Reggie Brown is an artist and children’s illustrator. He has a background in corporate graphic design, and is now focusing on illustrating for children. His multicultural upbringing as an African-American and Filipino man is what drives his true passion of illustrating children’s stories and bringing underrepresented voices alive through his art.
To celebrate African American Heritage Month, we’ve asked our local artist and children’s illustrator Reggie Brown a few questions about his passion and craft.
How did your journey into illustration begin?
I’ve been drawing since I could hold a pencil. I started posting my illustrations on social media, my agent reached out after noticing me, and now I get to commit every day to representing diverse characters through art!
Who and what are some of the major influences on your creativity?
Basically, all of the 80s – ALF, Optimus Prime, you get the idea. Jack Kirby’s (aka The King) comic book art inspired me to draw. I loved everything about his works.
I am also very inspired by Norman Rockwell’s illustrations of Americana which are filled with emotion and movement. I also admired the painter John Singer Seargant, who was a master of color and brushwork, transforming what might otherwise seem like a blob of paint into a full picture.
What does your creative process look like? What does a typical day look like for you?
Before I can get into production work, I get the creative juices flowing with some sketch work that’s just for me. It’s essentially like going to the gym and doing a warm-up. Nothing work-related. Then, it’s time for the deadlines of the day to attend to!
I read the text that I am supposed to illustrate over and over again, to key into what the text is saying. Once I feel like I understand the meaning, I craft an image around those words.
A typical day consists of a lot of drawing and researching. I often have something playing in the background of my home office – whether a podcast, audiobook, music, or even just some cartoons in the background.
Once I get on a roll, there’s sketching, more sketching, and refining the sketching – with the ultimate goal of bringing the vision to life for the client.
What’s your experience working with another creative with a different style than your own?
When I am selected to illustrate a work, my style has already been vetted as the right choice for the book. I am not typically working with other illustrators, however I receive feedback from the art directors and other creatives as part of the process. I keep an open mind and make changes as needed.
How has illustration served to bring people closer together?
If you can picture something, you can understand it. If you have not personally experienced something, like the Civil Rights movement or a protest/march, then a good illustration can convey the emotion and details of the circumstance. The illustration becomes like a snapshot in time.
Illustrations should depict a message. Representation matters. The more diversity that exists in illustrations, the more connected we are all to our shared human experience. This is something I am passionate about bringing to life – not just diversity in racial and ethnic characters, but abilities as well.
What is one piece of advice that you would give to someone who dreams of becoming an illustrator?
Keep going. Keep drawing. Someone taught me art should be, “Finished. Not perfect.” Self-doubt is part of the process. Keep going.
Bonus question: Any projects on the horizon?
I have quite a few books coming out!
- The Magnificent Makers Series: books 1 and 2 are coming out in May 2020. Picture a modern-day Magic School Bus, transporting kids through STEAM experiences. (Penguin Random House)
- Kicks picture book: a book in verse about a child’s love for shoes (Houghton-Mifflin’s Versify imprint, headed by Kwame Alexander).
- Warrior Code: teaches kids strong character traits and the practice mindfulness (Bala Kids)
- Santa in the City: debut picture book of award-winning author, Tiffany Jackson, about a child who is determined to prove Santa and his magic is real, even for kids living in homes without chimneys in the city (Dial Books).
And a few more in the works!
Thank you Reggie for spending some time with us!
Be sure to check out his work on Instagram @reggiebrownart and Facebook.