Today I get to share another author-illustrator debut.
Breanna Carzoo is an author-illustrator based Austin, TX. She grew up watching Pixar films on repeat while creating picture books for family and friends. Her love of telling stories through pictures led her to a degree in computer animation.
Breanna loves crafting stories that are humorous and full of raw and messy human emotions. She creates illustrations with cut paper collage and mixed media. Her debut picture book, LOU is on sale 7/12/2022 (NEXT Tuesday!) with HarperCollins, and her second picture book, GREENLIGHT, releases 7/18/23. You can learn more about her at her website.
LOU is a surprisingly funny and sweet picture book about a fire hydrant. Yes, you did hear that right. A fire hydrant! Lou is tired of being peed on all the time. He feels like he’s meant for something more important, but … what if he’s not? This is a story about finding something special within ourselves that all children will relate to. The art work is also fantastic. In case you can’t tell from the pictures, it’s all cut paper!
Me: Can you share about your artistic journey? When did you start creating art? How did that bring you to where you are now as an illustrator?
Breanna: I’ve been a ‘maker’ as long as I can remember! I have memories of making 3D houses out of construction paper in 1st grade, complete with tube slides that went from the second floor to the first. I later went to college for computer animation and the burden of student loan debt had me working in mobile games and tech companies leading teams until I found my way back to art. Cut paper illustration brings me back to the play and freedom of making those construction paper houses way back when!
Me: That is so wonderful! And I have to say I don’t think I have ever seen a story with a fire hydrant as the main character. (OR so much talk about pee in a picture book either!) =D What gave you the idea for this story?
Breanna: I left an afternoon workshop on children’s books feeling defeated about my abilities as an author/illustrator. When walking back to the car, I saw this fire hydrant that had been peed on and I instantly grabbed my notebook and wrote ‘underappreciated fire hydrant.’ It wasn’t until later when I was working on the book that I realized why the fire hydrant had caught my eye. I felt the hydrant reflected a sense of untapped potential in me I hadn’t yet discovered, and I knew that feeling was relatable! It was my goal when I started writing to ‘tastefully’ handle the potty humor and make sure by the end that it was a mix of funny and heartwarming.
Me: Which was harder: writing or illustrating “Lou”?
Breanna: Illustrating LOU was much harder for me. Lou is a fire hydrant, so he’s bolted to the ground. Trying to make a 32-page picture book dynamic and interesting when the main character doesn’t move was quite the challenge. At least half the book is the exact same shot, but with different things happening around Lou, and it was a puzzle to design a scene where when people, vehicles, or dogs moved in front of, or behind Lou, it wouldn’t pull the focus away from him as the main character. I also work with painted cut paper collage, so it was a challenge making sure the colors matched on each page and were consistent throughout the book.
Me: Wow! I didn’t think of that challenge. What did your illustration process for this book look like? Are you a traditional or a digital artist? Or do you use a blend of both?
Breanna: I’m a traditional artist that uses digital tools to collage it all together. My process is truly exploratory and trial and error. Sketch, play, paint and cut paper, try something, fail, try another thing, fail again, and then land on something I like! Once I know what I’m trying to achieve I typically sketch it out, paint paper the colors I need (or find them in my drawer of scraps), cut paper, glue, take iPhone photos or scan, clean and color correct digitally, and assemble. That process repeats for every individual item in the book!
Me: I love how Lou feels like there’s something great inside of him (despite being peed on) and worries that he might never achieve greatness. Yet, we the readers, know that he will. Why is this an important message you want to share with young readers?
Breanna: The greatest gift I’ve been given in life is people believing in me or seeing greatness in me before I saw it in myself. I hoped to give that gift back to kids’ reading this book, and for them to know there’s always greatness inside, even when we can’t see it yet, just like Lou! And sometimes we won’t be treated kindly by everyone, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t full of greatness.
Me: I love that! Any advice for other new picture book writers and/or illustrators?
Breanna: Read a LOT of books! Study what you love AND what you don’t. Figure out what that creator was doing, or how you felt they could have improved on what they made. That will tell you more about the type of creator you want to be, and the stories you want to tell more than anything else! And, TRUST YOURSELF. Truly, it’s been the hardest part of the journey for me, but get quiet, listen within, and you’ll find answers and direction. I think it’s easy to get scared and try to ‘copy’ something someone else has already done because it feels safer. BUT resisting that so you can be YOU is where you’ll make truly unique work.
Me: Great advice! Any other projects we can look forward to seeing from you in the future?
Breanna: Yes, thanks for asking! LOU’s companion, GREENLIGHT will be out with HarperCollins in Summer 2023! It’s about a lonely green traffic light, confused by why the cars race away every time they see her, quits shining until the resulting traffic jam illuminates the power and connection of her own light.
That sounds like another fantastic story Breanna. Thank you for stopping by my blog.
Dear readers, this book is released NEXT Tuesday! Keep an eye out for it because this is one you won’t want to miss.