Illustrator Spotlight: S. britt

© S. britt






March 11, 2016

Today we are excited to interview illustrator S. britt to wrap up the blog tour for his new picture book, NORMAL NORMAN, by Tara Lazar (Sterling Children's Books), available for sale now. Be sure to enter the giveaway for a free copy.



Tell us about yourself, your artistic ventures, and how you came to illustrate for children.

Like a band of roving artistic gypsies, our family was constantly on the move from the time I was born. Originally from Louisiana, I come from a fairly large family (three sisters, one brother) of self-taught artists and have been doodling ever since I can remember. I was always the new kid that drew all over everything, so naturally I was the one chosen to draw various school mascots, library posters and yearbook illustrations. My siblings all chose different forms of artistic expression, but there was never any doubt that I'd pursue an interest in children's books. That was always my dream since I first began chewing on picture books as a toddler and I feel incredibly fortunate knowing that there are children out there today eating the pages out of books I've illustrated.


© S. britt


In illustrating NORMAL NORMAN, you had free reign to decide what the main character looked like (and what he even was). Can you describe your thought process and how you arrived at a purple orangutan?

Initially I thought NORMAN should be a completely made-up animal; something a bit peculiar looking, but friendly nonetheless. I figured that the reader would instantly be able to see that there was nothing NORMAL about him, despite how hard the young scientist tries to convince you (and himself)! 

Early character sketch © S. britt





Early cover © S. britt
However, my publisher felt NORMAN should be a bit more grounded in reality and that I head back to the drawing board. That's when I decided to change the scientist from a little boy to a little girl and make NORMAN a large gentle ape, so that their contrast in shapes and sizes would play off each other well. And of course, EVERYONE knows orangutan's turn purple in springtime!

Reprinted with permission from Normal Norman © 2016 by Tara Lazar, Sterling Children’s Books,
an imprint of Sterling Publishing Co., Inc. Illustration
 © 2016 by Stephan Britt

What is the hardest part of illustrating a children's book?

For me, the toughest part usually kicks in once the sketches have been approved and I begin the final artwork for the book. It's at that point you can start to feel slightly overwhelmed because you know just how much work there is ahead of you. Typically picture books start out relatively simple for the most part and the action ramps up towards the end. I can usually work at a rapid clip in the beginning, but have to pace myself to gear up for the final, more labor intensive spreads.

What is the easiest part?

The sketches, most definitely. That's when you get to go wild and scribble out every crazy idea that pops into your cluttered head. Then later you can edit out what isn't working and/or add something else you didn't think of on the first pass.

Reprinted with permission from Normal Norman © 2016 by Tara Lazar, Sterling Children’s Books,
an imprint of Sterling Publishing Co., Inc. Illustration
 © 2016 by Stephan Britt

Can you walk us through your illustration process?

For reasons of spontaneity, I don't usually sketch things out with a pencil first. I tend to ink everything quickly with India ink and a brush and then make changes/clean-up what I don't want with corrective paint or Photoshop. Once the line art is approved, I decide which lines stay and which ones will be painted over and/or removed. 
© S. britt

So that I can later make changes if need be, I tend to paint the characters and backgrounds on separate pieces of paper. Then I scan the sheets into Photoshop and save everything in layers. That way if the editor or art director wants something moved or subtracted, it's much easier for me to do so than if I were to paint everything together on one flat sheet.

What projects are you working on now?

I'm currently working on a new picture book for Houghton-Mifflin, several board games and some character designs for an upcoming animated movie. Outside of work, I just got recently married, moved into a new house and I'm rebuilding a vintage British motorcycle. With this schedule, I'm lucky if I average 3 to 4 hours of sleep a night!


© S. britt


Wow. That's impressive! Any words of advice for aspiring illustrators?

Do it because you absolutely love it and can’t think of anything else you were put on this earth to do. It’s not always the easiest way to make a living, but it can definitely be one of the most rewarding in a multitude of ways. Knowing that your artwork has left a positive, lasting impression on someone is a truly wonderful feeling; something that money could never buy. 

What is something most people don't know about you?

That I once worked in a cannery in Alaska gutting fish and I have trained in Buddhist monasteries all throughout Asia. 

Where can people find you online?


Thank you, S. britt!


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S.britt (a.k.a. Stephan Britt) first developed his zeal for drawing in childhood, when he drew on anything and everything that wasn't dripping wet. He soon decided there was nothing that would make him happier than illustrating children's books. His first picture book, OVER IN THE HOLLOW, was a Chicago Public Library Best of the Best. He currently lives in Athens, Georgia.

16 comments:

  1. This is so great! I will definitely be on the lookout for a copy of Normal Norman! And thanks for sharing some of the process!

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  2. I love seeing and learning about the process for Normal Norman. Thanks for sharing!

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  3. I can't wait to read Normal Norman. I just reserved it at my library. :)

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  4. I'm going to look for Normal Norman soon. Love the illustrations. Thanks for the background info. about your technique.

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  5. Great interview! Love the illustrations. Thanks for sharing the illustration process. I am currently working on a picture book dummy and was contemplating painting the backgrounds separately from the characters for exactly the reason mentioned. So it's nice to read about someone else working in this way.

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  6. Very interesting to read about your illustration process. Thank you for sharing!

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  7. I admire the similarity between Stephan's eyeglasses and Norman's! Fun interview. Congrats!

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  8. Loved the interview, and those dancing skeletons! I love what you did with Normal Norman, and will look forward to reading Over in the Hollow :)

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  9. Really fun art!! Thank you for sharing, Stephan!

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  10. You live a whirlwind life--I could never exist on that little of sleep. And I love how you worked in Alaska--my favorite fishing state!

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  11. Congratulations! I love how Norman turned out!

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  12. Congratulations! I love how Norman turned out!

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  13. Great interview. Imagine you'd have to be pretty zen to do the fish-gutting, so I see the job link. Illustrating should be a welcome change.:)

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  14. I'm so excited to have won this book! I can't wait to read it. Thanks so much!

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  15. Great interview. I really like that the scientist is a girl. We need more strong girl characters. Congratulations.

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  16. Great interview. I really like that the scientist is a girl. We need more strong girl characters. Congratulations.

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