We have interviewed illustrator Maurizio Quarello about his inspirations and methods in creating the stunning artwork for our new picture book, The Little Eskimo (written by Davide Cali). We hope you enjoy the interview below as much as we did!
1. What materials did you use to create the illustrations for this book? Do you always use these materials or did you choose them for this book?
The illustrations made for this book are oil paintings (oil on paper). Recently, I have worked a lot with oil paints whereas in the past I mostly used acrylics. I am keen to experiment with different mediums, according to each book’s subject.
2. At what stage did you become involved in the book? How did you work with Davide Cali and the book’s French publisher, Sarbacane?
Davide Calì is my fellow country-man who now lives in France. I have known him for many years – before I started my career as a children’s book illustrator, Davide had already been publishing his stories in Italy and in France. I remember him contacting Sarbacane and recommending me as the possible illustrator of his story The Little Eskimo. I have a good relationship with both the author and the publisher, who have always been very open minded and full of respect for the artist’s liberty of rendering of a subject. The only limitation in the case of The Little Eskimo was the technique: the publisher insisted on painted illustrations.
3. Did you have to do any research to draw the world of the Little Eskimo or did it come from your imagination?
I did quite a lot of research before and during the story-board-phase: the Nordic landscapes, the light atmospheres… and I was looking for pictures of the animal-characters (the elk, the walrus, the polar hare etc.) too. The documentation is very important – children have to be able to make out everything they see in a picture book.
4. What was the hardest thing about working on this book? Which illustrations are you most pleased with?
The biggest challenge ever was to create the Nordic glare, to render different moments in the day with light/shadows and particular combinations of colours. The technique helped me a lot: thanks to 2-3 semi-transparent layers of colour, the light atmosphere is very credible – the icy, crystallising air, the sense of coldness and the bright sunlight, so typical for Scandinavian or polar areas. My favourite illustration shows the encounter of the main character with the polar hare for its well-rendered sense of motion.
5. Which children’s illustrator and authors do you admire most?
There are two German artists I really look up to: Michael Sowa who is a sort of an old master painter and Wolf Erlbruch who is a world-famous illustrator. I particularly like the writing style of Irene Cohen-Janca who is a French author (“Les arbres pleurent aussi”, Le grand cheval bleu”). Since my childhood, my favourite non-contemporary author has always been R. L.Stevenson.
6. Which book of yours is your favourite?
I am quite proud of one of the recent publication (2012) I made for the Italian publisher Orecchio Acerbo – “Janet la storta” (by R.L.Stevenson) – a ghost story I really enjoyed illustrating.
7. Are you working on any new projects?
I am working on an assignment for an U.S. company (Sterling) – illustrations for “Rumpelstiltskin” – and on an interesting picture book project with a social subject, inspired on the real story of a famous Austrian football player.
Sincerely, Maurizio Quarello