Q&A With Brian Talbott: The Artist Who Brought HumFree to Life

HumFree the Bee's Transformation

HumFree the Bee’s Transformation

I came up with the story HumFree the Bee Has a Food Allergy one lunch break when I was feeling emotional about our journey managing food allergies.

It was a story that had been tugging at me for a while, so my first draft just spilled out onto the paper. I shared the story with my husband a few years later, and our journey with HumFree began!

I always had a vision of what HumFree would look like. My husband and I literally looked through a few hundred portfolios to find Brian. Once I saw his other adorable illustrations, I knew we found the one.

As you can see in these images, HumFree went through some fun transformations. Even the kids got involved because, as we all know, kids tell it like it is. I like to think of HumFree’s final “look” as the product of Brian’s talent first and foremost, combined with my kiddos’ commentary!

Many of you have asked about the artist behind these beautiful illustrations, so I put together an interview to share more with you!

Q&A With Brian Talbott

Q: What motivates you and inspires your art?

I find inspiration in my surroundings. I love my garden and my own picture book collection. You can find magic in any moment, if you are willing to take the time to really see. It can be a dramatic shadow against the wall or my Siamese resting in his favorite sunbeam!

Q: When did you know this was one of your passions?

There was never a time when I wasn’t aware that drawing made me the happiest. When I learned that it was something that I could do ALL day and make a living at it, well…what’s better than that?

Q: Did you study or are you self-taught–or both?

I’ve had very little training in the conventional sense, and mostly self-taught.  I am currently taking classes with the Oatley Academy, and they are an amazing online option that I am so grateful for! The founder, Chris Oatley is, in part, responsible for my seriously returning to illustration after many years of trying to stifle my creative ambitions in lieu of those of a more “grown up” nature.  I’m glad I got over that!

Q: What is your advice for children and young artists who are just starting out? What would you say to inspire them?

Draw. Draw every day, and do it because you love it. I don’t believe that being an artist is a gift. Anyone can learn how to draw, but being an artist having the passion to create that can only be satisfied by very hard work. It takes dedication, very long hours and a willingness to make bad art until you are able to do better. It is the best job that anyone, anywhere has ever had!

Q: What mediums and programs do you use and prefer?

Everything I do begins with a pencil and paper. It’s old-fashioned, I know but there is nothing like the feel (even the sound) of graphite on the texture of a nice piece of paper. Once I have my pencils the way I like them, I scan them in and digitally paint. I primarily use Adobe Photoshop, Corel Painter and Autodesk Sketchbook Pro. Most of the finished line-work that you see in HumFree was produced in Sketchbook Pro (over my original pencils) then, painted and adjusted in Photoshop.

Q: What techniques did you use to create HumFree?

I wanted HumFree to have a lot of texture so I created original textures with watercolor washes, graphite and charcoal rubbings and gesso on masonite painting panels. I would scan those in and apply those textures on things like leaves, flower petals, and fabrics.

Illustrator Brian Talbott

Image Courtesy of Brian Talbott


I’m sure you can see why Brian is the perfect match for HumFree the Bee and my family’s journey. One of the many things we have in common is our love for children’s books as tools for helping, connecting, educating and engaging.

It’s so rewarding to work with someone who believes in this project and HumFree’s messages of hope, empowerment, awareness and inclusion as much as I do.

I’ve shared several images of HumFree over the past few weeks leading up to his launch in a few weeks, but I can’t wait for you to see Brian’s full illustrations in the book.

I’m thrilled to share that HumFree the Bee is now available on Amazon!



6 Responses to “Q&A With Brian Talbott: The Artist Who Brought HumFree to Life”
  1. Susan Kavanagh

    What a great interview. The collaboration between authors and illustrators in children’s books is so interesting. So amazing what kinds of things can be done on computers now!
    Very interested in his description of his work. Can’t wait to read the book.

    • Alison Johansen

      Thank you so much! Yes, I’m fascinated about the illustration process and everything that goes into it. I wanted to share how cool it is with everyone. Brian is so talented.

  2. Cristina @ I Say Nomato

    Great interview! I’m glad I finally made it over here to read it 🙂 I think it’s so important to do work that you feel calls to you. And that bee is just so dang cute, and all those bright colours are gorgeous.

    • Alison Johansen

      Thank you so much! Isn’t he adorable! We are so excited to share HumFree’s story with everyone.

  3. Caroline

    Thank you for this post! The illustrations are just what brings this story and lessons to life and simply lovely to read. I am now a Brian Talbott fan! I cherish my copy already and it sits on my shelf with my non-food allergy children’s books that are cherished! Now, I want to visit the library of Congress and see it in the children’s Book section.

  4. Cindy Freland

    Great information about the story, author and artist. Please give me more information about the book itself. What size is it? How many pages? Is it hardback or paperback?