Posted by: Kathy Temean | July 27, 2019

Illustrator Saturday – Brandon James Scott

By day Brandon is a Creative Director working in animation, and by night he illustrates children’s books. For over a decade, Brandon has worked on a range of hit animated entertainment including his own creation, the award-winning preschool series, Justin Time. He’s passionate for projects that value a sense of adventure, levity and heart—those that bring a genuine curiosity for the fantastic and whimsical world around us. A born and raised Canadian, he currently lives with his family in Toronto.


Here’s how I went about making my illustration, ‘Thinking Bear’:

Step 1
Yes, this is what my drawings look like. I’m a painter more than anything, so all I need is a rough idea and composition.

Step 2
Blocking in shapes. A lot of the designing happens here. I don’t stick too close to my (horrible) sketch. I have an idea of what the colour scheme will be, but I keep all the colours pretty muted at this stage as it gives me room to push saturation and contrast as I further develop the picture. I might start playing with a bit of brushwork here but I usually keep things pretty flat until later.

Step 3
This is where I start to add lighting and develop forms, and the feeling and mood of the picture begins to take shape. I spend a lot of time on the lighting in my pictures, it’s a thing I enjoy working with more than anything. I also start thinking about where my edges will be, and which ones I can lose.

Step 4
Texturing and polish. This final step is actually a handful of random experiments of adding little details, overlaying brushwork and scanned textures, and playing with blending modes until it all feels right. I sometimes try to get a kind of ‘golden glow’ like you see in those old masters works. But really I’m just pushing things I’ve already started in previous steps until I’m happy.


How long have you been illustrating?

Professionally since 2006.

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

I remember in high school, we did this watercolour flower project. My art teacher showed some of our work to her friend and told me she wanted to buy one of my paintings. It blew my mind, like a light bulb went off. People pay money for art!

How did you decide to attend Sheridan College?

I kept drawing through high school so I was interested in it as a career. The school being a short drive from my home made it familiar to me, and it seemed like a good option if I wanted to pursue art since it had such a great reputation.

Did you know going into Sheridan College that you wanted a career in animation?

I was leaning that way — but I was pretty torn between animation or illustration as a career, and I never really got over that, to be honest.

Do animators need to excel in illustrating or is this a talent that animation helps develop?

Animators don’t need to draw at all. Animation is about timing, performance, storytelling. But there are many other jobs on a production where traditional art experience is valued. I was always interested in the design/art direction of animation more than anything.

What is a BAA degree? I thought Bachelor of Applied Arts, but then I thought it might mean Bachelor of Animated Arts.

Applied Arts.

I noticed you worked for JibJab Media for a few months while in college. Did you get to work on any of their funny videos?

I helped out with all kinds of stuff while I was there — this was back when their studio was quite small. I even got to illustrate my first children’s book with them.

Did the school help you find animation work?

The school has a lot of great connections with the industry and they definitely present opportunities for you to get your work in front of professionals.

Did you immediately start doing freelance illustrating in the evening while working at Guru Studios?

Other than the odd small commission, not really. I was too busy. But in recent years I’ve gotten into children’s books in my off-time.

How exciting was it to have your preschool animated series, Justin Time, which you produced at Guru Studio nominated for Emmy?

The whole experience of just getting a show made at all was exciting. It’s been the biggest learning and growth experience I’ve had as a professional artist by far. To have it also go on to multiple seasons and get nominated for awards is just incredible.

How did the idea for the series come about?

It really started from my place as a designer. I thought, what would be my dream gig to work on? What kind of things would I love to design? What would I want it to look like? Then I tried to make that show.

How many episodes of Justin Time can be purchased on DVDs?

(no idea) – found Season 1 and 2 and 3 others for sale on Amazon.

Did the picture books Justin Time: The Pancake Express and Justin Time: The Big Pet Story come about from creating the Justin Time animated series?

Those were side projects I got to do after the series was made. We thought it would be great to adapt a couple of the early episodes into books and tell the stories that way. It gave me a chance to explore a more rough/hand-made look with the pictures too, which was a lot of fun.

How did Justin Time find its’ way on Netflix?

They picked up the first two seasons to stream on their service. They liked the show, and I guess it was doing well enough that they commissioned a new season from us, so we worked with them on the production of Justin Time Go!

When did you decide you wanted to illustrate children’s books?

I’ve always been drawing and telling stories since my childhood. Children’s books are just such a great medium to play with text and pictures together. My personal illustration style is also suited to it, I think. And I think that since I became a father and have been super-exposed to the minds of my own children and all the books I read to them, that my interests have shifted into children’s books more.

What do you feel influenced your illustrating style?

It’s a big mix of a lot of things. I have hundreds of folders of images from favorite artists, and they span from classical painters to modern illustrators and animation designers. I love mixing the rich colours, textures and lighting found in classical oil paintings with more modern design, like a lot of the animation and illustration work from the mid 20th century.

What was the title of your first illustrated published book? How did that come about?

The first published book I worked on was The Longest Christmas List Ever, which I co-illustrated while working at JibJab. That summer I just jumped into any odd work they’d throw at me, and this book was something they wanted to do. It was a great opportunity as I was only there for the summer between my 3rd and 4th year of college.

Is The Dog Who Wanted to Fly by Kathy Stinson you latest picture book?

Yes. I am also just finishing up illustrating a book with Tundra Books that will be coming out in 2020.

How did that project come your way?

Katie Hearn at Annick Press found me on instagram, and we connected and started to discuss the project. It was a fun manuscript, and I loved Kathy Stinson’s work so I jumped at the opportunity.

How many books have you illustrated?

FIVE in total now.

You have a bear in many of your beautiful illustrations. Did you create him for a book you are working on?

The bear is a character that I’ve been drawing for years. I would love very much to put him into a storybook — the challenge is getting that story just right. But I am working on it.

What materials and/or tools do you use to create your work?

These days it’s all digital. I used to be big into pencil, ink, watercolour and acrylic, but now I pretty much do everything digitally. Photoshop, of course, but in the last year almost all of my work as been on an iPad using Procreate.

Do you plan to write and illustrate more picture books?

Yes! I have a pile of ideas, premises, and a dozen rough manuscripts that I’ve started and stopped over the last while. I would love to both write and illustrate books.

How did you connect with Emily Van Beek at Folio, Jr. and how long has she been representing you?

I think she said she found my work on Society 6, where I sell prints. She reached out to me and I loved her attitude toward publishing and the work she’s represented. She’s been representing me since the start of the year.

Would you illustrate a book for a self-published author?

Not at this time.

Do you have a studio in your home?

My ‘studio’ is a desk that is currently half-covered with baby changing supplies for my new daughter. My family lives in a condo, so there you go. But truthfully, I don’t need much to get work done.

Have you ever thought about illustrating a wordless picture book?

I would love to do a wordless book. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in animation it’s how much you can tell a story visually. And it’s often more interesting to do so, as it lets the viewer figure things out on their own.

What do you think is your biggest success?

Creating Justin Time has been the biggest success of my career, so far.

What is your favorite medium to use?

I used to always use acrylic paint. I liked working in layers, and I also made lots of mistakes or changed my mind, so the quick drying time and ability to easily paint over things was necessary for me. Gouache, Oils, ect just gave me headaches.

Has that changed over time?

It’s all digital now. The speed, flexibility and convenience is unmatched. Though I do use a lot of scanned images of paintings for textures. I spend a lot of time making my digital paintings look like traditional paintings…

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

Yes, used plenty of different Wacom tablets over the years. I use an iPad now and find it great.

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

As much as I can, really, with all the ‘life’ things that take up the day. One of the motivations for pursuing more illustration work on the side was my role in animation has been more of a director/manager in recent years, so I was spending less time at work actually getting my hands dirty drawing or designing.

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

A little bit of research yes. Certainly for accuracy concerns, if there are any. But as far as using references for visuals, I try not to overdo it. I’ve found that overly relying on references can really limit the weirdness/randomness that can find its way into your work  when relying mostly on your imagination.

Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?

In so many ways. Especially as an illustrator — pretty much all of my opportunities in children’s books have been people reaching out to me on social media.

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

Creating a bestselling book series would be a nice one.

What are you working on now?

Right now my head is in writing mode, trying to piece together an idea that I may turn into my next children’s book.

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.

I mentioned before, but Procreate is a wonderful app I’ve used for all my recent work. My last book, The Dog Who Wanted to Fly was entirely illustrated on it. It’s really a pleasure to use and since it’s on your iPad, you can work anywhere you want.

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

My tip is for those who are starting their careers as artists: Keep making your own work. Getting jobs is obviously awesome, making money is great. But don’t let that work be the only thing you make. The most rewarding things I’ve done in my career have come from personal projects. Personal work is where you can experiment and grow, and often sharing it can attract new people that want to work with you. And because they were attracted to your (weird, quirky, why-am-i-doing-this-anyway) personal work, that’s the kind of work they’ll want you to make for them, so it’s win-win.

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


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

Talk tomorrow,



  1. Another wonderful interview, Kathy. Thank you!
    Brandon, your lighting is inspiring and wonderful. The colors (oh the colors!), viewpoints, layouts and textures are marvelous, too. I love the emotion in the Christmas one and the Halloween tribute to Maurice Sendak, plus the bear with the children on the bench. Thank you, too.


  2. Wow, just wow!
    That was a great interview. Such amazing talent!!


  3. It’s funny, I have often brainstormed a “The Dog Who Wanted to Fly” PB while “walking” my bird-chasing dogs. Now, I can’t wait to read yours.


  4. There are tons of great illustrations there! Love them! I really love the cat wearing a striped sweater. That expression! Great job!


  5. These are adorable! Not every day you see a ball ‘o babies and a ball o’ bears.


  6. What wonderful art! I love your bear and hope to see it in a picture book one day! Thanks for sharing your process and your art, it is inspirational!


  7. Thanks, Brandon, for sharing so much of your process and career journey. Your illustrator’s “voice” is joyful, colorful, textured, and emotional! Best wishes for continued growth and success, all certain to come for someone so talented, enthusiastic, and determined..
    I absolutely LOVE the cover of The Dog Who Wanted to Fly! The expression on the dog’s face is just priceless.


  8. Thanks everyone for reading and for the kind words!


  9. Great interview and artwork! Always interesting to learn how other illustrators work.


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