How Old Is Your Inner Child
Have you ever considered how old your inner child is? For artists who want to do art directed towards children I’ve come to think this is a really important question to answer. I have the feeling we all have an inner child within us and they can have a profound effect on our work. Some artists seem to be naturally in tune with their inner child and intuitively channel that child through their art – or maybe they simply can’t ignore them? If a children’s book illustrator's inner child is the same age as the children who read their books they may naturally be able to connect to that audience. Same with a comic book artist. If an artist is still a hormone powered teen comic nerd on the inside, I’m pretty sure young comic book readers are hormone powered teen comic nerds on the inside too (and the outside of course).
Even when we accept or realize that there is a true self within us, identifying how old that inner child is can be a little murky. It can be clouded with expectations of what we think we should do, or it can be overshadowed by outside influences. It can be hard to see who we really are, when the games we play, books we read, movies we watch, teachers we try to ignore, peers we jealously admire, and gigantic media conglomerates are telling us who we ought to be!
Now that doesn’t mean that with a lot of time and effort you can’t fill the role you desire or are expected to do, but it might be a hell of a lot harder. By establishing what age your inner child is and building on what comes naturally it can make things a little easier – but not easy, art is rarely easy.
Look inside. Are you a precocious teen, rambunctious adolescent, a little princess, or do you still laugh at fart jokes? This can establish what type of children’s books you are best suited to illustrate because it will be more natural and easier to create for your little audience. If it is 3-5 years old then you might focus on books they read which often have simple straight forward narratives and images. Board books or rhymes are examples. If it’s 4-6 then you can do books with more text and more involved stories. If your a little older than that, then maybe illustrating early reading books would be your thing. Older yet then we're talking illustrating young adults, comic books, and such.
I've been working on developing some picture book ideas, and a way to illustrate them, but it's a challenge. I often find the best ideas I come up with are either not age appropriate or kids just would not understand or be interested in the stuff I find interesting. And so I suspect my inner child is a bit older. But I am not giving up and I don't suggest you do either, it just might be a little easier on you if you know what you are up against. I would also suggest that for artists looking for their illustration "style" it's a good idea to look inside yourself too.