“What is the use of a book,” thought Alice, “without
pictures or conversations?” Like Alice lost in
Wonderland, your average on-the-go audience
may need more than words to grab their attention.
Imagery can add impact and tell a story—with color
setting the mood—simply and with immediacy.
Illustrator and graphic designer Mary Peterson
of Los Angeles concurs. She explains, “I’m inspired
by all modes of visual storytelling—especially children’s
books and animation from the ’50s, but also
avant-garde theatrical production design and puppetry.”
Peterson illustrates for both commercial and
educational markets—she’s published three picture
books: Cat On Wheels (Boyds Mill Press), No Time To
Nap (Heyday Books) and the newly released Wiggle
and Waggle (Charlesbridge).
Peterson often has magical themes in her illustrations
that tend to begin as messy sketches. “I
tape together snippets of sketches, trace, scan, resize,
retrace, on and on,” says Peterson. “When I have a
page designed, I go looking for reference material.
I don’t work directly from photo references, but I
do refer to them for detail, bringing authenticity
to a scene.” She finishes by tracing the tight sketch
onto bristol or watercolor paper and then drawing
or watercoloring the “under-painting,” as Peterson
describes the process. Lastly, she scans the drawn
piece to finish “painting” the color in Photoshop,
Illustrator or both.
“I prefer to work with a limited color palette.
Generally there are no more than three colors and a
neutral at work in a piece. I can’t say why I prefer to
work this way, except that it’s very natural—even as a
child I would stick to four crayons per picture,” says
Peterson of her simple and inviting color choices.
Sprinkle pixie dust
on the page with
Caffe Latte (Prince Charming) and
Zeppelin (fairy tale)—free at www.liquidfonts.com. Enchant
with Preciosa (folklore)
(legend)—free at www.acidfonts.com.
Desire the magic
touch to reach audiences?
Brush up on
children’s stories and
and resonate with
most any age. Image
22160730, Brand X
They croak us up
Put a humorous or
unique twist on a
famous fable. From
an ad employing the
kissing frog story for
a credit card rewards
program: “… all kisses
expire 20 seconds
after time of pucker
…” Image 23803320,
Down the rabbit hole
For wispy, dreamlike
color inspiration, look
to fantastical paintings
history, discover magical
dreams in imagery.