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Children's Picture Books: The Art of Visual Narrative (10 credit points)

Course Times & Enrolment

This course is currently unavailable.

Course Summary

This course introduces students to the art of sequential imagery and visual narratives with a particular focus on children’s picture books. Through a series of practical exercises and workshops the students will explore aspects of creating a picture book, from research and initial concept to the final artwork. Students will have the opportunity to develop their own illustrative style to create a successful and engaging picture book narrative.

Course Details

Pre-requisites for enrolment

It is recommended that students have completed the Introduction to Illustration course.

Special Information

This course will include a limited supply of basic papers and cards. However please do acquire the materials recommended for this course.

Material you will need to bring to the first class:

  • An A4-sized sketchbook

  • A selection of drawing materials such as pencils, dipping pen, fine-liners or colour pencils according to student preference

In addition to the course fee, students are expected to provide the following list of indicative tools, materials and equipment:

  • An A4-sized sketchbook

  • 2B, 4B and 6B pencils

  • A dipping pen and a drawing nib

  • A few sheets of A2 or A1 heavy or light-weight cartridge paper and coloured paper according to student preference

  • A selection of drawing materials such as fine-liners, watercolours, inks or colour pencils depending on depending on individual projects

Content of Course

Over the class sessions the course will cover:

1. Introduction to the art of the picture book. A short sequential imagery brief.

2. Drawing and sketchbooks. Developing visual vocabulary for picture book projects.

3. Researching and developing concepts and ideas for picture books. A short storytelling brief:

4. Where do the stories come from?

5. Illustrating for children – exploring themes. Drawing children and animals. Planning personal projects.

6. Character development. A short character design brief.

7. Setting and atmosphere in picture books. Exploring process and techniques in order to set the mood of the book.

8. Sequential imagery. Introduction to storyboarding and dummy books.

9. Words and pictures. Exploring the relationship between the text and illustration in picture books.

10. Illustrating process: from roughs to final artwork. Developing a personal project.

11. Developing a personal project and final presentation (optional: Short introduction to children’s book publishing).

Teaching method(s)

The teaching will be based and delivered in specialist art and design studios or workshops and will typically include a range of practical exercises, introductions to techniques, processes and concepts, and set projects which lead to more focused and personal exploration. Over the course, students’ progress will be monitored and supported by the tutor.  Teaching will include practical demonstrations, one to one tuition, group discussions and critiques.

For work required to be undertaken after the class hours are complete, the course tutor will set students a ‘directed study plan’ which can be undertaken without the need for specialist workshops or access to models.

Directed study will include research into a range of suggested artists and their associated movements to engender a contextual awareness. Students are expected to demonstrate how their research has informed their work through annotated sketchbooks, a visual digital journal and practical outcomes. 

The Directed Study Plan will include preparing evidence of research and practical work to form an appropriate presentation for assessment.

Learning outcomes

On completion of this course, the student will be able to:

  • Demonstrate a range of practical research skills to explore personal concepts and visual ideas to successfully inform a sequential imagery project, supported by contextual references and sketchbook studies.

  • Show a confidence in employing a range of appropriate materials, methods and approaches to convey a visual narrative through a series of briefs and exercises.

  • Evidence appropriate judgement to document, select, edit and present a completed picture book project in the form of a storyboard, roughs for a dummy book and finished illustrations.


Core Readings


  • SALISBURY, M. 2006, Illustrating Children’s Books: Creating Pictures for Publication. London:  A&C Black.

  • HELLIGE, H., Klanten, R. 2011, Little big books. Illustrations for children’s picture books. Berlin: Gestalten.

  • BOLOGNA Illustrators of Children’s Books, Annuals. Bologna: Bologna FiereWeb S.r.l.

  • HUNT, P. 1995, Children’s Literature: An Illustrated History. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

  • NODELMAN, P. 1988, Words about Pictures: The Narrative Art of Children’s Books. Athens and London: University of Georgia Press.

  • SALISBURY, M., Styles, M. 2012, Children’s Picturebooks. The Art of Visual Storytelling. London: Laurence King Publishing.

  • REES, D. 2008, How to be an Illustrator. London: Laurence King Publishing.

Web Sources


Details of the Art and Design assessment requirements can be found on the short course website. Please click on the following link for more information: Submission and Assessment Information

Studying for Credit

If you choose to study for credit you will need to allocate significant time outwith classes for coursework and assessment preparation. Credit points gained from this course can count towards the Certificate of Higher Education.


If you have questions regarding the course or enrolment, please contact COL Reception at Paterson's Land by email or by phone 0131 650 4400.

Student support

If you have a disability, learning difficulty or health condition which may affect your studies, please let us know by ticking the 'specific support needs' box on your course application form. This will allow us to make appropriate adjustments in advance and in accordance with your rights under the Equality Act 2010. For more information please visit the Student Support section of our website.