Welcome to my monthly interview feature! I’m so excited to be interviewing all the fabulous artists, illustrators and designers I’ve meet over the years (both personally and virtually!) and sharing their artwork and experiences here on Bird Meets Worm. Look for a new interview on the first Tuesday of every month. (Note this month is an exception due to my summer family travels!)
This month I’m so happy to be chatting it up with the lovely Illustrator, Maria Mola! Maria is a fellow Tugeau2 Artist and I had the pleasure of meeting her in person in Chicago, while attending Book Expo America in May. I love her beautiful artwork! Maria is from Barcelona, Spain, but she currently lives in Chicago with her husband and their two little children. She is passionate about bringing her art to the children's picture book industry. She creates her work both digitally and in traditional media, often combining both. She especially enjoys bringing new characters to life. When not creating children's book dummies, she enjoys playing with her children, reading and photography. Most of the times doing everything at once—with a cup of coffee, of course! You can view more of her artwork here!
|Hopping over the world! Wheee!|
Q: How has your time living in both Spain and the United States influenced and inspired your artwork?
A: My interest in illustration started in 2007 in Barcelona when I enrolled an illustration course, that same summer we moved to the US. In that course I was introduced to European illustrators and classic international children's illustrators. When I arrived to the US I noticed a big difference in styles when I researched at bookstores and libraries. I felt that in general in Europe there was a more free style, eclectic scene. In the US in general there was a more dominant realistic style, with mostly classical mediums like watercolor or oils. Instead, in Europe there was more of a mixed media, acrylics with pencils, collage, digital. Over the years though, this difference in style has been becoming more and more subtle, and I can see more eclectic styles here in the US as well.
I feel I have been fortunate as an illustrator to have received influences from these different markets. I think exposure to different contexts results in richer perspective that translate into an artists' work.
|Aren't these colors & textures SO dreamy?!|
Q: Dish with us a bit about your creative process! How does yours begin—set the stage for us: workspace, materials, habits? How do you approach sketches? Finished color art?
A: I love to work with acrylics or watercolors. But after I finished my first book using acrylics, I realized how much time consuming and messy it could get, and transitioned to digital media. I learned how to combine digital tools with some handmade textures to add a more natural feeling. I still remember drawing with a mouse for a while! And how magic was the feel of my first little tablet with a pen!
Now I usually make everything digitally from sketches to artwork, mostly using Photoshop. But I still fantasize on getting my hands on real paint, especially when my eyes get so tired to look to a screen.
Q: As a freelance Illustrator, juggling 2 energetic little boys and an art career, in what ways to do seek balance in your life? (As a fellow Illustrator Mama—this is one of my favorite questions!!)
A: This is one of my favorites too. As a reader of your blog and these interviews, I am always curious to check how other artists juggle family/work, what is the formula.
This is a question that I am revisiting every single day when I wake up!
This past year my older son started kindergarten, and my little one is at preschool 4 days a week. So, in theory, I am working the mornings of Monday through Thursday. That is in theory, because every week there are different issues. Two different schools means twice the amount of teacher training days, field trips and bugs that the kids can catch (and later spread to the rest of the family!), so it is rare to have a full week of work.
When I have deadlines I try to make more time waking up earlier, around 4.30am-5.00am, but of course my kids have a sensor and detect that I am around and wake up earlier too...I love the quiet and the focus of that first coffee.
|Super Illustrator Mama in action!!! Go, Mama, go!|
Because I work at home the family/work boundaries are more compromised. Sometimes I am with my kids and I have to fight the thoughts about everything else 'I should be doing', and when I am working and they are around I have the feeling that I am not fully attending them. Sometimes I feel that it would be ideal to have an office outside the house, but at the same time I love to be available and being at home. Actually some of my neighbors and other people I know don't even know that I work. They assume I am a stay at home mom.
As if two was not difficult enough, it turns out that we have another baby on the way (surprise!). I am trying to become more disciplined to get better at balancing family and work. In fact, I remember working very regularly through my boys' naps when they were babies. Wish me luck! In the meantime I am going to keep checking how other artists thrive in this family/balance work.
Q: In children’s publishing so many characters are animals or imaginary creatures, but I absolutely LOVE all your sweet kid characters that are actual people! Chat with us about how to create an original human character and how you approach the design of the character’s style & details.
A: I don't follow a very conscious process. I am very spontaneous when creating characters, I just start to draw until I get something that in a very rough form allows me to connect to one aspect of the character. I love to imagine stories about characters that come from nowhere, there's always something special. Like real people, characters hide a whole life that you as an artist have to connect to and help depict clues for the readers. I must say that the most pleasant part of all the creativity process for me is when all a sudden I realize I am starting to face a new character. From there I try to empathize with the character and try to tell their story. That helps me when adding details or cleaning it.
|Delightful Autumn Leaves|
Q: What was your most treasured picture book as a child? What is your most favorite picture book now? Why?
A: Visually I remember a version of the 'The three little cats', they were like puppets/dolls and I spent hours looking at the details, I enjoyed it so much!
I read a lot of times 'The Little Prince', probably the first time I was too little to fully understand but I reread it several times, and each time I enjoyed something different. It had a mystery that was fascinating. It still has it, and it's probably one of the books that mostly influenced me.
I don't have any particular favorite picture book now. I have lots! And now that I have kids the excuse is solid. ;) I consider myself more of a picture book collector that and illustrator. I love different styles. I love the book as an object. There are so many well thought books. I have just acquired one published by the Tate museum by Alice Melvine 'Grandma's house' with some really lovely illustrations and cut-outs.
|Jump for joy in a poppy field of rainbows!|
Q: Describe your most perfect Sunday.
A: The most perfect Sunday starts with coffee and browsing around news or reading a book while hearing my kids entertained playing. Maybe a brunch in a nice place? I am a homebody, though, so if we have already spent Saturday outside I love to be at home without any scheduled kids outing events.
Thank you so much, Maria, for chatting with us here at Bird Meets Worm!! Congratulations on your new pregnancy! I’ll be sure to keep the illustrator mama tips coming! XO