Posted by: Kathy Temean | August 5, 2017

Illustrator Saturday – Giles Laroche

Giles has partnered with author and poet David Harrison for his most recent book; NOW YOU SEE THEM NOW YOU DON’T: POEMS ABOUT CREATURES THAT HIDE and is in the process of creating more cut-paper illustrations for another book with David called A PLACE TO START A FAMILY: POEMS ABOUT CREATURES THAT BUILD. He’s in the middle of a beaver dam at the moment.

When not writing his own children’s picture books Giles enjoys partnering with writers and poets
and creating cut-paper illustrations inspired by their words. He worked with Philemon Sturges on BRIDGES ARE TO CROSS, SACRED PLACES, and DOWN TO THE SEA IN SHIPS and April Jones Prince on WHAT DO WHEELS DO ALL DAY?
Find out more about about Giles and see more of his art on his website; “Art for kids and beyond” or at Charlesbridge Publishing’s website;

Giles has just begun work on a new book which he is both author and illustrator. He is currently gathering research material, immersing himself in the subject and working on a draft. He’ll tell you more about it as it develops.

Here is Giles discussing his process:

I will use this pencil drawing of a New England style connected barn as a guide to make my cut-paper relief illustration.

Here we can see below the drawing some of the sections under construction.

The main house section is put in place.

The large barn is connected to the small barn.

The roof shingles are added to the large barn.

Oxen, horses, cows, ducks, geese, chickens, and people are added to the finished illustration.

I had a few material questions:

What type of paper do you use? What do you use for spacing the layers? Do you paint the paper before you cut and paste?

I use printmaking papers especially:  Rives BFK, Stonehenge, etc.  Also, rough surfaced Bristol board, and watercolor papers are a favorite, even all cotton-stationery.   Sometimes I pre-paint the papers before I draw and cut-out the various details of my illustrations.   Most often though, I cut out the parts of say a house, or animal, or ship, and paint the pieces as I go along and assemble them with matte medium as my adhesive.  I use layers all rag illustration board, in combination with adhesives for the spacers.

The man in the row boat has the look of fog above him – was that spray painted on at the end?

The fisherman you refer to is indeed in a fog bank, but it doesn’t seem to bother him as he admires the distant schooner. I used washes and glazes of acrylic paint for the water in that piece and created the fog with a white colored pencil over the paint.

How do you create such beautiful water? Some of it looks like you embossed the lines into the paper.

Sometimes I use a stiff brush for say river water or rapids,  the brush gives the paint a finely ridged texture which I can then enhance with colored pencils.

So, it’s truly mixed media—I use virtually everything, except oil-based paints.

Above is the cover Giles illustrated for David L Harrison’s new book coming out in January.


How long have you been illustrating?

Since 1981.  I started out doing magazine illustrations; editorial, music reviews, food…

I also illustrated book jackets for foreign language text books.

What and when was the first painting or illustration that you did where someone paid you for your artwork?

In high school I was commissioned by a friend to paint a mural in his family’s family room.  But my first sale professionally was of an abstract painting just before I finished art school in 1981..   

Did you go to school to study art? If so, where did you go and why did you chose that school?

I went to Montserrat School of Visual Art, now College of Art and studied fine art and illustration. I went there for a variety of reasons, first because someone I knew had gone there and spoke highly of his time there. It was small, and on my initial visit to it I met some students and faculty who encouraged me to give it a try. Germany and Belgium

What did you study there?

It was 1977.  Things were wonderfully simple on Mondays we had drawing from 9-12.  Painting from 1-4, on Tuesdays art history from 9-12, sculpture 1-4 Wednesday…. You get the picture.  It was where I wanted to be, doing what I wanted to do.

Do you think art school influenced your style?

In some ways, yes. I think we (artists) have a style that is a part of us even before any art training.  In art school we enhance our style with influences and experiences.

What type of job did you do right after you graduated?

Magazine and textbook illustration. and I had a part-time position as an office assistant in an architectural firm.  I also taught in Montserrat’s children’s program.

When did you decide you wanted to illustrate for children?

It was about 1983 when I first saw Graphis’ magazines children’s book illustration annual.

When did you start doing paper relief to illustrate your books?

In 1987 for my first book:  SING A SONG OF PEOPLE by Lois Lenski.

Was your book Bridges Are to Cross, the first picture book you illustrated?

No.   But it was the first after a break from illustrating to focus on my fine art and teaching. BRIDGES was my sixth book.

How did you get that job?

The author, architect Philemon Sturges saw my portfolio which at the time included paper-reliefs of various structures.  As he and I were looking at them his wife came through the door, exasperated by a long traffic delay, stuck on a bridge.  Voila!  Our idea was born and he and I chose the bridges, we presented our sketches and text to a publisher and we were on our way.

Have you ever illustrated a picture not using your creative paper relief process?

No, but I do enjoy working in other media…

You say, “Every illustration involves drawing, cutting, painting, and gluing. Often, a piece has seven or eight layers. Spacers are placed between each layer to give the final artwork added depth and dimension.” Obviously your work needs to be photographed or a 32 page picture book would not close. Do you have a professional photographer take the pictures or do you send it into the publisher and let them handle this part or do you do it yourself?

The publisher hires a professional photographer who specializes in photographing art for publication.  I have attended some shoots.

It must take forever to draw, cut, paint, and glue to finish a 32 page book. How long does it usually take?

I like a solid year to work on the final art.

What do you do with all these works of art? Do you sign, frame, and sell them?

Yes, I keep ones that have meaning for me, but I have sold perhaps more than half of all of my illustrations.

Do the school kids have fun working with you during your workshops and learning your process?

Kids love to make art and cut-paper is a forgiving medium. I’m often asked, “Mr Laroche, are you coming back tomorrow?”  

I see that you use pastels, acrylics, oils, or gouache with your fine art. How do you work that into your schedule with your book illustrating and teaching workshops?

There’s always time between book projects, and even while I’m working on a book, I can take a day or so and work on my ‘other’ art. 

A PLACE TO START A FAMILY Text Copyright © 2018 by David L Harrison. Illustrations Copyright © 2018 by Giles Laroche. Used with permission by Charlesbridge Publishing, Inc.

Tell us a little bit about your new book A PLACE TO START A FAMILY coming out in January. How long where you working on the illustrations? Where there any challenges to this book?

One year. Each book presents new challenges.  In A PLACE the main feature of each illustration was of course, the animal structure and yet I wanted to depict and focus on the creatures as well.

A PLACE TO START A FAMILY Text Copyright © 2018 by David L Harrison. Illustrations Copyright © 2018 by Giles Laroche. Used with permission by Charlesbridge Publishing, Inc.

Did you have a two book contract with Charlesbridge when you did NOW YOU SEE THEM NOW YOU DON’T? Or did they just immediately think of you when David sign the contract for his new book after the great job you did with NOW YOU SEE THEM NOW YOU DON’T?

I’ve never had a two-book contract.  After I finished my art for NOW YOU SEE THEM I asked David if he might be willing to work on a book about animal structures, then we asked our editor and the three of us got very excited and we got to work. 

Now You See Them, Now You Don’t Text Copyright © 2016 by David L Harrison. Illustrations Copyright © 2016 by Giles Laroche. Used with permission by Charlesbridge Publishing, Inc.

Do you think we can expect another book where the two of you are paired up?

It would be fun. We’ll see. Right now I’m working on the text and preliminary sketches for a book.

Now You See Them, Now You Don’t Text Copyright © 2016 by David L Harrison. Illustrations Copyright © 2016 by Giles Laroche. Used with permission by Charlesbridge Publishing, Inc.

Are you represented by an artist rep.? If so, who is and how did you connect?

Yes, I’m represented by Studio Goodwin Sturges.  Since BRIDGES ARE TO CROSS, see answer to question

Now You See Them, Now You Don’t Text Copyright © 2016 by David L Harrison. Illustrations Copyright © 2016 by Giles Laroche. Used with permission by Charlesbridge Publishing, Inc.

How many book have your written and illustrated?


Now You See Them, Now You Don’t Text Copyright © 2016 by David L Harrison. Illustrations Copyright © 2016 by Giles Laroche. Used with permission by Charlesbridge Publishing, Inc.

Have you worked with educational publishers?

Yes, When I first got started in illustration.

Now You See Them, Now You Don’t Text Copyright © 2016 by David L Harrison. Illustrations Copyright © 2016 by Giles Laroche. Used with permission by Charlesbridge Publishing, Inc.

What do consider to be your biggest success?


What kind of things do you do to promote your work?

I enjoy giving talks at libraries and schools.

That studio set up in your barn is impressive. Since you live in New Hampshire, do you have trouble getting through the snow to work in your studio? Do you have glass doors you can close when the weather gets bad?

I have had to shovel my way into the barn.  But now I use it seasonally—from April to late November.  The other months I live and work in Salem, Massachusetts.

What is the one thing in your studio that you could not live without?

The view through the glass wall of Mt. Lovell, the mulberry tree laden with every type of songbird in the northeast, the turkeys, occasional bear and bobcat…..and my vine charcoal.

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

I think you are asking how much time do I spend in my studio/on my work.  It varies day by day, but my aim is always to get to the studio.

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

Absolutely!  In the case of my two books with David….. the alligator, copperhead, wasp, beaver lodge, heron, and others were all drawn from photos I took.  I also spend a lot of time gathering reference materials in libraries.

Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?

Of course.  Especially for double checking facts and getting quick answers.

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

Just to be able to continue this great balance of working on my art and my books in my barn in NH and in my house in Massachusetts.

What are you working on now?

A non-fiction children’s picture book about lost civilizations.

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.

When I taught kids to draw years ago one the favorite lessons for them and me was getting a twig from the forest floor and dipping it into india ink to draw on brown craft paper a portrait of  a fellow student.

I like print-making papers for my work and  an x-acto knife.  I always tell kids I work with to think of a cutting tool as a drawing tool.

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

I suggest to illustrators and writers that they visit libraries and new or used book stores to see what’s out there and to note who’s publishing what, so that they can then submit their work to the appropriate house. And, to see what the trends are… and either follow those trends or preferably avoid them and present their own original message. Keeping journals and sketchbooks are crucial too. Work every day even if it’s only for fifteen minutes to write a paragraph or to work on sketches.

Thank you Giles for sharing your talent, process, journey, and expertise with us. Please make sure you keep in touch and share your future successes with us. To see more of Giles’ work, you can visit him at his website:

If you have a minute, please leave a comment for Giles. I am sure he’d love it and I enjoy reading them, too. Thanks!

Talk tomorrow,



  1. Giles LaRoche was my very first picture book illustration teacher in 1990(ish) at Montserrat College of Art (continuing education class-by the North Shore Music Theater)! I was barely in high school, and took the class with my mom. She went on to publish two books with Marshall Cavendish, and I just had my first book come out this year (one to follow next year). I’ve always been a huge fan of Giles’ work, and I LOVE seeing all the detail and beauty of new work! Thank you Giles for setting a solid foundation for all your students!
    Also! Judy Sue Goodwin Sturges was my illustration teacher at RISD-she so funny and awesome! But I doubt she was impressed by my inability to craft a solid story at that time. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Incredible work!! Thank you for sharing!


  3. Giles, I have loved learning more about you in Kathy’s interview. Working with you is pure pleasure and I hope a third book is indeed in our future. For now I wish you continued success in your other projects and I’m grateful to Kathy Temean for bringing you to her blog for all of us to enjoy. Way to go, Kathy!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. What a brilliant team Giles and David make! Having not the patience for that sort of thing myself, I absolutely adore Gile’s 3D art and could stare at it for hours.


  5. Beautiful work, Giles! And thanks for the interview, Kathy; it was revealing and entertaining. I will look for these books!


  6. Giles, your incredibly detailed, tedious work is astonishingly beautiful. I’m sincerely blown away Thanks so much for sharing all this, and for your hard work in putting it all together, Kathy 😀


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