I am reviewing Britta’s latest picture book this Friday, OSKAR LOVES… and fell in love with the art so I reached out to her publicist to see if she would be willing to do an interview, et voila! It’s been too long since I interviewed a German on Miss Marple’s Musings.
[JM] Illustrator or author/illustrator? If the latter, do you begin with words or pictures?
[BT] Author/illustrator. I tend to begin with the pictures until the story reveals itself to me.
[JM] Where are you from/have you lived and how has that influenced your work?
[BT] I was born and raised in Germany but moved to London straight after school when I was 19. I also lived in the English countryside for quite a few years and had brief stints in Dublin and Paris whilst I was studying.
After 17 years in England I now live in Berlin and it looks like I am here to stay.
Germans say that my work looks British and British people say that my work looks German … which is quite funny.
But I really like the fact that my work seems to be somewhere in the great in between.
[JM] Tell us a little of your beginnings and journey as an artist.
[BT] Art has been with me since childhood and has never left me.
At school it was my favourite subject and I remember endless days drawing and painting in my room making up my own worlds – that’s the part of me that has never really grown up.
After school I studied Illustration at St Martin’s College of Art & Design and Fine Art Printmaking at the Royal College of Art in London.
I was very lucky when a publisher offered me my first picture book contract straight after my degree show in 1992 and I haven’t looked back since …
[JM] How do you feel European picture books differ from those being written for the American market?
[BT] That is so difficult to answer as even on the European market books vary so greatly from country to country and publisher to publisher … with some being more adventurous than others.
I think that it is a very exciting time for picture books right now with more publishers trying out something new and really caring about the beautiful production of a book.
[JM] I agree, it is a great time for picture books! What does your workspace look like?
[BT] … one messy desk for printing and collage making and one clean desk for my digital work.
[JM] Congratulations on your work being sold in more than 20 nations? Have you ever been surprised by any title changes for any of your books when translated?
[BT] My book ‘Grumpy Cat’ published in the UK was renamed ‘Mombert’ in Germany which was quite amusing.
The change of the cover design seems to be more frequent than a title change.
The cover of ‘Where’s the Pair’ has got an orange background in the US, a cream background in Germany and the original blue background in the UK ….
[JM] Can you share a piece or two with us, maybe of OSKAR , and the process of creating this story?
[BT] The character Oskar was developed quite a few years ago and lived through many different story ideas.
And even though I was never 100% happy with any of my story ideas it helped me to understand his character.
Oskar just seemed so positive and happy … just like a little child that finds magic in the smallest of thing.
That’s when I decided to create a very simple and happy book about everything that Oskar loves.
(Well, actually it is a book about everything I love and all the simple and magical things I remember from my childhood.)
And here’s a few of the process with BEFORE I WAKE UP
[JM] What was the first book you bought with your own money?
[BT] I think that it was a Hermann Hesse book when I was a teenager.
I devoured them when I was that age and can’t remember which one of his many books I bought. They were so perfect for that rite of passage.
[JM] What artwork do you have hanging in your house?
[BT] I have got too many pictures and not enough wall space.
A few things on my wall are:
- A large old East German school map
- A painting of a Great Dane painted by a good friend
- An old relief map of Sicily
[JM] At what point in your process do you consider the endpaper design?
[BT] That varies greatly …
Sometimes they exist right from the start and sometimes I decide at the end.
No set rules!
Five Fun Ones to Finish? [JM] What’s your favorite park (state/urban..) in the world?
Maybe the park outside my parents’ house where I grew up in Wuppertal, Germany.
Lots of wonderful memories of childhood!
[JM] Cats or dogs?
[JM] I love ginger toms! Fact that most people don’t know about you?
I am addicted to raspberries.
[JM] First job after high school?
Quite sad but true … it was probably an illustration job!
[JM] Go to snack/drink to sustain your creative juices?
Lots and lots of coffee and you have guessed … raspberries!
Britta, thanks for joining us. I wish you continued book success and a steady supply of raspberries!