A Day in the Life of a Children's Book Illustrator

I thought it would be fun to share a typical day in my life as an illustrator.  Right now we're in Cape Town, but my routine rarely changes whether I'm here, in London or in Canada. It's just the scenery that changes.  

7am: Wake up. Stumble bleary eyed into the blinding sunshine in the kitchen. Pour a glass of cold orange juice and will myself to wake up. 

I wish I started my morning by reading something erudite, or meditating, but I usually end up checking Facebook...

8am: I walk down the hill to the post office to send off the most recent order from my Etsy shop. Luckily it isn't far to go.  It's already so hot that I make sure to find all the patches of shade on the way there and back. 

This is the view I see on my way back up the hill.  Our house is the one with the brown door in the garden wall.  The frangipanis (also called plumeria) are blooming so beautifully this time of year. There's a wisp of a Table Cloth on top of Table Mountain. That means it's going to be a hot and windy day. 

8:30am: On my way back from the post office I like to stop by Vida e Caffe for a cappuccino.  Vida is a local coffee chain with a wacky, energetic feel. I love how they decorate their paper cups.  Which moustache are you?  I also love that they give a square of dark chocolate with every coffee order. I'll save mine for later.... 

{Coffee on the studio table and ready to work}

9am: I'm already hard at work and listening to BBC Radio 3 online. I love how the classical music gives a sense of order to my crazy imagination.

Right now I'm working on a big book project for Magination Press (a job I got through my agents at Advocate Art). The deadline is fast approaching, so there's no time to spare.

When I'm painting I go into a zen state. I focus. I breathe deeply. I concentrate on the colours and patterns unfolding under my hands.

Any work I do in the morning is like double work. It's that magical time of day when my ideas flow and time seems to cooperate with me.

10am:  I find myself googling things like "chalkboard brushes" and "monarch butterflies" to look for references for my current project. I also spend a bit of time trying to win a game of solitaire while my paint dries.

{This is how illustrators do their hair... with a paintbrush.}

{Dive into the colour!}

12 noon:  Noon Gun!  Boom! You'd think I'd be used to it by now, but I always jump.  The noon gun has been marking midday in Cape Town since 1806.  It's loud; it echos between the mountains; sometimes I spill paint...

It wakes me from my painting reverie and I remember that I should eat lunch.  Wait a second, did I even eat breakfast?  (Usually not). I make beeline to the fridge and graze from last night's leftovers.

12:30pm: Back to the drawing board. Literally. By now I'm starting to lose concentration.

In the afternoon I often focus on smaller projects, or work on scanning or photoshopping illustrations I'd started the day before.

If I don't have pressing illustration work, I'll write blog posts, or brainstorm ideas for new projects.

....Oh dear, my eyes are drooping.

2pm: Time for that square of dark chocolate.  Thank-you Vida! 

3pm: Unless I have a super-stressful deadline, this is the end of my work day.  I take a long bath, to ease my aching muscles.  You wouldn't think working as an artist would be that strenuous, but hunching over paintings can make my shoulders so tight!

After my bath, I unfurl my back muscles with a short session of yoga.

3:30pm: I rush to the grocery store (aptly named "Pick and Pay," I laugh every time I think about it) and figure out what to make for dinner. Sometimes I pop into the bookstore for a little inspiration, or grab another coffee.

4pm: Skype time with my Mom in Canada!  She's finally awake and I can tell her all about my day.  

6pm onwards: I make supper, and my husband and I settle in for a relaxing evening. Sometimes we have a glass of wine; sometimes we watch a dvd; sometimes we read; sometimes we escape the heat and head to the seaside.

10pm: Time to curl up in bed and close my eyes. Tomorrow will be the same, all over again! 

Here's a one minute video I made of me painting... Enjoy! 


  1. how cool! and i love your 4pm skype call with mom, ha! its nice to see people so attached to their families even after their own lives start :)

    xo, Brikena

  2. I love how realistic your mornings are! (Finally, someone who doesn't rave about "leaping out of bed" at 7 am!) ;) I thought you were joking when you mentioned the clouds rolling over the top like a table cloth, and then I scrolled down. :D That photo of the mountain is stunning, by the way.

  3. loved this post jane! your day sounds lovely, and i love that picture of your hair in a bun with a paint brush...so sweet.

  4. What a full day:) Like you I love to work in the morning and leave the afternoon for smaller projects:) Love the photos :)

  5. Thanks for visiting my (graffiti) post the other day and taking time to leave a comment. I absolutely love this post, I like having little peaks in other peoples' lives:-) A couple of days ago I was talking to a friend about chocolate, we thought the best out there might be Lindt chocolate. If it was served with coffee over here, I would treat myself to loads of cups of coffee.

  6. I can't even imagine. You're so fortunate to 1). have a recognized talent in the creative arts, and 2). work from the comforts of home.

    Beautiful photo of the mountain, by the way.


  7. Jane, what a terrific post! I love finding out that I'm not the only one who doesn't jump out of bed bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, that someone else has magical morning time creating art (my best time of day), and I'm not weird for having tight shoulders from drawing for hours. There is definitely a wonderfuol sense of accomplishment from the aching body and fatigue.I'm afraid I rarely forget to eat :-( Thanks for sharing!!!!

  8. What a cool post. I loved reading this! Morning time is so sacred!

  9. I love a little chocolate pick me up right around 3 as well, although today it is a cup of tea! What a beautiful blog you have, I look forward to following along!

  10. I loved seeing all the peaks into your day :) and I also do a citrus beverage in morning to give me that jump start

  11. Gorgeous blog, gorgeous life! All the best, Jane. :-)

  12. You don't get views that nice anywhere near London! I love the photos of the paint, they're really nice :) xxx

  13. I love sneak peeks like these into other people's lives! It's awesome that you're able to do what you love full-time :)

  14. 1. i love the new look on the blog! 2. i would die for hair like you have. that sounds dramatic, but i really really would figuratively die.

  15. I love these types of posts! I also saw your guest spot on another blog and you mentioned taking adult ballet classes! I have taken two and have just been so nervous. I've moved since taking those classes and I'm anxious about taking adult ballet classes again. I plan to within this month. Do you have any tips for getting over the nerves?


Hearing from you makes my day bright with sunshine. I try to respond to each comment on your own blogs. Who knows I might make a few new friends along the way! X Jane