Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Charlotte's Web by Hazel Mitchell

This weekend it's the New England SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators) annual conference in Massachusetts. Every year there is a Poster Showcase Competition. This year the challenge is to redesign a landmark children's book cover. It was hard to choose! I decided on Charlotte's Web, because it involves animals and children in the drawing as well as being one of New England's most famous books.

GULP! There is, of course, a lot of responsibility that goes with reworking an already great cover. So I apologize to EB White and Garth Williams.

I decided to go for a much more emotionally driven version in an interior to create more drama. Here's the finished product:

It is created in pencil and then coloured in photoshop. I have also tried to stay much looser on the pencil work itself to create more feeling of movement - a trend I am working on in all my current illustrations.

Here's the process ....

First rough draft ....

More careful drawing ... note Fern's face shape changes and Wilbur is more pig like.

This is the the finished pencil drawing, then scanned into photoshop ...

Here it is during colouring ... I work as I would on a water colour from light to dark with few layers. I prefer to use the multiply setting on airbrush mostly and dodge/burn tools.

After feedback from crit friends I worked on the eyes, changing them back to my initial idea that she is glancing back. Also I got rid of her marshmallow mouth (see finished piece at top of this post). I also enhanced the shadows on the right with an extra layer.

The text was created separately in pencil, traced from a printout of a setup of the text on computer.

On a separate layer I dropped it in position and used the overlay and screen settings on brush to add colour and highlight the webs.

Here is the wonderful, wonderful original! I can't hope to come close to this classic, but I very much enjoyed working on the piece and will be interested to hear the reaction at NESCBWI.

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Call back next week to see what fab illustrator Russ Cox is up to!

Toodle Pip!
see more of my work online at
copyright Hazel Mitchell 2011


  1. Beautiful work Hazel. Thank you for sharing your process. I work in a similar way using Photoshop layers and multiply (among other) settings. I find this to be quite fun.

  2. Thanks Deanna ... I love colouring in photoshop it is oh so addictive! Hazel

  3. This is gorgeous. Wow,, I even like the black and white.. :). Love the way you see light Hazel..

  4. Thanks Sytiva, appreciate it :-) Hazel

  5. Thank you for sharing your process Hazel. Much success to you.