Society of
Children's Book Writers
and Illustrators

An Opportunity for Professional Development for Illustrators

Marjorie van Heerden

SCBWI SA is committed to offering opportunities for professional development to our members, both illustrators and writers. An example of this is the recent two-day SCBWI SA workshop on how to draw children, starting with the newborn baby up to children of 16 years old.

It was presented by Marjorie van Heerden, Co-Regional Advisor, an acknowledged expert in the area of drawing children. (She has presented the Stellenbosch University Spring school/Creative Workshop on Children’s Book Illustration for some years now.) Illustrators who participated, profited greatly from the workshop. Thanks to a grant from SCBWI HQ, we were able to make it a free event.

On the first day, Marjorie raised awareness of how important it is to have sound knowledge of the physical growth and development of children. She led those of us fortunate to be able to be there through a fascinating exploration of the anatomy of child, with diagrams and accurate pictures of the skeleton at various ages. As Marjorie put it, you have to start with the child ‘unclothed’.

Other pictures of children in different poses, dancing, jumping, stretching, walking helped to show what children are able to do and, perhaps even more importantly, not do at various stages of their development. By contrasting adults and children’s bodies, the striking differences in proportions at different ages were illustrated, and how these differences determine the ways in which people at those ages are able to move.

Seeing the implications of mistakes is also valuable. Using her extensive collection of picture books, Marjorie was able to highlight the common mistakes that illustrators make when drawing children. At the same time, she was not doctrinaire. She pointed to features of the style of brilliant illustrators like Quentin Blake and Maurice Sendak in which they ‘break’ the rules.

Marjorie also generously shared some of the strategies she uses to draw various parts of the child and the tools that she finds particularly useful, giving us a glimpse into the many things that she takes into consideration when she gives substance and form to child characters.

On the second day, participants were able to apply what they had learnt. Marjorie gave each participant personal attention. The happy silence as people worked spoke volumes.

An opportunity to work in Marjorie’s studio, buoyed by her skilful facilitation and surrounded by her marvellous collection of books, is as close to Illustrators’ heaven as it gets!