Leila Rudge on illustrating and learning to draw

Leila began her presentation by telling the kids she was the youngest of six, the kids were amazed.  She told the kids that her Mum read to her and her siblings.  I hope this encouraged the kids to read more.

“Worried Arthur – the Big Match”, written by Joan Stimson and illustrated by Jan Lewis, was the most important book for Leila as a child.   She told us how illustrator Jan Lewis was a family friend and that Leila and her siblings always drew when they visited her.  Leila was inspired by Jan, and realised that being an illustrator was an actual job.  So by the age of 11, Leila had decided that she would be a children’s book illustrator when she grew up.

Leila explained that her ideas start from little things such as sketches of characters.  Her book “Ted” began with a drawing of this little fellow


Leila wrote the story and submitted it to her publisher.  Her editor liked it, but returned it with a number of changes.  Leila explained the editing process, the to’ing and fro’ing between her editor and herself.

She gave the kids an insight into how she develops her characters.  For “Ted” she researched everything there is to know about dogs.  Her partner and her even offered to look after a friend’s dog for a weekend so Leila could practise sketching dogs.  The kids enjoyed telling Leila about their own dogs.

Leila went into great detail about developing the character of Ted, right down to what colour jumper he should wear and why.  The kids got to learn about storyboards, and how Leila thinks about the visual communication of pictures across the page.  A teacher asked why the storyboards were so small.  Leila answered that it was so the illustrator doesn’t get too precious about the images, it’s more about working out the layout of the entire book.

We saw examples of her rough sketches, and then the final product.  The kids leaned forward on their seats to get a better view

Leila showed the kids a picture of her studio after a hard days work, what a mess!  They loved it, I guess most adults they know pretend that they are not messy.

Leila told the kids that the process of illustrating a book involves doing scribbly drawings, working the pictures up, putting them onto watercolour paper, and then scanning them in and perfecting them on the computer.   She makes it seem so easy!

She asked the kids if they liked writing or illustrating, most of them did.  I was wondering why they were such a receptive group.  She shared some top secret good news with them which I can not share, but I think the kids felt pretty special being let in on the secret.

Next up it was the kids’ turn to draw.  Leila showed them a really simple way of drawing a dog.  She taught them how to draw really lightly with a pencil for this stage.  First the kids had to draw a rectangle, then draw a circle overlapping the top left hand corner.  A cone shape was added to the left hand side of a dog for the snout.  Ears were next, they could be pointy,  fluffy, long and dangly.  The tail could be small & feathery, big & shaggy, or long & waggy.  Legs were added as long rectangles, the kids could choose the height of the dog.


The kids were then encouraged to press down harder with their pencils to come up with their own unique dogs.   They had to choose a piece of clothing for their dog, some of the suggestions were a bit cheeky.  The kids absolutely loved creating their own wacky dogs, I wish that I could have had a go too.  They could not stop talking, giggling and asking Leila for feedback, which she gave freely.  I always thought I was a lost cause when it came to being taught to draw, but I definitely learned something in Leila’s class.


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