Posted by: Kathy Temean | November 20, 2021

Illustrator Saturday – Kimberley Barnes

Kimberley Barnes is a UK based illustrator with a first class degree in Illustration from the University of Lincoln. She lives near the sea on the Isle of Wight, her childhood home with her fiancé and two children. Her love of drawing began at a very young age and has lead her onto a career in illustration, specializing in children’s illustration, as she loves to relive her childhood through the stories that she creates and works with.

She is represented by the wonderful Bright Agency and has worked with clients such as Little Tiger, Top That Publishing, Igloo, Macmillan Education and more. 

Here is Kimberley discussing her process:

When I start a piece of work I begin with a sketch, these vary from really rough to neat depending on how detailed the initial idea is.

I then do a colour rough and block out the basic colours that I’m going to use for the piece. This allows me to work out the colour palette and see what works best. Sometimes I even try multiple palettes to see how it will look in different colours.

I personally start colouring the foreground first as I love drawing characters. I keep referring back to the colour palette whilst I do it. I also make sure to add other bits of the colour palette within what I’m colouring. I find it brings the whole image together.

Doing the background I pick out the main parts to colour first, in this case the trees.

Then I build it up layer by layer going from less detailed to more detail.

I then block out the background as then I have the other colours in the foreground to make sure it looks how I wanted. When I colour the very back of an image I always use multiple colours to build it up.

To finish an image I add the details in the foreground and generally I always add a layer of what I call ‘scribble’ on top, to make sure I’m happy with it overall.



How long have you been illustrating?

I have been drawing since I can remember, I was always sat up at my kitchen table as a child colouring and drawing on anything I could find. Professionally I have been working since I graduated in 2014.

What and when was the first piece of art you created for money?

My first project was Mr Max for Benchmark Education.

Have you always lived in the UK?

Yes I have lived in the UK, on the Isle of Wight, all of my life. Apart from going to University.

What made you decide to attend the University of Lincoln to get your degree in Illustration?

I looked at many Universities and when I went for my interview at Lincoln I just felt more at home than I did at any of the others. I also new I wanted to draw but I didn’t know much m0ore than that at the time so I wanted to explore it more.

Did you do any freelance art while working for your degree?

I didn’t, I just focused on my course and trying to get the best from it that I could. I also didn’t really focus on children’s illustration until the end of my 2nd year.

What classes were your favorite?

Honestly I loved the classes that when we got a brief we got to work on it independently. Our Final Major Project module was great as I got to just get into the zone and work away. Very much like I do now.

What made you decide to focus on children’s illustration?

Near the end of my second year after we did a module on children’s illustration and my tutor gave me a book on children’s illustration after she saw that I loved working on the brief. I was hooked and that’s what I have worked on ever since.

How did you get the Intern job at the Bright Agency?

Vicki the founder of The Bright Agency came to visit the university to do a talk about illustration in my third year. She came around to look at some of our work and have a chat and I mentioned I’d love to do an internship and she pointed out some work that she said to send her which I did the same day. I had to jump at the opportunity and I’m so glad I did.

Did the Bright agency take you on as a client while you were an Intern with them?

As part of the internship before I left I got a portfolio review. I remember how scared I was going into that meeting. I did a test brief and I’ve been with them ever since.

Did Lincoln University help you find work before you graduated?

For me personally it was a crucial part of getting work as if I wasn’t in the lecture where Vicki was I don’t know where I would be now.

How did you market yourself after graduation?

I was lucky enough to have the internship before I graduated. But I never stopped drawing and even now I still try to keep up with social media and new work when I get the chance.

In 2018 you illustrated four board books for Little Hippo – Little Mermaid, Chicken Little, Snow White, and Sleeping Beauty. Was one of them the first book you illustrated?

Chicken Little was the first picture book that I illustrated.

Did you have a contract to illustrate Beauty and the Beast (Little Hippo Books) that was published in 2019 when you did the first four books?

I was contracted for the four fairytale picture books separately after I had done Chicken Little much earlier.

Was Dream You’ll Be the first picture book you illustrated?

Chicken Little was my first picture book. Dream you’ll be came later, its such a wonderful story and it is still a book I read to my daughter every night.

When I Pray For You looks like it is a 48 page picture book. How long did it take you to illustrated this book that was published in 2019?

A 48 page picture book typically takes me around 4 months and depends on sketches, feedback and edits. I have done some picture books in 3 months and some I have had over a year to do. It varies with regards to what else is on my schedule at the time and also the publishing deadline.

You illustrated another board book, The First Easter Day in 2020 with WorthyKids. Are board books easier to do?

Board Books are usually shorter but it really depends on the project itself.

I just featured Just Be Claus by Barbara Joosse and published by Sleeping Bear Press. Is there another book in the works with SBP?

I loved working on Just Be Claus by Barbara Joosse, it’s such a lovely story. There’s not at the moment but I would love to work with them again in the future.

God Made You Too published by WorthyKids is coming out in Feb. 2022. Was this part of your contract with them for The First Easter Day?

No, these were 2 separate projects that I got at different times.

Do you still work still work on your portfolio?

I am always working on my portfolio, I never stop doodling. Before drawing was my job it was always my hobby and I have never lost my love for it.

What do you feel helped develop your style?

Time and the way I work. I think style is an ever evolving thing that I’m constantly working on. When I was at University I painted and then scribbled pencil on top. Then when I started working I got a graphics tablet and I think it naturally developed from there with the way I work. I now work more and more on my iPad and that comes with a slightly different way of working, as I can create my own brushes.

Do you have any desire to write and illustrate a picture book?

Yes I definitely want to and I’m always coming up with ideas. I’m working on a little something in the background so watch this space!

Have you ever tried to illustrate a wordless picture book?

I haven’t but this is a challenge I would love to take on.

Have you illustrated anything for children’s magazines?

I have done a few over the years including for Story time and also Highlights Magazine.

Do you sell your artwork online?

On my website I have some prints available and if people want anything in particular I’m happy for them to contact me and I’ll do what I can to help them.

Is working with a self-published author to illustrate their book something you would still consider?

At the moment I only take on work through my agency.

I know you will have many successes in your future, but what do you think is your biggest success so far?

It have been lucky to illustrate many incredible books so far but illustrating Sparkella by Channing Tatum has to be a career highlight.


What is your favorite medium to use?

Digital is a favourite of mine because you can edit and change it as you go.

Has that changed over time?

Yes I started out with paints paper and pencils, I would like to start incorporating these more into my digital work in the future.

What type of Graphic Drawing Tablet do you use when illustrating?

I have a Cintiq 22HD and an iPad Pro that I work between them both.

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

I have set times that I try and work on developing my work but I also have 2 young children so sometimes I don’t get as much time as I plan. I mostly do a lot of work of an evening as I get more time then.

Do you take pictures or research a project before you start?

I always take a bit of time when I get a project just to think about what to do and if for example it’s a beach picture book I will then go to the beach are pics and do some doodles.

Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?

In many ways, as this is how I get contacted by clients and agents and also with research and reference photos I wouldn’t be able to see a lot of things without it so it has opened a whole new world.

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

I would love to author-illustrate my own book on day. I would also love to draw on a window at a local bookshop when a book is released, I’ve always thought they look amazing when other people do them.

What are you working on now?

Right now I am working on a couple of picture books and a fiction book but I can’t say anymore than that.

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.

I have always enjoyed using Windsor and newton gouache and coloured pencils but at the moment I use my iPad and apple pencil but when planning out a project I still use my a3 sketchbook. When I get a brief the first thing I do is storyboard out the book so I can see it all at once and see what works and what doesn’t.

Any words of wisdom for new illustrators?

Just keep drawing.

Kimberley, thank you for taking the time to answer the interview questions and showing us your process. Please let me know about your future books and successes so I can share them with everyone.

You can visit Kimberley using the following links:


Talk tomorrow,



  1. Great niche, Kimberly, and fantastic illustrations. Thank you for sharing your story!


  2. Perfectly enchanting. Thanks for a beautiful post.


  3. Wow, amazing illustrations! I love the forest animals and the mermaids and the bright colors! Wonderful! Best wishes and thanks for sharing with us!


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