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with Eric Johnson
Online Class

Picture Book Illustration: Animal Characters

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Join illustrator Eric Johnson and master the art of animal character design from start to finish! Learn how to conceptualize and develop an endearing, realistic character using thumbnail sketches, and add expressive human characteristics with Eric's expert tips. Create a captivating visual narrative as you explore a variety of poses, props and settings, and refine perspective, scale and balance for a lifelike composition. Experiment with various color palettes to convey mood and emotion, and delve into two mixed-media methods to enhance your work with depth and lively hues. From the celebrated ink-and-watercolor style of Randolph Caldecott to a layered approach that incorporates colored pencils, you'll learn how to bring your work to life with charm and whimsy. Eric also shares valuable troubleshooting techniques, along with inspiring design ideas that will delight children and adults alike.


  • advanced
  • 7 episodes
  • 2h20m

Included in this Class

1. Realistic Characters

1. Realistic Characters

Meet your instructor, children's book illustrator Eric Johnson. You'll gain an overview of the topics that will be covered in class before selecting an animal that you want to develop into a lovable character. Eric shares his tips for researching and selecting reference photos, as well as how to thoughtfully study your animal's features, movement and personality as you sketch.

2. Human Characteristics

2. Human Characteristics

Build upon the reference drawings you started in Lesson 1 as you begin to add human characteristics to your critter character. Eric shows you how to preserve key identifying animal qualities while personifying features like hands, feet and eyes to evoke a relatable human presence. Your character will begin to take on new qualities as you infuse imagination, whimsy and playfulness into your sketches.

3. Refining the Composition

3. Refining the Composition

Learn how to bring classical art techniques into your scenes as Eric helps you create an accurate sense of place. Consider elements like background, middle ground and foreground as you evaluate your composition's perspective and the size and ratio of each figure. Next, move from technical work into more creative studies as you experiment with drawing a wide range of facial expressions and gestures.

Recommended with this class

  • Standard art supplies: pencils, pens, surfaces, kneaded eraser
  • Watercolor paints, watercolor brushes
  • Colored pencils