Untapped Source of Illustrators for Children's Picture Books

 Did you know artists on Teachers Pay Teachers (TpT) also will create custom art? This site is a highly untapped source of art for publishing needs. It is a matter of contacting artists and communicating with them. Every artist on TpT has at least one free clip art download sample. It is free to join. Art may be viewed before contacting an artist for more information. It must be noted that
clip artists all have different terms of use, like artists everywhere. Although education-based, anyone may access the site. I met the artists who illustrated my self-published books on the platform.

Never heard of TpT? 

It is a site for educators Pre-K through college to post and sell courses, lessons, clip art, and professional development videos. The site has thousands of free downloads, including clip art. Just like the author community, the teachers and clip artists have communities there, on Facebook, and other platforms. They support each other and get to know each other. Usually, this is supportive and good collaboration.

Just like with authors and other people I met online, some members became fast friends. It is odd when I have a feeling about who would be a friend rather immediately. Maybe that has happened to you, as well. You just connect.

Indie writers usually know about sites like Fiverr.com and Etsy, both of which also have artists. Some authors purchase a character in several poses by an artist on such sites and then develop their scenes and ideas. Some people have covers or even book formatting done for them. Countless sites offer covers and book formatting services. I tend to take classes on UDEMY to learn how to self-publish myself to develop my picture books and novels. I have Scrivener but tend to use Word as I have more freedom to create books to my exact specifications and add interior design.

Two artists I have worked with over the years do not have English as their first language, although they post lessons and art on TpT, which uses the English language. How to communicate? That is the question! I do not speak much Spanish or Afrikaans, as these artist-authors do.

For picture books, I tried making dummy book files, but the amount of space left for illustrations made the books difficult to read. Hmmm. Then I had an inspiration to create tables. One column was for the page text. One was for a written idea of what the picture would show. Another column was dedicated to some sort of image I could find that I already had for them or online that I knew would be redrawn as the artist’s original work. If I could find nothing to help suggest what I meant, then the cell was left blank. My thoughts had to be almost print-ready as changing my mind could become expensive. Tables were not only helpful to the artists but also for me as I planned the stories. This approach worked best with Pieter Els (https://surferkidsclipartsa.co.za/), artist, author, and website designer who lives in South Africa. He also helps maintain my website.

Untapped Source of Illustrators for Children's Picture Books

The other artist I have worked with is Professora Oxana Cerra (http://oxanadesign.blogspot.com/, who lives in Columbia, South America. I listed the characters I wanted for a math story who were all measuring spoons who could fly, and she drew them for me. Then, I would need another image or so, and I paid per image. She created clip art in color for picture books and black and white for worksheets to accompany the texts. She designs BlogSpot blogs, also.

Untapped Source of Illustrators for Children's Picture Books

All of this kind of work is highly individual. Professora Oxana does not require extra licenses as many artists do, so I buy her other clip art to complete the pages.

Gabriel is Oxana's son and he drew images for me to use with children in a kindergarten class when I made them little personalized easy readers. He drew many images in this coloring book, just published. Pieter Els made the cover. 

Chloe and the no good very sad deplorable pandemic coloring book

One consideration for work like this is time zones. Pieter Els is about six hours ahead of Minnesota, so I sometimes get up early to work with him. Oxana Cerra is in about the same time zone, so that works out well. Then, if a project would be extensive, there could be tax implications as well. One of my virtual assistants for my blog lives in Northern Ireland (and we have visited her there). I look up online whether or not taxes are imposed or if there are limits to how much work may be done per year. Every country is different. Both of these people have children following in their footsteps and are also artists. There are dozens of other artists who may be found on TpT.

I have fun creating books and do not expect to be a big seller in this area. Mostly, it is fun to use my publications with my students and grandchildren. It is satisfying to complete projects, self-publish, and give out copies to people I know. Perhaps you have bigger goals, and this approach isn’t for you. I wish all authors good luck and much success!

Author and Owner of The Wise Owl Factory

Carolyn Wilhelm is the curriculum writer and sole owner of The Wise Owl Factory site and blog. She has a BS in Elementary Education, an MS in Gifted Education, and an MA in Curriculum and Instruction K-12. As a retired teacher of 28 years, she now makes mostly free educational resources for teachers and parents. Her course about Self-Publishing from the Very, Very Beginning is available on UDEMY. Her children’s books are available on Amazon and Barnes and Nobel sites. 


Karen Cioffi said...

Carolyn, these are both terrific articles that I am saving. I found illustrators in other ways. 1000 Storybooks is the company who is illustrating one of my picture books. They've been terrific. However, your article is a big help in discovering other resources helpful for authors and anyone needing professional illustrations. Thank you for sharing.
Linda Wilson

Karen Cioffi said...

Carolyn W, another useful article. Thanks for sharing the illustrators' links. I'm always looking for illustrators for my clients. I have a list that I give them once the manuscript is complete. Word of mouth is always helpful!

Terry Whalin said...


Thank you for this resource. As someone with little artistic talent (great at stick figures), we need to this resource for our books. I also appreciate the experienced tips of how to work with these artists--great insights.

author of 10 Publishing Myths, Insights Every Author Needs to Succeed

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