Posted by: Kathy Temean | October 20, 2018

Illustrator Saturday – Brett Curzon

Brett Curzon lives in northern NSW Australia with his family, his wife, three kids, two dogs and a one evil cat. He says, “I have always, well as far as I can remember… drawn or painted (in fact I came out of the womb holding a blunt HB pencil), and nothing has changed now that I’m older.” He has a Diploma in Graphic Design and one in Fine Art, so he’s ticked a few boxes in that regard. He enjoys all types of art and design, but in saying that he does gravitate to children’s books. He worked on a project for an interactive children’s history app recently, and had a blast coming up with the ideas to keep kids entertained. He is also a poet.

‘Rough Layout’

In this image was really just to see if I had a concept my client liked. Their brief was very open, they gave me a list of Jigsaw puzzles to do and in this example I was asked to do a forrest scene.

That was all it said a ’forrest Scene’ as an illustrator or designer at times you get very vague briefs and you need to interpret them. So I thought about it and came up with the concept drawing that you see here. The idea behind it is, we go have picnics at the park and spend time with each other in nature, animals are already in nature so it needed to be a special place that’s why I made the tree blue, not green or brown, that gave the impression it was a unique place, a special place.

The rough drawing just gave me a basis, and I wasn’t sure if was going to stay that way or if the client liked my direction. Anyway they liked the direction and because I work with them a lot the could understand where I was going with the image.

‘Photoshop in Layer’

In this image you can see how many layers I would use in an drawing, each character or element has its own layer so I can move it, resize, or get rid of it if I want.

I find that this works for me, and helps to to work faster and more efficiently. So in some images I can have up to 60 layers, and here’s another tip…. make sure you name your layers.

‘Box Shape’

So this is the shape of the puzzle box, obviously it’s not square so I need to come up with a dieline that would become the puzzles finished shape and size.

I had the final measurement so my shape had to fit into that final print size and I had to make sure the shape wasn’t too weird that half the artwork was lost, after all the image is  what we were selling. I think I made four different shapes and we used them on different puzzles.

‘Not there Yet’

So this image was getting there, but it still needed some work.  I had things in layers in Photoshop, so I could add more to the image, or remove them and in this case I removed the fish and went in a different direction. This is a puzzles for little kids, (three and up) so it needed to have very descriptive elements on every piece of the puzzle, so if a kid was to hold up the piece and match it to the art of the box they could see where it would or could go.

‘Final Art’

Forrest Friends 36 large piece puzzle.

CMYK print ready file. Print size 20×27 inches.

Final art and graphic design for the box.

Finished box from different sides.

‘Side Two’

Finished box from different sides.

Some Book Covers:


How long have you been illustrating?
About 12 years now.

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

An old lady taught me to paint, we traded art lessons for mowed lawns, I was about 13. One of her friends brought a piece off me. My payment a chocolate cake. I did sell a one not long after that for cash.

I see you have both a diploma ins of Fine Arts and Graphic Design. Which one did you get first and why?

The fine art degree was first, then Graphic Design, and that was because fine art was my first love.

What schools did you attend to get the two diplomas?

In the city of Newcastle TAFE.

Did any of the schools help find illustration work for you?

No, but I did get some contacts that helped.

Do you feel that studying Graphic design has helped you illustrations?

Most definitely! You understand the design concept from beginning to end. I usually work from beginning to the end on products, from the illustration side of things, to the book layout then deal with printers. So that knowledge has been invaluable.

What do you think influenced your illustrating style?

The love of whimsical things, it was more the things in the image than the image style of the illustrator, like Richard Scary, cats driving in cars made from apples, that stuff just appeals to me.

Have you made a book dummy to help sell a book idea?

Yes. It works well. People aren’t mind readers, and sometime when you explain it, it sounds better in your head. So I would definitely recommend a visual aid.

I noticed that you have created some apps for your books. How did you learn to do those?

Trial and error really, it pretty much melted my brain. I worked with a company in the USA they did a lot of the coding side of things. I hated coding and pretty I much stink at it, however had to understand how it worked, so I could set out the files and animate small parts. It was a good experience, although I do prefer good old paper books.

Do you work a full time job or have you decided to be a freelance artist?

I freelance at the moment. I like the freedom, but I’m lousy at chasing invoices and hate that side of things. I may change that in the future, and get a boss.

Was Bill the Fish a self-published book?

It was. I got it printed in hardcover and sold it through out Australia. I just ordered a second shipment of 3000 units but unbelievably the shipment was lost overboard in transit and is now floating around in the ocean somewhere between China and here. The irony is not lost.

When did you decide that you wanted to illustrate for children?

Well I have always loved children’s books and have a large collection of them…… so maybe I have always wanted too, but decided to focus my efforts in that field around 12 years ago.

Amazon has eight books listed for 2017; all published in August by Rourke Educational Media. How hard was that to finish eight illustrated picture books in one year?

They were twenty page readers, so it wasn’t a big deal really. I did all eight quickly, I think I was doing one a week. They would send a script and a guide to follow, you would send a rough and if acceptable you would add colour to it.

How many picture books have you illustrated?

24 or so.

How did you connect with The CatAgency?

I heard Christy speak on a a webinar and was impressed with not only what she said, but also how she said it, so I sent her an email and then we had a chat on Skype.

Would you illustrate a book for an author who wants to self-publish?

Yes. In fact I have just been hired to work with a new independent self-publishing house here in Australia.

Have you worked with educational publishers? Which ones?

Yes. As you mentioned Rouke Media. I have an educational brand that I do here in Australia, called Jimmy Jack that is published by Kids Stuff. Also I write and illustrate for Hippo Blue educational products here in Australia.

Have you done any illustrating for children’s magazines? Which ones?

I was asked by some but I didn’t have the time when they did last year.

Do you have any desire to write and illustrate your own children’s book?

I have three of my own that are sold here in Australia.

Have you ever thought about illustrating a wordless picture book?

I haven’t but I have seen them and love the idea. So I would be up for it, if the opportunity comes around.

What is your favorite medium to use?

To be honest I love it all, and move around from traditional mediums to digital. I do have a favourite pencil type though and that never changes.

Has that changed over time?

Yes. Until I did the course in graphic design, it was all paint and paper.

Can you tell us a little bit about your studio in Australia?

Lots of light, two sausage dogs snoozing, lots of knick knacks like my prized glow in the dark zombie and a wood sculpture of a bearer driving in a log car. Books, coffee, paper, paints, pencils, computer, music.

Are you active in your SCBWI Chapter? If so, have they helped open any doors for you?

No I’m not. Although I probably should, I just haven’t done it.

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

On jobs I try to get onto it early in the day, I function better then. I haven’t worked on anything for myself for a while because I have been busy with other work. Lately I have been taking a break from being creative, I have been going outside and enjoying it, you can have too much of a good thing.

Do you take pictures or research a project before you start?

No. But I love Pinterest and use it all the time!

Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?

Absolutely! I was contacted by a publisher in South Korea last year for work. Huge doors!

What do you think is your biggest success?

Being able to be a big kid everyday.

Do you use Photoshop or Painter with your illustrations?

Yes. Photoshop. I did use Painter at one stage but I find Photoshop is a better fit.

I make my own bushes in Photoshop, and it’s works better for me when getting files ready for print.

Do you use a Graphic Drawing Tablet when illustrating?

Yes a Wacom tablet.

Do you ever exhibit your art?

I had about four solo fine art shows through Sydney years ago. I might down that track again in the future if time allows.

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

To keep on working with creative people, on projects that inspire me and kids to dream big.

What are you working on now?

A book about a boy that drags out bedtime, due for release early next year.

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.

Painting in photoshops I always paint every thing on it’s own layer, that way you can move it around, change the size it gives me so much more freedom. So if I was doing an image with 15 rabbits in it I would draw each one on it’s on layer. I could then move them around changing the size of them if I wanted too, the angles. It also helps with the text placement if you don’t get that right the first time or you want to change it, you can just simply move it.

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

Knock loud, knock hard, and keep knocking till someone answers!

Thank you Brett for sharing your talent and expertise with us. Make sure you share your future successes with us. To see more of Brett’s work, you can visit him at:

If you have a minute, please leave a comment for Brett. I am sure he’d love to hear from you and I enjoy reading them, too.

Talk tomorrow,



  1. I took a break from working on a presentation this Saturday morning to read W&I – thank you, Kathy!
    I saw Brett’s smiling face and could not help but smile back. The smile only grew wider as I gazed on all his joyful, colorful illustrations and read his interesting interview. You have found your calling, so keep at it!


    • Thanks very much, Janet. Your comment made me smile!


  2. I really love Brett’s style! And use of color 😀 😀 😀 I want to absorb every detail there’s so much that draws your eye!


  3. This is a wonderful interview. I love Brett’s art. That illustration of Fang is a crack up. Thanks for the post.


    • Fangs 🙂 a lot for your kind comments!


  4. Thanks so much, Kathy for the invitation to be interviewed, and I really appreciate the time and effort you put into it.


  5. Gorgeous work, Brett!


  6. Oh my days!! I wrote a short children’s story a few years ago now which was initially of interest to publishers but I turned down because they wanted me to change certain things I felt would ruin the entire feel and it’s since just stayed in a folder doing nothing.

    One thing I’ve considered is having it illustrated and self-publishing but again I’m a picky cow and had a very particular idea of what the illustration would be and it’s exactly like Brett’s work 😀


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