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Masterclass in Children’s Book Illustration

With Alexis Deacon

19 July 2022 - 22 July 2022

4 day course 10am - 4pm

During this four day masterclass, we cover the fundamental building blocks of children’s book illustration.

During this four day masterclass, you will be guided by award-winning illustrator Alexis Deacon as we cover the fundamental building blocks of children’s book illustration. Taking you from first concepts to a finished image, the masterclass will focus particularly on creating simple and engaging characters and making work that is emotionally authentic and accessible to all.

Over the four days you will learn:

  • Keeping things simple and how to do it.
  • About common materials to Children’s Book Illustration and how to use them so that they can become as unique as your handwriting or voice.
  • How to compose a picture and make priorities whilst being free with your choices and use one element to support another in your designs.
  • The importance of sequencing of pictures that tell a consistent story across the pages.
  • How to make a ‘finished’ illustration and take the appropriate steps to get your work published.

Alexis will be sharing his expert knowledge with you along the way and be encouraging you to share your work with the rest of the group for peer feedback and review.

Download the full course itinerary here

I have done a kids book programme with Alexis before and it was really really good. He is a total pro and generous and insightful with his feedback.
-Alan O’Rourke

Alexis Deacon

Alexis Deacon is an award-winning illustrator and writer whose works include I am Henry Finch and Beegu.

Graduating from the University of Brighton in 2001, where he studied Illustration, his first book, Slow Loris was published in 2002 and was shortlisted for the Blue Peter Book Award.

His picture books include the award-winning A Place to Call Home and in 2008 he was chosen by Booktrust as one of the ten best new illustrators of the preceding decade. In 2014 The River won the Observer/Jonathan Cape/Comica Graphic Short Story Prize.  In 2015 it was named one of the hundred best children's books of all time by Time Magazine. He has twice been shortlisted for the Kate Greenaway Medal and is a two-time recipient of The New York Times Best Illustrated Children's Books Award, including for Beegu.

I have done a kids book programme with Alexis before and it was really really good. He is a total pro and generous and insightful with his feedback.
-Alan O’Rourke

You can learn more about Alexis in this interview and in these videos

All our course days run from 10am till 4pm

Alexis will introduce you to his work and what you will be covering over the next 4 days. We start things off by discussing the need to keep things simple, which begins with a morning session using collage and gouache to explore how to simplify concepts and communicate through flat colour shapes. After lunch you will be encouraged to refine some of your designs into specific characters. As well as drawing on our own history and personal experience we will learn to use the world around us when searching for new ideas.

During this morning workshop of the second day, we will explore some of the materials common to the Children’s Book Illustration such as watercolour, gouache and acrylic paint, ink, pencil and charcoal. We will look at how each material brings its own possibility and how the way we choose to use them can become as unique as our handwriting or voice. One of the most important skills of the children’s illustrator is to learn to communicate gestures and actions through our characters. After lunch, we will look at how to break this complex task down so that it can be approached by anyone, no matter how long you have been drawing.

On this third day, we will begin to look at the illustration as a whole. We will start to learn how to compose a picture, how to make priorities, be free with your choices and use one element to support another in your designs. After lunch, you will be working with a text. Each student will be given a text from a published children’s book with the illustration removed. We will look at how to plan a sequence of pictures that tell a consistent story across the pages.

On this final day, we start by taking one of our rough drawings from the previous afternoon and will make a ‘finished’ illustration. We will learn how to value communication to an audience above a perfect surface or polished technique. We will learn ways to tell when an image is completed and how to keep images consistent when working on whole books. After lunch, we share our conclusions and discuss storytelling and ‘exhibition’ of our work over the course.

We have a fantastic accommodation offer onsite, and would recommend staying here for the fully immersive Clayhill experience. All our accommodation is reserved for the students for the duration of the course and you will have a bedroom of your own. Our rooms have been converted from a series of old cattle sheds and from an old milking parlour and retain characterful features such as exposed wooden roof timbers and stone walls. Each bedroom has its own tea and coffee making facilities and outdoor seating area.

We also have an onsite laundry should you need to use these facilities during your stay with us. WIFI is available throughout the complex, heating and hot water is supplied by biomass technology, electricity by solar technology and all of the water around the site is fed by a natural spring.

Accommodation is offered at £80/night. If you would like to make your stay here more comfortable, you can also buy single additional nights before or after the course. (Please note any additional nights will not be catered, we are happy to recommend some local places to eat).

All courses at Clayhill Arts are fully catered, and our locally-sourced food is included in the price of your course ticket. If you do choose to stay with us a bespoke evening meal as well as breakfast and lunch will also be provided. To read more about our food offering, follow this link. About our catering

This would be suitable for those with an interest in illustrating a children’s book, with some experience/knowledge of illustration and a desire to improve/tailor their portfolio towards this goal and gain industry advice. Whilst the techniques described in the workshops are hard to master, they are easy to explain to anyone, even with no previous illustration experience. There will be very little technical jargon and any that is used will be explained during the course

You will receive a sketchbook as part of this course and we will be providing a variety of materials for you to experiment with during your time here. if you have your own sketchbooks, paper or drawing materials, please bring them also as it is useful to have options to work with.

Yes! We provide refreshments throughout the day and a home-cooked lunch which is freshly prepared in our Granary kitchen. Lunch is served around our communal dining table, offering you a great chance to get to know everyone on the course and share in the making processes you have been developing throughout the day. Please advise us of any dietary requirements before arrival.

Yes! All of our bedrooms here at Clayhill are en-suite so you will have your own private space to retreat to and relax in after spending your day in the meditative space of the Studio. We provide you with your own towels and bathroom products for use throughout your stay and you can enjoy the extensive grounds well into the evening. If you do choose to stay with us a bespoke evening meal as well as breakfast and lunch will also be provided.

Buy Tickets


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Extra night - After
Check out is at 10:30am on the 23rd July An extra night after the course has ended. (22nd July)
£ 80.00
8 available
Course ticket - Masterclass in Children’s Book Illustration
Day-time access, 10am - 4pm for each of the 4 days (19th, 20th, 21st and 22nd July). Lunch included.
£ 450.00
11 available
Course Accommodation - Masterclass in children's book illustration
£80/night x 3 Nights of the 19th, 20th and 21st July Breakfasts, Lunches and Dinners provided.
£ 240.00
3 available
Extra night - Before
£ 80.00
4 available

We have also set up a payment plan so that you can spread the cost of the sessions over the next 4 months. You will find the option for doing this as you enter the checkout page.

Find out more about our Partial.ly Payment Plan here

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Working with Deborah and Michael was such a pleasure. They understood the project from the beginning, what the needs of the makers and our audiences would be, and acted as thoughtful ambassadors for the project when we were not able to be there. Every aspect of the exhibition and events was facilitated in such a calm and confident manner, which made my job of coordinating a group of artists so much easier! The whole event became a pivotal moment for the project, bringing people together in a way I could never have anticipated, and which has altered my thinking about the future of the project. Thank you for making us feel so welcome.


The weekend I spent at Clayhill Arts was a very welcome change of scenery to my otherwise urban setting. I felt calmed yet invigorated by the surroundings, and the accommodation was beautifully tasteful and very homely. The main space is wonderfully considered and very versatile - an ideal space for creativity and dynamic discussion. I left on the Sunday feeling energised and inspired by the experience of staying at Clayhill.


As a singer it has been one of the best spaces to sing in with generous reverberation and acoustics.  It is a space which complemented the type of instruments I was working with and the songs.


I just wanted to say how much I enjoyed being at your venue. It is a lovely and inspiring artistic space. The food was fantastic, homely yet unusual. I really enjoyed the day.


As an artist retreat, the venue at Clayhill Arts provided a warm and welcoming environment, allowing a safe and constructive space where individuals creative needs can be met. 


We were lucky enough to be able to take over the whole venue for a weekend, using the Granary as our base for experimentation, discussion and shared learning. The informality of the accommodation, and the relaxed surroundings, put everyone at ease and offered a space where cooperation and encouragement evolved naturally.


Everything was wonderful! This is a beautiful place. Thank you, we really enjoyed our stay.


Clayhill feels remote which is great but it also is close to Cannington which has everything, so supplies can be bought without travelling a great distance...I also really enjoyed that it is still a working farm, because it feels productive and there is such a lot of life around us which is very inspiring


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