How did you get your start as a creator of books for children?
I have been making art and writing since I was a child. The first time I wanted to be a picture book creator was in the first grade! I had this wonderful experience with my first-grade teacher, Mrs. Chronholm. She noticed how much I loved to write and draw, and asked my mother if I wanted to enter a picture book-making contest. My mom and teacher helped me make a book to send to the contest. I wrote the story and drew the pictures, my teacher edited it, Mom typed the words onto the illustrated pages with a typewriter, and she also hand-bound the book. I did not win the contest, but the experience stayed with me my whole life. It took me until the age of 36 to publish my first picture book, and I kept at it because of this experience.
Where do you draw inspiration from?
All of my work is inspired by experiences in nature. I like to go sit by the sea, in a garden or walk through the woods. I draw and paint things that I am curious about. That is why flowers, moss, butterflies, birds and seascapes are prevalent images in my work. I don't really question what I am sketching until I get back to the studio. I make piles of things on my desk and I hang things up on my wall. I then rearrange all the images over and over until I see a story emerge. I like to think of myself as a visual storyteller; I see things in pictures first, and write the stories second.
How did you come up with the idea for your latest book, While You Were Sleeping?
This book is personal and a bit of a departure from my previous picture books, which were inspired by folklore and nature paintings I had made. While You Were Sleeping came about after my family finished a 16-year renovation on our home. Our house is very old, and we have been picking away at all the projects for years. Recently, my husband and I decided to make a big push on the renovations and finish everything. With this behind us now, it made me think about how our children have grown up in all of these projects, and how much of the work happened while they were sleeping and napping. I started to write down all of the invisible chores that parents and caregivers do when their children go to sleep...that's when the poem started to come together and I knew it had to be a book.
How did you approach the artwork? Does it differ in style from your other books?
The artwork for this is visually different from my other books because the setting is not in nature but inside real people's homes. I have cityscapes, apartments, houses, cottages and all different kinds of homes in this book. There also are twenty or more characters and pets! I have never had so many characters in one book, which was a huge challenge. I love challenging myself to do different things, so I was ready for it. Because of these new creative problems, most of the work is an oil painting that I finished digitally. I prefer to do all my work as oil paintings, but these images needed so many details that I used a lot of digital work to finish them. I love how the illustrations turned out—every time you look at the pages, you are going to see a new detail. Every fabric pattern and wallpaper pattern is a real repeating pattern that I designed. Each spread took 35 hours of work.
What was it like to be both the author and illustrator of this book?
I love being an illustrator, but being able to write and make the pictures is the best. Since I work by creating pictures and sketches first, I can really control how the whole book is going to look before I have even written it down. It is a unique process that I adore.
Can you tell us about any upcoming books?
For art projects, I have recently launched my first wallpaper line. I find this very similar to making picture books—each wallpaper pattern is its own visual story. For books, I am writing my first novel, and I have two new picture book projects in the works. One is a baby board book called Seaside Lullaby and the second is a book very close to me called I Lost a Day, which is a story about mental health. Both will be published with Nimbus Publishing.
Briana Corr Scott loves to make botanical illustrations, surface patterns and paper dolls. She begins every project by painting from life. While she walks by the sea and hikes in the woods near her home in Nova Scotia, lines of poems and stories come to her. She often writes and draws simultaneously in one sketchbook. All of her projects are inspired by a place in this way; she combines the magic that is found in the quiet details of a landscape with her love of folktales to imagine her many creations. Her favourite thing to make is picture books, and she dreams of writing a novel. Find out more about Briana on her website.