When was the last time you read a textbook? Did the pictures catch your attention? Sometimes pictures literally jump off the pages, other times you don’t even notice there are any. I’m a visual person and I remember things best in images (also text from a book page). The textbooks of my school years didn’t offer much for imagination. Mostly the illustrations of the time could be described as lame. Fortunately things have changed.
Illustrations have increased almost exponentially and they are now an integral part of textbooks. My own children go to elementary school and they study from textbooks with illustrated characters, who function as teachers – and indeed function, they have a very active role in the books.
How do you make an illustration?
Illustrating is a demanding process, even more so because of the realities of the publishing business. Maija Karala ended up working as an illustrator partly by an accident. Publishing company Otava contacted Maija to have a permission to use a picture they’ve seen in her blog and one thing led to another. Otava asked Maija to illustrate the new high school biology textbook called Koralli 1.
-A typical illustration process begins with a brief and a model picture sent to me by the publisher. This is the basis for my illustration assignment. Once I for example made a similar picture to the model picture, only changing the species into Finnish equivalents, Maija says.
When the illustrator begins her work, she usually doesn’t have the final text of the book available. Maija made 46 illustrations for the biology textbook. Originally she had 4 months for the job, but in the end most of the illustrations were made in 4 weeks. Publishers often have very tight schedules, which become even more pressed if those working in the beginning of the project don’t keep up. As the book has to be ready by a certain deadline, the ones working in the end stages have to speed up. An illustrator is normally one of the latter.
Maija hopes that she could collaborate more with the writers of the textbooks, but the schedules often don’t allow that. However, she’s thrived even with the rushed work schedule. In fact, illustrating assignments have increased so much, she’s been forced to cut down writing jobs.
A Good Illustration is a Clear One
-A good illustration gives all the information it should, but it is also esthetically pleasing. Although the schedules are tight, it’s worth while to use enough time to think over what you actually want to do. There is no point in copying something that has already been done. The illustrations also have to be very clear to look good in print, Maija says.
The blog has worked as a great reference for Maija. Besides Otava, the Finnish National Board of Education has found Maija through her blog.
-A blog gives you freedom to try things out. You don’t need to please any certain audience there, Maija tells. It is also an easy way to present your style and skills for a potential client. Choosing an illustration is often also a choice of the style and technique, especially if the illustrator has a distinctive style.
Maija Karala in Deviant Art
Maija’s blog: Erään planeetan ihmeitä