Interviews with the illustrators shortlisted for the Klaus Flugge Prize 2017

Last week saw the announcement of the shortlist for the 2017 Klaus Flugge Prize for the most promising and exciting newcomer to children’s picture book illustration. The five books on the shortlist are:

Hannah and Sugar by Kate Berube
The Museum of Me by Emma Lewis
First Snow by Bomi Park
The Journey by Francesca Sanna
Little Red by Bethan Woollvin

I was lucky enough to be able to put 5 questions to the five shortlisted illustrators and here’s what they had to say:

Playing by the book: How would you describe your illustrative style?

Kate Berube

Kate Berube: I think trying to describe one’s style is always tough for illustrators. We just sort of draw the way we draw and don’t think about it with verbal language. I love artwork which shows the hand of the artist – the wobbles, mistakes and uncertainty reveal the humanity behind the work. So, I’d describe my style as striving for that kind of looseness and sincerity.

Emma Lewis: I draw a lot of influence from folk and outsider/naive art, so I hope that comes across in my work. I like imagery that has a topsy-turvy quality or view of the world (though this is what I find so magical about it), uninhibited by things like correct depth of field or perspective. Having gone to art school, I think I subconsciously try and forget some of my training when I draw to try and harness that, or something as close to it as I can get.

Bomi Park: When I was a child, I lived with many family members including my grandfather, grandmother, father, mother, aunt and uncle. The child was alone in it and the picture was like a friend. But as I grew up, I forgot that I liked painting, and I chose psychology as my major and went to college. But after I entered college, I realized that my favourite thing to do was ‘drawing’ and changed my major. After graduation, I joined the card company and made a wedding invitation card, a greeting card, an invitation card, a Christmas card and a three-dimensional card, and became acquainted with the pleasure of communicating with the public (consumer).

When I first encountered Korean paintings and picture books in the company library, I wanted to talk about my story with a longer breathing rather than a single card. I then went to illustration school where I spent two years studying illustrations and picture books in depth, becoming a picture book writer.

Francesca Sanna: It is quite difficult to describe my own illustrative style, since it is something that comes quite naturally, without having to think too much about it. I like to create some kind of tension in the illustration I make. Sometimes I use the scale of the different elements, sometimes I like to play with the layout and direction of the movements, but I would probably describe my visual storytelling as “tense”.

Bethan Woollvin: I think my illustrative style is bold and painterly, which I often deliver through printmaking and digital media.

Playing by the book: What did you learn about storytelling / illustrating in creating your shortlisted book?

Kate Berube: The basic story was decided on very early in writing the book but the pacing of how it was told was something I had to work at over a long period of time. During that process I learned a lot about how to tell a story visually – things like, how to show time passing, how to slow down the action to bring more emotion to a moment and how change the pacing based on the perspective of the drawing. And, of course, since it was my first book I learned more than I could imagine about what it’s like to actually illustrate a book. It’s a lot longer and harder of a process than I thought going into it, and I knew it was a long, hard process! The amount of time and effort of many people it takes to put a book together is astounding.

Emma Lewis

Emma Lewis: I am learning all the time, and I hope that continues for as long as my illustration career does! But being my first book in the working world, it certainly had the biggest impact on me in terms of conveying a concept from cover to cover, in particular the relationship between word and image and the subtleties that can exist there. I also realised how important research is to me, everything from colour to visual references to the context of an idea. Looking back it surprises me that I hadn’t put my finger on that before.

Bomi Park: It is a story that I took out through an exhibition course of illustration school.
Suddenly, the child rolled his eyes and felt a sense of first sight, and in a very short time he was conceived as a picture book. I have been thinking about winter images ever since I was born in winter, and the experience of making Christmas cards at a card company seemed to have had a big impact on making this story.

Francesca Sanna: This is actually a very appropriate question for “The Journey” because during the research process that is behind this book I actually learned many things. Probably one of the most important is that you can tell a story that is not yours, that actually feels very far from yours and still strongly empathise with it.

Bethan Woollvin: I created Little Red whilst I was still studying illustration at university. The course really refined my storytelling skills and general artistic practice. But the Little Red project in particular, helped me to understand the relationship between text and image, and how to tell more of the story through my illustrations. The text in Little Red is quite minimal, so by adding a cleverly placed axe, or a pair of unimpressed eyes I leant how to help the reader gather information from the visuals independently of what is spelled out in the text.

Playing by the book: What medium do you most enjoy illustrating in and why?

Kate Berube: I like to play with paint and ink the most. It’s the simple pleasure of the feeling of brushing paint over paper and watching what it does. It never gets old. I also really like playing with collage. Pasting cut or ripped paper together disrupts up the way your brain thinks about the drawing. It’s a wonderful way to discover new things and it’s just really fun.

Emma Lewis: The images I put together involve using a variety of different materials; pens, paint, paper collage, print and digital colour. In The Museum of Me, I think collage played a big part in the telling of the story. At the time of making the book it could be the most enjoyable, for all the unexpected directions it took certain spreads, and also the most frustrating for the sheer time it took (especially on a deadline). Right now I am working with a lot of felt tip and marker, so I suppose that is my current favourite. I think it changes all the time depending on the project and what I happen to be interested in at that moment.

Bomi Park

Bomi Park: In this book I used everything that was white, black, and white that could express night well, such as food, acrylic, pen, pastel, oil pastel. The paper is a little unusual, but I tried to express the texture of the snow better by letting paint and oil pastels be placed thicker on the canvas with irregularities.

Francesca Sanna: I like to sketch the first ideas with my pencils. I always use two colours, red and blue, this helps me to make a cleaner sketch. I think that for me there is no better link between what is in my head and the white sheet of paper than a pencil.

Bethan Woollvin: Personally I love screen-printing. It lends itself to my style by retaining textured brush strokes, but alongside this it adds an element of surprise. Each image is different from the last, and this uncertainty often results in the most interesting outcomes. This is the point at which I usually digitally alter my images, either to clean up the bad mistakes or to accentuate the good ones!

Playing by the book: What are you working on now?

Kate Berube: I have a book due next week! The book is called The Sandcastle That Lola Built and it’s by Megan Maynor. It’ll be out from Knopf next year. I’m really enjoying painting all the sand and ocean and sunshine but it’s making me crave a trip to the beach. I’m also working on my next self authored book which is about fear on the first day of school. That will be out from Abrams next year as well.

Emma Lewis: I am working on a few new books, all in varying, staggered stages of completion- the annoying thing about working on books is that the process can be a long one and you and everyone else have to wait a while before you can share what you’ve been doing. So I’m also trying to do some smaller projects with slightly faster turnarounds, though it can become a bit of a juggling act.

Bomi Park: I am currently working on a non-fiction picture book about seasons, holidays, and seasons, the lunar culture of Korea. I am also preparing an essay about clothes, and a book of characters that I made before than First Snow will be published soon.

Francesca Sanna

Francesca Sanna: I am working on a new book project. I started from my personal experience and feelings, and then I worked on a research about the point of view of the children. I always need to put in a new story something that I care about or I am worried about, but I also want to think about how the same experience works for the potential readers of the story.

Bethan Woollvin: Well I’m always working on small edition print runs, trying to develop the new and exciting characters in my head. But in terms of big projects, I’m still working on my books with Two Hoots. I have the launch of my second fairy tale book coming up in June, when you can all meet Rapunzel!

Playing by the book: What’s the last book you read that got you “playing” ie doing some activity inspired by the book?

Kate Berube: I adore Julia Child so when I saw The French Chef in America: Julia Child’s Second Act by Alex Prud’homme had come out, I gobbled it right up.

This book reminded me to be more playful in my life but also, even more so, to be playful in my work. Julia Child worked very hard writing books and making television in her later life but she managed to always be playful about it, to be curious and to enjoy it. She followed what she was passionate about and it showed in all her work. This quote from the end of the book is so perfect for this question I just had to type it out in full!

“Some children like to make castles out of their rice pudding, or faces with raisins for eyes. It is forbidden – so sternly that, when they grown up, they take a horrid revenge by dying meringues pale blue or baking birthday cakes in the the former horseshoes or lyres or whatnot. That is not playing with food, that is trifling.

“Play” to me means freedom and delight, as in the phrase “play of the imagination.” If cooks did not enjoy speculating about new possibilities in every method and each raw material, their art would stagnate and they would become rote performers, not creators. True cooks love to set one flavour against another in the imagination, to experiment with the great wealth of fresh produce in the supermarkets, to bake what previously they braised, to try new devices. We all have flops, of course, but we learn from them; and, when an invention or variation works out at last, it is an enormous pleasure to propose it to our fellows.

Let’s all play with our food, I say, and, in so doing, let us advance the state of the art together.”

Bethan Woollvin

Emma Lewis: The last (children’s) book I read that got me playing is one of a few leant to me by a publisher that are currently happily sitting on my desk. It is ‘The Little Red Engine’, a lithographed picture book published in 1942 with beautiful illustrations by Lewitt-Him, though the colours, textures and compositions are still as fresh and eye-popping as though they were printed yesterday. I am exploring lithography for the first time for another new book, so it has definitely got me experimenting and thinking about producing illustration in a way that I haven’t done before now.

Francesca Sanna: I bought some months ago “The Wonderful Egg” by Dalhov Ipcar, and since then I have an obsession for dinosaurs. Last week I took a break from work and I went to the paleontological museum in Zurich, where I live. I came back with my sketchbook full of sketches of dinosaurs and more books about the Jurassic period in Switzerland!

Bethan Woollvin: The last book that inspired me to get playing was Rudyard Kipling’s ‘Jungle Book’. After reading it to my little sister, it rekindled the love I had for it as a child and I created my own illustrations inspired by the book, in an interesting colour palette of blue and pink. But as for the most recent book inspired ‘activity’ I was part of, it’d be my own activity sheets prepped for Rapunzel’s launch. With the help from Two Hoots, I put together a few activities that I can take with me to events. The latest one lets the children make small puppets of my characters from Rapunzel, using lollipop sticks! [Click here to get the activity sheet!/zt]

The winner of the Klaus Flugge prize will be revealed at an award ceremony in London on Wednesday 13th September 2017 and will receive a cheque for £5,000.

Kate Berube: Website Twitter

Emma Lewis: Website

Bomi Park: Website

Francesca Sanna: Website Twitter

Bethan Woollvin: Website Twitter

4 Responses

  1. Simone Fraser

    Zoe, this is another absolutely delightful and inspiring post! Thank you very much! I love the questions you asked the illustrators. I wish they could all win the Klaus Flugge prize = D because they are so passionate about their work and appear adorable people. I feel I could relate to what they all said of their work with my own practice. Because art making can be so solitary it is a sweet relief to feel like I’m part of a tribe.

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