Guy Francis Explains an Illustrator’s Journey

During his recent guest lecture for the BYU Reading Council, Francis described his career path and explained the process he uses to illustrate a book.

Drawing, painting, and reading children’s books seems like a dream job to a nine-year-old child; Guy Francis turned that dream into reality in his career as a children’s book illustrator. During his recent guest lecture for the BYU Reading Council, Francis described his career path and explained the process he uses to illustrate a book.

“I was always drawing as a child,” Francis said. “I knew I wanted to do art. I didn’t know what illustrators did, but I knew that I didn’t want to do art that hung on walls; I wanted to create stuff that went in books.”

Starting at age nine, Francis began making drawings for friends; he sold his first work for a quarter. During recess he preferred to stay in the classroom and draw. He credits his elementary school teachers with helping him find his passion and nurturing it. But it wasn’t until he arrived at BYU that Francis realized he wanted to be an illustrator.

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As a student Francis received a book editor’s critique from which he learned that the publisher was going to expand into children’s books and would be hiring illustrators. For the next assignment Francis focused strictly on creating for that publisher. This work lead to his first book illustration, “Showdown at Slickrock.” Francis was on his way.

During his lecture Francis walked students through each step of the process he goes through in illustrating a book. Once he receives a manuscript, he reads through and begins drawing thumbnails. Then he creates a profile for each of the main characters.

Francis talked about how technology has sped up his illustrating. He no longer spends nine months working on a book; now he is able to complete a book in a few months, sometimes even weeks.

Once the publisher approves the sketches, Francis spends a few hours each day prepping and painting each page. Completed paintings are sent to the publisher for printing.

Francis has worked on a number of projects through the years. Most recently he has illustrated the four Clark the Shark books in the series. He plans to do another four.

Writer: Geoffrey Taylor

Contact: Cynthia Glad (801) 422-1922