A Visit with Matt Phelan

031115_9297This morning the entire North Hills Campus trekked into the city to meet Matt Phelan. He is the illustrator and author of many children’s books. During our session today, Mr. Phelan taught the children about the process he uses when creating illustrations for a story.

The students were surprised to find that the story is almost always fully written before the illustrations are added. Mr. Phelan spoke of his experiences drawing illustrations for Sue Lynn Parks’ sweet book, Xander’s Panda Party.


He suggested two major tips to remember when you want to draw a picture.

  1. Don’t hold your pencil too tightly. You want to make very, very light marks when you start.
  2. Use shapes to draw your picture’s “skeleton” before you begin adding details.

Mr. Phelan surprised the children by admitting that his first drawings for any book look much more like scribbles and the final pictures.  He might draw the same character, page, or scene thirty different ways before he finds one that he is happy with.  He also mentioned that he almost never uses an eraser. Since he sketches his lines before adding the details, he can just draw around the lines he doesn’t need.  Mr. Phelan feels that it is important to see where he has been during the drawing process.


Terrifying Tales

Book writing has become especially popular in Pre-K.    You might have noticed the small, stapled pages coming home recently.  These little blank books are available for the children to use whenever inspiration hits.    Today, of course, the theme was centered around creepy tales.

You’ll notice that most of the books that come home are filled with pictures at this time of the year.  When the children are writing, we are nearby encouraging them to tell us about their story.  We also might suggest that the child could use some letters to help remember the story.  In the Fall, most children prefer to stick to a picture book style, sans words.  As we progress towards Spring, you’ll notice many more letters and words appearing in their tales.

[***A very special thank you goes out to one of our Room Parents who prepared a large pile of these well-loved, blank books.***]