Illustrator Interview: Brenda Clemente
Today, we're featuring an interview with another one of our illustrators, Brenda Clemente! A few weeks ago, you may have seen our interview with Christy Schneyman, illustrator of Smile, Chewie! Brenda is the illustrator of our book Princess Allee, and she did a fabulous job bringing Allee to life through her adorable artwork!
How did you first become interested in illustrating children's books?
When I was fifteen years old, my mother was a local superstar at a few gyms around the city. Everyone sought out her advice and training, so typically, I was forced to go with her when she held her classes. I was too old to be a child checked into the daycare, but the women working would welcome me with open arms because of who my mother was and also, I’d always draw pictures with/for the kids - this eventually lead me working at that daycare for a long time. That’s probably when I really considered it as something I could do. My mother was smart, she knew I’d be content in any situation with paper and crayons.
I was able to live so happily as a child caretaker for many years because of art and it’s relation to growing up. Children react to art in such an authentic way, it’s a really special moment when a child falls in love with a book. Everyone can remember which book excited them as a child.
On your website, I can see so many different styles and types of art you do. What is your favorite style to draw in?
My academic experience with art has sort encouraged me to be much looser and abstract with my art so, my tastes have been shifting quite a bit. I’m still trying to find my signature “style." Nothing really feels more at home and organic than just oil painting portraits, sort of classical really - I’m still not on that mastery level though.
You often use digital programs to color in your art. What programs do you use?
Photoshop is the main program for me but I’ve also used Autodesk Sketchbook in the past when I was tight on money. Good brushes on that program for any artists reading!
What drew you to the digital platform?
I would love to have a studio one day with stacks of canvases, dirty paintbrushes, and tangible materials but something about walking around with all your art on a USB stick is satisfying and professional. Digital platforms allow for easy access and portability. It’s a lot of fun meeting different artists that embrace technology because we can then exchange work. For me, digital means that I have an opportunity to connect with someone, at any time, because of its convenience.
How did you figure out Allee's character design? How did you adapt photos of real Allee into her illustrated form?
I spent a lot of time looking at Allee’s pictures and really, she seems so sweet and playful. I wanted her character to be warm and universally adored. The book’s writing also really helped me with developing her form into a childish character that gets upset sometimes and has sassy moments. She needed the deep brown eyes but also a melodramatic quality to her.
What is your process like when starting a new picture? Do you outline first? Do you sometimes just paint on a blank canvas Bob Ross style? Do you storyboard before doing anything else?
When I have an idea of an image with no reference, I usually just grab my notebook and draw quick, overall shapes and write little notes that probably only I can decipher. So yes, quick storyboards are usually what I start with and I just layer, layer, layer, layer on top of that with digital painting. But if I am painting observationally on a canvas, I start with blocks of color and sculpt the figure slowly.
Do you have any new art for sale coming out soon? Any new books, any new projects, etc.?
Yes! Art school has allowed me a lot of opportunities to create work. Right now, I’m working on my junior animation short film titled “Irma”. It’s inspired by my own experiences with hurricane Irma and worrying about the pets left behind in the storm. I share most of my projects on Instagram! (@brendatassoart)
What advice would you give to aspiring artists out there?
Do what you like! Someone out in the world will always identify and appreciate your artistic expression if it comes from an honest place. It’s sometimes hard hearing other artists convince themselves they aren’t “good” enough to make something that they want. Being able to receive artistic criticism is very important but don’t let others dictate whether you make art or not. Just keep dreaming and creating.