Schools for illustrations (Children's Books)

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Discus: Parents Forum: 2004 Archive - Part 2: Schools for illustrations (Children's Books)
By Simba (Simba) on Wednesday, August 04, 2004 - 11:44 am: Edit

Friend's D is interested in a career in illustrations. Specially Children's books. Does anyone here know some schools that specialize in stuff like that?

By Emeraldkity4 (Emeraldkity4) on Wednesday, August 04, 2004 - 11:52 am: Edit

I imagine you would go anywhere that has an art department.
Once you are in art school you can usually pick your focus after you are strong with the basics.

By Marite (Marite) on Wednesday, August 04, 2004 - 12:02 pm: Edit

From the Rhode Island School of Design's website:


With more than 2,200 alumni, the Department of llustration is among RISD’s largest — with a current enrollment of approximately 240 students. RISD-educated illustrators include Roz Chast ’77, David Macaulay ’69, Chris Van Allsburg ’75, and department alumni Maryjane Begin ’85 and Steven Kellogg ’63. The program leads to the degree of Bachelor of Fine Arts in Illustration.

Hope this helps

By Bookiemom (Bookiemom) on Wednesday, August 04, 2004 - 01:15 pm: Edit

I have worked in children's publishing for most of my career and currently review children's picture books for a national publication in the industry. Rhode Island School of Design is the top program for illustration of children's books, but of course, many successful illustrators are graduates of other programs.

I disagree with emeraldkity's post to look "anywhere that has an art department." Most successful illustrators are graduates of art schools, not colleges with art departments.

One idea for the friend's D is for her to look at new children's books in a large bookstore and read the jacket flap copy to see if it includes where the artist went to school. (This information is also available sometimes on the artist's or publisher's web site.) This may help her to identify some schools to look into. She should spend a lot of time reading new picture books and studying what is being published, as well as reading professional journals, particularly Publishers Weekly and Horn Book. Working in the children's area of a large library would be invaluable experience, as well as getting to know some children's librarians.

There are also career opportunities working in children's publishing (with the publishers) for trained artists.

By Emeraldkity4 (Emeraldkity4) on Wednesday, August 04, 2004 - 02:05 pm: Edit

I was going by the artists that I know that have changed means of expression several times. From painters who illustrate books to students who began at RISD in photography and now design one of a kind furniture to successful ceramicists who went back to school ( to RISD) to learn glass, a good art department should have the structure and support to develop artists.
I bow to your expertise but it was going by my experience that students often tweak what they are looking for quite a bit, and an university or reputable art college would be just as likely to provide a strong base than an "art school".
For one I would shy away from the ART institutes as in Art Institute of "Seattle". I have heard nothing but negative both regarding billing and aid and instruction. Often community colleges provide similar if not better instruction for a small portion of the cost( compared to Art Institute not RISD comparable schools) So be sure and check out any art school throughly especially since classes at vocational schools are not generally transferable to a university in case you want to go for a BFA or MFA. HOwever the skills you have learned of course would be ;-)

By Sac (Sac) on Wednesday, August 04, 2004 - 02:44 pm: Edit


Thanks for the informative post. My daughter graduated in art from UCLA, a heavily theoretical department where "illustration" was an insult, not a course of study. Of course, she became an educated person in many other ways, so no regrets.

She is now working full time and taking community college evening classes (mostly in computer aided art) but would like to go into children's book illustration. She's taking a class in this right now. Do you know of any programs where she could study illustration and get an MFA as opposed to another undergraduate degree? Do you think it make more sense for her to get a teaching credential, or library degree, and work on the illustration on her own? Thanks!

By Valpal (Valpal) on Wednesday, August 04, 2004 - 02:52 pm: Edit

The primary difference between college art departments and art schools is the thrust of their focus. Art departments usually lean heavily in the direction of modern art and "self expression", often strangely de-emphasizing the importance of skills long held to be intrinsic to the making of good art---like the ability to actually draw. Art schools, on the other hand often lean toward a more traditional art curriculum, like the atelier style of drawing instruction (realism, in the vein of the old masters), color and composition, etc. Schools like RISD and Parsons enjoy the ability to offer a far broader scope of art instruction than tradtional colleges and universities (from fine art, to commercial graphic design and illustration, to fashion design).

By Emeraldkity4 (Emeraldkity4) on Wednesday, August 04, 2004 - 03:02 pm: Edit

Around here you need quite a substansial portfolio to be admitted into an art program at a university or even community college. ( my daughter who had recognition for her art locally, and who had taken two art classes throughout middle and high school didn't have a polished enough portfolio for even the community college, the vocational schools like Art Institute however were happy to admit her and still call us up three years later.)

By Bookiemom (Bookiemom) on Wednesday, August 04, 2004 - 03:17 pm: Edit

Good points, valpal. I think most successful children's artists come from art school backgrounds with intensive training in drawing because that is critical in a lot of children's illustration work. There are lots of people and animals in motion in picture books, and the more successful artists who can handle that are the ones with extensive drawing instruction.

Sac: The computer art classes are a good idea. A few children's books are now being illustrated just with computer-produced art. Another thing I would suggest is taking classes or workshops in writing for children as well as children's literature (especially if she can find any that focus on picture books).

She could join the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. They have a helpful newsletter and an annual conference each summer in LA. At this conference there is a display for the work of new illustrators, and the artists display samples and give out their cards. This would be a good thing for her to pursue, and there are also lots of lectures and workshops for writers and illustrators at this conference and some publishing people and art directors there. In fact if your D is still in LA she could still attend the conference this year, as it starts this Friday. There are several sessions for beginning illustrators. One is called "I Never Went to Art School but Became an Illustrator Anyway."

Here are links to the organization and the conference schedule:

If she is interested in working with children then a teaching credential or graduate degree in library work would be a logical step and would also be very valuable in getting real-life experience in what children really like. She could also volunteer in a classroom setting.

By Sac (Sac) on Wednesday, August 04, 2004 - 04:02 pm: Edit

Thanks! She's in Northern California now, but this is wonderful to know about.

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