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A children’s book illustrator creates the pictures that accompany text in works written for children. Through artwork, the children's book illustrator helps bring the book’s words to life. Children's books generally are defined as works for children 12 years old and younger, and they include picture books, chapter books and others. Illustrators create artwork for both fictional stories and non-fiction books. They also provide the cover art for children’s books.
Children’s books are illustrated in a variety of media, including paint, collage and computer-generated art. Children’s book illustrators often specialize in a particular medium, though some can work in more than one area. Many children’s book illustrators are noted for a particular style of art, such as realistic or more cartoon-like art, and they are sought out by publishing houses and other clients seeking a certain style.
The children’s book illustrator is often a freelancer in the publishing industry. He or she might work for trade and educational book publishers or might be hired directly by writers planning to self-publish their books. Children's book illustrators might receive royalties for published works to which they have contributed or might be paid flat fees under work-for-hire contracts. Some illustrators are also writers, and vice versa, so they deliver the entire book package.
For traditionally published books, the children’s book illustrator typically does not work one-on-one with the writer of the book and, often, the two never meet. Instead, the publisher provides the text to the illustrator. It is then the illustrator's job to interpret the text and create artwork that complements and furthers the story or non-fiction work. In the self-publishing realm, writers will directly seek out artists to illustrate their works. The illustrations will take into consideration both the texts of the works themselves and the style preferences of their authors.
Children’s book illustrators gain training in a variety of ways. Some have earned formal arts degrees through colleges and universities. Others take occasional classes in drawing, painting and other areas. Some children's book illustrators are completely self taught as artists.
Many children's book illustrators put together artist portfolios to gain exposure for their work. The portfolios might be online or print or both. They present their portfolios to publishers, writers and other prospective clients. Children's book illustrators might also use publishing agents to help them gain work. Some children's book illustrators use their talents helping advertising agencies, product developers and others who need illustrations that are geared toward children.