Illustrating your own book; is it as dangerous as performing your own brain surgery?


“You wouldn’t cut your own hair, would you? (Unless you’re Donald Trump, maybe). Or take out your own tooth? How about flying yourself to Barbados? Nope. So why do I think it’s a good idea to illustrate your own book?

The sketch above is one that I’ve done for my upcoming children’s book . I’m not a bad drawer but I’m certainly not great. There’s many people who could have done better drawings for the book than I and yet I’ve gone ahead and done all the illustrations myself. The most obvious reason for this is, of course, it’s cheaper. Free actually. But apart from cost, I think it’s a great idea for writers to illustrate their own work if they feel like having a shot at it.

I think this because I see the drawings as being almost an extension of the writing. As the writing is an expression of myself, I see the drawings as a part of that. For that reason, they don’t have to be the greatest drawings, technically. They don’t even have to be good, by anyone else’s standards. All they have to do is express my feelings about the story in some way. So, however sketchy, vague or generally rubbish they are, if they express the way I feel about the story then they deserve to be included.

People might say that a writer needs to have a good grasp of language so that they can communicate their thoughts and stories better and I agree, to a point. But the writing I enjoy most is not the most technically or even grammatically correct necessarily, it’s that which best expresses the author’s feelings. We don’t say that writers shouldn’t write a thing until they can master every aspect of language. Actually, the best way for someone to hone their mastery of language is to write and write and write and write. And that writing should be authentic. Technical skills will follow along behind. When I first started writing at age five or six, my spelling was diabolical of course. Now, after years of practice it’s…. terrible. In a few more years I’m hoping to get to the point where it’s just poor (or maybe pore).

Similarly with art, people should draw, paint, sculpt, whatever… and just try to express something authentic. If the end result came from the heart then it’ll always be something to be proud of.

My illustration above shows the main character’s parents on the front row of a school assembly which is going horribly wrong. It’s rough and sketchy and spiky and far from perfect but it expresses what I wanted to express so it’s gone in. And anyway, I’m pretty rough and sketchy and spiky myself.”






Published by Jon Kenna

Author of two novels; 'Ghost Road' and 'Mr. Mad' plus 'Susan Shocks' a book of stories for children. All available from

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