This month I'm going to talk about textures in illustrations which I love to do with my own drawings. Adding texture helps to avoid illustrations looking too flat. Now, some illustrators like Bob Shea and Mo Willems create illustrations that are flat in color with no shading or highlights, such as the Pigeon or Dinosaur books. But those flat illustrations work because of the type of characters they've created for simple texts for younger readers.
For me, I like to get a sense that I can touch or feel an illustration. Maybe it's because I'm drawn to pastel and charcoal drawings, or perhaps it's my love for collage and using fabrics to sew and create art that I like things with patterns, brush strokes, or rougher edges. Again, all art is subjective, right?
One illustrator that embodies the idea of textures is Denise Fleming. If you're not familiar with her work, you need to be. She writes a lot of concept books as well as books with short, simple texts for young readers.
She uses an amazing technique for illustrating books - she actually makes her illustrations out of paper pulp! First she comes up with rough sketches. Then she creates her own stencils out of Styrofoam trays and pushes paper pulp through a screen. She then has to remove the moisture from the paper by using a machine that sucks the water out of it.
I can't do the explanation justice, so here is a video on YouTube of her talking about her process. It's incredible how many steps are involved and just how beautiful her pieces come out. And it's amazing to me how she manages to have effective compositions and perspectives while using this very complicated but magical illustrating technique. There's no one else in children's books who does illustrations like Denise and I hope she continues making wonderful books for many more years to come.
Here are some more examples of her amazing work. The next time you're looking to read a book with your children or students, consider choosing one of Denise Fleming's books. Study her layouts, her perspectives, her color choices, and her texture. I think you'll find yourself choosing more than one of her books to read and study!