Illustrator Interview – Olivier Tallec

photo O.Tallec3Apart from greatly admiring his work, my impulse to interview Olivier was three-fold: firstly, my author -illustrator friend Julie Rowan-Zoch urged me to, secondly Olivier is published in the US by one of my favorite publishers (who are right here in Brooklyn) Enchanted Lion Press, and thirdly, European illustrators (and authors) have different sensibilities and styles to US ones and I think it is important to keep highlighting their work.

Olivier Tallec has illustrated over 50 children’s books in France, many of which have been translated into English, including Big Wolf & Little Wolf, Waterloo & Trafalgar and Gus is a Fish.

As I did in my interview with Christine Davenier, I have kept the question in English only and just translated Olivier’s answers from French into English. I hope this works for the majority of blog readers. :)

[JM] Author/illustrator or illustrator? If the former do you begin with the text or the images?

[OT] Les deux. Je commence par une idée, puis très souvent par l’image. Ce qui est difficile c’est de trouver ce décalage texte-image. Ne pas se répéter dans le texte et dans l’image. Il doit y avoir des choses qui sont dans le texte qui ne sont pas dans l’image et inversement – travailler sur l’avant ou sur l’après.

Both. I start with an idea and then very often an image follows. What is difficult is to find this text/image lag. Not to repeat through the art what is there in the text. There needs to be things that are in the text but not the illustrations and vice versa – work on the instances just before or just after.

[JM] Where are you from/have you lived and how has that influenced your work?

[OT] J’ai beaucoup changé d’endroits de vie quand j’étais enfant, j’habites aujourd’hui à Paris. Je ne sais pas si ça influence ou non mon travail.

I moved around a lot as a child and now I live in Paris. I don’t know whether this influences my work or not.

[JM] Tell us a little of your beginnings as an illustrator?

[OT] J’ai toujours dessiné. Même plus tard, au college , au lycée, je n’étais pas un cancre mais je me suis pas mal ennuyé en cours, du coup le dessin me donnait l’impression de moins perdre mon temps.

Ensuite j’ai eu la chance de pouvoir faire des études de dessin et je suis allé voir les éditeurs un par un avec les quelques dessins que j’avais, sous le bras. Un premier éditeur m’a confié un texte à illustrer puis un second etc… mais au départ je ne connaissais pas vraiment l’édition jeunesse.

I have always drawn. Even later in middle school and high school, I wasn’t a dunce but I was pretty bored in class, so suddenly doodling and sketching gave me the feeling of not wasting my time.

Afterwards I was fortunate to study art and one by one I went to see publishers with the handful of illustrations I had under my arm. One of these publishers then entrusted me with someone’s text to illustrated, then a second…but really at the beginning I didn’t know much about picture book art.

[JM] Do you have a preferred medium?

[OT] J’aime passer d’albums de jeunesse à des dessins plus adultes. Je crois que j’ai vraiment autant de plaisir à faire les deux. Je ne me pose de toute façon pas la question si je travaille pour des enfant s ou des adultes. Je dessine parce que j’ai envie de dessiner telle ou telle chose.

I like moving between children’s books and drawings for adults. I really think both give me the same amount of pleasure. I certainly never ask myself the question of whether I work for children or adults. I draw because I want to draw this or that.

[JM] Do you have themes or characters you return to often?

[OT] Je ne sais pas. Je crois que j’aime bien travailler sur des thèmes contemporains : le pouvoir, la guerre, la ville, l’urbain, la nature. Des thèmes qui parlent aux enfant aujourd’hui?

I don’t know. I think I really like to work on contemporary themes: power, war, the city, urban life, nature. Themes that speak to kids today?

[JM] What’s your studio like?

[OT] Une grande pièce très lumineuse qui donne sur une place. Je travaille sur une vieille table à dessin en bois.

A large, very well lit room which overlooks a square. I work on an old wooden artist’s table.

STUDIO

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[JM] Please can you share with us one or two pieces from your WIP and your process?

[OT] J’ai sorti il y a un mois “bonne Journée ” au éditions Rue de Sèvres, c’est un livre totalement adulte.

Je travaille aujourd’hui sur la suite de ce livre. Je commence aussi une série chez Actes Sud, qui est un peu la suite de Quiquoiqui, il y aura beaucoup de personnages qui vivent dans un univers très blanc et qui se mettent à dessiner le monde dans lequel ils vont évoluer. Jusqu’au moment où ce monde va un peu leur échapper.

BonneJournée_Couv3

A month ago my book, HAVE A NICE DAY, was published by  Editions Rue de Sèvres, it’s for adults.

I am now working on its sequel. I am also working on a series for Actes Sud, which is sort of a sequel for QUIQUOIQUI (Whowhatwho). Here there will be lots of characters who live in a very white world and who are going to start illustrating the world in which they will evolve. Right up to the point where this world will sort of escape them. 

Here are some examples from some of my books:

GLPL arrivée

Arrival – Big Wolf Little Wolf

GLPLPL

plage/beach

plage/beach

Grand Loup Petit Loup #3

Grand Loup Petit Loup/ Big Wolf Little Wolf #3

Little Big

Little Big

WEBCOUV-louis-1er-ok

Louis 1st, King of the Sheep

waterloo[JM One of my favorites of your books is WATERLOO and TRAFALGAR (which I especially love because I am British but having lived thirteen years in France feel a bit of both). Can you describe how this idea developed?

[OT] C’est un livre un peu particulier, c’est un livre sans texte. Il y a une histoire mais pas de mots. Je me suis longtemps posé la question de la narration sans passer par le texte. Comment raconte-on une histoire si on n’a pas de mot et que le dessin devient de l’écriture?

J’ai pensé ce livre un peu comme un petit film d’animation. En découpant l’histoire en saynètes et en enlevant celles qui étaient en trop (pour voir jusqu’à quel moment on ne comprend plus l’histoire si il y a trop ou pas assez de dessins).

It’s a little unusual and is a wordless picture book. There is a story but no words. I mulled over for a long time the task of narration without using text. How does one tell a story if one has no words but the illustrations become the writing?

I thought about this book a little like a small animated film. Cutting the story down into skits and then removing those that seemed superfluous (to see at which point one starts to lose the thread of the story and if there are enough drawings or not).

scar

[JM] LA CROUTE/THE SCAR is not a picture book for all children, and starts with the words,  “Mummy died this morning”. How did this difficult them influence your choices as an illustrator?

[OT] Si je crois justement que c’est pour tous les enfants. Il y a des moments pour aborder ce sujet mais je crois justement que c’est un sujet qu’on a trop tendance à occulter.

Il y a peu de livres qui traitent de ce sujet et en particulier avec des humains. Le texte de Charlotte Moundlic m’intéressait parce qu’il était justement très direct et il ne passait pas par le biais d’un animal ou d’un grand-parent.

J’ai trouvé très rapidement la façon dont je voulais l’illustrer, avec peu de couleurs mais des couleurs très fortes (rouge) et toujours penser à ce décalage texte-image. Ne pas être redondant. Ne pas être mièvre.

If I am correct, this is a book for all children. There are moments to broach this subject but I think exactly that this is a subject that we have too much a tendency to overlook.

There are very few picture books that deal with this subject especially with humans. Charlotte Moundlic’s text interested me exactly because it is so direct and didn’t pass through the angle of an animal or a grandparent.

I found the way I wanted to illustrate this very quickly, with very few colors, but the colors I would use would be very strong (red) and always thinking about this complementation of text-art. Not being redundant. Not being cutesy.

[JM] Olivier, I stand rightly corrected. The SCAR is for all children at the right moment and I have had a lively discussion on Fb this past month about how more willing publishers are to publish these important topics in Europe than in the US! Now to change the subject, tell me, what do you have hanging on your apartment walls?

[OT] Des photos. J’achète régulièrement des photos.

Il y a aussi une vieille maquette de bateau en métal que j’ai accroché au mûr,

Et puis sur un mur des cartes anciennes , parce que ce sont de très belles cartes mais aussi des endroits que j’aime bien (il y a une vieille carte de l’Inde du XIXe, une carte de Tokyo (Edo) au XIXe, et une carte du XVIIIe de l’île de Pâques.

Photos. I regularly buy photos.

There’s also an old model boat in metal that I have attached to a wall.

Then on another wall I have old maps because they are beautiful maps and also because they are places I love (there’s an old map of India in the 19th century, one of Tokyo (Edo) also from the 19th century, and one from the 18th century of Easter Island.

I LOVE old maps too and grew up surrounded by them!

[JM] OK, Four Fun Ones To Finish                                                                                 One word to describe yourself

[OT] ça il faudrait demander à d’autres personnes de le faire… That you’ll need to ask others to do

[JM] If you could live anywhere in the world for six months, where would that be?

[OT] Il ya plusieurs endroits où j’aimerai passer six mois. Peut être New-York. Je trouve qu’il y a une énergie incroyable dans cette ville.

Tokyo aussi. Ou alors un endroit complètement à la campagne (une maison perdue au fond d’un fjord en pleine forêt).

There are several different places I would love to spend six months. Maybe New York. I find there is an amazing energy in this city.

Tokyo as well. Or else somewhere in the heart of the countryside (a hidden home at the end of a fjord in the middle of a forest).

[JM] Cats or dogs?

[OT] Rien… une peau de vache qui me sert de tapis, parce qu’une vraie vache c’était trop compliqué…

Nothing… a cowhide which I use as a rung because a real cow would be too complicated!

[JM] Which is your favorite park in the world?

[OT] Pareil, il y en a plusieurs.                                                                                                     J’aime bien le Mont Royal à Montréal, parce qu’il domine un peu la ville.                       J’aime aussi le parc Ueno à Tokyo (il y a un zoo, des temples…)

The same, there are several.                                                                                                       I like the Mont Royal in Montreal a lot because it dominates the city a little. I also like the Uneo Park in Tokyo (there’s a zoo, temples…)

[JM] Olivier, it was an honor to interview you. I know that my readers can read more about you on your blog, http://www.oliviertallec.fr, and if they aren’t familiar with your work. I encourage them to check in their local libraries or indie bookstores for those that have already been translated into English. Je te souhaite une bonne continuation avec tes projets et la prochaine fois que tu es à new York, peut-être on peut prendre un verde ensemble?! Mon bar préféré à Brooklyn s’appelle Le Bar Tabac! :)

The STORM WHALE – Perfect Picture Book Friday

stormTitle: The STORM WHALE

Written and illustrated by: Benji Davies

Published by: Henry Holt and Company, LLC., 2013

Themes/Topics: whales, loneliness, father/son relationships

Suitable for ages: 3-7

Fiction, 32 pages

Opening:

Noi lived with his dad and six cats by the sea.

Synopsis:

An only child, a little boy named Noi, lives with his dad by the sea. Every day he watches his dad leave early for his work as a fisherman and while he does have his six cats, he is a little lonely. One morning after a night’s heavy storm, he spots a baby whale on the beach. Being a quick-thinking boy knows this wee whale won’t survive long out of water so he takes it home to the bathtub, where he keeps it very good company. That evening Noi  doesn’t manage to keep his secret long, but his dad is not so much angry as worried for his son’s loneliness. This story has a very poignant ending!

stormwhale3

Why I like this story:

Firstly, do not miss an anonymous poem on the page before the title page:

The wonder of the world,                                                                                                    The beauty and the power,                                                                                                   The shapes of things,                                                                                                           Their colors, lights and shades–                                                                                         These I saw.                                                                                                                          Look ye also while life lasts.

How did I miss this gem last year? This is a warm, deep, kind story of the relationship between a (single) dad and his son. It is beautifully paced and heartfelt, rich with authentic lonely little boy feelings and gestures. The blue/black storm pages are beautiful contrasts to quieter moments on the beach and by the bathtub! This story creeps into your heart and tugs at it long after you have finished reading it. A quiet masterpiece, IMHO! I shall look out for more from this author/illustrator.

Activities/Resources:

Lots of scope for child to adult discussion about feeling lonely and saying goodbye to something/someone loved.

Benji Davies website is here.

Fascinating Nerdy Book Club post on how THE STORM WHALE came to be.

Each week a group of bloggers reviews picture books we feel would make great educational reads. To help teachers, caregivers and parents, we have included resources and activities with each of our reviews. A complete list of the thousands of books we have reviewed can be found here on Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.

Illustrator Interview – Vinicius Vogel

vin

As soon as I saw Vin Vogel’s wonderful banner for this year’s PiBoIdMo, run by Tara Lazar, and knew that Vin had written and illustrated a picture book about YETIS, I knew I had to interview him. Vin Vogel is based in New York City and was the winner of the NJ-SCBWI 2013 Conference Juried Art Show for Published Illustrator.

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[JM] Illustrator or author/illustrator? If the latter, do you begin with words or pictures?

[VV] Author/illustrator. I always begin with pictures: it’s my most natural way of thinking.

[JM] Where are you from and how has that influenced your work?

[VV] I’m from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. I think in Brazil we’re exposed not only to local artists, but also many artists from Europe and South America. So along with my North American references, I grew up reading stuff like Asterix, Tintin, Smurfs, Gaston Lagaffe, Mafalda, Mortadelo y Filemón… It was fun to be exposed to artwork from so many countries!

I guess because I come from Brazil, my artwork tends to be colorful and there is a joie de vivre and an excitement in my characters.

[JM] Being European, Asterix and Tintin were some of my favorite comics growing up!  Tell us a little of your beginnings and journey as an artist.

[VV] I started drawing at a very young age, around 3 years old.

When I was in primary school, I won prizes for storytelling and illustrations—this encouragement definitely contributed to my dream of being an author and illustrator.

I graduated with a degree in journalism, and worked for three years as a reporter for an architecture magazine in São Paulo. I then went through a “professional crisis”, and decided to live my true passion to the fullest: I wanted to be an illustrator. For many years I thought that I’d never make it as an artist: it’s a very difficult career, because mostly you work as a freelancer, so there is little job security. But I can’t imagine doing anything else.

[JM] Bravo! You have already illustrated more than 45 books for children and young adults. But you have you debut picture book as an author/illustrator, THE THING ABOUT YETIS! Coming out in the fall of 2015. How long have you been working on breaking in as an author as well as illustrator?

[VV] When I moved to the USA, more specifically NYC, in 2011, I realized that I’d have to work really hard to break in as an illustrator. Although I had more than 45 books published in various countries, no one knew about me here in the US. And I didn’t know anybody here in NY. So I decided to start writing my own stories, along with trying to promote my illustration work. I became a member of the SCBWI and went to every conference and event that I could – and realized that I needed an agent. The rest is history.

[JM] Do you have a preferred medium to work in?

[VV] For doodling in general and doing the first sketches for any project, just an automatic pencil and paper. For final art, I always use Photoshop – sometimes I mix things up, created in varied ways, like digital, pencil, crayon, pastel, ink…

[JM] Do you have themes or characters you return to in your art?

[VV] One of my favorite themes is children having encounters with animals, which was something that I was intrigued with as a child myself.

[JM] Can you share a piece or two with us, maybe of a WIP, and the process of creating it/them?

[VV] Sure, here it goes. These are from Maddi’s Fridge written by Lois Brandt (published by Flashlight Press).

Maddi WIP

Maddi WIP

1) I read the manuscript and start doodling the main characters. Most of the time, I use an automatic pencil on paper at this stage. Coloring is then added digitally.

Maddi WIP #2

Maddi WIP #2

2) When the characters are approved, I start working on the sketches, on how I envision each spread. I might use pencil on paper or draw digitally with my tablet. Very often the font is chosen at this stage since the art director will want to make sure the text matches the style of the illustrations and that there is enough room for the type.

Maddi - WIP #3

Maddi – WIP #3

3) When the sketches are approved, I start on the final art. Occasionally, there are slight changes here and there, even at this final stage. I often start working on the cover when the interior illustrations have been approved.

[JM] What does your workspace look like? 

[VV] A picture is worth more than a thousand words…

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[JM] What artwork do you have hanging in your house?

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Kathryn Lynch

Frank Holiday

Frank Holiday

Thom Merick

Thom Merick

Five Fun Ones to Finish?                                                                                               [JM] What’s your favorite park in the world?

[VV] Well, for a national park, Floresta da Tijuca, in Rio. Urban parks: Stanley Park in Vancouver and Riverside Park in NYC.

Rio Park - Copyright © Riotreme

Rio Park – Copyright © Rioxtreme

[JM]  Cats or dogs? 

Nook and Peppermint Patty

Nook and Peppermint Patty

Teddy, the pit bull

Teddy, the pit bull (Joanna’s note – gotta love pit bulls!)

Sherman, the English Setter

Sherman, the English Setter

[JM] Have you seen a yeti?

[VV] Of course. How would I write about something that I’m not familiar with? (wink)

[JM] Fact that most people don’t know about you?

[VV] That I was terrified of pit bulls, and now I’m a big fan of the breed. Thanks to Teddy, our pit!

[JM] I love bullies! Go to snack/drink to sustain your creative juices?

[VV] I enjoy having a drink or a espresso while I watch people passing by – and drawing the ones I find interesting. It’s my version of the book Humans of New York.

You can find out more about Vin on his website, http://www.vinvogel.com

Vin, it’s not easy to arrive in a new country/city and put yourself and your art out there, but you have done that remarkably well these past 3 years in New York. Bravo and to your continued success! MADDI’S FRIDGE sounds like a book I need to review!