Studio Feature: Peter Brown
“I’ve drawn many drawings, painted many paintings, and written many stories,” begins award-winning children’s author and illustrator Peter Brown. “Most of those drawings, paintings, and stories were terrible. Just really awful stuff. But after years of making mistakes and learning from them, I got to a point where I wasn’t making so many mistakes, and my [work] became better and better.”
Part of what helped Peter get better was spending years developing his craft. “My advice is to give yourself the best possible chance of succeeding, and the only way to do that is to work hard and work smart,” he says. “It’s not enough to spend years of your life writing or drawing, you also need to think about what you’re doing. Why do you like certain artists or writers? What is it about their work that you love? Can you identify the qualities you love most in other people’s work, and incorporate them into your own work? What are your goals? Why do you have those goals?”
Peter believes it also helps to open up your world. After graduating from Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California, Peter took off to Europe for a year. “When you travel, buildings are different, languages are different, plants and animals and people are different,” he explains. “[I began] seeing new things and filling my imagination with thoughts and ideas that I never would have if I stayed home.”
Peter’s big break came when he met a children’s book editor at a party and she liked his work enough to publish his first book. “Now I’ve got a pretty nice career on my hands,” he says, “[but] I still make mistakes, and I still try to learn from them, so hopefully my work will continue to develop in interesting new ways.”
To help develop writing skills, Peter offers girls an activity to create nine boxes on a sheet of paper, like a tic-tac-toe board, then drawing and describing a character for each box. “I recommend drawing monsters,” he says, “because there are no rules. You can draw one with six legs or no legs at all. They could be furry or scaly or slimy, or even invisible!” For girls who dream of being writers and illustrators or Juniors earning a Drawing or Scribe badge, find out more about this activity on The Studio.