Brian Schatell

I draw silly animals for a living.  I am the illustrator of 16 books for children, mostly picture books, some of which I have also written.  I taught children’s book illustration and writing for twelve years at Parsons School of Design, and for sixteen years served as chair or co-chair of the Rutgers University Council on Children’s Literature’s annual One-on-One Conference for aspiring authors and illustrators.  I’ve also done extensive illustration work for the children’s educational market and for the children’s apparel industry.  Aside from my career creating art for children, I have a long list of diverse and eclectic interests/hobbies for which I have great passion but not enough hours! 

What do you love to do for fun?

Visit used bookstores and used record stores.

What is your favorite children’s book?

Frog and Toad Are Friends, by Arnold Lobel. The greatest book ever written in the English language and everything that I aspire to as an author/illustrator of children’s books!




Art Process:

For many, many years I’ve kept a small notebook in my back pocket. When inspiration strikes I’ll quickly sketch or jot down an idea, a character, a line of dialogue, a turn-of phrase. These stray bits and pieces accumulate over time until they gradually coalesce into a book concept with a beginning, a middle, and an end. It’s an organic process. I currently have folders full of these scrips and scraps at various stages of gestation.

All of my illustrations contain some kind of black line art, and all of them begin with me sketching by hand with pencil on tracing paper. Lots and lots of tracing paper! Then depending on how I want the finished product to appear, there are three ways I might proceed. I will either scan the pencil sketch into the computer and use it as a template to draw the final line art digitally, or more commonly, I will develop the sketch into an black ink drawing on paper and then scan the completed black line into the computer to color digitally. Or option three, where I don’t scan anything at all and just watercolor the line art. Whatever the method, I expend a great amount of effort to make sure that the final art retains the spontaneity of my original pencil sketches.

Though I specialize in drawing funny animals in funny situations, (I’m partial to cows and chickens) I’m nevertheless interested in stories that are character driven and that have emotional resonance – not a contradiction, actually. The most important attributes of children’s book illustration in my mind are character and emotion, balance and clarity, flow and pacing. My rule is that every little thing put on the page should be there for a reason.

Forthcoming books:

The Bumble Brothers: Crazy for Comics (Reycraft, 2022)

Published books:

Selected Titles:

Farmer Goff and His Turkey Sam (Lippincott, 1982)
Two Crazy Pigs (Scholastic/Cartwheel, 1992)
Pup and Pop (Scholastic/Cartwheel, 2003)
Owl Boy (Holiday House, 2016)


Available for School Visits:

I love to do school visits. I have a two-part presentation, geared towards younger grades. Part one covers authors, illustrators and the book making process, from initial idea through writing, sketching, final art and printing, with visual examples. In part two, the students are the authors and I am the illustrator, as I draw an impromptu story from audience suggestions.