Brandon Keehner has a degree in scientific illustration and a master’s degree in medical illustration. When he is not illustrating a surgical procedure or creating a scientific animation, he uses his unique color palette and keen eye for detail to portray animals we all know in ways which are far from common. He currently lives and works in New Jersey with his wife Lori, who is a children’s book illustrator.
We talked to Brandon and this is what he told us.
We would like to know more about you. For example, where are you from? Where do you currently live?
Brandon Keehner: I grew up on a working farm in Iowa. After college, I went to grad school in Georgia. I currently live and work in New Jersey with my wife, Lori, who is also an illustrator.
Tell us a little bit about your design background.
Brandon Keehner: I obtained my Bachelors Degree in Biological Illustration from Iowa State University, and went on to the Medical College of Georgia (now called Augusta University) for my Master of Science Degree in Medical Illustration. I am currently a Medical Illustrator and animator at Artcraft Health, where I make artwork about anatomy, disease, and cellular processes for patients and physicians.
Talk to us about your artwork, what inspires you to create?
Brandon Keehner: Seeing the beautiful work of other artists, particularly painters and illustrators, who have become masters of their craft, inspires me to go to the easel and paint. And while I am painting, it usually feels like that is what I was made to do. And that is the only time I ever really get that feeling, so I keep doing it.
Which designers/illustrators have influenced you or have marked your style? Why?
Brandon Keehner: If I listed off all of the artists who’s works I admire, I don’t think you could point to any one of them and say, “Yes, I can see how your artwork was inspired by that artist.” The artists I like include illustrators from the Golden Age, such as Howard Pyle and N.C. Wyeth. But I enjoy a lot of contemporary artists, such as Jeremy Lipking, Benjamin Bjorklund, and James Jean.
When you get to work you prefer to get up early or stay late night?
Brandon Keehner: It would be more exciting if I could say that I like to wake up at 3 a.m. in a dream-like state and paint away until noon, but the truth is I tend to do my best work during normal daylight hours.
Which of your designs is your favorite or makes you feel the most proud of?
Brandon Keehner: There are parts of all of them that I like, but I never seem to be completely satisfied with a finished painting. If I reach the point where I am 90% happy with something, that tends to be as good as it gets in my mind. I will say that right now I only have two paintings hanging on my wall, and those are “Black Rabbit” and an oil painting I completed last year called “Bierstadt’s Goat.”
What is your advice for those who aspire to live from illustration?
Brandon Keehner: Well, if you enjoy science classes in addition to art, I would suggest becoming a medical illustrator. It takes some extra schooling, but the science-end of things will always keep you on your toes, and if you are good, you probably won’t have a difficult time finding work.