Posted by: Kathy Temean | May 2, 2020

Illustrator Saturday – Scott Brundage

Scott was born and raised in Danbury, Connecticut. He began working professionally while studying at The University of the Arts in Philadelphia, PA after winning a children’s helmet design contest. His helmet design was later created and sold by Bell Helmets, protecting and decorating young heads nationwide.

His work has been recognized by The Society of Illustrators 57,  American Illustration 29, Spectrum 19, 20, 22, 23, 24 and won a Silver award in Spectrum Fantastic Art 18 and Bronze award in Illustration West 55. His paintings have been seen in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Scientific American, Tor Books, AARP, The Washington Post and many others.

Scott enjoys creating entertaining watercolor images and running in very short shorts in urban environments that tend to be somewhat unready for such sights.

Here is Scott discussing his process for an illustration from WHERE’D MY JO GO?:

I rarely remember to take pics of my actual painting process, but you can get a bit of my thought process here.

1- The page layout sent from the publisher. This lets me know the dimensions of the book, where the gutter lies and what text is on the page. Its my job to react to it and figure out the best way to tell the story visually to accompany the text. As much as I can, I try to add extra bits of narrative not explicitly laid out from the text.

2-My incredibly rough thumbnail sketch. I tend to do these all at once for every page, so I can feel the flow of the entire book. I don’t want too many repetitive images, too many back to back big spreads, too many back to back pages of tiny vignettes. And, I know, its very hard to read for anyone but myself.

In this case, we have Big Al, the pup, reminiscing about the good times on the page prior. On this spread, he’s still hoping for Jo to come back, but is just beginning to lose a bit of hope. This spread, in particular, was fun since it was an opportunity to play with reality a bit. Instead of an actual highway overpass, its a more fantastical version of what Big Al might see…. Loads of trucks, but none of the ones he wishes would actually see.

3-I research and refine the thumbnail into a clean sketch. You can see there’s a big jump from thumbnail to sketch. I’m balancing the needs of the story with the needs of composition and narrative. Elements get moved around, changed or omitted completely. I’m also nailing down things like perspective and anatomy at this point so the painting can go smoothly without a lot of surprises. This is also what I send to my editor for approval before starting the final.

At this stage, I can lean into the acting and gesture of my characters. Big Al’s happy memory, contrasted with his more deflated stance watching for his truck to return.

4-The final paint. By this point, I’m mainly on autopilot and just enjoying painting, playing with color and light. As long as I follow the value structrue (light and dark) of my sketch, I know I’ll have a pretty solid painting. Then I scan it, clean it up a bit in photoshop, maybe add some lighting effects then send it on to the publisher.

Below is Scott showing off another book at the National Air and Space Museum in DC.

Interview with Scott Brundage:

How long have you been illustrating?

I’ve counted myself as professional since 2003, and I’ve been completely freelance since 2009. So…that long. Math is not my strong suit.

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

My senior year of college, I won a contest designing a children’s helmet. The winning design was then licensed by Bell Helmets and protected young noggins nationwide.

Did you study art in college? Where did you attend? 

I did, I studied Illustration at University of the Arts in Philadelphia.

What did you study? What types of classes did you enjoy the most?

I majored in Illustration, so I spent a lot of time learning to draw, paint and use reference to solve visual problems/tell stories. Figure drawing and anatomy classes were, by far, my favorites. Any opportunity to improve my drawing skills.

Did the school help you find work when you graduated?

Not directly, but I was relatively gregarious as a student and kept in touch with a lot of the instructors. So I had no hesitation in contacting them for advice or direction when I moved to NYC and started to figure things out.

Did you start your career doing editorial illustrations?

Yes, but it took quite a while. I spent a lot of time figuring out a consistent look in my portfolio after I graduated. When I moved to NYC, I bugged former instructors and friends to find out who could take on interns or assistants. At one point I was working as a host at a steakhouse, while interning for Richard Solomon and The I Spot, as well as assisting Peter de Sève, Steve Brodner and Bert Silverman in their respective studios. I was pretty saturated with the business of illustration and got a lot of harsh but valuable feedback. That helped me grow my portfolio and I sent postcards every other month. Got my first job with the AARP Bulletin in 2005.

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

I never didn’t want to do children’s books, it was much more of having the work to show I understood that industry and had the chops to work in it. Editorial is a bit more forgiving since they need content so fast and so often.  They can take a risk on you without putting too much money on the line. Unlike a book cover or picture book where there’s more money at play and the product will be out there for a lot longer.

Was Tame Tahoe Tessie Monster Hunters by Jan Fields and published by Calico Chapter Books the first book you illustrated?

No, that was actually the third. My first cover was in the same Monster Hunter series, but titled Search for Skunk Ape.  That was the first book series I worked on by a full on publisher. I had done some much smaller independent author projects before that.

Did Jan Fields contact you to illustrate her books?

No, by this time I had an agent, Justin Rucker at Shannon Associates. Jan’s publisher reached out to them and they brought the project to me.

Two years later you continued illustrating the series with Magic Wagon. Was Calico Chapter Books sold to them?

I honestly have no idea. I was always under the impression I was working for ABDO/Magic Wagon, but I never really paid attention to the corporate specifics on any given project. I just wanna do the drawing.

How many books are in the series and do you think you will illustrate more?

I did 3 4-volume sets for that particular series. They are really fun projects, but a buttload of work. I’d be happy to do more if I have the time to take them on.

Did you do a B&W illustration for each chapter?

I believe so. For the first set, I did them all traditionally with charcoal and ink. But for the second and third set, they are pretty much completely digital since I was juggling a lot of projects at once.

You did another series of books with Random House called MVP written by David Kelly. How many books did you illustrate for that series?

There were 4 in that series too, if I remember correctly.

Did Random House give you full freedom to decide what and where to use an illustration inside the books?

I would do breakdowns of scenes I thought would be cool visual beats and send them to my art director, John Sazaklis. He would then pick which ones they wanted and give me a rough layout of how they’d fit on the page.

Did you know they planned on doing a series when you sign to illustrate The Gold Meal Mess for the first in the series?

Yup. It was presented to me as a series. That job was sort of an ordeal at first. I had to test for it, meaning they paid me, and I assume some other illustrators, for a sketch of the cover and some character sketches. They liked what I created and awarded me the gig, but I did two killed final  cover illustrations before almost losing the whole project. Luckily, I had already started the interior art, which they loved. Before they could give the covers to another illustrator, I did a quick color version in the ink style I made for the interiors. They liked that way more than my painted work. So… after a whole lot of work getting the painted covers done, they ended up being way simpler illustrations than I could have planned.

Was The Night Lights Went Out on Christmas your first picture book you illustrated?

Yes, the first picture book I illustrated for a real publisher.

How did you get that contract?

This also came through my agent. It was a ridiculously fast deadline, three months from signing contract to handing in final art. I really wanted a picture book under my belt.

Do you expect to take the illustrations you did for the narrated picture book Albert Day on YouTube and sell it to a publishing house?

No, those were specifically made for the YouTube videos. That story and another titled “Just Fred” were written by Ren Guyer, for his channel My Friend Wren. Ren was very patient with me juggling his books, a full time animation gig and some other illustration projects all at once. He, by the way, is also the creator of both the game Twister and the NERF brand of toys.

The illustrations for A Brain is for Eating are very interesting. Do you know where someone who wanted a copy could find it?

Perhaps the most fun I’ve had on a project, it’s still available for print-on-demand on amazon if you search for it. That was a Kickstarter funded project and ended up being one of my very first projects to be accepted into the Society of Illustrators Annual Show.

How did you end up doing the artwork for The Waking Prince, a picture book app?

A very ambitious author contacted me when I was relatively fresh to freelancing and I worked with her on many projects before she had me work on The Waking Prince app. It was an epic project, of which I’m extremely proud. Some 80+ images and 2yrs worth of effort.

You also did a series of Mutant Mantis books written by Bruce Hale and published by Little, Brown. On you website you show an animated cover of the lunch ladies. Of course, a physical book’s cannot morph from one image to another. Is this something you were just playing around with or are you thinking of animating the book for a digital version?

Actually, the books were published with a lenticular cover that would morph as you tilted it in your hand, so they could animate from one image to another.

Do you have an agent? If so, who and how long have you been with them? If not, would you like to find one?

Yes, Shannon Associates.  I’ve been with them since 2013. They’ve been fantastic.

I just featured WHERE’D YOU GO JO? on Writing and Illustrating. You did a great job, btw. Did you get the contract with Sleeping Bear Press from building your relationship with them?

Pretty much the same answer as below.

Is A is For Astronaut the first book you illustrated that had a narrated version?

I’ve now done three books with Sleeping Bear Press and am working on a fourth. Everyone I’ve met or talked to from their company has been extremely kind and welcoming. They came to me through my agent, and I have to assume they keep coming back because I’m doing work they like.

Have you ever tried illustrating a wordless picture book?

In high school, I made a couple wordless comics, but nothing since. Sounds like a fun idea.

Do you have any desire to write and illustrate a picture books?

Of course! I just need to actually sit down and do it. I’m very preoccupied with trying to pay rent and survive in NYC, so I tend to tank up on all the work I can find. One day, I’ll figure it out. And I know, when I do, that the first 100 manuscripts will be garbage, just like my first 100 drawings were garbage.

Would you work with a self-published author to illustrate their book?

I’ve done many. Most were because I really needed the work, or wanted the portfolio pieces. Nowadays, I’ll need to really love the story and know the budget will make up for any possibility  that people may not see it.

You have won many awards for your art. Which one are you most proud to have won?

Probably my silver medal in Spectrum Fantastic Art 18. I entered for the first time and somehow got a medal. It totally skewed my perspective for how competitive that competition is. The next year I didn’t even make it into the book.

What do you think is your biggest success?

Probably A Is For Astronaut. One of my first projects that had real traction and recognition AND I had a lot of creative say in the content of the illustrations.

What is your favorite medium to use?

Watercolor, definitely.

Has that changed over time?

Nope. I dug it as a kid and it always felt natural as I grew older. I experimented with a lot of different media in college, convinced myself at one point that I could be a dark and gloomy oil painter. But my sketchbooks remained goofy and cartoony, and whenever I played with watercolor, the results felt much stronger, more natural. My instructors encouraged me not to fight what I was already good at. This was solid advice.

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

I do a whole lot of my preliminary work on a Cintiq nowadays, and I also use it for interior work.

What do you think helped the most to develop your style?

Drawing as often as possible with as many tools as I could get my hands on. I got into the habit of having multiple sketchbooks and a bag of pens/pencils at all times.

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

Yes, I still try to make personal work when I can, take classes, go on art retreat with friends and attend workshops.

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

That tends to be step one after reading the manuscript. For a story like Where’d My Jo Go?  I gathered lots of reference online of trucks, truck interiors, etc. Then, when I figured out what sort of dog Big Al should be, I had his owner (my buddy Tyler) send me a whole lot of pictures. As I start to sketch out the book, I’ll know what specific scenes may need more specific reference and I’ll end up either taking photos myself or finding similar pictures online.

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

I started working in animation a couple years ago and would love to work on a feature film at some point. And I’d also like to write my own book eventually.

What are you working on now?

Right now, I’m in the starting stages of a new book with Sleeping Bear Press that was just announced called Where’s My Cow? By Susan Blackaby. I’m also creating some art for a documentary, designing characters for Our Cartoon President on Showtime and attending a character design workshop through CG Master Academy.

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.

Starting out, I couldn’t figure out why my paintings always reproduced sort of muted or gray. While paint them, I thought they looked bold and striking, why were they reproducing so dully? Turns out my eyes, affected by staring at white paper under light for hours on end, were adjusting to a skewed version of light and dark. I discovered that if I made a super dark mark with jet black ink somewhere in the painting, I could now balance the rest of the image off of that pure dark value. Using only watercolor has some drawbacks, one of which being that it’s very hard to get a true black color. Either the pigment isn’t quite black or you put a wash over it and you drag some of that pigment out. Once I started being a little less pure about my media, adding inks, gouache and acrylic, I could produce a lot more power in each image. I recommend establishing some true dark values in a painting early, preferably with permanent media like acrylic or ink which won’t reactivate if re-wetted.

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

“The most important drawing is the next one.” Steve Brodner told me that. It will keep you from being super precious with each drawing and will keep you producing more drawings.

Thank you Scott for sharing your talent and expertise with us. Make sure to let us know your future successes. I love your illsutrations and would love to see futrue books.

To see more of Scott’s work, you can visit him at:

Website: http://www.scottbrundage.com/     

Twitter: @OleScotty

Behance: https://www.behance.net/ScottBrundage

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BrundageIllustration/

Instagram: https://www.linkedin.com/in/brundageillustration/

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

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Responses

  1. It’s really fascinating to see how you work with light and dark and everything in between. Nice!

    Like

  2. These illustrations are wonderful! Just by looking at a picture, I want to know “what comes next”?

    Like

  3. Great stuff! The illustration of the two mice just cracked me up. Thanks for another informative interview and such wonderful illustrations.

    Like


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