in your studio that you could not live without?
Given that I work on an iPad my studio is not one specific location, but I like it best when I have my ipod and dock to listen to music or podcasts while I work.
Do you try to spend a specific amount of time working on your craft?
Yes, but I don’t think of it so much as that. I love drawing, so I have my work drawing, and my hobby drawing, which is usually playing around with different apps or doing comics. Another fun aspect if doing greeting card work or licensing art is just drawing whatever you feel like and maybe someone can turn it into a card. So I’m not consciously trying to improve myself unless I’m in the middle of the job, and mostly this happens at the sketching stage – can I make this drawing better, more visually interesting? Sometimes that is constrained by deadlines, though!
(illustration of Mary Anning for http://www.coolchicksfromhistory.tumblr.com
Do you have an agent?
I work with The Bright Agency, who are based in the UK but have offices in New York also.
Do you take pictures or do any types of research before you start a project?
Yes, lots on internet research. I’m currently working on a book that takes place in Kenya. I’m always looking at images of how things look, their clothes, their houses, vegetation, etc. Some clients want the pictures of trees, for example, to look like actual trees you might find in the area, some don’t mind if you make everything up.
Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?
Absolutely. If it wasn’t for the internet I would probably have to move to New York and walk around every day with a hard copy portfolio.
Do you use Photoshop or Corel Painter with your illustrations?
I use Photoshop along with a hundred ipad apps 🙂
Do you own or have you used a Graphic Drawing Tablet in your illustrating?
I have an old Wacom Graphire tablet that I use for photoshop touch ups. I’ve tried all kinds of styluses for the iPad, but the ones I like the best are the microfiber tipped ones,as there is no drag whatsoever. I suffer from tendonitis, so when it gets bad I just start drawing with my finger!
Do you have any career dreams that you want to fulfill?
I’d love to do more picturebooks, and maybe write one of my own.
What are you working on now?
I’m currently working an interactive iPad storybook, which is my first. I’m also doing a small job for a family in the US who are doing a book as a gift for their daughter. I’m working on a second book for Benchmark while waiting for feedback on the final artwork for the first. And I have a couple more books coming up very soon with Cantata Learning, who are a new Educational publisher in the US.
(Illustration for the Boston Family)
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.
For traditional materials, I love Koi watercolours and Holbein Acryla Gouache. Also I’m a fan of Caran D’ache oil pastels.
Any words of wisdom on how to become a successful writer or illustrator?
All the old stuff is true! Keep drawing as much as possible. Go to the library and find those illustrators that inspire you!
Thank you Annie for taking the time to share your process and journey with us. We look forward to hearing about all your future successes.
To see more of Annie’s illustrations visit her at:
Please take a minute to leave a comment for Annie, I know she would love to heard from you and I always appreciate it. Thanks!