City Lit Blog

Meet the team: Dee Shulman, Children’s Book Illustration

Story added 29th Sep 2020

Meet the team: Dee Shulman

At the start of a new term we thought we’d introduce some of our team who lead on our flagship City Lit Arts courses. These are courses which deliver a more in-depth level of learning for students. First up Dee Shulman who teaches Children’s Book Illustration.

"I started writing and illustrating stories when I was about six and continued until I was about fourteen. Then I stopped altogether - until I had my first child. Pretty soon my children were my inspiration and my audience. Fifty or so books later, my children have insisted on growing up - despite a diet of gummy bears and smarties - so a lot of my characters have had to grow up with them.

I mostly write and draw in my studio – which has a drawing board and easel at one end and my iMac and iPad at the other. But I get ideas in odd places: on trains; out shopping; in bed; in the shower. So, I carry a notebook around with me (this doesn't work in the shower!)

The Children’s Illustration course is taught by a team of professional artists: Tim Ellis; Angeline Ferguson and me. We all love our work as practitioners and teachers, and are super-enthusiastic to share different ideas, skills and new ways of looking at the subject.  

In my experience, the fundamental block to learning and achievement is confidence.  It is daunting to embark on something unfamiliar in a room full of strangers, so my first job is to ensure the studio is a place where everyone feels happy and safe to experiment without fear of messing up or getting it wrong. In a supportive, creative space, students are free to grow their skills and imagination. 

I also want to make sure new illustrators are armed with all the skills and knowledge it took me years (of mistakes) to discover, so that they have all the tools necessary to move confidently into the industry.

And the courses have worked! I now regularly meet former students at publishing parties and book launches, and the thrill of seeing how fulfilled they are to be published, how their work has developed, and the sense that I have been a part of that journey is a powerful testament of what we aspire to do."

Here’s what some past learners have said about Dee’s course:

‘The one year City lit book illustration course was a fantastic experience and I am still coming back to City lit for the shorter intensive courses. It helped bring focus to my children’s book illustration work. I started from a point when I was just dipping my toe into the water and emerged with strong portfolio pieces and lots of project ideas. The teaching blends a mixture of challenging briefs and industry knowledge with individual feedback and a supportive class atmosphere.’ Melissa Fife 

“I thoroughly enjoyed my year of illustration studies on the VK501 course and would do it again if I had the opportunity! Dee and Tim gave me so much helpful guidance on my work, and I learned a great deal. The briefs are really inspiring and varied, so you can learn about what types of illustration you enjoy most, by trying out the various set work, as well as building your portfolio or working through a personal project. I’d highly recommend this course to anyone serious about pursuing illustration in the future or developing their existing illustration voice.“ Kate Rolfe

“I would definitely recommend this course to anyone who wants to explore the magical world of making children’s books.  With an emphasis on practical assignments rather than theory the course enabled me to really develop my illustration skills and produce a good body of work for a portfolio.  Both tutors were knowledgeable, inspiring, always encouraging and created a very positive and creative space to experiment and grow as an illustrator.  I also found my fellow students were a great source of support and friendship.”Katie Harrison-Banfield

When I started this course, I had a basic understanding of children's book illustration and wanted to improve both my skills and confidence. Through a series of well thought out lectures and project briefs, the tutors guided the class through a huge landscape, and I completed the course with an understanding of picture books, chapter books, book covers, graphic novels, and more. I now have a portfolio and a completed dummy picture book, ready to submit to agents. The tutors on this course are both knowledgeable and experienced, but also understand how to guide each individual in the class towards their specific goals. I would highly recommend this class to anyone interested in children's book illustration. Katy Harrison

The course offers a great overview, from how to create characters to how to illustrate for picture books and comics. I left with a good understanding of the children's book illustration landscape and where I wanted to focus.

Tim and Dee are super knowledgeable and wonderful tutors. They were always supportive and pushed me and my ideas forward with a suggestion to develop the work further or another illustrator to look at for inspiration. Jane Dugdale

In particular I enjoyed the class atmosphere and supportive nature of everyone involved - Fridays became my favourite day of the week! Dee and Tim were excellent tutors, extremely approachable and encouraging. Kate Lajoie


Children's Book Illustration Courses