What is Illustration?

“An illustrator is responsible for taking an idea and turning it into something visual.”—Martina Gleeson

Last week, I talked about trying out illustration. I was thinking of it as a sort of stylized version of realism. What I didn’t realize at the time is that illustration is not really a style. It’s more about visually communicating a message or idea, however that might look. Any medium is fair game. Today I decided to focus on one of the most common forms of illustrations: children’s books. Next time I would like to try “communicating a message or idea” with a new drawing.

Have you ever tried illustration? What idea or text did you illustrate, and what medium did you use/ how did you approach the task of illustration?

At some point in my childhood, my father created a bedtime-story character called Joseph the Wrinkly Stinkly Prune. He was a fun and silly character, and so when I took a class in college (The Victorian Illustrated Book) for which I was required to write and illustrate a children’s book, I blatantly plagiarized borrowed the character to use as my protagonist. I can’t recall for sure, but I believe that I did come up with the plot for this particular story on my own. Especially the part about solitaire (you’ll see).

So, these are not new illustrations, but they are definitely illustrations. Notice how I outlined with Sharpie, just as I did last week! The coloring was done in whatever kid’s colored pencils I had lying around at the time.

Apparently I didn’t have time to finish illustrating the whole story, but ignoring that fact I present to you: The Adventures of Joseph the Wrinkly Stinkly Prune © 2011



When he woke up he found it hard to open his eyes. They felt sticky, as if someone had tried to glue them together. He sat up and looked down at himself. He hardly recognized what he saw! His whole body was wrinkled and dried out and his beautiful, shiny plum skin had disappeared. He had to get back to Plum Valley, fast! What was happening to him?


It would take days, even weeks to travel by foot. But he got up and started his journey. All the peaches in Peach Pit were laughing at Joseph and his wrinkly skin. A dog picked him up and spat him back out! He didn’t even want to eat Joseph. By the time he had reached the edge of Pear Square, it was dark and Joseph curled up to sleep.




Joseph awoke in the middle of a flying dream, only to find himself being whisked through the air. He trembled in fear as he came face to face with…a face! It was a little girl with yellow hair in a blue dress. She looked at Joseph with big blue eyes and said, “I’m not going to hurt you. My name is Sarah. Do you have a name?”


Joseph was too afraid and too tired to speak. He just started crying again. “Oh dear,” said Sarah. “I bet I know where you want to go. Did you come from Plum Valley?” Joseph sniffled and looked up eagerly. “Well let’s go then,” said Sarah. She carried him across Pear Square and all the way through Apricot Abbey and when anyone tried to make fun of him she stuck out her tongue and they shut right up.

It was dark again when they got to Plum Valley and Joseph had fallen asleep so Sarah rested him in a tree and tiptoed home. When Joseph woke up, all of the plums were staring at him and whispering to each other. “What’s that?” One asked. “It’s a wrinkly stinkly PRUNE!” answered another. “No, no! It’s me, Joseph!” “Oh,” said a big, shiny, purple plum, “so it’s JOSEPH the wrinkly stinkly prune!” Everyone laughed. Joseph didn’t know what to do. Would all of his friends really abandon him just because he no longer had a beautiful purple coat?

He stayed by himself and played solitaire but it got boring after a while. Eventually the plums stopped making fun of him and just ignored him altogether. One day, as Joseph was dealing out his cards he heard a funny thumping sound. Why was it so familiar? He heard another, then another. He looked at the trees. Where was everyone?


He looked down at the ground. There he saw a whole valley full of thumping, tumbling plums! They tumbled and tumbled, probably all the way to Peach Pit! Joseph smiled to himself and waited.

In a few days the plums came back, some on foot, some with furry friends, and one even came with Sarah! But something was different. They were no longer purpley plums. Instead, all of them had become wrinkly stinkly prunes, just like Joseph! Sarah found him right away.

She held him in her palm, and one by one the other prunes came down her arm and apologized to Joseph for being so mean. “We’re sorry, Joseph,” they said. “Now we know how you felt.” From that day on Joseph was the most popular of the wrinkly stinkly prunes. Everyone wanted to play with him. Joseph the wrinkly stinkly prune never played solitaire again.

The End.




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