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Who’s Denise Shimabukuro?

Not only an exceptionally talented artist with a long career in children’s book illustration, but has also been my teacher, and for this I feel very fortunate.


It’s well known that there is a great amount of extremely valuable artists out there, but very few are actually very skilled in teaching this art. Well, Denise belongs to that restricted group.


This book is a sort of journal in which Denise took notes along the years collecting tips, suggestions and explanations by practicing on the job. It’s a handbook on the art of composition and on the elements needed to build the layout for an illustration.

In every chapter she presents a different area and she does that with a disarming simplicity. Her explanations – always accompanied by sketches and drawings – are so linear and clear that it gives you the illusion that it’s really easy to create the perfect illustration. Trust me, it is not.

Some years have passed since I attended Denise’s course now, however, even today, every time I finish a layout for a book illustration I wonder what Denise would think about it and I’m totally convinced that if she saw it, she would be able to improve it with just a couple of pencil strokes.


Details are the most dangerous trap for an artist: You fall in love with details and you lose track of the whole. And this book is focused on that “whole”, made of small guidelines and pieces of advice that are the base of a solid illustration for a children’s book.


Denise has that talent of deconstructing everything into simple shapes and gestures. She speaks about direction, importance of the silhouette and she tells you how to choose the most appropriate camera angle to deliver your storytelling in an effective way. She shows how to handle spaces and to highlight mood and feelings, as well as helps you understand how to focus attention on the main action by downplaying the less important elements in the background. Denise also teaches you how to manage the eye-flow to guide the reader through the illustration.


The chapters on thumbnails and the creation of a bookmap are a must to manage an entire book project.


This book also contains chapters on “simplified anatomy”, for humans and animals.


I feel confident in recommending this book not only for someone wanting to have a solid base when beginning their work in illustration and layout design, but also for professionals – because brushing up is always useful!


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