Children's Illustration

American Folktales

This is a series of illustrations I created based on the Folktale Week promptlist put out in November of 2018. The idea was to create and post one illustration based on a folktale every day for a week. Instead of picturing the more popular European folk and fairytales, I wanted to make pieces based on North American folktales. In American folktales, subjects are rugged and wild; cowboys, lumberjacks, pirates, and outlaws. At the time the Americas were being settled, the world had a very negative association with witches and magic. Because of this you see much less of a focus on witches and spells. Instead, American folk tales portray people with larger than life personalities and great senses of adventure.

rip van winkle folktale fairy tale children's book illustration champaign Illinois midwest
Day 2 (spell) - Rip Van Winkle

It was on a September evening, during a jaunt on South Mountain, that Rip Van Winkle met a stubby, silent man, of goodly girth, his round head topped with a steeple hat, and the face—ugh!—green and ghastly, with unmoving eyes that glimmered in the twilight like phosphorus. The dwarf carried a keg that he wanted Rip to relieve him of, that cheerful vagabond shouldered it and marched on up the mountain. At nightfall they emerged on a little plateau where a score of men in the garb of long ago, with faces like that of Rip’s guide, were playing bowls with great solemnity, the balls sometimes rolling over the plateau’s edge and rumbling down the rocks with a boom like thunder. Rip at first planned to make off, but he was not displeased when they signed to him to tap the keg and join in a draught of the ripest schnapps that ever he had tasted,—and he knew the flavor of every brand in Catskill. While these strange men grew no more genial with passing of the flagons, Rip was pervaded by a satisfying glow; then, overcome by sleepiness and resting his head on a stone, he stretched his tired legs out and fell to dreaming.

Paul and babe folktale fairy tale children's book illustration champaign Illinois midwest
Day 1 (forest) - Paul Bunyan

Well, any creature raised in Paul Bunyan's camp tended to grow to massive proportions, and Babe was no exception. He grew so big that 42 axe handles plus a plug of tobacco could fit between his eyes and it took a murder of crows a whole day to fly from one horn to the other. The laundryman used his horns to hang up all the camp laundry, which would dry lickety-split because of all the wind blowing around at that height. Whenever he got an itch, Babe the Blue Ox had to find a cliff to rub against, 'cause whenever he tried to rub against a tree it fell over and begged for mercy. To whet his appetite, Babe would chew up thirty bales of hay, wire and all.

catskill magic mountain witch folktale fairy tale children's book illustration champaign Illinois midwest
Day 3 (witch) - The Catskill Witch

These peaks were the home of an Indian witch, who adjusted the weather for the Hudson Valley with the certainty of a signal service bureau. It was she who let out the day and night in blessed alternation, holding back the one when the other was at large, for fear of conflict. Old moons she cut into stars as soon as she had hung new ones in the sky, and she was often seen perched on Round Top and North Mountain, spinning clouds and flinging them to the winds. Woe betide the valley residents if they showed irreverence, for then the clouds were black and heavy, and through them she poured floods of rain and launched the lightnings, causing disastrous freshets in the streams and blasting the wigwams of the mockers. In a frolic humor she would take the form of a bear or deer and lead the Indian hunters anything but a merry dance, exposing them to tire and peril, and vanishing or assuming some terrible shape when they had overtaken her. Sometimes she would lead them to the cloves and would leap into the air with a mocking "Ho, ho!" just as they stopped with a shudder at the brink of an abyss.

children's book illustration process sketches

children's book illustration process sketches

children's book illustration process sketches