Society of
Children's Book Writers
and Illustrators

Illustration Masterclass: Art Director Brief with Nghiem Ta, Walker Books

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Date(s) - 06/10/2018
1:00 pm - 5:00 pm

The House of Illustration
2 Granary Square, King's Cross - London, N1C 4BH

Designed and written by Nghiem Ta

Do you want to work on a live brief from a fabulous art director and a wonderful publisher, Walker Books? The best kind of practice and feedback can come from opportunities  provided by the industry for both unpublished and published illustrators.

The way it works:

1. Read the detailed brief below, carefully. Be sure you understand what is being asked of you. Download the pdf template for size and suggested text areas.

(Click onto link below and click again to download pdf template.)


2.1 August 2018 – Submit your roughs to by midnight the . Please include a sample of past artwork to show how you take work to a final. Remember that your rough is just that, a rough, though it does need to be readable.

3. 1 September 2018 Nghiem Ta will look over your submissions during the month of August. Your feedback will come back to you in written form with possible references for you to look further into to apply to the next stage, moving towards final. Your feedback should be with you on the 1 September 2018.

4. 6 October 2018 – Apply the feedback given you and bring one or both finished spreads to the Masterclass.

The feedback section of this Masterclass is capped at 15 illustrators. Bookings will still be open for attendance on the day to be part of the final feedback session and to ask your questions to Nghiem Ta about working with an art director, submissions that stand out and Walker Books.

The book summary:
Discover the power of the imagination…

When a lonely Professor is gifted a magic book, she finds a gateway to worlds of wonder and embarks on a journey to incredible lands she had thought were only imaginary. Through her notebooks and drawings, follow her as she travels to amazing worlds from myth, legend and fantasy. This beautiful book is a stunning celebration of the transformative power of stories and the imagination.

The basic book/brief structure:
Each world is represented in 2 spreads, each spread with a different style.

  1. The first spread is a vista/scene of the world. The first impression of this world.
  2. The second spread is a sketchbook presentation of the details observed by the professor herself.

Use an A3 landscape canvas. Bear in mind the centre fold of the spread, careful of details which may be halved.

Use the general spread templates as a guide. Additional instructions can be found there.

Be aware of where the text will need to be positioned.

The numbers of panels and text boxes are a guide only.


City of Machines

1st Spread Description:
Among the red canyon, in the flats of an iron/mineral rich vista is the gleaming mechanical city. Densely packed with skyscrapers, factories and warehouses. In the centre a great tower captures the sun’s energy to convert to machine compatible power, it also acts and the main transmitter for the whole city and its occupants.

Suggested Angle:
Eye level

City details:
• Rails and pathways twist throughout the city for the mechanics to one along
• Pod cars/transporters move groups of machines more efficiently
• Lights are scattered around the city to provide lightning to machines with built-in lights
• Signs of entertainment can be seen… a bowling alley, concert hall etc. Plus a Museum of Humans!
• Signs of amenities can be seen… hotels, diners/repair shops, re-energenising stations
• Small utility robots run and hoover around the city, repairing and cleaning the infrastructure
– no organic matter exists

2nd Spread Description:
Sketchbook page, observation black and white style, of…
Automated artist’s studio
Automated orchestra – instruments being played without humans
Museum of People, scene of the main exhibits room.


Set in the English countryside, close to the river and surrounded by flat meadows, a white limestone medieval castle stands on an inner mound and dominates the view for miles. The main castle building (Keep) is protected by the inner wall, whilst the outer city wall protects the encircling town and its inhabitants. Perhaps you can see a busy market square.

Suggested Angle:
From a distance. Tree top level. Over the city wall.

In the distant, you can see a forest and moors. Flags fly from masts from the main turrets.
Architecture features:
•  A main gate house. With a drawbridge?
•  An outer moat? Connected to the river?
•  Strategic features, thick castle walls, arrow slits/loops, parapets, ramparts
•  Flags fly from masts from the main turrets.

•  Knights on horses gallop towards the castle
•  Soldiers patrol on the ramparts
•  Fishing on the river
•  Sheep in the fields
•  Birds in the sky

2nd Spread Description:
Sketchbook page, observation black and white style, of…
•  A selection of weapons
•  A diagram of a knight
•  A diagram of the round table

Secret temple in Africa

You’ve just trekked through the savannah and up the side of a steep mountain. Through a narrow mountain pass you discover you’ve actually been scaling the side of a dormant volcano and now you’re in its crater. In this crater, a tropical rainforest-like environment exists, a stark contrast to the dry landscape ‘outside’.

In the distance, you can see the entrance to a vast decaying palace complex. The architecture of this unique palace has mixed stylings of Egyptian and Assyrian palaces and temples but it’s been unkept and is falling to ruins. Trees, plants and vegetation adorn and invade the palace entrance. Birds, insects and small wildlife inhabit the oasis. A waterfall in the distance keeps the ecosystem hydrated, it flows into smaller canals and streams though the crater, also pools of warms springs.

Sunlight pours in through the single hole/opening in the crater’s top crust. The light main shines on the palace.

Suggested Angle:
Low position look up. Palace on higher ground.

Architectural features:
•  Egyptian styled statues of a dominant female figure
•  Egyptian columns
•  Vegetation creeps, hangs and invades the palace and the crater

Wildlife (some from this list could feature in close detail on 2nd spd) :
•  Elephants
•  Buffalo
•  Sable Antelopes
•  Colobus monkeys
•  Leopard
•  Butterflies (glass winged)
•  Bees
•  Knysns Leorie bird (?)
•  Sunset moth (?)
•  Malachite sunbird
•  Tacazze sunbird
•  Hautlaub’s Turaco

•  Red hot poker/Kniphofia
•  Oncidium wildcat orchid
•  Giant Lobelia
•  African rainforest trees.

Nghiem Ta is an award-winning art director with Walker Children’s Books and paper engineer who oversaw the phenomenally successful Ology series, which sold more than 17 million copies worldwide. She lives and works in Surrey, UK.