Brightness Magazine No 14

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Digital Journal of Illustration |



ABOUT BRIGHTNESS Brightness magazine was founded by Narjes Mohammadi (Hasmik) and Sadegh Amiri in 2016 as a digital magazine to present exclusive interviews with experienced illustrators, whose wisdom and knowledge are treasure troves for young artists. We aim to promote the current works of popular as well as up and coming artists, so that people can be inspired by the beauty and effectiveness of illustration in expressing powerful ideas. For those who want to dive deeper into the wonderful world of illustration we present articles that give valuable insights into the creative minds of the world. We hope you enjoy reading our publications as much as we enjoy publishing them.


We want to change the world with art and love...








Are you interested in submitting to Brightness? If you’d like the chance of being published in one of issue , get in touch via this page. Please note that we receive many submissions each day and have limited space in each publication. So show us the work you’re most proud of or the work you specially enjoy creating.

Submission Info Email your submission to with “ART SUBMISSION” in the subject line. • Submit images as JPEGs or GIFs • Submit up to 5 images • Image sizes should be at least 600px wide and no more than 1000px wide


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SPOTLIGHT | 18 Racheal Bruce

THE FIVE CHILDREN’S BOOKS... | 22 Katherine Rundell |



THINGS NOT TO DO | 36 Exclusive Interview with MONKC


Exclusive Interview with NAKKE VAN LOO


In This Issue of

Brigh |6

The Man Who Souled The World

htness 8

Mark Smith

Editor In Chief

Creative Director & Art Director

Web Design

Hasmik (Narjes Mohammadi)

Sadegh Amiri


International Contributors


Sales & Marketing

Concha Pasamar | Ana Rodriguez Ali Ghafele Bashi

Darya Ghafele Bashi

Brightness Studio

cover :I llustration by

Special Thanks To


M ark S mith

Mr.Keyvan Ghafele Bashi

a s k q u e s t i o n s a b o u t y o u r s u b s c r i p t i o n , p l e a s e e m a i l u s at:


w w w. b r i g h t n e s s m a g . c o m

Š All Rights Are Reserved.


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Natalie Pudalov

Mark Smith



Exclusive Interview

The Man Who Souled

The World Mark’s work has featured in magazines, newspapers, books and advertising campaigns around the world for clients including The New Yorker, ESPN The Magazine, Rolling Stone, Time, Penguin Books, Mother Jones, GQ, The Folio Society, The Financial Times, The Guardian, The New York Times and many more. His particular take on the world has won him recognition and awards from the NY Society of Illustrators, American Illustration, Luerzers Archive, SPD, 3X3 Magazine, Communication Arts, LA Society of Illustrators and the V&A Illustration Awards, stand out’s include a silver medal from the NY Society, the Patrick Nagel Award for Excellence from the LA Society, a Gold Medal from The Society of Publication Designers and the Best in Show award from 3X3 Magazine.


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Mark Smith

Exclusive Interview

1. When did you start to dedicate to the world of illustration? Around 10 years ago. I spent years in really poorly paid and wholly unsuitable jobs and when I couldn’t stand this any longer I applied for the illustration degree at a local university and it all snowballed from there. 2. How do you describe your illustration style? I haven’t got a name or a description for it really, for me the style is just a platform to be able to express my ideas from. I suppose the style represents something about me but I’m not sure I’d want to put too much thought into what that might be! 3. Tell us about you and how do you develop the story and structure? I don’t really like unnecessary detail in any aspect of life and this is no different for my work. I try to boil a story down to it’s essential parts and just illustrate that. This usually involves going too far which ends up with an overly-simplified image that needs extra detail in order to keep a viewers interest but I try my best to keep the concept as simple as possible. I’ve always identified with a ‘less is more’ approach. 4. You’ve done many illustrations for magazines’ cover and newspaper, what is the best and worst things as an editorial illustrator? I really like the quick turnaround with editorial work, I’m not a fan of stewing on a project for too many months at a time. I’d struggle to pick out a downside to it really, I’ve done some pretty awful jobs before I started illustrating for a living so even the bad points of editorial illustration are great! I guess when you get a brief that you can’t quite crack it can be frustrating, sometimes it takes longer than others and you never really know how much time to put by for a job. 5. What is the difference between editorial illustration and other ones? Editorial is all about the concept, publishing is all about the emotion and advertising is all about the aesthetics. The best illustrators manage to roll all of these into one (if you ever find out how, be sure to let me know!) 6. Where does an idea come from to design a cover? It’s inspired by the text but I guess you could say that the actual idea comes from the lifetime of experiences that an illustrator brings to a brief. It’ll be informed and possibly even limited by the style they’re working in, what mood they might be in on that particular day and a whole host of other factors. Basically it’s from the text though :) 7. What is the most important things to do an editorial illustration? What challenges do you expect in this job? The most important thing is being able to recognise the fundamental element of the article and being able to transfer this to an image. Some stories are easier than others depending on how the article was written. If a journalist is trying to make several points in the text it can make life a bit more awkward but most articles will have an obvious agenda. 8. Once the magazine is published, do you ever wish to go back and tweak that illustration? Has it ever happened that you had what seemed to be an even better idea after the process has been completed? There are some that I did years ago that I’d do differently now but most of the time, once the job is finished I’m straight onto the next job so I don’t get much time to go back and reconsider. There have been times where I’ve felt like there was a better idea somewhere that I couldn’t quite find but that’s the nature of the job, I do my best in the time that I’ve been given. I think I’m getting better a recognising when my thinking is getting too ‘tight’, and finding ways of loosening up.

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Mark Smith

9. What’s the weirdest client feedback that you’ve received so far, if you don’t mind sharing? The feedback is usually straightforward, although I’ve had people see ‘lady-parts’ in my images that weren’t actually there, I don’t think they liked the way that I sketched out some curtains! 10. The illustrations are wonderfully vivid. Can you tell me a bit about your technique and the materials you use? My technique is very simple, I sketch everything out in pencil first, and then scan it all in and colour it in photoshop. I’ve got a big library of textures that I use for blocking-in, they’re all hand made with printing inks on different types of paper, I prefer to make my own than to use ‘off-the-shelf’ textures. Caran d’Ache pencils on Fabriano paper are my favorites for the drawing and I use a 24” Wacom Cintiq for the digital stuff.

to the mid 90’s, that’s all I wanted to do back then and there was a lot of innovation in that scene at the time. It was a very ‘diy’ attitude as well, lots of small companies making things work for them in their own way. If you haven’t seen ‘The Man Who Souled The World’ you should check it out, the story of Steve Rocco pretty much sums up that era. 12. what would you say is your strongest skill? Ah I really don’t know, I think my strongest quality has probably been tenacity but I wouldn’t like to talk about a particular skill. I’m English, we don’t like to talk about ourselves in that way!

13. Can you briefly explain your creative process, mediums, etc? The intellectual process largely involves reading the story/article several times until I really get a handle on what it’s trying to say, at a certain point I’ll naturally 11. who or what has been the biggest single influence on start to imagine metaphors that could sum up the your way of thinking? story as a whole, I start to sketch these down really Probably the skate scene from the mid 80’s through roughly and when I think I’ve got something I like I’ll

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Exclusive Interview

start to fill them out or tidy them up. I might try a few different compositions (at rough stage) for each idea to see how the image communicates most effectively and I’ll get three or four of these ready to send to the AD. Hopefully they love at least one of them, and then I go to final on whichever one they choose. This usually involves re-drawing most of the image to make sure that everything is properly observed and ‘focussed’, I add colour and any textures that I think the image needs and then sit back and have a cup of coffee! The mediums I use are mostly just pencil and printing inks, every now and again I’ll use some brush work for particular details but only where it needs it.

jumble them up and start to combine them randomly to see if anything starts to communicate in the right way. 15. Where do you see yourself in five years’ time? I’m exactly where I want to be right now so I’m hoping for more of the same in the next 5 years. I feel incredibly lucky to be doing this job, it’s given me a sense of self-worth that I wouldn’t have been able to imagine 15 years ago so I’ll just keep doing my best and hope that it’s good enough to allow me to carry on.

16. What is your best piece of advice for young artists who are getting started as an editorial illustrator? 14. How do you come up with new ideas? Do you have a In my experience tenacity is much more important process? than skill, nobody owes you anything in this industry A lot of the time the metaphor’s will just come to me and there’s no reward for sitting on your laurels. Keep as I’m reading the article. When they don’t I find it looking for ways to develop your work, be keenly aware useful to write down any objects that I might be able of your weaknesses and improve them, develop your to use in an image that relate to the text, just nouns network, and get your work out there under the noses at first. When I’ve got a list of these it can help to just of the people that might hire you

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Mark Smith

Exclusive Interview

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Mark Smith

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About my work, I’ve been developing a style over the years that has come very naturally to me. It feels semi-realistic, yet rendered with a painterly quality. Much of my drawing inspirations come from early 20th century Art Nouveau artists, such as Mucha and Klimt, as well as more contemporary illustrators like Edward Kinsella. I love playing with lighting and viewpoints in my narrative pieces, and am currently exploring transferring my illustrations to non-traditional mediums, such as mirrors, eyeglasses and metal. I’m interested in pushing the boundaries of what illustration can be. Sequential art and graphic novels are incredible storytelling tools, and are interactive in way that is similar to film. They call upon the imagination. Night Light is a short graphic novel that I started earlier this year, which uses lighting as a main storytelling component. It is a fantasy/mystery novel that re-imagines the dichotomy of dark vs light, where darkness is safe and light is searing and dangerous. Another recent project is the Nautilus series, which includes the pieces What a Smile Means and Why We Still Need Monsters. The series is based off science articles that focus on cultural and evolutionary anthropology, and use the human figure and short words or phrases as illustrative elements.

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Ra c h e a l B r u c e

I l l u st r a t o r @ r a c h e a l m b r u c e

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The Creative Space Spotlight

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The world is rampantly strange … Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak. Illustration: Maurice Sendak/Penguin

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Katherine Rundell

I have been writing children’s fiction for more than 10 years now, and still I would hesitate to define it; it is a slippery, various, quicksilver thing. But I do know, with more certainty than I usually feel about anything, what it is not: it is not exclusively for children. When I write, I write for two people, myself, age 12, and myself, now, and the book has to satisfy two distinct but connected appetites. My 12-year-old self wanted autonomy, peril, justice, food and above all a kind of density of atmosphere into which I could step and be engulfed. My adult self wants all those things, and also: acknowledgments of fear, love, failure. So what I try for when I write – failing often, but trying – is to put down in as few words as I can the things that I most urgently and desperately want children to know and adults to remember. Those of us who write for children are trying to arm them for the life ahead with everything we can find that is true. And perhaps also, secretly, to arm adults against those necessary compromises and heartbreaks that life involves: to remind them

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that there are and always will be great, sustaining truths to which we can return.

When you read a children’s book, you are given the space

to me, of hope. The books say: look, this is what bravery

to read again as a child: to find your way back, back to the

looks like. This is what generosity looks like. They tell me,

time when new discoveries came daily and when the world

through the medium of wizards and sexy Jesus lions and

was colossal, before your imagination was trimmed and

talking spiders, that this world we live in is a world of people

neatened, as if it were an optional extra. But imagination

who tell jokes and work and endure. Children’s books say:

is not and never has been optional: it’s at the heart of

the world is huge. They say: hope counts for something,

everything, the thing that allows us to experience the world

bravery will matter, wit, empathy, love will matter. These

from the perspectives of others, the condition precedent

things may or may not be true. I hope that they are.

of love itself. For that we need books that are specifically WH Auden wrote, in an essay on Lewis Carroll: “There written to give the heart and mind a galvanic kick –

are good books which are only for adults, because their

children’s books. Children’s fiction necessitates distillation;

comprehension presupposes adult experiences, but there

at its best, it renders in their purest, most archetypal forms

are no good books which are only for children.” I would not

hope, hunger, joy, fear. Think of children’s books as literary suggest that adults read only, or even primarily, children’s vodka.

fiction. Just that there are some times in life when it might

Above all, children’s fiction spoke to me, and still speaks be the only thing that will do.


Stories as parables … Paddington Takes the Test. Photograph: HarperCollins

There’s a vivid and obvious lesson in Paddington, about refuge. Paddington turns up at our door, with nothing to commend himself but his existence and his excellent hat, and we must take him in. We must cherish him, because he lives – and Michael Bond is telling us, like William Blake before him, that everything that lives is holy. But there’s more: for Bond, I think, structure is a form of metaphor, and the stories can be read as parables. So each individual Paddington story usually has some kind of mishap: for instance, Paddington drops a sandwich; a man slips on it. Disaster! But then the man proves to be a burglar, and his stolen goods spill out at the bear’s feet: triumph! The books tell us that if we zoom out we will see that inside each disaster there is a cog, propelling us towards potential goodness. Baked into the structure of the stories, small as they are, is Bond’s colossal central truth: larger than the world’s chaos are its miracles. Paddington asks us to trust, if only for a brief gasp, for the length of the book, in the world’s essential nobility. The books are oxygen for those, like me, who doubt. | 23

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Children’s books say: the world is huge. Hope counts for something, bravery will matter, wit, empathy, love will matter

Lyra, Pullman’s ferocious heroine, one of the greatest ever written, a girl with quick wit and tooth-and-claw loyalty and a loose hand with the truth, voyages to the underworld. At first, on meeting the harpies who guard the realm of the dead, she lies – tells them what she thinks they want to hear. The harpies go for her, dive‑bombing her and scraping at her skull with their talons. And so instead, she tells her own story: about pain, loss, hope and grubbiness, love and mistakes. The harpies listen. Lyra’s companion asks why they did not attack, this time: “‘Because it was true,’ said No‑Name. ‘Because she spoke the truth. Because it was nourishing. Because it was feeding us. Because we couldn’t help it. Because it was true.’” The harpies make a bargain: if each soul has paid heed to the world and has a story to tell of it, and they tell it truly, they will be led through the darkness to the other side. Rigorous attention, wakefulness to the world’s beauty, for Pullman, is what life demands of us. He has that in common with the philosopher Iris Murdoch, another writer I love, who decreed that attention was the foundation stone of love. We must learn, in Pullman’s universe, to watch the world with intense and generous care. We must learn to tell stories, his books say, whether it comes naturally or not – because it is the best and sometimes the only way we have to exchange truth. | 24


Ferocious heroine … Dakota Blue Richards as Lyra, with Nicole Kidman, in The Golden Compass. Photograph: Laurie Sparham/New Line Cinema


Stark strangeness … Max Records in Where The Wild Things Are. Photograph: Matt Nettheim/PR

“But the wild things cried, ‘Oh please don’t go – we’ll eat you up – we love you so!’ “And Max said, ‘No!’ “The wild things roared their terrible roars and gnashed their terrible teeth and rolled their terrible eyes and showed their terrible claws but Max stepped into his private boat and waved goodbye.” There are as many interpretations of Where the Wild Things Are as there are people who have read it, and it means something very different when you are 30 from what it meant when you were three. I think it’s about the ferocity of love; about how we devour each other, and are devoured. It’s also about, I think, the stark strangeness of the world. Max returns home to find his dinner “was still hot”. According to Sendak, his editors wanted him to cut or change that line, because it was impossible – or at least to edit it, to a more believable, “and it was still warm”. In an interview, he said: “‘Warm’ doesn’t burn your tongue. There is something dangerous in ‘hot’ … Hot is the trouble you can get into. But I won.” The world is, after all, rampantly strange. Children deserve books that are so too.


A story about finding your place and your people … One Dog and His Boy. Photograph: Scholastic

ONE DOG AND HIS BOY BY EVA IBBOTSON In a world that prizes a pose of exhausted knowingness, children’s fiction allows itself the unsophisticated stance of awe. Eva Ibbotson escaped Vienna in 1934, after Hitler declared her mother’s writing illegal; her work is full of an unabashed astonishment at the sheer fact of existence. In One Dog and His Boy, Hal, a child with everything he could wish for except love and care, releases five dogs from the cruel Easy Pets agency. He and his friend Pippa and the small sea of dogs go on the run to his grandparents’ home. On the way, each dog finds the place in which they can be themselves; the Pekingese Li-Chee, who once guarded the temples of monks, lying at the feet of a girl in a foster home; Francine the poodle, a natural comedian, performing in a travelling circus. It’s a story about finding your place and your people; about not pausing or doubting until you find them. It’s also, like many of Ibbotson’s books, a shot across the bow at an increasingly consumerist world; Hal’s parents shower goods on him, “a gift pack from Hamley’s and another from Harrods … but in the whole of the house there was nothing that was alive”. It’s a sharp attack on the tide of acquisition that threatens to swamp us; to keep your neck above it, the book tells us, you must find something alive to love, be it beast or man, and hold on with both hands. Keep close, because the world will be cold, and frenetic and plastic, and only with each other will we make it.

I love Peter Pan for being so entirely itself, not a diluted version of some other, adult thing. It offers up to us its own defiant logic, for Neverland is the place of the free experiment of the imagination. “Of course the Neverlands vary a good deal. John’s, for instance, had a lagoon with flamingos flying over it at which John was shooting, while Michael, who was very small, had a flamingo with lagoons flying over it.” And I love Peter himself: Peter is joy but he’s also a threat: he’s the id and the ego, the danger of being kidnapped by desire, he’s dark and capricious. He’s Pan. Barrie would argue that adults cannot go to Neverland. He writes: “On these magic shores children at play are for ever beaching their coracles. We too have been there; we can still hear the sound of the surf, though we shall land no more.” We adults, Barrie tells us, cannot return to that same reckless and freewheeling imagining. I disagree: I think the books summon up inside us the riotous, Panian parts of ourselves. I think, with Barrie’s aid, and with those who have come before and after him, we can sail back to those shores. There might be another lesson, too. Captain Hook, first name James, is an Old Etonian. Barrie writes: “He had been at a famous public school; and its traditions still clung to him like garments, with which indeed they are largely concerned … he still adhered in his walk to the school’s distinguished slouch.” Hook, in his dying moments, thinks of his childhood: of “the playing fields of long ago … or watching the wall-game from a famous wall”. In Barrie’s play version of the story, it is even more explicit: Hook’s last words are “Floreat Etona”, or “May Eton flourish”, the school’s motto. James Hook has been told he deserves everything, and when he does not get it, he attempts to bring destruction to Neverland, in the hope that from its chaos he shall rise. He has elaborate hair, “dressed in long curls”, and “he was never more sinister than when he was at his most polite, which is probably the truest test of breeding”. Beware, the book tells us, pantomimic Old Etonians with unruly hair, who prize good form above truth, and who would seek to rule.

Summing up the riotous, Panian parts of ourselves … Peter Pan. Photograph: HarperCollins | 25

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June Steube


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Exclusive Interview

1. Hi June, tell us about you and what made you want to become an illustrator or artist? As far back as I can remember, making art and reading books has always captivated me. Unfortunately growing up in a northern Canadian town I had no idea illustration could be a career option! While working as a Marine Biologist, I met my husband whose parents were both artists. Their work and passion for art and illustration had a profound effect on me and I enrolled in an MA degree in Medical and Scientific Il-lustration. I was working in Toronto with an agent across all genres of illustration when I came down with a serious illness. It was devastating for me as I was unable to hold a pencil - let alone draw. Over a 15 year period, I slowly regained my strength, working on a personal project illustrating a poem and writing. During this time the world of il-lustration had changed considerably. In 2017, I began working on an entirely new portfolio of illustrations. 2.How do you define your illustrations? My current work is rooted in my pencil sketches. I have been endeavoring to back up in the process and create works that are closer to the original sketch - more immediate and expressive. I love illustrating for children and aim to bring personality, warmth, and silliness to my characters. Themes that speak to our close connection to nature and the animals that share | 27

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June Steube

this planet with us, have always resonated with me. 3. What can you tell me about your publications or books? What is the latest? I’ve illustrated posters, museum exhibits, book and cd covers along with interior illustrations. Recently I’ve started sketches for a book of poetry “A Children’s Zoo” by Henry Beissel. I’ve written and sketched a dummy for a picture book in verse that explores feelings of loss through the lens of special moments and memories with someone we loved. I believe children to be deeply perceptive and that books can be a gentle doorway into what it means to be human. 4. Would you explain more about your books? Do you prefer a philosophical story or fictional? I love all types of picture books but am especially drawn to poetry, humor, and works that delve below the surface and speak to a greater truth. I believe in the power of literature and illustration to challenge our thinking and even affect social change. 5. How many times do you tend to draw a character until it’s right, and also how do you know that it is right? Creating characters continues to be a learning process. Rarely does a character appear with the first sketch? Usually, I work through countless drawings, trying to understand the physical structure while searching for the best way to convey an emotion or spark a moment of recognition. 6. How do you overcome a creative block? I suspect that it’s a common feeling among artists to feel both challenged and enormously frustrated when one’s vision and the work are at odds. At times I need to take a day to draw or paint whatever I feel like. No expectations - just messing about with charcoal or color for the pure joy of it. Rather than wait | 28


Exclusive Interview

for inspiration I will continue sketching and exploring even when the results are disheartening. If I keep at it, I know something that speaks to me will eventually emerge.

8. With what technique are you more comfortable? Drawing! I vastly prefer working in traditional media but if I am strained for time or need the flexibility to make alterations I usually scan the drawing, knock out the whites and apply digital color. Lately, I’ve been experimenting with applying color using transparent oils on sealed paper for a softer atmospheric effect. 9. Have you published outside your country? I have and would say the most memorable was an illustration of a Komodo Dragon for the TriStar Pictures film, The Freshman. The ‘stars’ almost ran me over racing out of their enclosure. 10. How is children’s publishing industry in your country? The majority of Canadian Children’s books come from about 20 publishers and there is a drive to publish original diverse books that make a difference. Canada’s market is small - approximately equal in size to California. Even so, publishers have garnered international awards including Bologna’s Best Publisher of the Year in North America for four years in a row.

I love all types of picture books but am especially drawn to poetry, humour and works that delve below the surface and speak to a greater truth.


7. What is your favorite piece of work in your portfolio? Why did you make it? My current favorite is the polar bear. It’s the first illustration I’ve completed for ‘A Children’s Zoo’ by Henry Beissel. It was very meaningful for me to try to communicate the plight of animals that suffer in captivity for our entertainment. The illustration shows a captive polar bear who dreams of his beloved north and awakens startled, still in the zoo. I enjoyed coming up with the concept and keeping the linework loose and expressive.

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June Steube

11. Is it very different from what is done in your country from other countries? I am not familiar with how publishing works abroad but publishing houses are usually more approachable here than in the US. Most having an open submission policy. Because Canadian publishers are given grants to foster the arts, the creative vision may be less market driven. 12. What are your influences, international illustrators? I love the use of pacing and the atmospheric quality in illustrations by Sydney Smith and Daniel Miyares. Beatrice Ale-Magna’s poetic vision and Dani Torrent’s use of point of view and expressive line al-ways inspire me. Wolf Erlbruch makes me laugh and I adore the tenderness of Komako Sakai’s work. For dramatic textural illustration, I am inspired by the haunting tonal il-lustrations by Jim Kay, Yulja Blucher, and Slava Shults. Rebecca_Dautremer creates another world and I keep returning to the simple perfection of Lisbeth Zwerger. 13. What do you think about e-books and apps like a new field of the job? There’s a magic when entering another world by opening a beautifully illustrated picture book and yet creative opportunities come in many forms so, anything that expands the field for illustrators is welcome. 14. Can you give some advice to any illustrators out there who may be looking to become a children’s book illustrator? Strive to stay true to your vision and your own voice. Immerse yourself in all forms of art and children’s books, studying their use of pacing, page turns and point of view. Draw incessantly. 15. How do you think online design resources have influenced the art being produced today? Social media keeps pumping out the images and it is more obvious than ever which types of illustrations are in demand. It may be very tempting to emulate those styles in the hopes of getting published. In North America at least, animation and games have heavily influenced children’s book illustration, but there will always be maverick publishers that seek out unique voices in children’s publishing. | 30

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June Steube

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Around The World

Viktoria Schmidt Butterfly project is a project born out of my curiosity for the world of insects, these tiny beings without whom we cannot exist. This project follows the adventures of a red-headed girl. This young girl, captivated by the beauty of a butterfly is guided to a parallel universe, in which living beings go through various stages of metamorphosis. These beings perceive the world differently. They practically live in another dimension. Can a mosquito hear music? What does the world look like through the eyes of a dragonfly? What language do ants speak? I hope to raise awareness for the magnificent variety of insects, their life cycles, their way of perceiving the world, and their process of metamorphosis. They are magical beings that are worth discovering, and whose lives we are threatening, and along with them our own.

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VIKA Hello everyone, my name is Viktoria and I have created my own dress shop The uniqueness is that I am the author of prints and designer and owner, everything at once. Since 2017 it has been my art space (located in Kazan, Russia) where I have made honey stuff for princesses. It is my personal prints and illustration for lovely items that bring happiness and joy. Hope to create more to bright this world.

Marco Somà Marco Somà works as illustrator of children’s books, he teaches illustration and carries out educational activities for children. His books have been published by various publishers in Italy and abroad. His illustrations have been selected in numerous international competitions including the Bratislava Biennial of Illustration in 2013, the illustrators exhibition of the Bologna Children’s Book Fair in 2011, 2013, 2014, 2016, The Original Art Exhibit of the Society of Illustrator’s NY in 2017 and the Nami Concours 2019. Story title The seller of happiness Materials and techniques Pencil and digital collage Synopsis Since they say that happiness is the most important thing, when they decide to sell it, in small jars and family packs, there is immediately a row. Too bad that when the seller of happiness goes away, a jar falls and then the truth is revealed. Happiness can not be sold or bought. | 35


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E XCLUSIVE INTERVIE W WITH MONKC Born in Havana, Cuba, Monkc obtained a bachelor’s degree in Graphic Design at the Higher Institute of Design (ISDi) in his same town (2010-2015).

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1. Tell us about you and when did you decide to be an illustrator? Hi, I am Monkc, Cuban, poster designer and illustrator. I live in Havana. I was born in 1991, at the height of what was known as the “Cuban Special Period”, shortly after the Soviet Union’s fall. Between 2010-2015 I studied graphic design at the Higher Institute of Design in Havana. I never thought to become an illustrator. Actually, my diploma project and one of my prospects at the time of my graduation was to become a typeface designer. I began to illustrate professionally in 2016 when the independent journal Periodismo de Barrio asked me to be part of its team of illustrators. My work had a great reception and without noticing, the next year I had become one of the main contributors. Today I have the pleasure of having worked with some of the most talented and recognized independent means of communication in Cuba. I thank them all for their trust in my work. 2. Do you personally find the process of working within self-imposed constraints or rules helpful to your work? Sometimes it helps. Especially when I assume the rules unconsciously without affecting creativity. Let’s call these rules “things not to do”. For instance, do not constantly repeat the use of a symbol, rhetoric or message. This helps you not to settle into your comfort zone and leads you to look always for different solutions. I am one of those who likes to question the rules, ways of doing things and assume the illustration.

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Exclusive Interview

3. What inspires your work? Sadness, yearning, the relation of power in society and affective relationships between lovers, friends and family. Injustices of the world mainly those of governments and their politics. Environmental catastrophes vs our planet and its well-being. Always the sea. Always the forest where I dream to live. Aesthetically, I love modern industrial design and Scandinavian furniture and interior. I love Japanese minimalism in arts, colors and shapes, the Italian life style and the Renaissance, the geometry of Bauhaus and all the Soviet realism in graphic design. 4. Does your work represent your personality? Yes it does. Constantly. 5. Do you want to carve out a consistent and recognizable style, or are you willing to push and explore different directions as time goes by? To this day, I continue polishing my style. I feel happy and I do not regret anything of what I have done. I think that the style is something that I don’t care to keep or change. I leave that to destiny and to the natural person’s evolve. If one day I feel that my style has to be modified, I will do it. I think we live a very short life to be always doing the same.

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If we are really honest to ourselves, even if we wanted to do different things, people will always identify our work with us, those who know how to observe well, because unintentionally, our inner ethos, which is different from everyone else’s, will be exposed. 6. What is the difference between editorial illustration and other ones? The use changes in each type of illustration. Every type of editorial illustration has in common that they’re based on a content “text”. The rest of the types of illustration might not necessarily be inspired in any text. The coexistence of editorial illustrations with an explicit or implicit text is what makes them different from the rest. They are also created for readers who will find the illustration playing the role of a companion. You should efficiently call the reader’s attention, but not excessively, since its purpose is to invite them to read the content. On the other hand, the other types of illustrations are created for observers. For example, illustrations for posters. It is also proper of each illustrator to define the synthesis level according to what each project needs. 7. Your editorial illustrations seem to be about distilling the main subject into a single, powerful, thought-provoking idea. Is there any sort of organized process behind this, or more of a sudden bolt of inspiration? | 40

Exclusive Interview

I do not consider myself a person who organizes his future personal projections in illustration. I leave my mind free for creation without barriers. Most of my works are the effect of sudden inspirations. To tell you the truth, everything I have organized before has not been done for a reason or another. The best things are those that happen without planning. 8. What’s the technical process? Pen-and-paper first, and then transition to digital tools? Exactly. I make small sketches with graphite pencil on paper, sketches smaller than the little finger of my hand in search of the best ideas. Once I am sure that one or some of them could break a leg then I transfer them to bigger drawings which fit the final size and format. Finally, I scan the drawing and work digitally on it. 9. How do you preserve color fidelity when the final product is targeting print media, such as magazines or book covers? It is horrifyingly difficult to maintain the reliability of the printed color. Here in Cuba we do not have printers with lot of experience in printing. There are few who really know how to understand these machines. In Cuba, a remarkable technological underdevelopment has resided for a long time. This caused a notable backwardness | 41

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in our actual experience with printing technology. I work with OSX system, it is the most reliable in terms of color, but it causes notable changes when the printer uses a different operative system, the most common in Cuba being Microsoft. In my country, due to the embargo and tense relations with the USA, the use of Mac technology is scarce. 10. What challenges do you expect in this job? I have not published my first illustrated book yet. Personally, I wish to do that soon. I hope to find a publishing house which share similar feelings with my work. I would love to see in my old years a graphic memory where I could see through its layers of paper my past years, my best and worst days of creation. 11. Where do you see yourself in five years’ time? I would like to see myself collaborating in a publishing house or a newspaper. Continue creating posters for art festivals, films and operas. I wish to get up every morning, drink a cup of tea and eat fruits in the afternoon while I look through the window at the dark, vast, green and damp forest. In five years’ time I want to see myself still doing the work I love so much: illustrate. | 42

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Nakke Van Loo

Exclusive Interview


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Nakke Van Loo

Nakke, could you tell us a little bit about your background and how you got into illustration? Is it something you have always done? Art was rather a late calling. Even as a child I wasn’t into drawing. On the contrary, I was an outdoor kid: hanging in trees, building camps, treasure hunts,…. That was more my kind of play. Only at a later age, in my twenties, I accidentally got into design. After having followed a ‘Shoe Design’ training in Italy, I continued to design & sell shoes for the next 20 years. Especially designing these shoes could be considered as the breeding grounds for my creativity. But only a few years ago, after being diagnosed with breast cancer, I realized I needed to seize this opportunity and take the time to search for my real passion. Art it was! I enrolled at the Academy of Arts and started the ‘Illustrative Design’ classes even before starting the treatment.

What made you want to become an artist? It definitely wasn’t a conscious choice nor an objective. Sometimes I’m still somewhat surprised to being considered as an artist by my relatives and friends. Especially since I’m still evolving and developing my own visual language. However, I do find it very satisfying to be able to share my perception of the world through art with others.

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Can you remember some of your earliest influences? Nature is definitely my first love. As mentioned before, I was always outdoors as a child, looking for ‘treasures of nature’; nothing escaped my searching eye. I collected all my treasures in nice little boxes…. These were my toys. Later on I spent all my pocket money to beautifully illustrated books. I was an obsessed bookworm. Especially Joanna Conceja was and still is my inspiration; her work deeply touches me.

What resources and techniques do you use? I’m omnivorous and get very excited of all possibilities each technique offers. I do have a preference for printing techniques, especially since one can never predict the final result. Playfully experimenting with printing techniques gives a certain stratification to my work. Intuitively I scrutinize my treasures, after which a first sketch often develops into a unique assembly. My greatest satisfaction is providing such a found object its own story and a second life.

What is the best part about creating art using print supplies and found objects? Collecting material and putting different objects together. This is how my fantasy finds its way into form. I love every step of this process and get especially overwhelmed when the puzzle fits. At this point in the process, I’m unstoppable: a high speed train racing through my studio.

Can you tell us about the process of making your work? I’m a very project-minded person, resulting in a similar way of working for every single assignment. The conceptual phase is primordial. I often jot down my ideas, after which the drawing/sketching phase is essential. The search for the best technique for each assignment continues to be very exciting to me. The experiment on itself doesn’t frighten me; no, it often results in unknown, surprising and unique results. My critical eye is seldom satisfied and therefore I continue researching until the desired outcome has been reached. Still, working with a deadline remains a major challenge. The phase for experimentation is then limited.

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Nakke Van Loo

How would you describe your illustrations in three words? Vulnerable, poetic and sober

Would you say that keeping things simple is your strongest skill? Absolutely! Simplifying things is my way of living and working. Reducing things to their core essence. And this also reflects in my work. Cancer strips you from clutter and it fully dismantles. On the other hand, however, it is THE opportunity to reinvent yourself and look for new challenges. My biggest challenge nowadays remains to stick to the essential.

What does your art aim to say to your audience? Not all of my work is telling a story; sometimes you just want to share a beautiful image. Nothing more, nothing less. Softly imaging the fragility and less beautiful elements of ‘worthless’ stuff. The beauty in imperfection… To get this message across is quite satisfying.

What kind of projects have you worked on recently? What was the most challenging? The most rewarding? My most recent project was a research to the relation between old paper and the transient nature of leaves. Old pulverized paper, which turned yellow and leaves evolve along a similar pattern. What happens when we bring together both of these elements? How would old paper withstand modern printing techniques? This was an exciting and enriching journey. My most challenging assignment was, without a doubt, creating an illustration in a political party’s brochure. Politics are something far-off. I wondered whether or not it was allowed to showcase my playfulness. But in the end, I really enjoyed and embraced it. | 50

How much attention do you pay to the feedback of others on your work? Honestly? Being judged by others remains a challenge. Over the years, however, I do notice that gradually its importance is being channelled. There is no such thing as negative feedback. Valuable feedback is feedback that allows you to grow.

What would you do if a client kept rejecting all the drafts you presented them? I usually intuitively feel a connection (or not) with my (potential) client. My visual language speaks for itself. Since this connection is very significant to me, I don’t think I’ll easily end up in this kind of situation… Nevertheless, should it occur, I would be glad to reference a colleague illustrator ;-)

It is often said that it is hard to make a living as an illustrator. How long was it before illustration became your primary source of income? And how do you keep a constant stream of projects coming in? Mostly exhibitions, solo or with a group, is what provides me breathing space. On top of my illustrative work, my visual language, for instance visual poetry and assemblies, expands my reach. The influx of assignments happens quite naturally by sharing my work through social media.

How do you see the future of illustration in the digital era? Are you optimistic? Rather critically. To my humble opinion, I feel a certain delicacy gets lost with it. The joy of creating works starts with the tactile feel…. Touching all kinds of different textures, playing with it, experimenting… I still have lots of things to tell and share. In which discipline this will materialize is everything but clear. Everything is possible ! | 51

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Brightness Gallery



This section is devoted to the works of some of the best illustrators from all around the world. As with any real gallery, ours too aims to introduce and present those creative and elegant artworks which are created by both of professional and enthusiastic young artists. However, as opposed to the real galleries, this one will not be restricted by physical barriers or geographical borders, which implies that artists could easily connect to a wider range of audience worldwide.

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TheCat The life of a cat in three lines: Having slept, the cat gets up, yawns, goes out to make love.


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