Kris Di Giacomo Franco-American Illustrator


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.

Illustration from "Mon papa, il est grand, il est fort, mais..." Editions Frimousse 2010, Author: Coralie Saudo

Illustration from "Mon papa, il est grand, il est fort, mais..." Editions Frimousse 2010, Author: Coralie Saudo

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...

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!