Chris Riddell’s Top Tips For Budding Illustrators

This week, the UK’s literary crowd will descend on Hull to meet the next Waterstones Children’s Laureate. Awarded once every two years, the Waterstones Children’s Laureate is a position given to a writer or illustrator of children’s books, and this year will see the tenth Laureate accept the title in a glitzy ceremony in Hull City Hall.

Handing over the baton to this year’s winner is the celebrated illustrator, cartoonist and writer Chris Riddell. Chris will say goodbye to the role that has seen him travel to libraries and schools around the UK, as well as taking part in a series of high profile live drawing events. He now enters an exclusive club of former Children’s Laureates, including Jacqueline Wilson, Michael Morpurgo and Quentin Blake.

Fans of the Goth Girl and Ottoline books may already be familiar with Chris’ work, while readers of The Observer might have spotted some of his politically-charged cartoons.

Throughout his laureateship, Chris made it his mission to post daily scribbles on his Tumblr, Instagram and Facebook accounts which have allowed him to reach far and wide and connect with the next generation of illustrators.

But how do you become an illustrator?

Having inspired children up and down the country with his live illustrations, hilarious anecdotes and words of wisdom, we thought it was only right that we share Chris’ top tips for budding illustrators in his own words (and pictures).

Outgoing Children's Laureate Chris Riddell visits Stepney Primary School in Hull © James Mulkeen


“Find inspiration for an illustration or story in the pages of your sketchbook. Draw in it every day – even if it is only a quick doodle – and your own drawings will start to suggest ideas and stories for you to follow up.”

Outgoing Children's Laureate Chris Riddell visits Hull School of Art and Design © James Mulkeen


“You will discover your personal style by filling your sketchbooks. Copy drawings by other illustrators you admire and draw what you see around you in coffee shops, libraries or even your bedroom. Draw what is in your head – random thoughts and ideas you have during the day.”

“Don’t look too hard for your personal style. By filling your sketchbooks your style will find you.”

Outgoing Children's Laureate Chris Riddell visits Stepney Primary School in Hull © James Mulkeen


“Sketchbooks are your workshop – the place where your thoughts and observations turn into projects and serious pieces of work. Develop a serious sketchbook habit and keep it with you at all times.”

“Train yourself to draw in public and become that interesting looking person in the corner scribbling away into a beautiful notebook.”

Download Chris’ hand-drawn top tips here. Why not print them out and stick them on your wall? We have!

The 10th Waterstones Children’s Laureate will be announced live in Hull on 7 June and will be available for a meet and greet at The Big Malarkey Festival on Monday 26 June from 4pm-5pm.