If you don’t know that I am a huge feline fanatic, you haven’t been following me for long. I fell in love with Valeri’s art when I read and reviewed CATS ARE CATS last November. And I am seeking to ensure these interviews embrace illustrators from as many nations as possible to expand our exposure to different cultural influences in children’s book art/story. I visited the Ukraine in 1989 and am thrilled to have someone from this region on my blog.
[JM] Illustrator or author/illustrator? If the latter, do you begin with words or pictures?
I am an author/illustrator. I don’t have a set way in which I approach my work. Sometimes I start by doing small drawings like storyboards and then write dialogue, other times I write down the story and then start to draw it.
[JM] Where are you from/have you lived and how has that influenced your work?
I was born in Ukraine and have worked there for the first half of my life. So I would say Russian art and culture have had some influence on me. But at the age of 47 I came to US and have been living and working here ever since. So I have been influenced a lot by American art and culture in the latter part of my life.
[JM] Tell us a little of your beginnings and journey as an artist.
I studied art in Kiev’s art academy. After graduating it I started to work as cartoonist in one of the biggest cartoon magazine in USSR. But later on in life I became more interested in drawing children books and after some time I stopped doing cartoons all together and just concentrated on making children books.
[JM] Do you have a preferred medium to work in?
I have always worked in same medium: watercolor and ink. From time to time I tried to experiment with different mediums such as acrylic, gouache and so on but no mater what I always come back to ink and watercolor.
[JM] Do you have themes or characters you return to in your art?
The most reoccurring themes in my books are of friendship, love and relationship between parents and children. I would not say that I have characters to witch I return every time more like a style in witch I draw them. I like to draw pigs, bears and rabbits so often I make them my main characters. There have been few different books that my publishers asked me to make in to series. I also have been doing a series of stories with the same group of characters for different children magazines for many years.
But whenever, in my head, I start with ideas for new book I want it to be original and completely different from the book before it.
[JM] Can you briefly tell ua about your road to publication?
As long as I can remember my self I liked to draw. When I was 14 years old I had to choose my future occupation. My father wanted me to study math but I wanted to draw so I enrolled in to specialized art school. When I have graduated it I was admitted into Ukraine art academy. Even before I have graduated from the academy I have started to work as freelancer for the cartoon magazine name “Perets” (Pepper). After graduation I went to work as cartoonist for “Pepper” full time. In 1979 I unsuccessfully tried to leave USSR and immigrate to US. As the result of it I was fired from “Pepper” and was unable to find work as artist for long time as all jobs in USSR were controlled by government.
So I spend a few years just doing oil paintings in my studio. And slow as time has passed by I realized that I did not wont to go back to do cartoons any more and what I really wanted was to write and to draw children books. I ended up making over 40 published books in USSR before I finely immigrated to US after collapse of USSR in 1991. In the 20 plus years that I have been living in US I have created over 50 children books and hope to make just as many more in the future.
[JM] Can you share a piece or two with us, maybe of a WIP, and the process of creating them?
[JM] Do you have a favorite picture book from when you were young?
Back in the stone age of my chilled hood there was no picture books in USSR. But I did like to read books Robinson Crusoe was one of my favorite.
[JM] Wow, Valeri, that is so revealing. I am so glad not knowing picture books when you were little didn’t prevent you developing a love for them later. What does your workspace look like?
Her is some sneak peek in to my studio, as you can see if I show more I may scare some people!
[JM] What artwork do you have hanging in your house?
Mostly my own.
Four Fun Ones to Finish? [JM] What’s your favorite park in the world?
My favorite park is Kiev Botanical Garden. It was just across the street from the house I grew up in and I have spent a lot of fun hours in it with my friends as the little boy and teenager.
[JM] I love being able to say I have been there! Cats or dogs?
I have no cats or dogs.
[JM] Fact that most people don’t know about you?
The facts that most people don’t know about me are better to stay unknown.
[JM] Go to snack/drink to sustain your creative juices?
Coffee and more coffee !!!
Valeri, I so admire your persistence and resistance and creativity And maybe you should risk a cat? 🙂 Here’s to the next fifty books! Do follow Valeri on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/valeri.gorbachev.56?fref=ts and check out some of his books on Goodreads.