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Creating children's picture books

Organised each year by The University of Edinburgh, Innovative Learning Week is a festival for creative learning with almost 300 collaborative events, workshops and activities. It is a great opportunity for staff, students and people from outside of the university to share their skills and knowledge and celebrate creative learning.

This year, a one-day intensive workshop Children’s Picture Books: Words and Images aimed to introduce participants to the art of writing and illustrating picture books through a series of playful creative exercises, led by children’s author Janis MacKay and children’s illustrator Kasia Matyjaszek. 

To begin the course, each participant received an envelope containing a few random scraps of coloured paper – the task was to create a character out of them. Then, through imaginative drawing and creative writing exercises, the participants had an opportunity to develop the character, creating an identity and taking it on a journey.



While Kasia shared more randomly cut pieces of coloured paper that worked as imagination triggers, Janis took the participants on a story journey helping them to develop the words alongside the pictures.

The participants were introduced to the classic story structure developed by Joseph Campbell and to some basic storyboarding techniques. It allowed them to look at their book as a whole and plan in out on 12 double spreads, a typical format for picture books.



To encourage the participants to experiment with various media and techniques, Kasia led a series of mark-making and expressive painting exercises, providing a great warm up before the grand finale of the workshop - creating one fully developed illustration.

By the end of the workshop each of the participants developed a picture book idea including character development, storyboarding and one finished piece of artwork. The day ended with an exhibition of the artwork created, while participants enjoyed well-deserved refreshments.

Are you interested in beginning or progressing your own illustration work? Kasia Matyjaszek leads teaching on Developing Illustration Practice, which gives students the chance to create an ambitious personal illustration project through an intensive three week programme. Find out more with our video