Painting A New School Year for Charlesbridge

Painting A New School Year for Charlesbridge 0

Illustrator Mika Song discusses creating the illustrations for her new book A New School Year: Stories in Six Voices

When I first read Sally Derby’s poems in A New School Year I was struck by how familiar each character felt to me. My goal for the illustrations was to keep them simple and show the emotions in the poems.

I had been volunteering as a reading tutor, so kids and classrooms were already fresh in my mind. My agent sent me photos of her son’s preschool walls to give me ideas. The rest is from my own memories. Happily, schools haven’t really changed much since my childhood. Before I started working, Susan Sherman (Art Director at Charlesbridge) sent me pages with the poems already set in their places. It made it really easy to see the overall composition of each spread. I just added my drawings wherever they balanced well with the shapes of the poems and the white space. 


I printed the poems out small and sketched right on them to make my thumbnails. Then I turned them into my final sketches by scanning and printing them out at the actual page size and tracing over them. I really like the simple shapes that happen when you draw very small.

Finally, I traced or just tried to copy the sketch onto watercolor paper for the final art. My favorite part of the process was mixing the different skin tones from the same three colors.

Watch a time-lapse of one of the characters (Mia) from Sally Derby’s A New School Year 

Purchase A New School Year: Stories in Six Voices for your readers today!