Illustrations can serve to enhance the story or be the main focus of the piece. With Beatrix Potter’s books, it is hard to separate the story from the illustrations considering how crucial they were to her as an author and to her series of books. In fact, her stories partially came from the art. Originally, she began doing picture letters to children of family and friends. She did not know what exactly to say, so instead she created drawings and stories such as the ones below.
From these letters, she eventually went on to illustrate most of her books herself. Her process would start out with pencil or pen and ink sketches. From there, the story would develop and she would switch to using watercolors to paint a colored version of the art.
Potter loved nature and taking in all the fine details of it. This is often seen in the illustrations of her stories. She often used her own pets, including her rabbit Peter, as inspiration. She took what she knew about her own animals to create the fluid images seen in her series. Potter drew on beautiful nature around her and her own background in studying it to give scenery to the settings described in her texts.
The final product would then be printed into her books using a process where blocks were designed using photomechanical techniques that gave more details. These blocks, Hentschel blocks, would then be inked using a three-color, half-tone process that gave more of a artistic look to her illustrations, most likely making them resemble the original water color designs all the more.
Potter’s illustrations were meant to engage children and capture their attention, and it is something that her books continue to do over a hundred years later.