Blogtour: Sam Usher talks about the creation of his ‘Sun’ illustrations

We’re delighted to welcome author / illustrator Sam Usher to Story Snug as part of the blog tour for his new picture book Sun. Sam has given us a fascinating insight into the process of creating the illustrations for the story, he’s focussed on the pirate ship which is one of our favourite double spreads!

These are the tiny drawings I use to plan out a story. I tick them off one by one when I finish painting the final pictures. I’ve stuck on the last two drawings the wrong way around.

01 Thumbnails Sam Usher - Story Snug

Let’s look at the pirate ship spread. I then do a full sized pencil drawing to plan out where everything should go. It’s not very good at this stage – it needs to have lots of details… but what?

02 full size rough - Sam Usher - Story Snug

Soleil Royale - Sam Usher - Story SnugSoleil Royale - Sam Usher - Story SnugSo I look at a a real ship for inspiration —

This is the Soleil Royale – a French ship from the 17th century. It was in the navy of Louis XIV — the Sun King — which I thought was appropriate. It’s also the model for the Unicorn in the Tintin books.

So here is the first rough drawing based on the real ship… a small improvement.

05 Preparatory drawing - Sam Usher - Story Snug

I add details

06 adding detail - Sam Usher - Story Snug

07 adding people - Sam Usher - Story Snug



Including me




And more.

08 adding more people - Sam Usher - Story Snug

It’s filled in – time to start on the finished picture. I work on thick watercolour paper that I lay over the rough drawing – it’s a bit like tracing.

09 ready to start on final drawing - Sam Usher - Story Snug

The pencil drawing is the basis for lines drawn in ink with a Victorian nib. I spilled the ink..

10 starting with the cast and crew - Sam Usher - Story Snug







The drawing and colouring in process takes a couple of days and several bars of chocolate. I usually go wrong, and go for a walk to calm down.

12 then I add colour - Sam Usher - Story Snug

13 and more - Sam Usher - Story Snug







Until it is finished! Hurrah. What are your favourite details from this picture? I like the monkey balancing plates of picnic puddings, and the boy talking into a banana.

14 and more - Sam Usher - Story Snug

Thank you so much for sharing your work process Sam. It’s really interested to see how an individual illustration evolves and how much time and work goes into it. We especially like the big pink jelly and my daughter thinks it’s a great idea that you have added yourself to the illustration!

About Sam Usher

Sam Usher - Story SnugSam Usher graduated from the University of West England and his first book, Can You See Sassoon?, was long-listed for the Kate Greenaway Medal and short-listed for the Red House Children’s Book Award and the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize. Snow, the companion book to Rain, was long-listed for the Kate Greenaway Medal. Sam is particularly admired for his technical drawing skill and prowess wth watercolour.





You can read more about Sam and his work on the other stops in the Sun blog tour;

Sam Usher blog tour banner - Story SnugThe Book Sniffer – Here Comes the Sun…

Acorn Books – Q & A with Sam Usher

Library Mice – The creation of the Snow, Rain and Sun covers

Book Monsters – Sam’s workspaces





Thank you to Templar Books for sending us a copy of Sun.

Sun - Story Snug

14 thoughts on “Blogtour: Sam Usher talks about the creation of his ‘Sun’ illustrations

  1. This is a great post, so interesting to see how illustrations are created. Our favourite on this page is the monkey balancing lots of plates of food whilst hanging off the balcony! #readwithme

  2. Wow, the finished drawing is amazing and it’s so interesting to read the process behind it. It’s good to know there are walks and bars of chocolate involved! They are both essential to any day of work, in my opinion.

    • It’s fascinating to see each stage of the illustration’s development and the final copy is full of such amazing detail, the whole book is beautifully illustrated 🙂

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