Five tips for would-be children’s illustrators by Puffin Books’ Dapo Adeola

Puffin illustrator and our cover competition judge Dapo Adeola knows a thing or two about creating great art — here he shares his top tips...

Here at The Big Issue we’re thrilled to have children’s illustrator and character designer Dapo Adeola as a judge for our Big Spring Cover Competition for kids.

Self-taught Dapo is known for creating characters that challenge gender norms in a fun, upbeat way. 

He is the co-creator and illustrator of Puffin Books title Look Up!, the humorous tale of science-mad Rocket, who is convinced she is going to be the greatest space explorer that ever lived. The title made the 2019 shortlists for the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize and Foyles Children’s and YA Book of the Year. 

To mark his important role in our drawing challenge, the Puffin pro has shared his top tips for anyone who aspires to follow in his footsteps as a children’s illustrator ⁠— some of which will no doubt help any would-be entrants to our competition, too…

1. Research other illustrators

Illustration is a huge field with rules and a system of working attached to it. Get into the habit of researching everything, as this will help you with your work and your progression.

“Whether it’s finding online resources, news and info about your field and the people within it, or references for your work, you need to develop a habit of researching and reading about illustration as much as creating it.”

2. Draw from life

“Whether it’s life drawing classes or just drawing people and environments around you, drawing from life will help strengthen your understanding of how things work in nature and develop your skill set accordingly. Do it often.”

 3. Exercise

“Drawing involves a lot of sitting so it’s important to make sure you stretch and exercise to strengthen your back and improve your mobility and focus.

“An added benefit is that having an exercise regime structured around your art routine helps reinforce the discipline that drawing requires.”

4. Manage your social media

“Keep your social media accounts related to your work. Only post your own art, and only follow other artists and art-related profiles. This means you’ll see art that inspires you when scrolling through your feed, whilst also promoting your own work.

“I use three social media platforms ⁠— Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. There’s nothing else that can give you and your work such reach with as little effort.”

Clean Up Nathan Bryan Dapo Adeola
Clean Up! by Nathan Bryan and Dapo Adeola
Dapo's next book 'Clean Up!' is due for release in July

 5. Put out what you want to come back in

If there’s no work coming in then use that time to research, practice, experiment and create the kind of work that reflects what you want to come through the door.

“It’s also important to take time between your work to do some personal work that best reflects to those that might commission you what you’re good at and most enjoy working on.”

The closing date for entries to our spring cover competition is May 29 ⁠— so enter now!