For this month’s edition of The Illustrator Corner, we are excited to introduce Mary Beth Benton!
Mary Beth is a successful illustrator belonging to the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. She has been illustrating since 2004 and has always dreamed of working for Disney.
Her first illustration was for a book that she and her husband wrote, titled Hathi. Although the book isn’t yet published, Mary Beth claims that it sparked her love for illustrating and started her on her illustrating journey.
Mary Beth loves illustrating and hopes that her illustrations inspire children to love arts and reading.
Although Mary Beth always wanted to be an illustrator, she was discouraged from her dreams by some instructors in college, and had to give up on art for a while. It was only later that she would rediscover her love for art and illustrating, thanks to a friend who encouraged her to attend a watercolor class.
She then was able to join the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, which led to her first two full-colored books, Special Delivery and Fuz and the Skunk, both by Nornie Isley.
Mary Beth’s love for illustrating came in handy when she had to retire early from her “awful day job.” She received an offer for an illustration job that very same week. Since then, she has switched to illustrating full time and has worked on a number of books: The Book With No Words by Abe Viedmark, Wiggle Your Hips Wildebeest and A Train, A Moose, and A Mess by Joan Sloane, and Santa’s Christmas Surprise by Diane Kissinger.
Much of Mary Beth’s inspiration has come from her dream of working for Disney. She has also gotten inspiration from her favorite illustrators: Jan Brett, Tricia Schart Hyman, Victor Ambrus, and Chris Van Allsburg.
According to Mary Beth, she has always wanted to illustrate, even from early childhood. She describes: “I was so captivated by illustrated books when I was young, and I just loved searching through illustrations over and over, finding new details each time.”
The Illustrating Process
Once Mary Beth receives the manuscript for her illustrations, she reads it over several times to get a feel for the story and characters. Her favorite place to start is a character sketch. According to Mary Beth, after she sketches the characters, she feels that she knows them, which is the most important part. She usually shares the sketches with the publisher to make sure that she’s captured an accurate vision.
Then, she breaks the manuscript into sections, making note of the page breaks. Mary Beth also does some research as well, taking photos of relevant inspiration and compiling a storyboard with very rough sketches and ideas.
All of her work is shared with the publisher, and after suggestions, she creates a nearly full-sized draft with refined sketches. Once that is approved, she does final line drawings.
The Illustrator Corner – Mary Beth’s step-by-step
Here is Mary Beth walking us through her creative process, in her own words…
Step 1 – Once I’m done my pencil drawing, I ink in the sketch with archival water-resistant ink.
Step 2 – Next, I start adding markers.
Step 3 – More marker detail.
Step 4- My next step is to put down my watercolor washes.
Step 5- After that, I add more marker and even some watercolor details.
Step 6 – Just adding some more details with watercolor.
Step 7 – Final touches of watercolor.
Step 8 – Bubbles added with colored pencil and white ink.
Step 9 – Final book cover shows some colored pencil details and shading.
Illustrations by Mary Beth Benton
Love what you see? To learn more information, visit Mary Beth Benton illustrator’s page on Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. To see her process of creation in action, head over to Instagram and check out our stories and The Illustrator Corner highlights.