Thinking Visually

How to Leave Room for Illustrations

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In order to master the art of writing picture books, you must master leaving room for... well... the art. As legendary author Jane Yolen has said, the illustrations in a picture book are not there to decorate your words. Rather, they tell at least half of the story.

If you are an author-only, how DO you leave room for the illustrator while still writing a story compelling enough (without the pictures) to entice an editor or agent? This three-part course bundle gives you what you need to know to answer that question and evaluate your own work.

The THINKING VISUALLY Bundle includes the following courses:

MINE THE GAPS: Leaving Space For Your Illustrator

How do I convey what I envision for the illustrations in my picture book if I am only the author? Is it okay to use art notes or not?

These are two age-old questions picture book authors ask. Published author and former children's book editor Hannah Barnaby is here to answer them! In this course, Hannah will reveal:

  • Four ways text and illustration work together
  • The benefits of leaving gaps in our stories
  • How to build those gaps in without sacrificing the story
  • How to use art notes wisely
  • The art of brainstorming
  • And more!

TO ART NOTE OR NOT TO ART NOTE? Every Question You've Ever Had About Art Notes in Picture Books: ANSWERED!

For picture book authors, particularly those who are not also illustrators, the question of whether to use art notes or not is thorny.

On the one hand, we're trying to minimize words in our manuscripts and leave room for the illustrator, so without any notes, the manuscript might be difficult to understand.

On the other hand, many agents, editors, and illustrators are opposed to seeing an abundance of art notes in a manuscript, claiming it's the illustrator's job to manage the visual portion of the storytelling in a picture book.

What's an author to do?

In this comprehensive course, picture book author and 12 x 12 Challenge Founder Julie Hedlund will show you:

  • What Art (Illustration) Notes Are
  • The Purpose of Art Notes
  • The Function of Text in Picture Books
  • The Function of Art Notes in Picture Books
  • Types of Art Notes
  • Art Note Do's and Don'ts
  • How to Know Whether or Not to Use Art Notes
  • What Professionals Have to Say About Art Notes
  • Examples of Art Notes in SIX Manuscripts that went on to be Published
  • How to Format Art Notes


If you are looking to learn about the comprehensive research and effort illustrators put into their work, look no further! In this course, acclaimed illustrator Dow Phumiruk talks about:

  • The challenges illustrators face in both fiction and nonfiction projects
  • Best approaches for tackling nonfiction picture book illustration (and what authors can do to help!)
  • Her own processes for illustrating manuscripts
  • Why picture book authors should leave room for the illustrator

All three courses contain video presentations on the topic, Q & A, transcripts, and audio-only versions.

Your Instructor

Hannah Barnaby, Julie Hedlund, Dow Phumiruk
Hannah Barnaby, Julie Hedlund, Dow Phumiruk

Hannah Barnaby Bio

Hannah Barnaby is a former children’s book editor and indie bookseller, and the author of two young adult novels (WONDER SHOW, a 2013 Morris Award Finalist, and SOME OF THE PARTS) three picture books (THERE'S SOMETHING ABOUT SAM, BAD GUY, and GARCIA & COLETTE GO EXPLORING) and a chapter book (MONSTER AND BOY). Hannah holds an MA in Children’s Literature from Simmons College and an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College. During her time as an editor at Houghton Mifflin, Hannah worked with award-winning authors and illustrators such as Matthew Cordell, Olivier Dunrea, Pamela Turner, and Vivian Vande Velde, as well as managing one notoriously curious little monkey. She lives, writes, and teaches in Charlottesville, VA.

Julie Hedlund Bio

Julie Hedlund is an award-winning picture book author. Her titles include OVER, BEAR! UNDER, WHERE? (Philomel, 2021), MY LOVE FOR YOU IS THE SUN (2014), and A TROOP IS A GROUP OF MONKEYS (2012). She is also the founder of the 12 x 12 Picture Book Writing Challenge, a co-founder of Picture Book Summit, and co-creator (with Emma Walton Hamilton) of The Complete Picture Book Submissions System.

Dow Phumiruk Bio

Dow Phumiruk is a pediatrician turned award-winning author/illustrator who has found her passion in creating children's books. She is the illustrator of the books ONE GIRL, THE EQUAL SHOT, TITAN AND THE WILD BOARS, COUNTING ON KATHERINE, MAYA LIN, and MOUSE'S FIRST CHRISTMAS. She is the author of MELA AND THE ELEPHANT, and her author/illustrator debut, HUGSBY, releases in fall 2020. Dow lives in Lone Tree, Colorado with her husband of over 2.5 decades, three artistic daughters, two guinea pigs, one tiny frog, and an old bearded dragon named Sparkles. Dow also enjoys fast and furious sewing projects and limited (she's not that athletic) hiking.

Courses Included with Purchase

Leaving Space for Your Illustrator
Hannah Barnaby
To Art Note or Not to Art Note
Every Question You've Ever Had About Art Notes in Picture Books: ANSWERED!
Julie Hedlund
Differences Between Illustrating Fiction and Nonfiction
Dow Phumirik

Original Price: $201

"What's fabulous about (MINE THE GAPS) is that now I know what I need to do on some rewrites where I've been stuck. YAY!

- Sunny Walker, Author

"I have a much better understanding of art notes now."

- Marcia Parks, Author

"So useful. So full of amazing tips & details. Fascinating to see Dow's process!

- Polina Gortman, Author/Illustrator

Frequently Asked Questions

When does the course start and finish?
The course starts now and never ends! It is a completely self-paced online course - you decide when you start and when you finish.
How long do I have access to the course?
How does lifetime access sound? After enrolling, you have unlimited access to this course for as long as you like - across any and all devices you own.
What if I am unhappy with the course?
We would never want you to be unhappy! If you are unsatisfied with your purchase, contact us in the first 30 days and we will give you a full refund.

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