The Collages of Eric Carle

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle

I expect you have seen The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle before. It is the children’s book where a tiny caterpillar spends one week eating his way through a variety of foods before making a cocoon and finally emerging as a beautiful butterfly. As a kid I loved the holes in the pages which showed where the caterpillar had been. But it was only recently that I found out how Eric Carle makes the fabulous coloured illustrations for this book and the many others he has written.

The technique uses a combination of paint, tissue paper and cut out. First he paints onto sheets of tissue paper building up layers of colour and patterns. There is a slideshow on the Eric Carle website showing how this is done. The outline of the caterpillar (or whatever the collage is to show) is then drawn onto tracing paper and this is used as a guide for cutting out the tissue paper shapes and arranging these onto the final page. Another slideshow on the Eric Carle website shows this process.

What I love about this technique is the depth of colour that it’s possible to get. For me, the subtle variations in tone on a simple shape of a pear, for example, give the cut-out shape the quality of a drawn illustration. And as a person who is not good at drawing, I’m delighted that it’s an eye for colour rather than the ability to control a line that is needed when trying to imitate this approach. I’m planning on using this technique to create the illustrations for my pop-up eBook. Of course, I’ll show you the results (good or bad!) here…