#FlorisDesign meets Kasia Matyjaszek
Kasia Matyjaszek is the illustrator of The Fourth Bonniest Baby in Dundee, which has just been shortlisted the Bookbug Picture Book Prize 2018! We love Kasia’s illustrations so much that we’ve just asked her to introduce us to lots of new wee ones in This Bonny Baby.
We caught up with Kasia to find out more about her life as an illustrator.
Hi Kasia, thanks for talking to us today. Congratulations on making the shortlist of the Bookbug Picture Book Prize! How does it feel?
Hello! Thank you for having me!
Obviously I am very excited about the shortlist. I am also very happy that The Fourth Bonniest Baby in Dundee will be included in the Bookbug Primary 1 Family Bag, and all the P1 pupils in Scotland will receive a copy. This is such a brilliant initiative and I feel very honoured that our book will be part of it this year.
Could you tell us a bit about yourself and your career so far?
My first degree was in architecture and it involved quite a lot of drawing and painting. I can now draw buildings and perspective with my eyes closed!
When I realised that I didn’t really want to be an architect, I give up my job and went on to study MA in Illustration at Edinburgh College of Art.Many people I knew didn’t understand my decision and advised me against it. But this turned out to be one of the best decisions I’ve ever made!
I graduated in 2010 and a few months later I was commissioned for my first picture book project. It was a great experience but I wasn’t really happy with my illustration style back then.
It took me a while to discover the way of working that suited me better and then establish myself as a picture book illustrator. Submitting artwork for competitions helped a lot. I was lucky to be one of the finalists of the first edition of the Picture Hooks mentoring scheme. I was also shortlisted in the Clairvoyants picture book competition organised by Polish independent publishers Dwie Siostry, which lead to a picture book contract.
And then more picture books happened.
What made you decide to become a children’s book illustrator?
It was more of a process. I’ve always enjoyed drawing. This is all I remember from preschool – all the cool girls would play with the dolls and I just sat at a table and made pictures. My mum kept most of the drawings and I love looking though them when I visit home. In school I would always scribble things in my notebooks. Once the teacher sent a note to my parents and it said something like: “Kasia did not listen during class. She drew silly drawings in her notebook and laughed at them”.
And now I make silly drawings that make me laugh a lot and this is how I make living!
Is working as an illustrator what you expected?
It actually turned out to be much better than I expected. Before I started I wasn’t aware that such a large part of the job is promoting the books and meeting with the audience in schools, libraries and at the festivals. And I love it! Illustrating can be such a lonely process and you spend most of the time with imaginary characters. It is great to get out of the studio from time to time and work with real people!
Can you tell us a bit about your illustration process and methods?
I like to experiment with various media, tools and ways of making marks. This is usually a fun and messy process. For example for both Bonny Baby books I had to make a lot of paint splats and it involved standing on my desk and dropping ink onto a piece paper on the floor. I missed a few times before I came up with perfect splats!
I finish my illustrations using digital methods and this is a bit like tidying up after all the messy fun.
What are your favourite things to illustrate?
Crocodiles, dragons and confident girls.
Where do you get your inspiration? Do you have any favourite illustrators or designers?
I work with children a lot running creative workshops or visiting schools and festivals with my books and it is always such an inspiring experience. I love watching the children play, interact with each other and make art. Even the questions they ask during the events are always so brilliant and could easily become a starting point for a new picture book.
In terms of art and style I am inspired by naïve art, social realism, mid-century design and drawings made by 5 year olds.
Do you have any tricks in your bag for when you get stuck on a brief?
The good thing about illustrating picture books is that you work on a sequence of illustrations. When I get stuck on a spread, I just move on to a different one and then return to the problematic spread when I am ready.
And when I am really stuck, it usually means that I need a break so I take a day off, go for a walk or for a long cycle, ideally somewhere close to the sea. I wonder if this is because all of the good ideas are somewhere at the bottom of the sea, just waiting there to be discovered!
Do you have any tips for budding illustrators?
Don’t listen to other people’s advice. It has worked for me!
What did you enjoy most about working on The Fourth Bonniest Baby in Dundee and This Bonny Baby?
The Fourth Bonniest Baby is set in very specific places in Dundee and as a part of research for the book I visited the city to do some on-location drawing and gather reference material, and later include various landmarks in my illustrations. I very much enjoyed the process.
And with This Bonny Baby, it was such a joy drawing messy babies covered in mud, paint and food. I like making mess and I like illustrating it even more!
More about Kasia Matyjaszek
Meet more bonny babies who love having fun and getting messy in This Bonny Baby, also illustrated by Kasia Matyjaszek.
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