Illustrator Spotlight: Scott Brundage

© Scott Brundage

June 22, 2018

Today we are pleased to feature illustrator Scott Brundage and his debut picture book, A IS FOR ASTRONAUT, written by Clayton Anderson (Sleeping Bear Press).  Enter to win a copy! 





Tell us about your background and how you came to illustrate for children.

I grew up an indoors-y child. After opting out of T-ball (didn’t want to run after hitting the ball) and Judo (didn’t want to keep getting hip tossed by smaller children), my parents found a cartooning class in the back of an art store that I ended up loving and attended from 2nd grade through high school graduation. I think I had the normal momentum of most artists, where you get a little better at drawing than your young peers so you are known for it. Then, because you are praised for it, you continue doing it and on and on. 




I attended University of the Arts in Philadelphia and did just well enough to have encouragement to continue, and just bad enough to not win any awards which kept me very humble. Afterward I moved to NYC and bugged everyone I knew to find out what illustrators or artists reps took on assistants or interns. I ended up working briefly as an intern for two illustration reps, then as an assistant to my hero at the time, Peter de Sève. He introduced me to another hero, Steve Brodner, who was putting together a book of his work, so I became his assistant too. At his book launch, I met Burt Silverman, who ended up needing an assistant as well. 


© Scott Brundage

For a while, I split my weeks between those three studios, all the while making new work, showing them, getting very brutally honest/amazingly useful critiques, and then making more work. I also was sending all my new work out on postcards every other month and started getting a trickle of work from newspapers and magazines. Then, one of the art reps needed an assistant, remembered me as an intern and was impressed I was still around the community and offered me a job… with health insurance! I had to stop working with the three other illustrators and worked full time learning a whole lot more about the business end of illustration. 

That went on for about 4 years until 2008 when a literal crane fell on our office in midtown Manhattan. A figurative crane fell on the U.S. economy around the same time, so I was laid off, but joined the roster of this group. I was fully freelance by 2009. Nothing quite as terrifying as starting out on your own in a full on recession, and now my work was alongside a large group of much more seasoned and award winning illustrators. Inspiration and fear had me working quite hard. 


© Scott Brundage


I had been mainly making editorial work, but also had many illustrator friends in publishing that inspired me to try my hand there. I gathered some small and independent clients over a couple years and built a big body of samples that fit publishing for younger readers. I made a couple cover samples and got my first book gig and pretty much had traction with middle grade book clients ever since.

Congrats on your recent book A IS FOR ASTRONAUT: BLASTING THROUGH THE ALPHABET. What kind of research did you do to illustrate this book?

The good and bad part about illustrating images about NASA is that there are already really stunning photographs out there. And, NASA being a government program, all that beautiful photography is public domain. So I had tons of great reference to work with. 

© Scott Brundage
The problem is… what am I bringing to this book that doesn’t already exist as a much better picture? I decided to make this about not just how cool space was, but how magical it is for children to encounter it fresh. Instead of painting the crazy firing engines of a launch, I painted the amazed face of a boy watching it for the first time. Rather than try to accurately paint the million stars of our Milky Way, I’ll attempt to capture the wonder of seeing it clearly for the first time. 

Of course, some pages were more about ideas and interpretation of Space jargon. For a lot of those pages, I relied on Clayton Anderson, the author and former astronaut, to help clarify things for me. I cannot tell you how surreal it is to email someone a simple question like “how big is a solar array?” and get a reply like “well, here’s a picture of me fixing one on the space station.” This happened at least 10 times and every one blew my mind.

What projects are you working on now?

Probably too many for a sane person’s sleep schedule and mental health. I’m starting a couple wraparound middle grade book covers right now. One is about a girl stuck in a swamp, another is the first book in a four book series about hunting “real” monsters.  I’m working out the sketches for a sort of animated picture book with the My Friend Wren youtube channel about kids facing fears. 


© Scott Brundage


I’m way behind on another picture book for a small publisher about 9/11. And I should be starting thumbnails on another picture book with the same publisher as A is for Astronaut (Sleeping Bear Press), which also happens to be space themed.   

Oh! And I’m about to go back to working full time on an animated series designing characters and backgrounds for Our Cartoon President on Showtime. 

So, you know, a little of this, a little of that. 

You do both illustration and editorial work. In what ways are they similar and different?

For me, editorial was easier to break into, but harder to stay busy with. The clients need to fill spots so often (daily, weekly, monthly, depending on the publication), they can take a chance on a new artist with much less risk. At the same time, the competition is fierce and gets fiercer every year. And my work, being mostly watercolor based, can feel a little older or maybe a little less fashionable than some of the other work coming along these days. I mean that with the greatest respect, too. 


© Scott Brundage


My personal taste in wanting to make a goofy character look dramatically lit has less of a home in a magazine than it does in a book. That said, when I do get the occasional editorial job, it’s super fun. I get to exercise a different brain muscle, and have to work much faster. And there’s always a thrill in handing something in at 4 p.m. one day, and seeing it on newsstands the next morning across 50 states. 

But with publishing, my work feels very appropriate, especially for younger audiences. But when I started out, fresh from art school, I wasn’t ready for the level of finish needed for the work I wanted to do. Ten years later, I have the skill set required. Now my goofy characters and pretty lighting are perfectly suitable for a cover or interior. Plus, this is the work I wanted to do as a child. I’m the guy making covers for books I’d want to read when I was 10 or 11. I wouldn’t get a call for an adult book about an actual terrifying monster, I wouldn’t be able to make it scary. But… If you want a monster that feels scary, but is actually kinda silly or goofy, that kids will look at and think they are reading a scary book but really aren’t… then I’m your man.



© Scott Brundage


What advice would you give to aspiring illustrators?

In general, draw. Draw often, draw for fun, draw when you don’t want to. Draw with a variety of media and don’t be ashamed to make a bad drawing. Get in the habit of having a small sketchbook and bag of pencils/pens with you at all times.   A mentor told me once “The most important drawing is the next one.”  

On that same note, get in the habit of finishing things. I’ve met a lot of students who have solid drawing skills, but freeze up once they get to painting or calling something finished. It makes sense since you get a lot of practice starting things, so get in the practice of finishing too.

And possibly the most contradictory advice I can give is to draw what you want to draw, but also figure out what the market needs. Where they overlap is where you can make money. That sweet spot is in no way easy to find. But, if you make work you love, you make better work. If you make better work, people will notice. When people notice, you see where they will need you. 

What is one thing most people don't know about you?

That, while I now make a living off of my fine motor skills, as a child I was so uncoordinated, my parents had to put me into something called “Special Gym.”  While other kids my age were throwing and catching balls, I worked on picking them up and holding them while walking slowly. 

I still can’t properly throw a ball.

Where can people find you online?

www.scottbrundage.com is my badly in need of an update personal website, and I have a more recent portfolio on my agent’s site, www.shannonassociates.com
I also sporadically post to instagram when I remember that I should. My handle there is @olescotty 


Scott Brundage grew up an indoors-y child and discovered his love of art and his career in the 2nd grade at a cartooning class offered in the back of a local art store. Scott graduated from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia in 2003 after which he moved to NYC. He worked as an assistant in the studios of Peter de Sève, Steve Brodner, and Burt Silverman, while developing his own portfolio In 2009, Scott became a freelance artist primarily focused on editorial work. His middle grade chapter book career was born with his first cover in 2013. 

Scott's work has been recognized by the Society of Illustrators, American Illustration, Spectrum Fantastic Art collections 19, 18, and 20. A IS FOR ASTRONAUT is his first children's picture book. Scott divides his time between Connecticut and NYC.  

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20 comments:

  1. Scott, really enjoyed getting to know about you and your art thru this post. You must never sleep! The cover illustration for A is for Astronaut is a powerful draw for the book. Congrats and continued success.

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  3. This books looks amazing! I am draw to everything with space, and the illustrations look magical. I'm wondering what words Scott drew for X and Z??

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  4. While I'm not an illustrator, I can definitely appreciate your talent from the images above! One of your tips applies to many things too, not just illustrating: Practice Finishing the Project. Here here! "A is for Astronaut" will be a big success--hope the Smithsonian carries it soon :)

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  5. I love the illustrations and know that my kids would love it! Itd be a great addition to our Space discovery unit!!

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  6. Wow, I could look at your illustrations for hours! Congratulations on your debut, can't wait to read it and stare at your stunning artwork!

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  7. Gorgeous illustrations - can't wait to pour the pages!

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  8. Pictures you can get lost in for sure! Beautiful

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  9. This is so cool. Love your art. I recently took a class fro. NASA and a certified to bring moon rock and meteorite samples to my school. Sounds like this book will pair nicely with that program.

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  10. Your artwork is so detailed and gorgeous. Great job and congrats on all of your accomplishments!

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  11. Oooh! I'm loving these illustrations, and can't wait to see some of Scott's illos on the cover of one of my books someday! ;) I'll be looking for A is for Astronaut - looks like a keeper.

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  12. Such gorgeous work! I love the watercolor. Some of Scott's illustrations remind me of Torben Kuhlmann's with the browns and glowing light. Gonna take the advice about finishing, or at least saying something is finished and then move on to something else. Seems like fear and inspiration worked well. I'm lovin' that cover, too.

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  13. I am impressed and awed at the talent! I love the light and shadows and all the amazing details.

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  14. This looks wonderful! I love how Scott has focused on the emotion of the boy in the illustrations!

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  15. Thanks for the advice about choosing a different perspective rather than recreating a photograph.

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  16. I can’t wait to share this book and your story about needing fine motor help with my kindergarteners! Inspiring!

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  17. Beautiful! Love the reflections! Congratulations!

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