Posted by: Kathy Temean | December 2, 2017

Illustrator Saturday – Holly Clifton-Brown

Growing up, I loved to look at the pictures in books. Nothing has changed. Then I grew up a bit and started to learn how to draw pictures except not yet in books rather on school table clothes and other silly places.  Eventually I packed my paints and completed a degree in illustration at the University of the West of England.

I am an Freelance Illustrator living in London. I just love drawing, and being able to do it for a living is the best thing ever. I have several published titles under my belt and I hope that I will be needing a very large belt by the end of my career as a children’s Illustrator. My work is all traditional hand painted imagery married with contemporary styles and techniques. I illustrate children’s picture books, greetings cards, and do editorial design and licensing work.


How long have you been illustrating?

Since I left University, so 8 years ago.

What and when was the first painting or illustration that you did where someone paid you for your artwork?

The first job I had was illustrating some branding for a small cosmetics company based in Dorset called Filberts Bees.  

What made you choose to attend University of the West of England

I wanted to have a University experience so for that reason I didn’t want to stay in London having just done my foundation there and found it quite isolating. UWE also had an illustration degree and Bristol seemed like a fun city to be based in.

Did you study art there?

I studied Illustration BA

Do you think art school influenced your style?

No not really.  Art at school was very traditional.  Oil painting, still life.  I don’t think I even knew what illustration was.    


What type of job did you do right after you graduated?

I started illustrating full time. Straight after my degree show I began work on my first picture book.  

When did you decide you wanted to illustrate for children?

In my final year of Uni I entered x2 book ideas into a Macmillan competition.  I worked so long and hard on them.  I didn’t get shortlisted and I was totally gutted.  I think it was at that point that I knew how much I wanted to illustrate picture books.

I see that Nicole at Tugeau2 represent you? How did you meet and how long have they represented you?

I have been with T2 for 5 years now I think, 4 or 5 years.

Was Big Birthday written by Kate Hosford your first illustrated picture book?

No, my first picture book was Annie Hoot and the knitting Extravaganza. I published this book straight after I finished my degree.

How did that opportunity come your way?

The art director came to my degree show at the Coningsby Gallery, she liked my work and invited me to Andersen Press for a meeting the following week.

Then you followed that with Big Bouffant written by Kate Hosford and published by the same publisher (Carolrhoda Picture Books). Was that a two book deal when you started Big Birthday?

Yes, it was actually The Big Bouffant that came first followed by The Big Birthday.  Both were really great fun to work on.  I remember being sent pictures of girls who had done the most wonderful bouffants themselves inspired by the book.

I see that you illustrated Lion’s Lullaby for Disney-Hyperion that came out last November. Now it is coming out as a board book on November 28th. Did you know this would happen when you illustrated the picture book?

I loved this book, to date it is the book I am most proud of.  In the UK it is called Who Puts the Animals to Bed. No I didn’t know it would make it board book. But I am thrilled as my 20 month old son loves it!

Did they use the illustrations from the picture book or did you have to do different ones for the board book?

They must be using the images from the picture book as no one has been in touch with me otherwise.

Is So Many Smarts! Your newest book? How long did it take you to illustrate it?

Yes So Many Smarts is my latest book.  It took about 6 months working on it part time after I returned to work when my son was 6 months old.

You had three picture books come out in 2016 – Move Your Mood, The Flower Girl Wore Celery, and Lion’s Lullaby. Was it hard to get three books done with your other projects?

Back when I was working full time I was able to work on about x4 books in a year. This was the maximum I could manage. Now it would be less. But I am an efficient worker.

Is Tell Me a Story, Rory your latest picture book?

TMASTR has been published and it’s lovely.  Currently I am working on a picture book called Sewing the Rainbow, and have some other books in the pipeline which is so exciting.

How many books have you illustrated?

So far, 18 books, I think.

I see that you wrote and illustrate Annie Hoot and the Knitting Extravaganza in 2014. How did you come up with this idea?

I came up with the idea at Uni, she was inspired by my sister and her love of knitting.  An owl was an obvious choice to represent her.  And Annie was born.   

Would you like to write and illustrate more of your own books?

Yes, I am always working on new ideas.  Fingers crossed, Peggy Squeak will get picked up and some others too.

Have you illustrated any book covers for novels?

No not really.  My work has always been focused in the children’s arena for the most part.

Do you think you will ever illustrate a wordless picture book?

I would LOVE to. That would be a dream project. But I don’t think I’m unique enough for that.

Have you ever done any illustrating for educational publishers?

Yes quite a bit with Nicole and I always enjoy it.

Have you illustrated something for a children’s magazine?

I don’t think so. But I would definitely be up for doing some illustrating for magazines.

What types of things do you do to find illustration work?

I have an agent as discussed above in the UK and the USA. They are both brilliant at drumming up work I wouldn’t have my career without them. But I also have an active online presence, attend meetings and social events organised through my UK.

What is your favorite medium to use?

I use gouache and colouring pencils.

Has that changed over time?

I’ve always been a painter with gouache on watercolour painter.  I don’t think I will ever become solely digital I am traditional at heart.

Do you have a studio set up in your home?

I have worked in lots of different studios, but currently I am working in a small room from home.  Next summer we are building a studio in the garden for me which is really exciting.


What is the one thing in your studio that you could not live without?


Do you try to spend a specific amount of time working on your craft?

Any hours I can grab, during Ossian’s nap time.  In between laundry runs.  And the two days I have allocated when Ossian is at childcare.

Do you take pictures or do any types of research before you start a project?

Google, google, google! The web has amazing imagery.

Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?

Of course.  The internet is a wonderful and powerful tool.

Do you use Photoshop or Painter with your illustrations?

I marry my paintings with photoshop yes.  But I try to use as little as possible.

Do you own or have you used a Graphic Drawing Tablet in your illustrating?


Do you have any career dreams that you want to fulfill?

Yes I would love to have a successful series of books. I hope that DOT TOWN, which was my concept will continue.  I have lots more ideas for the little Dot Characters.  Of course I would love to have another of my own stories that I have written published.  

What are you working on now?

Sewing the Rainbow, I think it will be out next year sometime.

Do you have any material type tips you can share with us? Example: Paint or paper that you love – the best place to buy – a new product that you’ve tried – A how to tip, etc.

Always buy watercolour paper as a block mould book.  It will save you so much time stretching and sticking down to a board and is so effective.

Any words of wisdom on how to become a successful writer or illustrator?

I’m still working on the successful bit, but my advice on wanting to become an illustrator would be.  Draw what you love.  I love characters.  I always have.  I would always recommend doing a degree in Illustration I had the best time and it really gave me the years to figure out my visual language and grow as an illustrator. 

Thank you Holly for sharing your talent, process, journey, and expertise with us. Please make sure you keep in touch and share your future successes with us. To see more of Holly’s work, you can visit her at:

If you have a minute, please leave a comment for Holly. I am sure she’d love it and I enjoy reading them, too. Thanks!

Talk tomorrow,



  1. Thanks for sharing. So much insight into your fabulous work

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Your art is whimsical and fun! Thank you for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I absolutely ADORE your style, Holly!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Oh and FYI…the website listed on your tugeau2 page above takes you to this: – you may want to fix that. Again, all the best to you Holly!


    • They must have fixed in their end, because it is working now. I remember mentioning it to Holly last month that it was not working correctly. Glad to see it is working now.



      Liked by 1 person

      • Just checked. Still there…it’s the bottom of their page where Holly’s website is listed and takes you somewhere else 🙂


  5. I love your work! Thank you for sharing!


  6. Your work is delightfully charming and whimsical. I enjoy seeing how other illustrators interpret the characters in a story.


  7. Beautiful work!


  8. Donna,

    That’s right, I had to search for a site to list that worked. I’ll send Nicole an email to let her know it needs fixing. Thanks!


  9. I love Holly’s work – it’s absolutely charming!


  10. Wonderful illustrations!


  11. Yay for limited photoshop use. I feel like so often the human- ness and emotion is lost from traditional media when the little imperfections are removed.


  12. I totally have fallen in love with your whimsical art work. Thank you so much for sharing.


  13. I love the style of your work Holly! Wonderful!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

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


%d bloggers like this: