How a story book for children gets illustrated


The thing is: I definitely cannot draw. Nevertheless, pictures are created in my mind when I write my stories. These mental pictures support the creative writing process. As an author, the story is at the center of my attention. First the text comes into being and then comes the illustration that supports the text.

So far that’s the theory. In practice two people who more or less know each other meet when the illustration process begins. They talk about a text who one of them (me) wrote and the other (Julian) is about to illustrate. At that point of the collaboration between author and illustrator an important challenge begins. Not everything that has been written can be illustrated and vice versa. But how does one reach the necessary reduction while keeping the essential?

We ask that question to the illustrator of Maggy & Max directly: Julian, is the illustration there to support the story or is it a repetition of the narrated text?



 Painting by Julian Vavrovsky


“Basically it can always be both. In my belief it is important to focus on the narrative style. Due to their multilayered content, dialogs or inner monologs can be expressed easier through text. On the other hand, ambiences are captured easier by the illustration. Think of a sunset. The color shading is portrayed better by an illustration while the various emotions which it causes are preferably expressed through the text. In an illustrated story it is nice if both, text and illustration, work complementarily.

As an illustrator, when I team up with authors, I can always observe in the connection of text and picture an intensive contention about those things that will not be either written or shown visually. This method of reduction encourages the reader’s phantasy and imagination. At that point where text and image (and also voice in film) come together, an intriguing narration arises through the sum of the reader’s impressions. I consider it an obligation of the whole team to build the story in such a way that it becomes a whole experience for the reader, spectator or recipient. This process is very important and requires a lot of communication. Although this effort cannot be seen, it is essential to create a good product.”

For Maggy & Max’s book’s illustrations Julian and I speak about every page. I have the final say when it comes to text and Julian when it comes to the idea and composition of an illustration. We decide together what the best text-illustration combo is and which is the best argument. It can happen that a passage in the text or an idea for an illustration is changed under mutual understanding. This way each page receives a preliminary discussion and an agreed upon point of view before it gets illustrated.

And voilá, a text gets illustrated. A book is in the making.



About Julian:

My professional specialization gives life to all kinds of things from sophisticated short film productions to children’s book illustrations. I even visualize special custom wishes as well as works of my own. The joy of visual transformation has no thematic limits independently of whether the subject matter is cardiac valve surgery or Maggy & Max running around trying to catch their next chicken. Therefore, I use various tools that range from handmade models to sophisticated electronic devices and 3D animations. Still, the common denominator of each project is made up of pencil, paper and, naturally, a huge amount of phantasy.

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