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#FlorisDesign Illustrator Interview – Vanya Nastanlieva

Posted on 05/04/2017 in Design and Illustration

The Island and the Bear by Louise Greig is one of our latest Picture Kelpies published this Spring. The book is inspired by a true story that has since become legend in the Scottish Hebrides. Today we are meeting the illustrator behind the book, Bulgarian born artist Vanya Nastanlieva.

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Hi Vanya, thanks for talking to us today. Could you tell us about your studies and training?

I spent five years in the High School of Applied Art, majoring in Textile and Fashion before obtaining my BA in Book and Printed Graphics from The National Academy of Arts in Sofia. Then I went on to obtain my master’s degree in Children’s Book Illustration at Cambridge School of Art in England.

The Island and the Bear, illustrated by Vanya Nastanlieva

The Island and the Bear, illustrated by Vanya Nastanlieva

 

We’d love to hear about your decision to become a children’s book illustrator.

I have always wanted to be an artist – I love books, reading and illustrations, making up stories and drawing. I like animation and moving pictures, I relish creating my own characters and I have just combined everything that I love to do by becoming a children’s book illustrator.

 

Do you work using traditional methods or digital methods or both?

I work using traditional methods ranging from dry technique to mixed media. I then use the computer to scan the illustrations and different layers. I’ll scan an illustration, then clean it in Photoshop (if necessary), and then I connect the layers all together, the black and white drawing with the colour ones. There may be some finishing touches, adjustments or arranging left to do, but generally my work is all hand-rendered.

 

Have you ever visited the Outer Hebrides?

No, I haven’t. But I hope I will visit the islands one day.

The Island and the Bear, illustrated by Vanya Nastanlieva

The Island and the Bear, illustrated by Vanya Nastanlieva

 

Where did you draw inspiration for your illustrations of the bear?

Normally, I rely on my own visual memory and imagination, then allow things to materialise through lots of sketching. With The Island and the Bear I needed actual reference points to keep the characters real, especially the bear and the Scottish scenery. To get a real sense of the place, to feel the mood and the atmosphere, I had to do a lot of online research. I relied on the photo references of the Outer Hebrides, as I am not familiar with this part of the world and haven’t visited the islands myself. I also researched bears a lot, their habits and life, as well as people and anything else that served to stimulate my imagination.

 

What sorts of things do you most enjoy drawing?

It’s difficult to say – I just love to draw. I love creating different characters and different moods and emotions. I enjoy doodling and that sense of creating something new. When you can see a new world or a simple character sketch with its own hopes and fears I think it’s pure magic! I can’t imagine myself or my life without drawing.

The Island and the Bear, illustrated by Vanya Nastanlieva

The Island and the Bear, illustrated by Vanya Nastanlieva

 

Do you have any tricks in your bag for when you get stuck on a brief?

I just need to get up and do something else entirely different for a while and then come back with a fresh mind. I’ll do a bit of research on the characters and the settings till something sparks in my imagination. Then it’s simply a question of starting to doodle and sketch until something happens.

 

Is working as an illustrator what you expected?

I didn’t have a proper understanding or expectation of how the publishing world operates. There are always good and bad things about every industry, but as an illustrator I’m always learning and improving. I do love my job even though at times it can be a challenging and solitary occupation.

 

Do you have any illustrators or designers that you consider to be your favourites?

I’m unable to name all of them right now as I constantly derive inspiration from different artists, illustrators and designers. However, since my childhood I have loved Beatrix Potter’s books. Her tales are so inspiring and her characters are so amazing and alive!


Illustrated by Vanya Nastanlieva The Island and the Bear is illustrated by Vanya Nastanlieva and written by Louise Greig. Vanya Nastanlieva was born and raised in Bulgaria. She studied book design at The National Academy of Art in Sofia, Bulgaria, and received her MA in Children’s Book Illustration from the Cambridge School of Art. Her picture book Mo and Beau was Highly Commended in the 2011 Macmillan Prize for Children’s Book Illustration and was published in 2015. She currently lives in Cambridge, England.

 

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