Working with an Illustrator – Tim Harris

Hi WestWorders,

If you’re like me, you love poring over illustrations in books. My kids adore looking at the colourful illustrations in picture books, while I enjoy checking out the black and white images in chapter books. Illustrations add so much to a text. They tell parts of the story that words cannot.

I’ve been fortunate to have all of my books illustrated. Ryan Pernofski illustrates Exploding Endings, James Hart provides the images in Mr Bambuckle’s Remarkables, and James Foley draws in Toffle Towers.

While some authors and illustrators work side-by-side on a project, the majority or partnerships happen remotely, with a publisher helping to bring everything together.

James Foley has kindly provided some of his process sketches for Toffle Towers, so you can see how things unfold in the creative process.

First, James reads the manuscript and then puts together some rough sketches. I love how he scribbles down key descriptive language to get a feel for each character.


Once the rough sketches are done, James chats to the publisher who relays the information to me. Together, we work out what the final characters might look like. For Toffle Towers, James created an incredible character board.

Now that we know what the characters look like, the publisher and James work hard to find places to put images. It might be a particularly key scene or funny moment. Once this has been worked out, James provides rough sketches which are then sent to me. Along with the publisher, I’ll send any thoughts back (usually stuff like ‘This is amazing!!’) so James can start on the final versions of the illustrations.


It’s a similar situation with the book cover. James works on some ideas, and the cover is edited and refined, much like the words in a book.


The last step is book design, overseen by a clever cookie who finds the best spots to put the illustrations.

It’s a long process, but the result is a book rich with images that help tell a story.


Do you have a favourite illustrated book? Let me know in the comments!





  1. Madeleine Li

    I really like picture books, especially the ones with no words. I also like reading graphic novels and comics like the one that James Foley also makes. One of my favourite illustrated books is ‘Bab Sharkey and the Animal Mummies: The Weird Beard’ by Andrew Hansen and Jessica Roberts. This is because even though the illustrations are black and white, it means I get to imagine what the colours are in my head.

    • Tim Harris

      I love the idea of imagining the colours in your head. Nice one!

  2. Veeva

    Hi Tim,
    My favourite picture books are probably colour graphic novels because during a battle, the drawings are really vivid and bright which make it look brilliant.
    Veeva 🙂

    • Tim Harris

      Thanks for sharing, Veeva!

  3. Angela

    Hi, two of my favourite picture books are ‘the giving tree’ and ‘Mr Bambuckle’s Remarkables’ because they really have great illustrations and meaning to it

  4. Angela

    It’s cool that you have one different illustrator with each series of book

    • Tim Harris

      Illustrators baffle me with their amazing talents.


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