#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…
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.