HomeBooks by AgeAges 9-12Illustration Inspiration: Carson Ellis
Wildwood Imperium: Wildwood Chronicles

Illustration Inspiration: Carson Ellis

 | May 14, 2014

Carson Ellis

Carson Ellis

Carson Ellis is an award-winning illustrator who has provided art for bestsellers such as “The Mysterious Benedict Society” by Trenton Lee Stewart, The Composer Is Dead by Lemony Snicket, and the “Wildwood Chronicles” by her husband, Colin Meloy. In 2010, Ellis was awarded a silver medal from the Society of Illustrators for Dillweed’s Revenge by Florence Parrie Heide. Additionally, she is the illustrator-in-residence for the band, The Decemberists, and has created art for their album covers, t-shirts, websites, posters, and stage sets. Carson lives in Oregon with her husband, two sons, two llamas, many chickens, one cat and one very feral cat.

Wildwood Imperium: Wildwood ChroniclesLatest published book …


Inspired by …

This is the third book in a series that I collaborate on with my husband. They’re set in Portland, Oregon, where we live; specifically in an enchanted version of Forest Park, which is a real 5,000 acre woodland on the west end of the city. More than anything the books are inspired by that park.

Art medium used …

Gouache and ink.

Artistic process …

In the case of this book, Colin read it to me and my older son nightly, as he was writing it, and I made mental notes about critical or awesome moments to illustrate. Then I went back and read the book through and made real notes about what I wanted to draw. The list came to about 85 illustrations. I sent it off to my editor, Donna Bray, to give her a sense of what to expect and then began to sketch. I have to work so fast on these books – they have tons of drawings and need to be illustrated in a matter of a few months – so sometimes, in the interest of saving time, I don’t even do sketches. If I’m working on simple line art or a smaller illustration I think it’s actually quicker to just do the final art with the thought that I can redraw anything that doesn’t end up working or getting passed the copy editor (it’s quicker and sometimes more energetic and inspired too; a lot can get lost in translation of sketches to finishes). Fortunately, this time around I didn’t have to redraw anything; Colin and Donna and I have worked together a lot and are all a little telepathic at this point. The final art is done in gouache and/or ink on watercolor paper. WILDWOOD IMPERIUM has a lot of line drawings, a lot of illustrations in black and white gouache and 7 full color gouache paintings.


stone house


photo 4

desdemona and joffrey

chapeaux noirs


carol and martha

Illustrations copyright ©, 2014, Carson Ellis

Favorite place to create & illustrate …

It’s always my studio, wherever that may be. I’ve moved since I illustrated this book. I loved my old studio, which was in Forest Park and felt like a treehouse. I was homesick for it for a long time. But my new studio is in the old nut-drying house on a historic farmstead where we live and is also very neat..

Most used art supply or tool …

It’s probably a mechanical pencil.

Illustrator idols …

Alice and Martin Provensen, Ben Shahn, Tomi Ungerer, Blexbolex, Ivan Bilibin, Taro Gomi, Tove Jansson, so many more.

All-time favorite children’s book you didn’t illustrate…

I love SHAKER LANE, a little known picture book by Alice and Martin Provensen. And my friend Mac Barnett showed me FISH IS FISH by Leo Leonni last week and I thought it was a totally perfect book.

A literary character to create art with …

Like, to hang out and draw with? Pippi Longstocking, I think.

Currently working on …

I’m designing a book cover for TENDER IS THE NIGHT by F. Scott Fitzgerald and making a dummy for a picture book I wrote.

Connect with Carson Ellis …

Carson Ellis’s official website

Carson Ellis on Twitter

Discover more picture book illustration inspiration on The Children’s Book Review by visiting our pages tagged with Carson Ellis and following along with our Illustration Inspiration series.

How You Support The Children's Book Review
We may receive a small commission from purchases made via the links on this page. If you discover a book or product of interest on this page and use the links provided to make a purchase, you will help support our mission to 'Grow Readers.' Your support means we can keep delivering quality content that's available to all. Thank you!

Bianca Schulze is the founder of The Children’s Book Review. She is a reader, reviewer, mother and children’s book lover. She also has a decade’s worth of experience working with children in the great outdoors. Combined with her love of books and experience as a children’s specialist bookseller, the goal is to share her passion for children’s literature to grow readers. Born and raised in Sydney, Australia, she now lives with her husband and three children near Boulder, Colorado.

No Comments

Leave A Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.