Wombat Books Blog

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The heart of the story with Giuseppe Poli

GiuseppePoliCan you tell us a little bit about yourself and how long you've been in the industry?

I'm an artist and creative who has been making things for years. The journey to children's picture books has been a long one and being a children's story creator was not what I wanted to be when I grew up (see my website for more details!) My break into the industry came in 2014 when my first book was published. Today I am working on my tenth and have many other stories in development.

Describe your typical work desk.

Like many aspiring artists, I'm still in the process of making my ideal studio. At present, I have my computer adorned with things that inspire me. Next to that I have a makeshift lightbox and all my colour pencils on display. The best thing I've done so far is group my pencils and inks into colour groups. They look delicious! They are like little fields of flowers and grass and woodland...and they beckon me to pick them up and play. Recently I've drawn portraits of my characters and have them around my monitor too.

I've learned something interesting in the pursuit of a perfect workspace. When I'm in the thick of creating, I'll use whatever space I can find (the floor, dining table, wardrobe doors). When I feel the urge to have my own studio I use it as a trigger to ask myself 'Should I be creating? Am I procrastinating?' and once I get back to work, my workspace angst is no longer a problem!

There is one key way I use my work desk. I finish my night thinking about a creative project and what I'd like to do next, and leave one note of action on the desk for the next day. When I wake up, bleary and tired, I don't need to think, I just do.

What made you want to become an illustrator?

I love making art but I love story more. I'm inspired by films and games and when I looked for a way to build skills in visual storytelling, I found that I had all I needed in a pencil and a piece of paper. From this, I realised children's picture books were an incredible medium and a wonderful opportunity to master my ability to captivate, inspire and grow.

How do you go about designing a character when working with picture books? How does the collaboration between author and illustrator work?

For me, all my design and characters for the book come from my intentions for it. I don't bring my past work into my present project, and try and clarify what the heart of the story is. If the story calls for something I don't have in my tooklit, I work to discover how I can deliver that.

I want people to feel something and there will always be movement in my art. It's at this intention level where I think authors and illustrators collaborate best. The beauty of the author and illustrator collaboration is that we give each other room to shine and together we amplify the story.

The other collaborator that's important to acknowledge is the publisher. There is a reason why you as the illustrator have been chosen. That's the magic of passing over the story-baton to the visual storyteller and seeing where they fly.

Who are your illustration idols?

I admire what Shaun Tan has done for the medium of the picture book. Shaun has walked to the top of the hill of high art and literature, planted a flag for picture books and laid out a picnic blanket for all others to join him. I see picture books as galleries and curated exhibitions, each page a blank wall, curated towards a special experience.

I also love Quentin Blake and think his knighthood for his service to illustration is very cool. Both he and Shaun have opened our eyes to the medium as something that is more than 'just for kids'. A picture book is a moment in time.

Which children's book would you love to have illustrated?

The newly illustrated Harry Potter books by Jim Kay. Wow! I can't wait to get that good. Quentin Blake's illustrations of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory are also enchanting.

Describe your workshop for the Wombat Books Conference.

At the heart of each of my books is my desire to reach a win-win-win: a win for me as a storyteller, a win for the author/publisher and a win for our readers. That pursuit is not easy and I love it, because it forces us to be really creative and in this pursuit we all grow.

I believe that a book that satisfies all these elements can exist, and that product is worth searching for. Finding our way there can be difficult, and this uncertainty is where I feel I can help.

My best successes have come from when I produce work that I love, aspire towards and am proud of. It's not the product, it's the revision that makes art, with taste and with clarity for what you want your audience to feel and you, as a creator, to feel. That's where we push our boundaries.

Every drawing, every thought, every word we write or say is a single step. As a visual storyteller, you are going to be walking a long while. Some of that might be a steep climb, but the beauty of a steep climb is that you are always rising. I can't wait to see you in my workshop, and rise together.

For more great workshops like Giuseppe's, book your tickets for the conference now! Click the image below for more information.

Conference Tiles How to Make Art

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