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Tuesday, 13 October, 2020

Chris Naylor-Ballesteros

British illustrator living in France

Website: chrisnaylorballesteros.com

 


* What brought you to illustration?

I've always liked and been able to draw and then when I grew up I worked in graphic design doing page layouts for newspapers which I really enjoyed, and all sorts of other commercial stuff. When my children were young I discovered I really loved a lot of the picture books I read to them and realised it was the perfect medium for combining stories, illustration and composition of image and text. I kind of I studied them as I read them and tried to learn what worked and what didn't. I made my first book for my children and it turned out looking ok, so I decided to get serious about it.

* What does a typical work day look like for you?
It depends on what chores need doing at home, how busy I am or how close a deadline is, all that kind of thing. I like working in the mornings most and evenings if I'm busy.
The afternoons are always a drag.

Illustration from Out of Nowhere, to be published in 2021 by Nosy Crow

* Are there any illustrators who influenced/influence you?
I'm usually influenced by whoever illustrated my newest favourite book, then I have to try to 'un-influence' myself.

* What was your very first illustration?
Not sure of the very first, but there's a random memory of something I did when I was around ten - at the start of the eighties when there was the Citizens' Band radio craze in the UK and a CB radio shop opened on the route of our walk to school. I decided to draw a groovy potato character talking into a CB radio, called 'CB Spud'. I have no idea why.
My friend was convinced I'd copied it from the merchandise in the shop window and I was really annoyed by that. It was my CB Spud.
The first professional illustrations I did were for an English-language newspaper in France that I worked for. Occasionally we had some page-space to fill and a story looked like it'd suit a satirical or humorous picture. I was allowed an hour or so to come up with something and I really enjoyed that super-quick process.


* What inspires you? Where do you get your ideas from?

Usually lots of thinking time. Sometimes an interesting premise or fictional situation presents itself in my head and I try to make a story of it - often failing, occasionally succeeding. I once (and only once) woke up in the morning with a four-word sentence in my head and five minutes later I had an almost finished story for it. I don't know if it's very good yet, but I wish they were all so easy. 'The Suitcase' took less than a week to fall into place after initially struggling for a while going up different avenues. Other books took more than a year.

* Do you have a favourite illustrator/artist/author?
I grew up with Quentin Blake who infuriatingly makes it look so easy. I have lots of favourites now, but they change from week to week.

Illustration from I Love You, Stick Insects, published 2018 by Bloomsbury Children's Books

* Do you like listening to music or audio books while working or do you prefer silence?
Music yes, but not really audiobooks. Too much talking (even music radio) is a distraction if I'm working on text. But the right music at the right moment can change how you feel about a picture or a piece of writing and let you really get what you're trying to communicate.

* Do you have a favourite place to work?
For thinking I like walking and all the rest is in my little studio/office at home.

Illustration from I'm Going To Eat This Ant, published 2017 by Bloomsbury Children's Books

* Is there a particular story you would love to illustrate?
That's a hard question. Maybe one of my current submissions that I'm hoping to be accepted - that'd be great! I read a Jack London short story recently called 'To Build A Fire' about a man and a dog on a foolhardy trek in the wilderness. Spoiler alert: the man freezes to death and the dog abandons him, so not really a bed-time children's book, but lots of opportunity for some bleak, snow-filled illustrations.

* What was your favourite illustration you have made so far?
I have a lot of love for some of the illustrations in my first published book, "I'm Going To Eat This Ant", because I struggled for a long time to find an illustration style that felt authentic to me and also looked like a serious or 'professional' picturebook illustration. I was learning by trial and error, making several subsequent versions of the book until I finally started thinking it was looking ok.
I like the water-crossing spread in 'The Suitcase'. It's simple, but dramatic. It was finished quite early in the process of making the book, but literally the day before deadline I decided it could be better and I asked my editor, if I had time to have another go. She said yes and the new version just made it into the book.

Illustration from The Suitcase, published 2019 by Nosy Crow

* What makes a good illustrator?
I don't necessarily think it's someone who employs traditional technical ability. It's someone who can communicate emotion or atmosphere, regardless of the means or techniques. I'm quite good at drawing realistically and I often think it hinders me, as I tend to illustrate in a way that's too literal and have to force myself to ignore perspective and logic and the reality of an object or character to make it more interesting and less a technical challenge.

* Do you struggle sometimes? Do you have to motivate yourself, and if so, what helps? Is there a kind of "illustrator’s block?"
Oh yes, there's an 'illustrators block'. I think The Block happens in all kinds of work, no matter how creative or not it is. Sometimes you just can't make it happen. And you have to find some willpower if you can, or have a serious deadline zooming closer towards you each day. That helps motivation but doesn't make it more fun!

Illustration from The Lonely Christmas Tree, published 2019 by Bloomsbury

 

Kris Di Giacomo

Franco-American Illustrator

Website: krisdigiacomo.com


* What brought you to illustration?
Illustration was a meeting ground for my art school background, my years teaching English to small children, discovering contemporary French picture books in my thirties, and encounters with encouraging people.

* What does a typical work day look like for you?
I don't really have a typical day. I'm not a fan of routine. But when I'm finishing up a book I'm at home, at my desk with my drawing tools, a scanner, a computer, a cup of coffee, and probably in my pyjamas and slippers.

* Do you have a favourite illustrator/artist/author?
Those from my childhood who remain favorites are Roald Dahl and Quentin Blake.
Now there are too many to mention and it changes with the seasons. I don't have favorites anymore, something will speak to me at one moment or speak to a part of me at a certain time. Similarly, I don't think of a book or an experience as good or bad but rather what is good or resonant about it in the moment or even some time in the future. Even the things you dislike make up who you are and how you perceive and create.

* Is there a particular story you would love to illustrate?
I would like to be able to illustrate my own stories, with or without text. But that is a very different exercise. I don't get along with words the way I do with pictures. Using images to interpret a narrative is the challenge that feels most natural to me. To choose a text that I am going to devote the next few months to usually involves a gut feeling, some instant flashes of imagery when reading it for the first time, some words that pop out as pictures, and a smile. If the story can make me smile or feel something deeper and if I can picture myself creating the images that's the story for me. I look for something that I haven't done yet and that will be fun to do and I hope that it will speak to others, too.


* What was your favourite illustration you have made so far?

Often I prefer little doodles I've made in my sketchbook or on a scrap of paper to more completed works. By the end of a book I feel like I've overworked everything and wish I could start fresh again. Often the longest part of finishing up an illustration is taking away most of the stuff I've added in. There's always a sense that next time I will do better!

* What can you be found doing when your are not illustrating?
Walking and looking, making photos, having food with friends, watching movies, reading, cycling...

Mon papa, il est grand, il est fort, mais... Editions Frimousse, Coralie Saudo and Kris Di Giacomo

* What makes the art of illustrating special to you?
It was a discovery I didn't know I was looking for and a relief when I found it. It made sense after years of wondering what to do with my life and how to put my experience with art and children to use. It allows me to stay connected with aspects of childhood which I still cherish; play, exploration, freedom from constraints or judgement, the elasticity of time, silliness, feeling things deeply...

* Do you struggle sometimes? Do you have to motivate yourself, and if so, what helps? Is there a kind of "illustrator’s block?"
Yes! As a free-lancer every day is a path to unblocking. Time and space are my allies.
I will do everything but illustrating to motivate myself; walking, traveling, water-aerobics, eating, looking at things, listening, daydreaming, sleeping!
Yesterday I randomly attended a workshop on Object Theater, recently I watched a black and white Polish movie with Czech subtitles on a rooftop under the stars. These kinds of things inspire me a lot. I don't speak Polish or Czech, by the way. My mother tongue is English and I live and work in French - maybe the reason I use pictures more than words; to bridge language gaps. At the moment I am spending some time in Prague and studying Spanish, an odd choice, I concur !

 

 

Francesca Filomena

Illustrator from Italy

Instagram: @francesca_filomena_illustrator

 


* What brought you to illustration?

I studied at the Academy of Fine Arts and did my degree thesis on the layout of illustrated books. I discovered then that I could enclose everything I love: writing, art, and psychology, in a single subject. I then did some illustration courses, and I completely fell in love with it! 

* What does a typical workday look like for you?
When I'm in a good mood, I can be exceptionally organized and follow a rigorous schedule.
I get up, have breakfast, and start working on personal projects or commissions with clients. Usually, I leave the video calls with clients or emails for the end of the day. Now that I'm about to become a mother, I think it will be a bit more challenging to follow a precise timetable.

* What was your very first illustration?
Oh, I can't tell you! I've been drawing since I was little. I have a vague memory of a drawing of a cat that my mother loved and displayed on the refrigerator. I remember that I didn't like it, but she loved it, so I had to see it every day in our kitchen. This may not have been my first illustration, but certainly, the first to be appreciated by someone, even if it was my mom.

* What inspires you? Where do you get your ideas?
I take inspiration from everything I experience, see, or hear. I love cinema, and I watch many movies. I try to look at many different artists, photographs that shock me, songs that move me. Sometimes it's just an object of my house that I have in front of my eyes every day to give me the input for an idea.

* Do you like listening to music or audiobooks while working, or do you prefer silence?
If I have to think, I need silence to close myself in my thoughts without distractions. On the other hand, when I am at the stage of creating the images, I may have to colour or let the emotion go, I rely on music. Music is a great workmate!

* Is there a particular story you would love to illustrate?
To be honest, no. I like challenges, so I would say, "a story I still don't know."

* What can do you get up to when you are not illustrating?
Indeed you would find me at the cinema or having something to eat with friends. I love food. Well, I'm Italian

* What makes the art of illustrating special to you?
The idea that I can close myself in a sheet and put what I want inside is reassuring. I can free my imagination and be credible, even if the rules of reality are upside down.

* What makes a good illustrator?
I think that a good illustrator should be able to move people's souls even before being able to draw "well." It is often believed that a beautiful illustration must follow some kind of aesthetic canon, but I think what makes a work of art a Beautiful Work is its message and how it is expressed with gestures, details, colours...

* Do you struggle sometimes? Do you have to motivate yourself, and if so, what helps? Is there a kind of "illustrator's block?"
Oh, yes, there is! There are days, months sometimes when I get stuck, inspiration doesn't come, or I don't want to work. I create obstacles for myself to avoid having to go through the creative process of a job. The only solution? Sit at my desk and force myself to start, sometimes it's just a matter of creating, and it all comes by itself.


 

Nancy Vo

Illustrator from Canada

Website: www.nancyvo.com

 

Photo: Makito Inomata (https://www.makito.ca/people)

 

* What was your very first illustration?
Oh, I would love to know what I first drew! I am sure that drawing no longer exists, it was such a long time ago. I can recall in my kids’ drawings how they were so unafraid of using the whole page, and how they were saying the stories aloud as they drew. That artistic fearlessness is something I still wish I had as an adult.

* Do you have a favourite illustrator/artist/author?
If I go back to when I seriously started to work on picture books, it was Jon Klassen, Kris Di Giacomo, and Shaun Tan. They are still favourites, but they have more company now.

Illustration from Nancy Vo's Crow Stories Trilogy, published 2019 by Groundwood Books

* Do you have a favourite place to work?
I would love to be in a studio like the one I rented two years ago. It was in a building next to the railroad and an old sugar refinery. It had fantastic skylights for natural light, and rooms where other artists worked on their film projects. It was a super productive time – two months from start to finished drawings for that project. This year, with the pandemic, we have all had to find creative ways to use the spaces in our homes. For me it is a small condominium and I am currently working from a low bookshelf or at the kitchen table. Basically, any unoccupied flat surface will do.

Illustration from "The Ranger", published 2019 by Groundwood Books

* Is there a particular story you would love to illustrate?
Before the current project that I am working on (a story written by Sarah Ellis about the pianist, Glenn Gould), I might have answered differently. Now I am so grateful for the learning I would not have forced myself to do had it been a story of my own choosing.
I have gone on all kinds of side trips and even learned to play the piano – badly, but still…

Illustration from "The Ranger", published 2019 by Groundwood Books

* What was your favourite illustration you have made so far?
I had one last drawing to do, and I had not landed on how I was going to solve it. Then, I had an inspiration, and it was from a Coen Brothers movie that I had not watched but remembered the movie poster so well because of how it made me feel. It was, Miller’s Crossing – a man is kneeling in the woods begging for his life from another man standing with a gun. It was the solution I needed for the tense encounter between Annie and the fox (from my story "The Ranger") and not knowing how it would turn out. So instead of a close-up, we get a far away, below eye level shot of the scene.

* What makes the art of illustrating special to you?
I like the problem-solving aspects of illustration. It is different from making a piece of art only as a form of self-expression. That is not to say that you cannot express yourself in illustration. But I think that illustration is about communicating something specific.
With picture books, you are communicating something sequentially, telling a story. Usually there is the interplay of words and pictures. There is a need for both elements to work together and not merely reproduce in pictures what words are saying. Illustrations can add another layer to the story, or tell the story when words are not there, as with wordless picture books.

Illustration from "The Ranger", published 2019 by Groundwood Books

 

Issa Watanabe

Illustrator from Perú

Instagram: @issawatanabe

 


* Why did you become an illustrator?
I remember a visit from Brazilian artist Vik Muniz when a boy asked him if he remembered when he started drawing. He said he couldn't remember, but he remembered when the others stopped. Like all children, I started drawing when I was young, and I was lucky that my mother was illustrating children's books at that time: Illustration at home was a natural way to tell stories, express feelings, invent, play. I have not lost that.

* What does a day at work look like for you?
My work routine depends very much on the type of project I'm in and what I experience during that time. For example, a few years ago, I went to my studio very early every day and worked for hours without seeing or talking to anyone. Now I have set up my studio at home. I live alone with my daughter and it is difficult for me to have a fixed work schedule, especially now that due to the pandemic, classes were interrupted this year and it became necessary to manage many things. But I can say that I really like to get up in the morning, prepare a pot of coffee and sit and draw right by the window. Sometimes I am so engrossed in an illustration that I become obsessed with it. I can sit for hours and even find it difficult to sleep because I feel so much like drawing the next day.


Niña océano

* Are there any illustrators who have influenced you?
I think when we create something, we consciously or unconsciously draw on all the influences we have experienced throughout our development. Of course, I admire many illustrators, but I also get inspired by music, books, museum visits, cinema, casual conversation...

* What was your very first illustration?
When I was four years old, our teacher put together a little book with the stories the kids told her. And she asked me to do the cover! I drew a giraffe, a flower and a little bird. I still have the book. My mother and father kept all the drawings of me and my sister since we were children.



* What inspires you? Where do your ideas come from?

I think you can be inspired by anything that moves you: a picture, a text, a poem, a bird outside the window in the morning. But the ideas usually buzz around in my head for months or years. Sometimes they are experiences that I have had and that take time to take shape. And it usually takes just one trigger at any given time for me to feel the need to express these experiences.

* Do you have a personal favourite illustrator?
Oh, very many: Leo Lionni, Sendak, Quentin Blake, Erlbruch, Roberto Innocenti, Tomi Ungerer, Janosch, Enzo Mari. And to name a few more recent ones: Beatriz Alemagna, Martin Jarrie and Simone Rea.


Cómo en un árbol

* When illustrating, do you listen to music or audio books or should it be quiet?
I prefer silence.

* Do you have a favourite place to illustrate?
I lived in Mallorca for 15 years and spent most of that time in a house that was practically by the sea. It looked like a small boat. That was my favourite place. Now I live in Peru and have more than one favourite place. I need certain conditions in a place that will help me to work comfortably. For example, natural light is very important for me. I also need solitude. I don't like to share the moments of drawing with someone other than my daughter. The tables are also important: very smooth and the bigger the better. I'm very chaotic when I work and I start to conquer all the space around me.
I like having my books close by, a coffee machine and a sofa.


La barca (Migrantes)

* Is there a story you'd like to illustrate?
There is a theme that was very present in my life and that I am trying to create now. It has to do with objects, memories and absence. It will probably also be a silent / wordless book like "Migrantes".

* Is there an illustration that you are particularly proud of?
The illustration of "Migrantes", where the whole group marches and the little death runs behind it. This illustration has a special value for me.


El largo camino (Migrantes)

* If you're not illustrating at the moment, what do you like doing?
I am slow and not a very active person. I enjoy the silence and being at home, although I love to travel. I read a lot. I enjoy spending time with my daughter. I like going to the cinema, to a café with a friend, and lately I work with modelling clay to form or build small stages.

* What defines the profession of an illustrator for you?
It's not easy to adapt to the demands of reality. By illustrating, I can transform this reality a little and symbolically build another one. On the other hand, my approach to illustration is mostly intuitive. It's like having a few small pieces of Lego and spreading them all out on the table. The possibilities to combine the pieces are endless and by assembling and disassembling you discover the world like a child at play.


El Encuentro (Migrantes)

* What do you think makes a good illustrator?
I wish I had an answer to that! I don't know what the recipe is, but I'm sure it has to do with honesty, even more so when you are illustrating for children.

* Do you sometimes just not feel like drawing/painting? Do you have to motivate yourself? And if so, how do you do it? Is there something like writer's block in illustrators too? A creative block?
Oh yes! Sometimes when we publish something there's a lot of ballyhoo and distraction and it's very easy to get lost in it. Then it helps me remember why I do what I do and where my motivation comes from. In other cases the voice comes from within. This voice that judges us and tells us that what we are doing is not good or not enough. I mean, it was Schiller who said something like, "reason is an annoying witness during the poetic process". We have to learn to recognize this and to stay calm. I worked as an art director for a content production company for several years. It was a job I liked and it gave me great financial stability, but I didn't have any free time left. I wanted to illustrate, but under these conditions it was impossible. Two years ago my mother had a terrible accident in Brussels from which she was recovering very slowly and we supported her. Although we are aware of the fragility of life, we often forget it. When I came back, I quit my job and started to create "Migrantes". At the beginning I had a lot of doubts and fear, of course, but now I have no doubt that it was the right decision.


La garza (Migrantes)

Gaëlle Vejlupek

Illustrator from Switzerland

Website: www.gaellevejlupek.com


* What does a typical work day look like for you?

Wake up at 7, do some yoga, drink a cup of good green tea, have a walk, then paint quietly... that WOULD be awesome! For the last years, I worked a lot, from the morning until late at night, which is not sustainable in the long run. I’m getting more organized now, and plan some free time in the evenings and weekends, which I completely forgot about lately. I came to realize that in every aspect of this job, more constraints mean surprisingly more freedom. But it takes some time to find the right pace.

* What was your very first illustration?
I think it was for a puppet company.
I still like that little booklet, even if I’m sometimes not very fond of my old works!

Peau d'âne, Ink on paper, 35x26 cm

* What inspires you? Where do you get your ideas from?
I was a bit of a strange kid, talking to trees, birds and flowers... So I developed very early a sense of magic, spending most of my free time in the woods. We have a tendency to invent stories to explain the things we don’t understand in our surroundings, so the forest, the mountains, the weather, are all elements that made me imagine characters and stories.
In my childhood, I read a lot of folktales, books from many different cultures, which defined the way I understand the world; a metaphoric language is what speaks the clearest to me. Also, my dreams are vivid, really like a second life lived during the night. The imagination in our dreams is limitless, and some of my characters came from there too. The symbolic language of my dreams is something I give a lot of attention to, and it is very often used in my paintings to translate my vision of the world, or the situations I’m living.

* Do you have a favourite illustrator/artist/author?
There are so many great illustrators out there! But I immediately think of Sergio Toppi for his black and white works, unusual compositions, style and textures.

Hamelin

* Do you like listening to music or audio books while working or do you prefer silence?
It depends on the stage of the painting: When I sketch, define, decide, design, and place elements, I need to be entirely focused. Once this first step is done, I can listen to music, but not something where I would pay attention to the lyrics (and sing along).
In the last stage, I love to listen to audiobooks or music fitting the piece I’m working on during the actual painting. I can even handle a phone conversation, as long as I can listen more than interact. Though, my favorites are long audiobooks, the ones where I can marinate during the painting of the whole piece, which can last for 40, 50 hours.
It’s funny, like once the piece is finished, even months after, by looking at some areas of the painting, I can still recall a feeling or a portion of the story I was listening to.

* Do you have a favourite place to work?
My studio is the best place to work! It’s full of light, very calm, and my neighbors don’t complain about the use of the hairdryer or the audiobook playing in the night time!

Blue Moon

* What can you be found doing when your are not illustrating?
Walking, sleeping under the stars by the fire, up in a tree... 

* What makes the art of illustrating unique to you?
To create an image that serves a text is an exciting journey, and very different from creating spontaneous images. The encounter of two universes can be magical if they fit together well. I recently illustrated two book covers, and I so much enjoyed working on them. To imagine a way to picture the feeling that those books gave me, instead of speaking about the content, was a really stimulating task.

Clälio

* What makes a good illustrator?
I value illustrators who have a very personal and creative universe, but who can use their skills at the story’s service instead of the image itself.

* Do you struggle sometimes? Do you have to motivate yourself, and if so, what helps? Is there a kind of "illustrator’s block?"
I struggle to find the time to do everything I would like to do! So, the lack of motivation wouldn’t be an issue for me. Though, I had to take breakes from drawing a few times, and I found it very hard to get back to it. Somebody said that the only way to get out of an art block is to draw ourselves out of it, I couldn’t agree more.

Dusk Guardian


Javi Gámez

Author and illustrator from Spain

Instagram: @javi_gamez_alsbram

 


* What brought you to illustration? 

The stories. I have always drawn to tell a story. I always illustrated the characters of my books, my animation projects or my comics. I have always had, inside me, the need to share my inner world with others. Sometimes with images, sometimes with words, sometimes with animations. Everything I do in my current life is interconnected. Drawing comics led me to write; literature led me to animate; and animation led me to teaching... which is the ‘place’ where I am the happiest.

* What does a typical work day look like for you?
In the morning, I write or draw. I immerse myself in my personal projects and I create visual stories to inspire other people, to make them grow. In the afternoon, I guide my students to get that ‘impossible dream’ of becoming a creative professional. To guide others is the goal of my life.

* Are there any illustrators who influenced/influence you?
I started drawing comics, so my biggest influence was Alan Davis. His art is subtle, emotional and epic. After university, animation came to my life. And I discovered that all the styles in the world can teach me something.

* What was your very first illustration?
Wow… I don't remember which was the first one, because I have been drawing since I was a child. But I am ‘starting’ every day anew, always testing new styles, techniques, tools… When you see my art on the web, you can appreciate lots of ‘first illustrations’. Constantly trying something new makes me feel alive as an artist.

* What inspires you? Where do you get your ideas from?
Life inspires me! I must admit (with a bit of shame) that I have never suffered the terrifying "illustrator’s block". Never! Life fills me with ideas, sometimes too many. I am all day recording on my mobile phone: stories, characters, anecdotes or details…

Sirius Black

* Do you have a favourite illustrator/artist/author?
The person whom I have learned the most from about art is Nathan Fowkes. A concept artist who works in the world of cinema and who has taught me everything I know about color, light and composition.

* Do you like listening to music or audio books while working or do you prefer silence?
When I draw, I use to play a movie or a tv series (on my other screen). I am a consumer of stories! But when I write, I listen to music. Movie soundtracks.

* Is there a particular story you would love to illustrate?
"The NeverEnding Story" was the first book that hit me and made me dream. It is, indeed, the book of my life.

Dustfinger

* What was your favourite illustration you have made so far?
I have not done it yet… I am very self-demanding!! Hahaha…

* What can you be found doing when you are not illustrating?
I like going to the movies or to the comic store. I need more new stories!

* What makes the art of illustrating special to you?
I am a storyteller, sometimes with illustration, sometimes with words. The important thing to me, when I create, is the meaning of the story, to make the reader dream and being thrilled. The image is an important part to achieve this goal. That is why I always illustrate my own books. And that is why each drawing I make has a different style, because each story needs its own look. Imagination is not a limited place, but an infinite universe… and I love to explore it!

 
Marieke Nelissen

Illustrator from 's-Hertogenbosch, Netherlands

Website: https://www.lepetitstudio.nl

 


* What brought you to illustration? 

I have always loved to create as long as I can remember.

* What does a typical work day look like for you?
After I have brought the children to school I go to my studio, which is a room in the house.
I know exactly what I'm going to do every day so I can start right away. The first few hours are precious because that's when my concentration is at it's best. Around noon I make myself lunch and have a half hour break. After that I return to my work for another two hours of illustrating until it's time to pick up the children from school. The rest of the day I go with the flow. It depends on what the children are up to. Mostly I read my e-mails, do a bit of administrative work and organise my plans for the next day. But sometimes I want to finish an illustration desperately and continue to work until it's time to cook dinner. After dinner I relax.

Illustration from "Het verlangen van de prins", published 2020 by Gottmer

* Are there any illustrators who influenced/influence you?
Big influencers are Rébecca Dautremer and Shaun Tan. But I look a lot at other image makers and get influenced by everybody more or less I think.

* What inspires you? Where do you get your ideas from?
My biggest inspiration is nature.



* Do you have a favourite illustrator/artist/author?

I'm afraid there are to many favorites to mention. 
It changes a lot too. It depends on where I'm at in my own development I guess.

* Do you like listening to music or audio books while working or do you prefer silence?
I love to listen to movie soundtracks.

Illustration from "Het verlangen van de prins", published 2020 by Gottmer


* Do you have a favourite place to work?

My studio. It's small, comfortable and over the years perfectly layed out with drawers and cabinets for my materials and illustrations.

* Is there a particular story you would love to illustrate?
I love folktales. I grew up being introduced to many different cultures through my fathers work. I love the mysterious atmosphere, the history and the unexpected.

Illustration from "De tovenaar van Oz", published 2019 by Lemniscaat

* What was your favourite illustration you have made so far?
It's one that is not yet published. About a forest spirit and a very cheeky hedgehog.

* What can you be found doing when your are not illustrating?
I like to watch movies. I'm a huge fan of all Wes Anderson's movies! And I like to read, go out for walks in the forest or coastline.

Illustration from "De tovenaar van Oz", published 2019 by Lemniscaat

* What makes the art of illustrating special to you?
Everything is possible in illustration!

* What makes a good illustrator?
One that listens carefully to the brief of a client and is capable of capturing the wish of the client without losing the freedom to create.

* Do you struggle sometimes? Do you have to motivate yourself, and if so, what helps? Is there a kind of "illustrator's block?"
Of course. Sometimes the work of other imagemakers overwhelm me and I feel mediocre and lost between al these wonderful creators. When I have a bad day I don't force myself to create. I go and do something that relax me or distracts me. Like doing simple household chores or go out for a walk. Most of the time things get back in perspective when you let go.

Illustration from "Verhalen van de Fladdertak", not published yet

 

Gediminas Pranckevičius

Illustrator from Vilnius, Lithuania

Website: http://www.gedomenas.com

 


"I am a freelance creative illustrator, working and living in Vilnius, Lithuania.
I illustrate children's books, create book covers, music album covers and also work on game, movie or advertisement projects…


I was born in Panevezys, a small town in Lithuania. I think I met art as a child while visiting my uncle. He had a lot of unfinished oil paintings – the odour of wet oil paint was filling my nostrils all the time. I also used to visit drama theater a lot, because my grandma was a ticket taker there. I can still remember details of the play coming out of the dark in dramatic lighting. Mom worked as administrator at the orchestra and at a mask theater for children. I guess an environment like this was a perfect starting point for my creative career.

I was not very good at school, but I really loved to draw. Consequently I joined art school, later enrolled at the Vilnius Academy of Arts which helped me decide to specialize in fresco painting, because there were a lot of girls and somebody had to mix the plaster.

Straight after having finished my Master's degree, I found a job at a movie theater.
It wasn’t exactly what I was trained for - designing popcorn brochures - so after a while I quit the job to peruse my real passion.



I get inspiration from old master paintings, digital art, life, music, silence. When I am working, I try to live with the idea. No hurry. I listen to music to get in the right mood.
I find it very satisfying when people looking at my work might have the same emotions I had when creating it."

 

Evgenia Malina

Illustrator from Woking, England

Website: https://www.evgeniamalina.com

 


* What brought you to illustration? 
I was thinking about being an art restorer or cartoonist, but the era of digital printing kicked off and I began my career as a graphic designer. It was a great experience, I have learned a lot and met many wonderful people, but it was not exactly what I wanted. I like drawing characters, emotions and I like watching people and animals, how they move and interact. These days an illustrator can work for anyone, anywhere in the world, and can send the product to a customer in one click, which is awesome. So I decided to change my career to illustrating and here I am, creating universes and ruling destinies in the little studio with a garden view.
 
* What does a typical work day look like for you?
I am privileged to work from home, so I start late after a pleasant and unhurried routine that helps me to get into a working mood. I normally make a plan the day before. Surprisingly the big part of my work is not drawing. Marketing, research and promotion in social media take about half of my time. I share the studio with my partner, thank God he is not an artist and does not need that much room as I do with all my art supplies At lunch time we take a walk in the nearest park. I work till about 8 PM leaving time for dinner, movie or reading a book. I used to go for sketching before the quarantine time, and it feels like it was ages ago now. 

Illustration from Evgenia Malina's "Foxotherapy" calendar 2019
 
* Are there any illustrators who influenced/influence you?
All illustrators I admire influence me, I love illustrations that look spontaneous and a little childish. I learn from Beatrice Alemagna, Quentin Blake, May Miturich, Isabelle Arsenault, Anita Jeram, Tove Jansson and many others. I collect illustrations in Pinterest and study closely the ones I like most.
 
* What was your very first illustration?
It was probably my comic book I made when I was 8 or 9. It was about my grandpa assembling the flat pack kitchen furniture. He was captured by the process talking emotionally to screws and various parts of the furniture, taking expressive poses and forgot about me sitting in the room. Having this story unfolding right in front of me I could not miss the opportunity to sketch it. Reaction of my family was priceless, for the first time I realised that my drawings can make people laugh, and grandpa laughed too. My mum still has this “masterpiece” in her archive.

Evgenia Malina's "Oscar"
 
* What inspires you? Where do you get your ideas from?
I do not know if I can call it inspiration. Every new project begins with research: reference pictures, historical information about the time when the story occurs, I try techniques, study examples, choose colour schemes. Then I might need to take a break to assimilate it all, and then I know what I am doing. Or sometimes I see it straight away and have no idea where it comes from, my previous life experience I guess.
 
* Do you like listening to music or audio books while working or do you prefer silence?
It depends on the task I work on. I write this and any other text in silence listening only to birds twittering outside. And might listen to neutral background music, there are many on Youtube like Chillhop music channel.

Illustration from the "Bear Hugs" calendar 2018


* Do you have a favourite place to work?

The main working place is the studio. Sometimes I take my laptop and move somewhere else in the house, kitchen or lounge just for change. There is a big french window in the sunny lounge, I think it is going to be my favorite place for summer.
 
* Is there a particular story you would love to illustrate?
Something lighthearted and funny, timeless, kind and wise.
 
* What was your favourite illustration you have made so far?
They are all my children and I love them all. On the other hand, as I practice my drawing,
I learn new things with every project and improve, and when I look back at some of my pictures I see what could be done better. I like the bunch of foxes I created for the Foxotherapy calendar, for example, but now when I look at them I would like to rework some, and I probably will.
 

Illustration from Evgenia Malina's own project reflecting what is happening during the global lockdown.


* What can you be found doing when you're not illustrating?
I would love to say travelling, but not these days of the worldwide quarantine. Browsing, watching, reading. I like reading memoirs and history. Watching illustrators interviews and studio tours. And cooking, which is a creative process as well when it is not an everyday duty. 
 
* What makes the art of illustrating special to you?
I never thought about it before I began illustrating myself. Illustrating is like making a movie, but you are the whole team in one - you do all casting, costume making, environment, camera angles, style, colours. Every project is a different journey, exciting and intriguing, there are always new discoveries, always something new to learn.

Illustration from Evgenia Malina's "Owlasanas" calendar 2020           Illustration from Evgenia Malina's "Owlasanas" calendar 2020          Illustration from Evgenia Malina's "Owlasanas" calendar 2020


* What makes a good illustrator?
Imagination, curiosity and practice.
 
* Do you struggle sometimes? Do you have to motivate yourself, and if so, what helps? Is there a kind of "illustrator's block?"
I do. Sometimes it is just tiredness, so good sleep, nice meal and walk would help. If not that, I would just carry on spoiling paper and at some point the desired image will come. 

Evgenia Malina's "Oscar"

 

Julia Nüsch

Illustrator from Hamburg, Germany

Website: https://julianuesch.de


Photo: Hannes Lintschnig

* Why did you become an illustrator? Did you want to be an illustrator as a child?
I didn't know the word 'illustrator' as a child, but I always wanted to tell stories, and I always wanted to tell stories with pictures. I've always been drawing.

* What does a workday look like for you?
When I get a job, I'm very excited at first, and I get something akin to stage fright. In my studio, I sometimes sit in front of a blank sheet of paper for days on end. Then I usually take care of my graphic jobs first, while sketching on all sorts of scrap paper or on the back of invoices and so on. At some point, I will have the courage to go back to my drawing table, and usually, the inspirations will come of their own accord. I have two tables, one for drawing and my watercolors and one with a view of the dike, where I do my computer work and daydream out of the window. Once I am really into it, I never stop drawing. Often, I work until late at night, and then I sometimes stay on the couch in my studio overnight.

* Are there illustrators who influenced you?
Yes, very many. I collect beautifully illustrated books, and I love inspiration. As a child, I used to look at my father's drawings over and over again. That influenced me a lot and made me want to be able to draw that beautifully one day.

* What was your very first illustration?
When I was a child, my sister and I made new sleeves for all the audiotapes with our favorite stories. We had often simply lost the originals. From Bibi Blocksberg, Benjamin Blümchen, Heidi to Momo, and Jim Knopf, everything was there. During our camping vacations at the Baltic Sea, I laid out the ground of our tent porch with A4 sheets glued together and drew a vast underwater world with countless creatures. Which I had cut out before. Years later,
we would still find little paper mermaids and numerous monsters in all kinds of corners. However, I don't remember which came first, the tapes or the underwater world.


Illustration from "Der Kaufmann von Venedig" (The Merchant of Venice), published by Kindermann Verlag, Berlin

* What inspires you? Where do your ideas come from?
It's very varied. Sometimes I dream something beautiful, sometimes my eyes are so bad that I misinterpret what I have seen and come up with entirely new ideas. When it's about a specific assignment, I tell myself the story in my head over and over again and wish very hard for an idea to come to me. At some point, it happens.

* Do you have a personal favorite illustrator, a favorite female illustrator?
Oh, countless.

* When you illustrate, do you listen to music or audiobooks or do you prefer quiet?
I'm not allowed to concentrate on my work when I'm drawing. Otherwise, it won't work.
I always have to be half distracted and preferably deeply immersed in stories. In my studio, there is constantly an audiobook, a video, or a TV series running in the background.
I usually don't watch them, but I imagine the pictures while listening to them.


Illustration from "Der Kaufmann von Venedig" (The Merchant of Venice), published by Kindermann Verlag, Berlin

* Do you have a favorite place to illustrate?

Yes, my drawing table in my studio. I also drew some of my pictures at the Baltic Sea when there was no wind. That was nice, but the conditions are too rarely that good.


Julia's studio

* Is there a story you would like to illustrate?

Oh yes. A story by Michael Ende would be nice. Or Pippi Longstocking, or a fairy tale, or, or… One of my biggest wishes is coming true right now because I'm currently working on illustrations for my own story, which will be published in spring 2021. A story must be dreamy and/or funny. Then I immediately get the desire to illustrate it. 

* Is there an illustration you are especially proud of?
Yes, I do find my panther very beautiful myself, and I keep wondering, did I paint that?
I also like the Prince of Morocco and the Doge from the "Merchant of Venice".


Illustration from "Der Panther" (The Panther), published by Kindermann Verlag, Berlin

* When you' re not illustrating, what do you like to do?
Sleep, walk, travel, bathe, swim, and invent stories.

* What defines the profession of an illustrator in your mind?
The telling of stories with pictures that arise in the mind's eye while reading.
The challenge is to put those images on paper. Sometimes this results in something completely new, which is very exciting for me. Maybe it's comparable to pottery, where a form is peeled bit by bit. Once in a while, a form peels itself out of the paper bit by bit.
I feel as if the illustration creates itself. I have little more to do with it myself.

* Do you sometimes simply not feel like drawing/painting? Do you have to motivate yourself then? And if so, how do you do it? Is there such a thing as writer's block for illustrators too? A creative blockade of some kind?
Yes, definitely - and an intense fear of pages, the fear of starting. Unfortunately, I don't have an antidote for it. I hope to solve this mystery sometime.


Illustration from "Der Panther" (The Panther), published by Kindermann Verlag, Berlin

 
Jess McGeachin

Author and Illustrator from Melbourne, Australia

Website: https://drawthemoon.com

Jess McGeachin


* What brought you to illustration?

I’ve always loved to write and draw, but I actually studied graphic design at university.
It was only a few years ago that I realised there was a path which would let me draw everyday - writing and illustrating picture books! Having a background in design has been really helpful when it comes to creating compositions and laying out text, so experience is never wasted.

* What does a typical work day look like for you?
I still work full time, but I’m lucky that my day job is as a graphic designer for a museum.
Generally I practice my illustration in the evenings and on weekends. I’ll always start with a list and try to tick as many things off as possible before my hands get tired.

* Are there any illustrators who influenced/influence you?
Lots! I look up to some of the classic children’s illustrators such as E. H. Shepard (Winnie the Pooh) and Judith Kerr. I also draw inspiration from fantastic contemporary illustrators such as Shaun Tan and Oliver Jeffers.

* What was your very first illustration?
I think it would have been something from nature, like a crab or a shell. Kids aren’t often
self-conscious about their drawing which is definitely something I miss.

Illustration from "Fly", published by Penguin Random House Australia

* What inspires you? Where do you get your ideas from?
I’m very inspired by nature. I try to go walking with sketchbook as much as possible and just draw the world around me. I also love reference books and use them all the time.

* Do you have a favourite illustrator/artist/author?
I may be a little bias, but one of the artists I most admire is my mum. She’s worked for many years as a scientific illustrator and printmaker, drawing lots of different specimens for museums and books.

* Do you like listening to music or audio books while working or do you prefer silence?
I love listening to podcasts while I’m drawing, especially true crime. It’s quite funny that I’ll often be working on a children’s book illustration while listen to a grizzly murder - I don’t think it’s influenced the art yet!

Illustration from "Finn and the Stone Giant" (https://drawthemoon.com/finn)

* Do you have a favourite place to work?
I have a little studio in Melbourne that overlooks a big park. It’s a great place to watch the world go by, especially all the dogs taking their owners for a walk.

* Is there a particular story you would love to illustrate?
I’m open to anything. I do have a soft spot for dragons though…

* What was your favourite illustration you have made so far?
I’ve got a few favourites, but there’s one spread in my picture book "Fly" that I’m very fond of. It shows lots of birds flying from above and I was really happy with how the colours turned out. I love drawing interesting angles and perspectives. It reminds us that there’s so many different ways to see the world.

Illustration from "Fly", published by Penguin Random House Australia

* What makes the art of illustrating special to you?

I love the idea you can create a whole new world with a few pencil-lines. People and places that might have never existed can come to life for you and other people to meet - what could be better than that?

* What makes a good illustrator?
I think the best illustrators are constantly reinventing themselves. It can be comfortable to draw the same subject matter or use the same materials, but the best artists I know are always trying something new, whether it works or not.

* Do you struggle sometimes? Do you have to motivate yourself, and if so, what helps? Is there a kind of 'illustrator’s block'?
There’s definitely an illustrator’s block. I find the only way through is to draw yourself out of it - even if it’s just drawing squiggles on a page, if you do it for long enough they’ll start becoming something else. Making strong coffee also helps.

 

3 comments

Oola on 6 July, 2020

I love the images!

Reihaneh on 8 May, 2020

Hi Insa, it is so good. I like it.

Evgenia Malina on 6 May, 2020

Lovely pictures and really inspiring interview, thank you! The style reminds me of one of my favourite Benji Davis. One more name to keep an eye at

Thank you for your comment, Evgenia