Looking for Illustrators

I am looking for illustrators to take part in my
Picture Book Illustration e-Course Pilot Program.

The 6-week Pilot Program starts Thursday 26th October, 2017
(with a Thanksgiving break Thursday 30th November)
finishing on Thursday 7th December 2017

Picture Book Illustration e-Course

The Picture Book Illustration e-Course (PBIC) will walk you through the entire process of illustrating a picture book from start to finish. Offering support, guidance and projects to keep you on-track while you develop your story. With weekly lessons, printable resources, set projects and feedback (on coursework) from me and the online community.

During the 6-weeks, I will share the process that I use when working on a story from generate ideas, designing character, developing a storyboard, all the way through to producing a final artwork. The weekly projects are designed to keep you on track and to bring you ever closer to your picture book dream.

The process of illustrating Florence Fox

You can either choose to work on the ‘Florence Fox Goes to School’ class text (and be in the running to have your illustrations selected to accompany Ben Whittacker-Cook’s manuscript) or you can work on your own story, using the course classes and resources to pace yourself or to kick-start your project.

A Little About Me

I’ve been illustrating picture books since my first publication Little Platypus receiving a CBCA (Children’s Book Council of Australia) Notable Book Award in 2000. Since then, I’ve had more than a dozen picture books published worldwide, winning some awards along the way.

I’ve enjoyed teaching picture book illustration since 2007, using interactive white boards and video conferencing technology to deliver talks and workshops to schools across Australia with Literature Live!  (2010 – 2012). More recently, I’ve been teaching regular character design and illustration classes with Skillshare (since May 2016) having taught more than 10,000 students to date.

Nina Rycroft’s Picture Books

Course Outline

OCT 26 : WEEK ONE is all about introductions and discussing the things that you will need to consider before starting work on your story. Gathering inspiration and learning how to organise your collections into workable resources.

Generating Ideas for the Florence Fox character

NOV 2 : WEEK TWO is learning the character mapping process and exploring character within the context of a story. I’ll be walking you through what you need to consider before designing a character, showing how to transform key words and phrases from the manuscript into your first character sketches.

Character Mapping for Florence Fox

Starting with the face, you’ll explore multiple possibilities, then…

you’ll work your character as a whole, focusing on the entire body.

Florence Fox character ideas

As a picture book illustrator, you will need to be able to draw your character over and over, and in multiple positions. A character map not only helps you understand what your character looks like from every angle, but it also helps keep your character consistent throughout the story.

I’ll show you some simple techniques on how to bring movement to your character, using key ‘action’ phrases from the manuscript to draw a series of character vignettes. This will set you up for next weeks storyboarding.

Bringing Florence Fox to life

NOV 9 : WEEK THREE is all about storyboarding. Using text breaks and illustrations to influence the pace, rhythm and flow of your story. I will show you how to use this to your advantage, while you set to work on your thumbnail sketches.

Thumbnail sketches for Boom-Bah! (Phil Cummings)

NOV 16 : WEEK FOUR you will be transforming your thumbnail sketches into a larger storyboard format. Adding in detail, learning about composition and the need to consider both the image and the text. I’ll discuss setting and how this can dramatically change the tone and mood of your story.

My storyboard for ‘Pooka’ (Carol Chataway)

NOV 23 : There will be a break over thanksgiving. Time to catch up (or rest).

NOV 30 : WEEK FIVE is when you set up your final illustration, keeping in mind crop-marks, bleed, the gutter, cleanliness and or course readability. After deciding on technique and style, you’ll then draw-up and start producing your final artwork.

‘Florence Fox Goes to School’ illustration layout

DEC 7 : WEEK SIX is the final week. By now, you have designed a character, developed a storyboard and produced a final artwork for your story, sharing your journey with your online community. So…to wrap things up, there will be a ‘live’ video conference session discussing “What Next?”

Picture Book Illustration e-Course Showcase

Following the completion of the Picture Book Illustration e-Course, you’ll be invited to submit illustrations to feature in the Picture Book Illustration e-Course Showcase, which will be posted 1st on January 2018 and shared across multiple online platforms.

Will I complete a picture book by the end of the course?

Illustrating a picture book is a marathon not a sprint, it can take me anywhere for 3-months to 3-years to illustrate a story, so please don’t put that pressure on yourself (or your artwork). I don’t expect anyone to finish a picture book in 6-weeks. Instead, look at the Picture Book Illustration e-Course Pilot Program as an opportunity to get a real understanding of your story, expand ideas, map out characters, develop a storyboard and use the time to connect with like-minded people.

Online Community

A key part of the PBIC success will the online community. A ‘closed’ group designed only for students enrolled in the Picture Book Illustration e-Course Pilot Program. If you decide to join the Pilot Program, you’ll be one of the founding members of the community, setting the tone of future members. The group has been designed to safely share your coursework and engage with other members. I’ll be popping in once a week (for the duration of the course) offering feedback, guidance and the occasional ‘live’ feed.


Following the completion of the Picture Book Illustration e-Course Pilot Program…

  • I’ll be leaving the online community ‘open’ so that you can continue to support each other’s picture book journeys (and successes).
  • I’ll also be offering life-time access to the Picture Book Illustration e-Course video’s
  • as well as valuable Picture Book Illustration e-Course Printables


Do I need to draw like you?

The exciting thing about picture books is that they offer a wide variety of styles and techniques. During the course I’ll be drawing and demonstrating with my illustration style – and you are more than welcome to try it out. It’s perfectly normal to ‘copy’ as your work through the lessons and projects. Eventually, as you gain more confidence you’ll learn to translate what I teach to your own skill set. Across the 6-weeks, I’ll be encouraging you to gather inspiration from a wide variety of sources to help you discover (or solidify) your own visual ‘voice’ … whatever that may be. Whether your style is naive, emotive, graphic or cartoon-like, I want you to be able to celebrate you and to be able to bring this to your story.

Who Can Enrol?

The Picture Book Illustration e-Course is open to all levels as it is designed to allow you to take your individual skill set and build on that.

You may have no art experience, just a great story idea or you may like to learn how to translate your fine art, etchings, collage, appliqué etc … into the picture book format. Perhaps you are an animation or design student, wanting to up-skill or break into the publishing market with a comprehensive portfolio piece. Or maybe you’re looking to self-publish or to find a publisher. You might be working on a competition piece or perhaps you’ve just signed your first picture book contract and you’re looking for some guidance.

Either way this course is the perfect accompaniment for your creative project, designed to keep you on track, expand your story ideas and offer support while you to develop your project.


Can I publish and sell my e-Course illustrations?

  • Can I use my ‘Florence Goes to School’ character designs and illustrations for my own personal portfolio? Yes you can. As long as you credit Ben Whittacker-Cook as the author.
  • Can I publish my ‘Florence Goes to School’ character designs and illustrations as a picture book, an e-book, or for my own personal book? Absolutely not. As the author of ‘Florence Fox Goes to School’ and the creator of the Florence Fox character, Ben Whittacker-Cook has allowed the Picture Book Illustration e-Course to use his unpublished manuscript ONLY for your personal and creative development.
  • Can I sell the illustrations that I make on the e-Course? That depends. If it is a copy of the Picture Book Illustration e-Course work, then no. If the work you create is just inspired by a technique or lesson, and isn’t recognisable as Nina’s, then by all means, sell it with pride.
  • Can I send my ‘Florence Goes to School’ character designs and illustrations to a publisher? Yes, as long as you credit Ben Whittacker-Cook as the author.

What the program asks of you

  • Work your way through the weekly projects
  • Post and engage with the online community
  • Offer feedback and ideas to improve future Picture Book Illustration e-Courses

What the program offers

  • Weekly feedback from me
  • A ‘live’ video conference session with me and the PBIC members
  • Ongoing community support from other PBIC members that will continue even after the pilot program is complete
  • A signed copy of my ‘Ballroom Bonanza’ picture book
  •  (While you wait for class to begin) you’ll get free access to my ‘Face Shapes’ Skillshare class
  • A marketing feature in the Picture Book Illustration e-Course Showcase video
  • Limited to 25 seats
  • Heavily discounted at US$99.00 (the price for PBIC will then be set at US$247.00)

How do I enrol?

There are no more spots available in the ‘Picture Book Illustration e-Course’ Pilot Program. If you would like to be put on the waiting list for the ‘actual’ Picture Book Illustration e-Course starting 22nd Feb 2018 at the cost of US$247.00, please email me at nina@ninarycroft.com

To get a better idea of what you you’d like out of the course, let me know…

  • if you planning on working on your own text or the course manuscript?
  • What you would like to get out of thePicture Book Illustration e-Course?
  • Where did you heard about the Picture Book Illustration e-Course Pilot Program?

I look forward to hearing from you.

Nina x

So you want to learn how to illustrate a picture book?

So you want to learn how to illustrate a picture book?

Well here’s your chance!

The classes that I’ve been producing on Skillshare this past year are a breakdown of the many processes that I use when developing characters for a picture book. From the things that I need to consider before starting work on a story, designing character, all the way through to deciding what illustration technique will be most suitable for the final artwork.

To make things easy for you, I’ve listed my classes in the sequence that I use when producing illustrations for a story. Work your way through, and you’ll be well on your way to producing your very first picture book publication. Skillshare are now offering a one-month FREE trial, so all you need to do, is click on the links below to join me in class.


‘101 Guide to Picture Books’ will give you the framework for everything you need to consider before starting work on a picture book.

101 Guide to Picture Book Illustration

‘Face Facts – a Beginners Guide to Drawing a Self Portrait’ is a chance to brush-up on the basics in face proportion, so that you can start illustrating characters with confidence.

Inês Mateus’ self portrait.

‘Face Shapes – Explore Character Using 9 Simple Shapes’ is the perfect kick-start to any character design.

Face Shapes Skillshare Class

‘101 Guide to Drawing Eyes’ allows you to hone in on your character, exploring the shape, size and the placement of the eyes, and seeing how these small tweaks can dramatically change age, look and style of your character.

101 Guide to Drawing Eyes

‘Emoji Me – the Art of Drawing Facial Expression’ walks you through the six basic emotions and then some. If you’re illustrating a story, this class is a must!

Emoji Me – The Art of Facial Expression

‘How to Draw the Head from Every Angle – Part One’ shares simple techniques that will help you draw yours character head every which way.

How to Draw the Head From Every Angle

‘How to Draw the Head from Every Angle – Part Two’ will save you hours and hours of mistakes and frustration. Making a mini-model of your character’s head, will not only help you understand character but it will also help you draw your character accurately and consistently while working on a picture book.

Polymere Clay Model

‘How to Draw the Head from Every Angle – Part Three’ walks you step-by-step through the process of drawing your characters head from every angle, creating valuable character reference.

Drawing a characters head from every angel

‘Draw a Circus of Characters – Exploring Body Shape and Body Proportion’ takes you through the process of drawing a set of characters for a story using three simple steps.

‘Illustration Masterclass – Exploring Technique and Style’ gives you the opportunity to experiment with a wide variety of illustration styles and techniques.

Illustration Techniques Master Class


I have some exciting new classes in the works, including my next class ‘Draw a Circus of Movement’ where you’ll learn how to bring your characters to life with movement and gesture. In this class, you’ll explore body posture, exaggeration, line-of-action and other techniques that will have your characters balancing, lifting, walking, skipping, running and leaping right off the page!

If you have an idea for a character or a picture book story, my classes offer the opportunity for anyone who has always wanted to illustrate a picture book, but needs guidance; for anyone who is in the process of illustrating a story but needs encouragement; or just for anyone who wants to draw and explore and see where it takes them. The lovely thing about these classes is that you can work at your own pace and in your own space, practicing new skills, all the while working on the bigger picture – your your picture book publication.

I look forward to seeing you in class and if you have any questions or even an idea for a future class, please drop me a line. I’m alway happy to help. – Nina

The Art of Bunnies in Books – an Easter Illustration Celebration

With Easter just around the corner, I have taken the opportunity to explore rabbits, bunnies and hares in picture book stories, with my latest class, The Art of Bunnies in Books – an Easter Illustration Celebration. 

I’ve spent the past month, putting together a class that not only offers an opportunity to hone-in your drawing skills but also, to inspire you with illustrations and art from a wide selection of ‘bunny’ books, walking you step-by-step through the process of drawing, designing and illustrating animal-like, human-like and toy-like bunnies.

I’m super proud of this class, with 55-mins of inspiration, a bunny booklist, illustration templates and instructions on how to paint and draw bunnies galore The Art of Bunnies in Books – an Easter Illustration Celebration will be sure to get you in the mood for Easter!

‘The Grasshopper’s Dance’, Illustrated by Nina Rycroft

As you may know, bringing human qualities to animal characters is one of my favourite things to do, so having the opportunity to spend time researching and seeing how different illustrators approach anthropomorphism across time, has been absolutely eye-opening for me.

For as long as picture books have been in print, illustrators have used anthropomorphism as a technique to engage and connect to the reader. A balancing act of various degrees of animal/human qualities, from keeping the animal natural looking to having the animal behave, dress and even live in a human-like way. This class will show various degrees of anthropomorphic techniques and how illustrators across time have implemented them.

Full Moon - Water Colour illustration Nina Rycroft

An illustration from ‘The Grasshopper’s Dance’, by Juliette McIver, Illustrated by Nina Rycroft

I’ve illustrated the occasional bunny in my time, and have found them an absolute delight to work with. So if you enjoy picture books, illustration, bunnies and celebrating Easter with more than just chocolate, then this class is a must!

My new Skillshare class,The Art of Bunnies in Books – an Easter Illustration Celebration explores the popularity and the history of rabbits, hares and bunnies in picture books.

Aesop’s fable ‘The Tortoise and the Hare’

From early fables like The Tortoise and the Hare, to well-known characters like the Velveteen RabbitPeter RabbitMiffy and more, this class will inspire you with a time-line of picture book stories, illustration styles and techniques. You can also download a BUNNY BOOKLIST, listing all the books, authors and illustrators that I mention in the class, as well as links to purchase copies of the books. *only if the books are available online.

‘The Velveteen Rabbit‘ by Margery Williams

‘The Velveteen Rabbit‘ by Margery Williams

The Art of Bunnies in Books – an Easter Illustration Celebration gives you comprehensive instructions to try your hand at anthropomorphism, illustrating animal-like, human-like and toy-like bunnies. With over the shoulder instructions, I show you my methods to creating animal characters for picture books, taking you through the entire process, from ideas, drawing rabbits from photographic reference, all the way through to creating final Easter Celebration Illustration using watercolour.

Beginners and seasoned artists are welcome! though I would highly recommend basic knowledge in watercolour.

Easter Celebration Illustration by Nina Rycroft

Easter Celebration Illustration by Nina Rycroft


  • A Bunny Book List (featuring all the books mentioned in class).
  • Illustration Templates for the ‘Easter Celebration Illustration’, ‘Toy Rabbit’ drawings and ‘Bunny Sketches’ from photographs.
  • Material lists for each illustration project.
    As well as this, you will have  55-mins of over-the-shoulder tuition!

Nina’s velveteen toy rabbit inspired drawings

If you join The Art of Bunnies in Books – an Easter Illustration Celebration using this link, you’ll get a one-month-free-trial at Skillshare, where you can enrol in my other (11 character design and illustration) classes as well as take part in thousands of other creative classes.

As always, I look forward to sharing everything that I’ve learnt over the years illustrating character and story!

Enjoy your Easter preparations with books, bunnies and maybe a little chocolate – Nina 🙂


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I wanted to take this opportunity to focus on the colored pencil techniques that I offer in my Illustration Masterclass – Exploring Technique and Style.

Illustration Masterclass – Exploring Technique and Style

I’ve made sure to cover a wide variety of style and technique, so if you’re wanting to try out colored pencil, this class offers the opportunity to explore a range of styles in a relatively short amount of time. From bold and playful to soft and delicate, the results are as different as (the feeling) and the process it took to complete them.


This expressive energetic illustration style is all about layering bold cross-hatching line in multiple directions. Starting with a soft color then, layering over the top with stronger pigments. Let’s say I’m coloring-in the girls hair, instead of using one yellow pencil, I use a family of yellow colors, from deep cadmium and gold, all the way through to burnt sienna and orange. Using a family of colors helps create the depth and richness I’m after.

This technique, requires a bold line and confident hand. I enjoyed the process of working at a fast rhythmic pace and getting results quickly.

Materials for Illustration One
Derwent Artist Pink Madder Lake 19-17
Derwent Deep Cadmium 19-6
Derwent Middle Chrome 19-8
Derwent Scarlet Lake 19-12
Derwent burnt sienna 19-62
Derwent Geranium Lake 19-15
Derwent Terra Cotta 19-64
Derwent Kingfisher Blue 19-38
Derwent Sky Blue- 19-34
Derwent Turquoise Green 19-40
Derwent Gold 19-3
Derwent Cobalt Blue 19-31
Derwent Deep Vermillion 19-14
Prismacolor light peach


This soft whimsical style of illustration is much more delicate that the previous style. When using this technique, think light and soft, brushing the pencil back and forth across the paper without putting any weight behind it. This technique is all about slowly building up the layers of color one after the other. I use the same cross-hatching technique as I did with the previous illustration however, I brush the sharp-tipped pencil across the paper changing the direction 45% for each layer.

To add interest, I create a textured pattern by drawing with a blunt pointed tool then laying the colored pencil over the top. This illustration required much more patience than the previous style and needs a calm approach. Once I found my rhythm, I enjoyed the process and found myself falling into a ‘flow’.

Materials for Illustration Two
Prismacolor light peach
Derwent Artist Pink Madder Lake 19-17
Derwent Raw Sienna 19-58
Derwent Geranium Lake 19-15
Derwent Deep Vermilion 19-14
Derwent Orange Chrome 19-10
Derwent Olive Green 19-51
Derwent Bronze 19-52
Derwent Sky Blue- 19-34
Derwent Light Violet 19-26 19-15
Derwent burnt sienna 19-62
Derwent Kingfisher Blue 19-38
Derwent Golden Brown 19-59


This playful, expressive style of illustration requires a child-like approach of fun and exuberance. It’s about being bold and brave, leaving perfection (and drawing inside the lines) at the door. This style is about finding the balance between play and precision. The line is confident and the colors are strong, with the excitement of creating child-like ‘scribbles’ with the wisdom that comes with experience.

This technique requires you to dive right in. You need to have total conviction with a sprinkling of play. Once I got this, I enjoyed the speed and excitement this illustration required.

Materials for Illustration Three
Derwent Spectrum Orange 19-11
Derwent Middle Chrome 19-8
Derwent Venetian Red 19-63
Derwent Burnt Yellow Ochre 19-50

Other Materials needed
Arches Hot-press watercolor paper
a compass
an eraser
a sharpener

If you haven’t already, use the links below to get started in Illustration Masterclass – Exploring Techniques and Styles
FREE http://skl.sh/2krWZL3
Premium Link  http://skl.sh/2jyzAV3

I’d love to see and hear how you get on. Did you enjoy the bold playful style, or did you prefer a more delicate timely process?

All the best with your coloured pencil adventure! – Nina

Why I Make a 3D Model of My Characters

Drawing my characters’ head rotating on the X, Y and Z-Axis


When creating a new character, I like to start by using my hands to quickly and effectively sketch the shape and form using clay. My view… I’m experiential learner and making a 3D model takes me through the process of building my character from the ground up. The tactile experience of adding, pressing and shaping the clay offers a multi-sensory experience and offers me a deeper understanding of my character.

About the new site…

Hi there!

I’m Nina, a picture book illustrator. I’ve been illustrating picture books since my first publication in 2000 and I am now in the process of re-working my face-to-face illustration classes into video style online classes with Skillshare. With 9 classes to date, my character development series walks you through every aspect of designing and developing characters for a picture book. Each class is between 20-30 mins with the occasional Illustration masterclass. I love teaching and I’m so excited to be able to share the tricks of the trade with other artists, illustrators and anyone interested in trying out picture book illustration.

Full Moon - Water Colour ILlustration Nina Rycroft

My website features a new class each month, my books page and my online portfolio. As well as illustrating and teaching online, I enjoy school visits and one-on-one mentoring, so if you’re interested in finding out more, please drop me a line or better still subscribe.