Detail of Final book cover for "Brotherly Love."

On Illustrating A Children’s Book With Jory Mason

I’ve been enjoying artwork by Jory Mason for sometime now (definitely go check out her fabulous Great Dane portrait that I wrote about here) but it was her announcement that she was illustrating a children’s book that spurred me to invite her to write a guest blog for HowToPastel.

I wonder how many of us have thought of/are thinking of illustrating a children’s book? If you’re one of these people, you may find this article about Jory Mason’s journey from dream to now-published book, Brotherly Love: A Seemore the Seagull Tale both helpful and inspirational.

Jory Mason's Final book cover  for "Brotherly Love."
Final book cover for “Brotherly Love.”

Here’s a wee bio for Jory Mason before we go further.

Jory Mason Bio

Jory Mason is an accomplished art director/graphic designer who is now focusing on her first love, painting. Jory attended L’Instituto D’Arte in Italy where she had her first solo exhibition which completely sold out. She later studied at New England School of Art/Design and Mass College of Art. Now an award winning artist, she’s also exhibited in Boston, New York, and New Mexico. Her work has been showcased in Strokes of Genius 8: Expressive Texture published by North Light Books. 

Jory has achieved Master Pastel status with the International Association of Pastel Societies (IAPS) and has recently led her first international painting workshop in Tuscany. You can check out her website here.

Before I hand the blog over to Jory, I’d like to share a couple of her pastel pieces not associated with illustrating a children’s book so you get a fuller picture of her skills as an artist.

Jory Mason, "Light Quacking," pastel on paper, 20 x 16 in.
Jory Mason, “Light Quacking,” pastel on paper, 20 x 16 in.
Jory Mason, "More Confident," pastel on paper, 12 x 14 in.
Jory Mason, “More Confident,” pastel on paper, 12 x 14 in.
Jory Mason, "Good Days Work," pastel on paper, 12 x 9 in.
Jory Mason, “Good Days Work,” pastel on paper, 12 x 9 in.

Now it’s over to Jory! Throughout her story, I’ve placed her layouts and corresponding pages from the book. This will give you a sense of the visual development of the illustrations from the layout to the final look.


When I went to art school my intention was to become a children’s book illustrator. I wasn’t even done with school when I got an offer to work as a “mechanical artist.” (This meant doing paste-ups and photo stats, or gluing strips of galleys of text and art onto a board for reproduction.) I loved working in an art department for a large retail chain. Soon I was doing some spot illustrations for the newspaper. 

After a few years I got my first job in an advertising agency in Boston. I loved it. Back then, the ad concepts and story boards for commercials were drawn with magic markers. I then hired photographers and (real) illustrators to do the final art. I progressed from Graphic Designer, to Art Director, to Associate Creative Director. By then I was doing less and less “creative” work and more and more meetings and client presentations. This did not make me happy so I started freelancing on the side. Within a year I had enough clients to quit and be independent. That was about 35 years ago and I am still a freelance art director.

Jory Mason: Layout showing Winthrop Tower
Jory Mason: Layout showing Winthrop Tower
Jory Mason: Final art for Winthrop Tower
Jory Mason: Final art for Winthrop Tower

Some background… My grandfather John R. Neill was a full time artist. He is best known for illustrating 39 volumes of the Wizard of OZ. His imagination and technical ability blow me away. So much so that trying to follow in his footsteps was quite intimidating. 

My mother Annrea Neill was a very accomplished pastel painter and Director of the Falmouth Artist’s Guild on Cape Cod. When I was 20, she asked me to join her in a 5-day figurative workshop with Albert Handell in Woodstock NY. I had never tried pastels before but it was a fabulous experience. It was a good thing I didn’t know how famous he is!

Jory Mason: Layout showing Wind Storm
Jory Mason: Layout showing Wind Storm
Jory Mason: Final art for Wind Storm
Jory Mason: Final art for Wind Storm

Work and family left no time for doing “real” art work, so I didn’t pick up pastels again until after my Mom died 30 years later. I inherited all of her art supplies and books. So finally, I got up the nerve to unpack them and take a class with Donna Rossetti Baily at the North River Art Society. She should be called a therapist as well as a wonderful teacher and painter. I took her weekly class for about 10 years but rarely painted on my own. I also started attending pastel workshops, often six per year! It remains an addiction even though I’m now leading workshops. (The most exciting one was in Tuscany last Fall). I love the camaraderie of working with other artists.

Jory Mason: Layout showing friends making a sling out of kelp
Jory Mason: Layout showing friends making a sling out of kelp
Jory Mason: Final art for friends making a sling out of kelp
Jory Mason: Final art for friends making a sling out of kelp

So, how did all this lead to my finally illustrating a children’s book? 

My sister got an email from her art group. Someone was looking for an illustrator so she forwarded the email to me. I immediately put together a flyer with a few paintings that might work as illustrations and sent it out. The publisher told me it had already been assigned and she would “keep me on file.” Then, six months later, she sent me the manuscript for “Brotherly Love.”  I already had hundreds of photos I’d taken of seagulls and loved the story so I said yes. 

Jory Mason: Layout showing scaring off weasels
Jory Mason: Layout showing scaring off weasels
Jory Mason: Final art for scaring off weasels
Jory Mason: Final art for scaring off weasels

Then some fear set in. How do I do this? 

Luckily my excitement overpowered my fear and I jumped in. This meant gathering more photo reference material, doing thumbnail concept sketches, setting the book up in the InDesign programme in double page spreads with the text in place so I knew how much room I had. 

I did a few sample designs in marker and sent them to the publisher. She told me they usually just do single page illustrations but after seeing my layouts got permission to produce half of the book using illustrations that spanned both pages. She sent the layouts to the author who loved them and had no changes. I was told to keep going with no direction from them at all. I had a two-month deadline and did 15 paintings in three weeks. I was totally pumped! 

Jory Mason: Layout showing protecting the eggs
Jory Mason: Layout showing protecting the eggs
Jory Mason: Final art for protecting the eggs
Jory Mason: Final art for protecting the eggs

I started each illustration actual size (8×10 or 10×16 in) on UART paper with a watercolor underpainting, Sometimes I worked on toned paper. I photographed the pastel illustrations with my iPhone and designed the entire book for production. The only glitch was when they finally sent the proofs to me. The illustrations looked good but the book design and type fonts had changed substantially. I was disappointed but was told it was already being printed so I had to let it go. Now I’m thinking of writing my own book so I can control it all.

Proposed book cover
Proposed book cover

Here are a couple of tips if you’re interested in getting into children’s book illustration.

The social media game for children’s book illustrators used to be dominated by Instagram, a photo-based network, but with Twitter’s recent update that allows for images of bigger sizes, there’s no doubt a lot of potential here, too. Use the #writingcommunity tag on Twitter and you’ll find plenty of authors of various genres sharing their thoughts, concerns, and call for professional help.

Also consider Reedsy. It’s a resource hub and professional marketplace catering specifically to authors. With over 500,000 authors on-site, looking for illustrators to hire, there’s never a shortage of projects. And because illustration is such a niche skill, quality children’s book illustrators are always in high demand.

Jory Mason's Final book cover for "Brotherly Love."
Final book cover for “Brotherly Love.”

By the way, a few times during those weeks of illustrating, I could hear my husband laughing while I was loudly squawking in my studio. (I was getting into character so I could feel what the seagulls were going through!) 

You gotta have fun!


And isn’t that FUN?!

I love how Jory takes us through her journey from the dream of illustrating a children’s book to the final published product.

Have you been thinking of illustrating a children’s book? Let us know in the comments. And also let us know your thoughts on Jory’s journey!

Until next time,


PS. Interested in supporting Jory Mason and getting her book? Click here.

Illustrating a children's book: Jory Mason, early sketch idea
Jory Mason, early sketch idea

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25 thoughts on “On Illustrating A Children’s Book With Jory Mason”

  1. I love her illustrations! But, the first thing I noticed was the type fonts…they do nothing for the wonderful illustrations. I agree that she needs to take over completely 😊😊😊.

  2. Congratulations…how wonderful for you Jory! I wish I had read this 5 years ago when my Mom wanted to write a children’s book using my art.
    Thanks Gail!

  3. How wonderful to have read this long informative article. I have not found my way to getting my art seen for a childrens book.
    This article has given me a path to follow and renewed my hope .
    I have been learning how to paint with pastels for the last 3 years. Tutorials work Karen Margulis and Marla
    Barggetta. Just now starting to really ‘get it’. Karen is a very good teacher. My Art for the book is digital- Photoshop. 25 years and they are very good- story is about a Bluebird Family.

  4. I haven’t ever thought of book illustration, but my husband made up a little bedtime story for our daughter (about 30 years ago!) and he’s always wanted me to illustrate it. So maybe as I’m exploring pastels I’ll give it a go!
    Also…fun fact, Jory, I also attended Mass Art! I graduated in ‘78 in photography. I wanted a double major with painting. The head of the photography department said he wouldn’t approve it. Needing access to a darkroom, I acquiesced. And ended up going the graphic design way for a living as well. Congratulations on your book!

    1. Oh Jeni, do it!! what have you got to lose?!
      And how fun about the crossover with Jory. Interesting that your photography instructor wouldn’t approve something you wanted to do. Ahhh the good old days lol!

    2. Hi Jeni, I too went to Mass Art around the same time. I wish I could remember my fav teachers from that time but alas, not to be. Best wishes in your art projects!

  5. I, too, have thought for a lifetime about illustrating a children’s book. I’ve collected children’s books for decades. I choose those with the most unique and beautiful illustrations and the content of the story. This guest spot was wonderful Gail.

    I totally appreciate how much you give to your community. What I appreciate and love about your blog is that it is informative, personal, inspiring, and connects us to all kinds of pastel artists. You’re very much like the seagull with its wing wrapped around all of us. Thank you so much!

    1. Oh my gosh Tracy, you sound just like me collecting children’s books based on their illustrations. And yes, I too have considered illustrating…Maybe Tracy, this post by Jory will inspire you to make a move on this dream.

      Thank you sooooo much for your kind and appreciative comments!! Love the seagull wing analogy 😊 Thank you!

  6. I’ve had two children’s books in my head for years. I’ve even attempted to write one of them down, but it’s the illustrations I’m stuck at so they sit in my computer. Can you recommend a class to learn the basics of illustrating children’s books? I’ve been an artist for over 60 years, but have always worked in a photo realistic style. The last two years, I’ve learned pastels and love them. This last year I’ve started working in a more loose contemporary style.

    1. Ohhh Kathie, two books in the making. So cool. So yeah, let’s get you unstuck. I don’t know of any course per say but years and years ago when I was seriously thinking of doing children’s book illustration, I joined CANSCAIP (Canadian Society of Children’s Authors, Illustrators, and Performers. I recall they offered workshops.They are still going and that may be a place to start.

  7. I have not yet read the article, but I love the illustrations. In an earlier life, I illustrated well over 20 children’s books and quite a few articles for children’s magazines. I know how demanding- and rewarding- a job it can be.

  8. Wow Gail! I just took my first class with Jory and looking forward to another session soon! It’s the best thing to come out of a recent move! I love seeing her process here. Although never considered book illustrating and not a parent always love settling into the kids area of a bookstore. Jory is a warm dedicated teacher and I am so lucky to have found her! I urge all here to check out her website to enjoy her stunning work!

  9. Dear Gail, Thank you so much for asking me to be a guest. I love hearing people’s stories and how many dream of doing a children’s book. Go for it! There are so many out there with really bad art. Kids adore color and you can’t get better color than with pastels!

  10. I already have the illustrations and story for a children’s book I want to do pretty much completed. I just don’t know where or how to get it published! Any suggestions?

  11. Hi Gail A great Blog which once again taught me a whole lot of information and made me realize how wide and diverse your field is. To think children books are so diverse. I was particularly pleased to see how positive your pupils comments are. Congratulations. S.

  12. What a beautifully illustrated book. Having a career as a first grade teacher, my recommendation to aspiring illustrators is to look at a lot of kid’s books and see which ones illustrate the idea of the story best. Real illustrations are so much better than those computer generated.

    1. Such a great idea Barbie! I also love to see how children themselves relate to the books and illustrations. I think the best books are those that appeal to both the young and to the adults reading them outloud…often over and over and over! Thie illustrations are such a vital part of the whole experience!

  13. I’m familiar with Jory’s book having seen her illustrations in progress on Facebook. Beautifully done Jory! I daydream about writing a series of tales/fables for children with various animal characters (& possibly people too). I feel slightly more confident about my writing vs. illustration ability . I have a tentative title/idea: “Adventures Along the River of Time.” Each story would center on a theme (moral of the story).
    Now i just need to figure out how to structure the story and flesh out ideas, The idea is to try to do something to be of help rather than to become some kind of powerhouse kid’s author (Note I’m drawn to that approach. Thanks for posting Gail and for helpful hints Jory!

    1. Thanks Marlene for revealing your own dream of creating a children’s book. I hope you put aside some time to make this happen. Perhaps, put time in your calendar each week (or more!) to give a couple of hours to working on it. Slowly but surely, you will move forward.

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Gail Sibley

Artist. Blogger. Teacher.

My love of pastel and the enjoyment I receive from teaching about pastel inspired the creation of this blog. It has tips, reviews, some opinions:), and all manner of information regarding their use through the years – old and new. Please enjoy!

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