Illustrator Interview – Valeri Gorbachev

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meIf 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.

Spread from CATS ARE CATS

Spread from CATS ARE CATS

[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.

Kiev Botanical Garden

[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 and check out some of his books on Goodreads.


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9 Responses to Illustrator Interview – Valeri Gorbachev

  1. Thank you, Joanna, a peak into Valeri’s work is a great way to start the day! Of course, now I am also intrigued by the tiny glimpse of his studio and unrevealed secrets! Valeri works magic on the page! His tight and controlled skills are immediately evident, yet the impression is loose, delightful and endearing! I am a devoted fan and look forward to the next 50 books too!

    • What a wonderful interview and, Valeri, not only are you a fantastic artist, you are an interesting, marvelous human being. I am a lucky woman to have worked with you and to have become your friend. Keep up the marvelous work!!! Here’s to many more Rufus the Pig books.

  2. Awesome interview! I have loved Valeri’s illustrations ever since I saw them back in the late 1990s when I started reading Babybug and Ladybug to and with my kids. I kept hoping that he’d be chosen to illustrate my pieces that were published in those magazine, but, alas, that never happened. What a thrill it is to be able to learn more about him on your blog, Joanna! It feels almost like meeting him in person. Thanks very much!

  3. I really enjoyed this interview. Since there were no picture books for Valeri to read as a child, he must have played an important part in developing picture books in the USSR — 40 books is impressive. And, 50 here. I do love his beautiful artwork and enjoyed your review of his Cats are Cats. Thank you for a wonderful interview.

  4. What beautiful illustrations! We are so blessed to have picture books by the thousands to access everyday. I can’t even imagine. But, then again, having no illustrations probably forced him to conjure up images in his mind, and ultimately made him a better artist. Thanks for sharing, Joanna.

  5. Catherine says:

    Wow, Joanna this is marvelous to get a sneak peek into the history of Valerie Gorbachev. What an icon. What a mixed blessing to be fired from the cartoon place.

  6. rhythm says:

    Wow! Another fascinating tale of adventure and intrigue! I can’t imagine a childhood without picture books! But Mr Gorbachev has certainly become a treasure for today’s children – and adults!! Thanks for another great interview! I really do enjoy these glimpses into artists’ lives!!!

  7. Erik - TKRB says:

    This is a great interview! 😀 Mr. Gorbachev sounds like a guy I would like. 🙂

  8. Particularly love the Cats are Cats cover! Another great peek into creative spaces, Joanna. 🙂

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