Interview with Illustrator Sanja Rescek (Little Bear Wakes Up)

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What made you want to be an illustrator?
Since a young age, I have always loved to draw and paint. Even in kindergarten, I had my first job, well, not a real one, but I was asked to paint a poster with a spring theme. I was always surrounded with pencils, papers, these were my favourite toys — apart from Lego blocks.

How did you get started?
As long as I can remember, I always loved to draw. It was just a natural progression from a child who was simply fascinated with the art world. I continued with my passion and I attended School of Applied Arts and Design and after that Academy of Fine arts here I studied graphic design and painting.

How did you get started in children’s books?
I was really torn up when someone asked me what I would like to be. A painter, fashion designer, or an architect were professions that were equally appealing to me, but in the end I chose to go to the graphic design department in college and I never regretted it. Actually, the first children’s book I Illustrated was a very famous book here in Croatia called Mice and Cats Upside Down. It was one of my favourite books from my childhood, so I illustrated it as my Master’s thesis work at the Academy of Fine Arts. A book was published very soon after and I received the Grigor Vitez Award for the best illustrator in Croatia that year as the youngest illustrator in the history of this award.

What is your advice for a beginner artist?
I think the first thing I would say to everyone pursuing a career in art would be to get a good education. Master the technical area of your work and simultaneously develop your own creative and artistic niche. Try to be yourself, a little bit different, and always try to be objective as possible. Walk away and give yourself some distance from the things you made, then come back and see if you would do anything differently. Don’t be afraid to experiment and be inspired by things around you. Even the smallest things, particularly in nature and everyday life, can be a fantastic source of inspiration. I was recently inspired by a butterfly’s wings for my card collection.

What was the strongest influence you had when you were growing up (artists, movies, cartoons, comics)?
Oh, as every child I enjoyed cartoons very much. After I watched Garfield and The Smurfs . I tried to draw my own versions. I loved Minnie Mouse as well. Later, I enjoyed the art of so many artists such as Shaun Tan, Eva Montanari, and other wonderful artists.

What’s your favorite thing to draw? / What is your favorite drawing or painting in your portfolio and why?
Lately, I very much enjoy drawing birds and flowers. I also had a phase of unicorns which
was absolutely so inspiring. I am so glad I found my own artistic language which was quite different from other unicorn images on the market. They truly are an endless inspiration for me. In 2019, my set of cards for Paper Rose was a finalist of Henries Awards for Best Card Range which was amazing. It is very hard to choose which is my favourite, but perhaps one lion image with an abstract, colourful mane. Flower illustrations for textiles are also some of my favourites.

What’s your favorite medium that you work in (Illustrator, InDesign, pencil and paper)?
My personal favourite is Photoshop. I am really at home with this program. I just love working in it and I know all the tips and tricks so it is so much fun to be able to work quickly and get the results I want.

What was it like illustrating Little Bear Wakes Up? What is your favorite page?
Little Bear Wakes Up was such a sweet and fun book. I was immediately drawn to it with amazing text and ideas for roughs popped up in seconds. This happens only when you get a great story, which luckily was a case here. I enjoyed illustrating these lovely winter scenes and creating sweet characters with little funny details (slideshow below). My favorite spread is the one where the animals were making snow angels. I wanted to achieve that satisfaction and happiness on their faces while they are making the snow angels and this illustration always brings a smile to my face.

What’s your favorite thing to do in the winter?
I really enjoy all winter activities with my kids, but probably nothing can beat the good old activities of sledding down the hill and a proper snowball fight 🙂 A warm tea and cookies after that and we are good to go for another round!

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