Last week I was honored to pick the brain of my multi-talented friend and illustrator, Catell Ronca. She really gave some great insight to authors who are curious about what illustrators need/want from them when it comes to the creative process of writing a children’s book. You can read that interview with Catell HERE.
Now I’m going to switch gears and dig deep on what it was that drew (no pun intended!) Catell to the career of illustrating books.
I met Catell in Oaxaca, Mexico in 2004. We were in the same Spanish language class and became friends. At the time I was writing drafts of children’s stories in Spanish as a way to practice my Spanish writing skills, and Catell mentioned that she was an illustrator and was taught illustration to university students in England. I’m so lucky we’ve been able to keep in touch all of these years. She has given me amazing advice over the years and is a constant source of support and inspiration.
Catell was born in Basel, Switzerland. Lives and works in Lucerne. Catell graduated from the Royal College of Art in London and works for a variety of international clients in publishing, editorial, and advertising. Her work is regularly recognized in illustration annuals. Some of her favorite things are the Swiss Alps, hand painted Folk Art and making ceramic objects.
Thoughts From an Artist
Q: Why did you become an illustrator? What do you love about it?
Catell: Because I am a very visual person and I love narratives.
Q: What medium do you use for your illustrations?
Catell: I use colored paper, that I cut out. Then I scan the paper pieces in and make a digital collage. Or I paint and then scan in the painting and process it further digitally.
Q: Your books are on a variety of topics, do you prefer to illustrate people, nature, cities?
Catell: I love anything to do with nature/botany/animals, as I love nature. I also love to paint children from any background doing things.
Q: When illustrating books about children, do you consider the representation of children from different backgrounds?
Catell: Yes, this is very important for me, because it reflects today’s societies we are living in. As I love painting with colors, I have always loved painting people of different colors.
I firmly believe that the days are definitely over when children’s books only show white children or that a niche topic should dictate the ethnicity/gender/disability of the characters. Human society is mixed and this should be highlighted. It should be completely normal to see this reflected in books without it having to be a big deal.
Q: What do you hope your illustrations bring to children?
Catell: -I mostly hope that children will learn from the illustrations and remember them. I also like it, when children discover the little details that I put in the illustrations.
When I was a child, illustrations, especially very detailed ones, used to leave a huge impression on me. That’s what I would love my illustrations to do for children.
Through color-coding in stores, kids “learn” which toys are “supposed” to be for girls or boy. Pink and yellow toys are considered “girly” and anything blue or dark green is obviously for boys, right? What about the toys themselves? Can boys play with dolls and girls play with trucks?
Of course, they can! And that’s the open-minded thinking that is captured in my children’s picture book,Jamie is Jamie.
I wrote Jamie is Jamie for my daughter who’d been told that only boys can play a superhero. My daughter and every other child deserve a book that gives them permission to be free to play and explore their own way-not the way everyone “thinks they should.”
I created my book to challenge gender stereotypes and encourages children to make play choices based on their interests. And because playing is fundamental to learning, I’ve created a special section in Jamie is Jamie for teachers, parents, and caregivers where they can find tips on how to make kids’ playtime learning time.
Afsaneh has been teaching for over 15 years from preschool to graduate school, and is often invited to give teacher training workshops and speak at educational conferences. Her vast experience in working with different ages, academic levels, and cultures has given her the ability to work with anyone and help them achieve their learning goals. She is also the author of Jamie is Jamie.