How to illustrate Melvin the naughty teddy bear with watercolours (children’s illustration)

I thought I’d share with you some test illustrations I’ve been working on for Melvin, the hungry teddy bear in my book of poems for kids. I’m working on an illustrated version of the book right now, so planning a style and a method for getting things just right.

Here’s how he’s drawn…

Step 1: Pencil outline

I’m working on quite thick watercolour paper as that’s what I’ll be using to paint with in a minute.

Here’s Melvin about to scoff down some of his favourite cheese…

Children's illustration of teddy bear, how to step 1

Pencil outline

The first step is the pencil outline. Melvin is drawn from 2 circles, one for the head, and a slightly bigger one for his body. You can see the faint body circle in the illustration above. I start with these circles because I know that as long as these two circles are in the right position Melvin will be the correct height, and be proportionally correct ever time I draw him.

Step 2: Clean up the pencil outline with artist’s putty

Children's illustration of teddy bear, how to step 2

A tidied up pencil outline

Why artists putty, rather than an eraser? Artist’s putty is squidgy, so you can get shape it into points for fine work. It also leaves no bits behind like an eraser does. It’s also good for picking up bits of eraser if you really do need to use one to get rid of a heavy line. This is much safer than brushing away bits of eraser with your hand and risking smudging your pencil lines.

Step 3: Start Painting

Children's illustration of teddy bear, how to step 3 - watercolour paints

The first watercolours are added

A nice watery mix of watercolour paint works well for Melvin I think. I Start with the bigger areas of colour first, working quickly. I also pick a good spot to take my paintbrush off the paper, as this spot often has a build-up of paint making that area slightly darker. I use this for an indication of shadows. You may be able to see where I’ve lifted off above on Melvin’s ear, the bottom-left of his hand, and foot. Click the image to see a bigger version.

Step 4: Finish off the painting

Children's illustration of teddy bear, how to step 4 watercolour painting

All the painting done

Be careful to wait until one colour is fully dry before applying the next. If you don’t you’ll get one colour bleeding into another which is sometimes a nice effect, but not appropriate here.

Step 5: The outline in charcoal

Children's illustration of teddy bear, how to step 5, the charcoal outline

Adding a charcoal outline

I tried several different materials for outlining Melvin. I tried a black  marker pen, the thickest, darkest pencil I could find, and paint. In the end I settled on a charcoal pencil as it’s nice and dark, and also shows a little texture from the watercolour paper which looks good.

Just be careful – that charcoal is easy to smudge so, being right-handed, I’ll usually start somewhere top-left on the drawing and work to the bottom right so that my hand is never in danger of smudging the lines. I also place a piece of tracing paper over any part of Melvin I’m not working on. That way the pencil lines and painted parts shouldn’t smudge, and it’ll keep my right hand clean too. With tracing paper under your drawing hand you won’t pick up pencil lead and later smudge it all over your drawing (or your t-shirt, or the desk, or the wall, or the table cloth at dinner etc.)

So there he is, about to get a little bit fuller and fatter thanks to that big lump of cheese. Careful Melvin, don’t overdo it!

You can read about Melvin’s feasting exploits and how he learns to curb his dietary intake (as well as other stories) in Once I Laughed My Socks Off in paperback or for your Kindle (illustrated version coming soon…). For other countries and places to buy, see the top of this page.



Author: Steve Attewell

Steve Attewell was born in the sleepy village of Fair Oak in the south of England in the peak of the long, hot summer of 1975. He thinks this might be why he doesn't like the cold very much. His first published book of amusing poetry for kids is "Once, I Laughed My Socks Off".

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