Posted by: Kathy Temean | January 21, 2012

Illustrator Saturday – Brooke Boynton Hughes

Brooke Boynton Hughes spent her childhood drawing cats, mermaids, and treehouses in Loveland Colorado. When she wasn’t drawing, she could be found outside, hunkered down in a snow fort, conversing with her pet rabbit, or building fairy furniture out of grass and twigs.

In 2001, she earned a BFA in Printing from Colorado State University. After a brief move to Austin, Texas, she headed for the Big Apple, where she attended New York Academy of Art and earned an MFA in Figurative Art with a concentration in drawing and relief printmaking.

Now she lives a hop and a skip from the Rocky Mountains in Fort Collins, Colorado, where she works as a freelance illustrator. When she is not drawing, she can be found outside, hunkered down in a snow fort, conversing with her pet rabbit, or buidling fairy furniture out of grass and twigs.

She has been a member of the SCBWI, since 2005.

Here’s Brooke’s Studio and the place where the magic happens.

Here is Brooke sharing her process:

This version of Hansel and Gretel is a re-working of an earlier Hansel and Gretel illustration I did. I decided that the first version wasn’t working as well as it could. It didn’t have a strong sense of light and I felt the characters could be stronger and the trees needed to feel more solid. I began by doing some thumbnail sketches to work out the composition changes. I then did some slightly larger sketches to work out some of the details, like where the animals should be and what the trees should look like. I also did detailed sketches of Hansel and Gretel. After I felt comfortable with the initial sketches I did a finished pencil drawing on hot press illustration board. (However, with my newer illustrations I’ve been using Arches hot press watercolor paper because its more forgiving.) In this case, the dimensions were 11” by 14”, which is the size that I intended to print the illustration for my portfolio.

1. Once the pencil drawing was finished I went over the drawing with acrylic ink and a dip pen. (Sometimes, at this stage I scan in the inked drawing and do some quick color studies in photoshop. However, since this was a re-do I already felt fairly comfortable with the color palette I was going to use.)

2. When the ink was dry I erased the pencil drawing and did an under painting to lay in the lights and darks. I use Holbein and Winsor Newton watercolors.

3. Then I began to lay in the local colors.

4 and 5. I continued to build the colors and darken the shadows. I tend to work in layers and to paint very slowly.

6. I used a black colored pencil to darken the background with crosshatching.

7. Once the painting was finished, I scanned the image and fixed mistakes in photoshop using a Wacom intuos tablet. I made some minor color adjustments and cleaned up any rogue pen marks.

How did you decide you wanted to illustrate books?

I don’t remember ever really making a conscious decision to illustrate books. It’s just something I’ve always wanted to do. I loved books when I was little and have always loved to draw. I guess when I joined SCBWI in 2005, I was really starting to take things more seriously and made a conscious decision to start building my career.

What was the first thing you illustrated and got paid for?

In 2007 I started working for a small local company doing historical illustrations. I later started illustrating coloring books for the same company. The first freelance job I got paid for was illustrating some educational materials for the U.S. Department of State.

How long have you been illustrating?

When I was a kid I would write stories and illustrate them (usually stories about cats). I started putting together my illustration portfolio around 2005 while I was in grad school. I also joined SCBWI in 2005. In 2007 I got a job as an historical illustrator.

Have you always worked in watercolors?

I have a BFA in printmaking. In college I mainly did etchings, and some lithographs. And in grad school I did a lot of charcoal and pencil drawings, as well as woodcuts. But for illustrations I work mainly in watercolor and pen and ink. Although, when I was first experimenting with my illustration style I used quite a bit of colored pencil. (If you go to my website and click on the bumblebee to the right of my name, you can see some of my woodcuts and pencil drawings).

Do you ever touch up your illustration in Photoshop?

Yes. I clean up my pen lines and occasionally make small color adjustments. Having the safety net of Photoshop has allowed me to be more relaxed while I’m inking and painting.

Do you own a graphic tablet?

Yes. I use a Wacom intuos tablet.

Have you changed your approach or style, since you started illustrating?

Changes in the way I work have happened slowly over time, through trial and error. I have learned which materials I prefer by experimenting and I have become more comfortable with color and using watercolor through practice. I decided to go to graduate school because I was only able to draw stylized people, and I wanted to learn how to draw more realistic figures and to be able to draw people more naturally.

I see that you mention the SCBWI on your blog. Do you try to attend conferences and workshops?

Yes. I attended the Winter Conference in N.Y. several years ago and have attended the Summer Conference in L.A. for the past two years. I plan on attending this year’s Summer Conference as well. I also attend my local chapter’s conferences.

Do you think doing that has helped you?

Yes! I am so grateful for SCBWI. I have learned so much by attending conferences and have met some really wonderful people, including the women that I am in a critique group with. (You can see our group blog at: I always leave conferences feeling inspired and ready to create.

It looks like you draw in a notebook. Is that something you do regularly?

I try to draw in my sketchbook on a regular basis, although, it seems to come in waves. I’ll work for several days in my sketchbook, either to generate ideas or to draw from life, and then I won’t touch my sketchbook for awhile while I’m working on finished illustrations. I’d like to draw from life more often.

What are you working on now?

The last few days I’ve been working on some new portfolio pieces, including some black and white illustrations. I’ve also been working on some valentines for my Etsy shop.

Do you try to follow a schedule for working on your art? Have a regular routine?

I try to go to the gym or go to a yoga class a couple of mornings a week and I usually have lunch with my grandma once a week, but besides that I try to have a regular work schedule. I usually start working everyday around 9am. I take a quick lunch break and then I work until 5 or 6pm. Quite often I will draw after dinner while my husband and I watch a movie together. We try to do something fun and active on the weekends.

Where do you do your illustrating? Do you have a studio?

I have one of the rooms in our basement set up as a studio. Sometimes in the winter it gets too cold to be downstairs, so I have a small worktable in the living room, near the fireplace, as well.

Have you ever thought of writing your own book and illustrating it?

Yes, I think about that a lot. I have lots of story seeds in my head that I’d love to flesh out and illustrate.

What types of things have you put in your portfolio?

I have several images of children engaged in various activities, and some illustrations of anthropomorphic animals. I’ve tried to create a pretty well rounded portfolio, but more importantly, to include characters and scenes that I’m excited about and that I loved drawing.

Have you made a book dummy? If so, how long did it take?

I have done some story boarding, but I’ve never made a full book dummy. Although, its something that I’d like to do this year.

I picked up your promotional postcard at the LA Conference. I like the rounded edges, did that cost more to do? What company do you use to do your postcards?

The rounded corners do cost a little extra, but I really like the way it looks. I use Overnight Prints, largely because they’re one of the few companies I’ve found that has the ability to make rounded corners.

Are you represented by an agent? If so, who?

I’m so excited to say that as of the beginning of the year I am represented by Teresa Kietlinski of Prospect Agency.

Are there any marketing things you have done that helped you get additional work?

Having a blog has been really useful. Not only does it allow me to connect with other illustrators, but it seems to be a great way for people to find my work. My agent found my work via my blog. I also think its important to have a website that is clean and easy to navigate.

Do you have any words of wisdom for your fellow illustrators that might help them become more successful?

When I first started attending SCBWI conferences I think I was looking for someone to tell me exactly what I needed to do to get work. I wanted a very specific step-by-step guide.
After attending a few conferences, I realized that each of the illustrators that I admired had their own path and their own way of becoming successful. And while I do think that there are things we can all do to further our careers (like having a blog and website, attending conferences, networking, honing drawing/painting skills) I think we each have to find our own path and to do whatever works best for us.

That being said, I think that it’s important for an illustrator to be honest about their work and to not be defensive when their work is being critiqued. Being part of a critique group has definitely been very helpful for me. I also think its important to create images that excite you and characters that you love.
Also, it probably sounds sort of cliché, but being patient and persistent is really important.

Thank you Brooke for sharing you talent with us. If you would like to see more of Brooke’s illustrations, you can visit her at . Please take a minute to leave Brooke a comment. I am sure she would love to hear your thoughts.

Talk tomorrow,



  1. OK, first things first—Brooke—I want your studio! lol I can honestly say I was captivated by your work. There were many that actually stirred emotions, and I LOVE when that happens!

    I must say I am totally in love with your VERYunique trees! I was mesmerized by them from your “Hansel and Gretel” painting, then others as I scrolled down to the one with the mountainous landscape (Heidi?).

    I, too, have used overnight prints for business cards. They have a wonderful, thick cardstock and the quality of printing was really good, too 🙂

    Thank you SO much for sharing your lovely artwork, Brooke, and it’s not surprising you found representation! Congrats!

    And again, Kathy, you didn’t want to disappoint anyone and STILL did all the work to get Illustrators Saturday up in the midst of the mountains of work, phone calls and emails surrounding our conference registration. This is a blog not to be missed! 🙂 Thank you!


    • Your art is BEAUTIFUL Brooke! I always want to see more!


  2. Great work! I love the beach picture!!


  3. LOVE Brooke’s work! She’s definitely one to watch. Thanks, Kathy!


  4. Gorgeous illustrations, and fantastic interview! I stick to writing, so it’s fantastic to learn about Brooke’s process and her career so far.


  5. love, love these pictures, the interview and I agree with Donna – that is one enviable studio.

    and Kathy …I can’t even fathom the stress you are under right now. so Thank YOU for all your work for the all work the people beside you are doing also.

    Kim Pfennigwerth


  6. Gorgeous work! Can’t wait to see more. Followed so many of the links included and enjoyed my tours of your blog and your critique group colleagues!


  7. Thank you so much for featuring me on your blog Kathy! What an honor! And thank you for the nice comments everyone. 🙂 Its so fun to be able to share my work with you!


  8. OMG, these are soooooo charming. I just want to crawl inside the illustrations and live in THAT world. Thanks so much for posting this.


  9. Excellent interview Brooke- I’m so glad your beautiful work is getting spotlighted!!


  10. Simply stunning work, Brooke! Oh, what a fabulous interview..and I am so mesmerized by your Hansel and Gretel process piece! Gorgeous! But then, all of your work is so full of charm and movement..absolutely wonderful!!


  11. Great interview and charming work!


  12. awesome interview! I follow Brooke’s blog… she is amazing. 🙂


  13. […] She lives in Colorado with my husband, Bill, our twin babies, and our dog, Olive. Brooke was featured on Illustrator Saturday January 2012. […]


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