#FlorisDesign meets Susana Gurrea

In our latest #FlorisDesign interview we spoke to Spanish illustrator, Susana Gurrea, about her experience of illustrating the first ever Kelpies sticker book! Taking young explorers on a journey round Scotland, from Glasgow to Loch Ness and beyond, the sticker book takes us all over Scotland. And now from a grey-skied Edinburgh all the way to sunny Spain…

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Hi Susana, thanks for talking to us today. Could you tell us a bit about yourself?

Hi, thanks, I’m delighted; this is my first interview. I’m a children’s book illustrator from Barcelona, Spain where I was born in 1981. Currently, I live with my husband and my six year-old son in a little village in the countryside, not far from Barcelona. Here I’m able to work long-distance for publishers around the world whilst at the same time enjoying countryside living with my family. When I’m not drawing I enjoy reading, making handmade things, traveling, playing with my son and having family meals. I’m a quiet person who enjoys the little things in life. I also write my own stories and I hope to become an author myself one day.

 

Susana Gurrea A Super Scotland Sticker Book

Stick the stickers on Nessie! Illustrations by Susana Gurrea

Have you ever had any formal art or design training?

I studied a three-year Degree in Illustration at the Olot School of Art, graduating in 2015. I also did a Comic Course during 2015 at the Escola Joso Barcelona and went on to complete a postgraduate degree in Illustration for Children’s and Young Reader’s Publications at the Eina University School of Design and Art, in Barcelona. I love to learn, so I do online courses on Illustration once in a while too.

 

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

It’s a long story but I’ll try to shorten it! I studied engineering at university and I worked for various technological companies for seven years, but I wasn’t happy. As a child, I was always drawing and writing my own stories, so I decided to make my dream come true: to become a children’s book illustrator! In 2012 I put my career as an engineer aside and focused on my true vocation. I started to study Illustration and after a lot of work, I received my first commission in 2016, when I began working as a freelance illustrator. It hasn’t been easy and I couldn’t have done it without the support of my family. Now I feel both very lucky and happy as I really enjoy telling stories through art.

Susana Gurrea - A Super Scotland Sticker Book

Out and about at Edinburgh Zoo – one of the penguins is on the loose!

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

For personal work, I enjoy using traditional methods; my favourite mediums are watercolour and coloured pencils. For professional work I feel more comfortable with digital methods. I start with pretty rough pencil sketches to set up the composition, then I do final drawings, scanning them in and colouring them in with Photoshop.

 

What sorts of things do you most enjoy drawing?

I really enjoy drawing human characters and busy scenes, though I enjoy any project that presents a challenge to me.

 

Have you ever visited Scotland before?

I’m really sorry to say that no, I haven’t yet visited Scotland, but I’m planning to go there soon! I did a huge amount of research and documentation for A Super Scotland Sticker Book, because I really wanted each place in the book to resemble the real things as close as possible and now I’m totally in love with Scotland! It’s a gorgeous, beautiful country!

 

Susana Gurrea A Super Scotland Sticker Book

Scottish Country Dancing at the Highland Games

What did you enjoy most about working on the Super Scotland Sticker Book?

I really enjoyed drawing the huge number of animals, characters and busy scenes in A Super Scotland Sticker Book. The sticker book format was a challenge for me; on the one hand drawing large backgrounds, some of them covering double spreads, and on the other hand doing lots of small, highly detailed drawings too. Making this all fit together was laborious but at the same time great fun. My favourite part about this project was working on all the characters and elements of the Scottish Castle and the Highland Games.

 

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

I stop and take a break. I’ll go out running or I’ll go out for a walk with my family. By relaxing and unwinding I’ll sometimes see or hear something that inspires me, or by speaking with other people new ideas will come to me.

 

Is working as an illustrator what you expected?

Working as an illustrator is much harder than I’d originally anticipated; I work a lot of hours, but I’m grateful to have the work and know that I’m very lucky. I’m just starting out so I hope to be able to find a good work-life balance in the near future.

Susana Gurrea A Super Scotland Sticker Book

Pipers piping on the Royal Mile

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

Yes, I have a lot of favourites, from classic authors like Maurice Sendak, Anthony Browne, Edward Gorey, Eric Carle, Carme Solé Vendrell, Quino, Ibáñez… to more contemporary authors like Beatrice Alemagna, Kitty Crowther, Marc Boutavant, Carson Ellis, Tor Freeman, Marta Altés… the list is endless!


Susana Gurrea A Super Scotland Sticker BookAbout the Book

Discover the most famous places and sights in Scotland with this fun-filled sticker book — with more than 250 stickers!

Visit cool castles, have fun at the Edinburgh festival, spot noisy bagpipes and even meet the Loch Ness Monster!

A Super Scotland Sticker Book, illustrated by Susana Gurrea, is available now!

About Susana Gurrea

Susana Gurrea is a children’s book writer and illustrator from Barcelona, Spain.

Why not discover more about how the Kelpies books are helping to make the Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology 2017 fun for children over at Books From Scotland.

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#FlorisDesign Illustrator Interview – Vanya Nastanlieva

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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#FlorisDesign Illustrator Interview: Yuliya Somina

Today #FlorisDesign is talking to Yuliya Somina, illustrator of our new Young Kelpies series, Porridge the Tartan Cat, penned by Alan Dapre. Featuring the world’s only tartan cat, this fun series features Yuliya’s zany and engaging black and white illustrations of Porridge and the McFun family.

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

I was basically born with a pencil in my hand. I’ve been drawing my whole life and always wanted to be an artist. I studyied in different art studios during my childhood and then graduated from Moscow State Art College with a degree in Fine Arts and Art Teaching.

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

Originally, my dream was to work in animation, so after graduating I joined the well-known Moscow central animation studio “Souzmultfilm” as an artist and started on a long, wonderful journey of learning my craft. Back then it was all done by hand! Some of our animators and artists also had occasional work illustrating children books – a fact which was not widely broadcast. I think in the times of the USSR it was frowned upon to have a second, freelance job. But after a few years I moved to London with my British animator hubby. It was the end of my career in animation; it was not the same over here. The next, logical step was to try to make it as an illustrator. I found an agent and the rest is history.

 

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

Line work has always been my strong side so I try to use it as much as possible in my illustrations. I do it by hand by using ink and pen. For the colour illustrations I usually use watercolours, but recently I’ve started getting more and more in to mixed media using watercolour pencils, different inks and whatever I can get my hands on. Sometimes, if the job requires it, I do line work by hand and add colour digitally, which is great fun to do. But that almost never happens, publishers seem to prefer my styles worked by hand. Frankly, digital art looks a little bit dead to me.

 

Where did you draw inspiration for your Porridge illustrations?

I just love drawing and it all comes from my imagination. I love cats and I have one but he mostly eats or sleeps. Calling him my Muse is a big stretch!

 

Would you fancy owning a cat like Porridge?

Yes, that would be fun! My cat, Frankie, just sleeps, eats and сhews cardboard boxes!

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What sorts of things do you most enjoy drawing?

Anything as long as it’s funny, unusual, mad or silly. I don’t like realism. I also like a challenge, something I haven’t done before, like a tartan cat, for example!

 

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

Yes, it’s worth leaving it alone for a while and starting on something else. Your brain will continue thinking of ideas and I find that the harder the problem, the better the outcome. I also like working on my visuals while walking or swimming. Another thing is to try to look at the situation from a completely different angle. But the main thing is not to panic, it will come!

 

Porridge keyboard

Is working as an illustrator what you expected?

I don’t know if I had any expectations but I am happy when I have work and slightly fall apart when I don’t. Sometimes it feels very lonely just sitting by yourself working at your table. Other times it feels fantastic when it’s raining outside and you don’t have to travel anywhere and you can just sit in your pyjamas with a cup of tea and draw pictures for a living! What could be better?! When new books are published, when you get awards, when books you’ve illustrated become bestsellers – those are the amazing highs for an illustrator. Luckily illustrators don’t have to be invisible people behind the pictures any more. You can exhibit your work on digital platforms; you can introduce yourself and talk to your readers. All modesty aside, recognition is a very important thing for creative people. There is another important side to my work. I’ve always wanted to work for Russian publishers as well as British. I love my country and want to be part of its culture so that’s been happening as well. Luckily in the digital age it’s not really important where you live.

 

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

A lot of my favourite illustrators are the Russian ones from my childhood and I still have a collection of their books. There are so many amazing artists out there and I am eclectic in my tastes, I find a new favourite every day. The only thing I would say is that I prefer illustrators who work traditionally by hand, I think there is more life to it.

To see more of Yuliya’s work you can visit her website.

For more information about the author of the Porridge the Tartan Cat series visit Alan Dapre’s website.

9781782503552T9781782503569he first two books in the Porridge the Tartan Cat series are out 16th February 2017.

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