We’ve gotten many insights from first-time authors, now it’s the time of a first-time book illustrator, Tarsila Krüse. Tarsila is the illustrator of Ná Gabh ar Scoil!, which was recently nominated for the CBI Book of the Year Awards 2016. Here, she tells us about how it all came about.
In 2015 I worked with the lovely people at Futa Fata to make the book Ná Gabh ar Scoil! come to life. It is a heartwarming and funny story, written by Máire Zepf, about a cute little bear who is all geared up and VERY ready for his first day of school, but his mum, well, she isn’t really looking forward to it.
The main play on the book is the role reversal between Cóilín and his mum. He’s a highly enthusiastic, reassuring and loving bear and his mum, on the other hand, is very apprehensive and unsettled, especially because it’s such a big change in her life.
When I was approached to illustrate Máire’s story I fell in love with her script and both Tadhg Mac Dhonnagáin, the editor at Futa Fata, and I discussed what we both thought could work visually for the book. Being able to create a visual voice for such a loving and well-humoured story is such a privilege! These are some of the early sketches created to refine the character’s look and feel.
As this was my very first picture book, I was quite nervous, however Tadhg gave me enough freedom to explore different ideas and, at the same time, he knew which direction he wanted to go, which led us to such a lovely book.
I did have to do some (very fun) research about bears in order to create the ‘bear world’ that Cóilín and his mum live in. Panda bears, polar bears, koala bears, black bears and brown bears are all part of it and it was quite interesting to create this unique universe of bear families (and I really loved drawing all of the little bears)!
Once the special bear universe was established, I created thumbnails of the whole book and we worked together to set the best flow and rhythm to the pages so that they could bring out the best in the story and its twists, and once the pace of the book was defined I worked on each page separately, refining and making adjustments and adding details as a refined sketch.
Then I finished the pieces with all sorts of different colours and textures, which is one of my favourite parts of working as an illustrator!
I am so proud to say that Ná Gabh ar Scoil! is my very first picture book and to work on it was (and still is) an amazing experience. It has already been translated and published in Korea and it has been nominated for the CBI Book of the Year Awards 2016. I couldn’t be happier!
The book is available in most Irish bookshops and online and I hope you’ll love it as much as I do.
Photography by Fábio Gibelli.