Mariajo Ilustrajo is the New Talent winner of the Children’s Publishing Category, sponsored by Walker Books. She was also announced as the New Talent Overall Winner on 21 October!

I created Flooded during my Masters Degree in Children’s Books Illustration at Anglia Ruskin for my Diploma Project. The initial idea was almost a script for a movie! A city got flooded and different stories happened to different characters. It was way too long! And I tried to tackle too many things for one project. However little by little I simplified the story to make it more suitable for a picture book.

Brief

My main aim during this project was to explore a new visual language and to bring the freshness and spontaneity of my sketchbooks into final artwork, whilst also maintaining a minimal colour palette.

Research

I wanted to explore a new visual language so I spent a lot of time exploring new ways of working, techniques and materials, such as acrylics, inks, collage, etc. The one I choose at the end allowed me to recreate the freshness of the sketches.

Materials

For the final art I used black acrylic ink, Winsor and Newton white ink and graphite. The colour was added afterwards with Photoshop and it was formatted it in InDesign.

Process

Every project is different, so the approach is different each time. For this one I started with the idea for the story. Once I had a basic story line I started playing with a lot of materials, surfaces, techniques, etc. I did one of the pages more than ten times with different materials and techniques until I found the visual language that I was looking for, and was more appropriated for the story. Funnily enough I ended up eliminating that page from the story at the end! It was a very long process but once I had settled on the visual language, creating new pages from the sketches was very quick and easy. During this process I carried on developing the story and I drew a lot from life at London Zoo. It was very important to make the animals credible!

Challenges

The biggest challenge was to create the story. My initial idea was very long, so reducing  it to fit into a children’s book format, during the time given, with the Masters deadline (3 months) was a bit challenging. I really enjoyed working in this project. It was really fun exploring new ways of working and I realised that the amount of hours I worked on it, whilst not minding the mistakes I made was key to finding new and surprising things.

Insights

I really enjoyed working in this project. It was really fun exploring new ways of working and I realised that the amount of hours I worked on it, whilst not minding the mistakes I made was key to finding new and surprising things.

Distractions

I work as a freelance illustrator, but I must say during this project I worked mostly on this. I had the chance to postpone my freelance work, so I could spend hours and days just focusing on ‘Flooded’. During this time I just stopped to eat and go swimming! Also I often watch ‘bad’ tv series whilst I create final artwork. I am very impatient! This allowed me to be patient with the techniques that required time to dry between layers. If I don’t do that I end up messing up!

Numbers

The book has 32 pages and one very loooooooong concertina in the middle. For the process I used way to much paper! But also inks, acrylics, watercolours, gouache, etc. For the final art I used 3 bottles of black acrylic ink (I’m not sure all the ink ended up of the paper though!)

Reflections

I would love to work on the story again and perhaps resolve it in a different way. My primary focus was in creating a new and exciting visual language and therefore the story isn’t quite resolved as well as I would like.

Advice

Draw, draw and draw! Especially drawing from life. I think like everything else, to keep practising is key to keep improving and when we draw from life we feed our visual library (proportions, colours and also ideas may occur when we observe). Stay curious and excited! If we enjoy what we do, that excitement is translated to our work!

Future

I would love to publish my first picture book. Hello publishers! 🙂

Dream Commission

I’ve been freelance for a long time and I love the variety of commissions I have been fortunate enough to work on. However my dream commission has always been to publish a big illustrated album. One of those you have on top of the table looking pretty (perhaps about love. I am very cheesy). I would also love to work on a cook book. As a Spaniard, food is a big part of my culture and I always dreamed of illustrating a book with my Mum and Grandma’s recipes.

Favourite Thing to Draw

Animals!

Workspace

At the moment I work from home (a very little house in London) with my boyfriend and two Guinea Pigs. I can’t wait to move to a bigger house and have a room dedicated to my studio (I dream of a conservatory). At the moment my printing press is on top of our dinner table and I don’t have more space for more plants. I need more plants! (shhhh don’t say anything to my boyfriend!)

Thank You

I was visiting my family in Spain when I opened the email that said CONGRATULATIONS in the subject. I just couldn’t believe it! I was so happy I couldn’t speak, but my sister read my mind and we started jumping and hugging and the rest of the family joined us without knowing what was going on! I am very grateful to my teachers and colleagues from my Masters in Children’s Books Illustration at Anglia Ruskin for all their feedback and help in shaping my ideas. During the MA I have been pushed and encourage to explore and pursue new visual languages, and Flooded is a result of this ongoing process. Also a big thank you to my boyfriend for dealing so well with my stress and long hours in front of my desk. Last but not least, thank you very much to the judges who believed in my work. THANK YOU VERY MUCH 🙂

 
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