Friday, 10 October 2014

Featured Illustrator - Julia Walther

Julia Walther is this month's Featured Illustrator. One of the winning artists in last year's Undiscovered Voices, Julia has devoted much of her life to literature, both through studying literature and translation in her native Germany and Ireland, and through working as a translator within German publishing. But her heart was set on writing and illustration, where she's now also beginning to make her mark. Find more of Julia's artwork in the Featured Illustrator Gallery



One fine October day I was wandering through the huge halls of the Frankfurt Bookfair. I’d been there many times before because of my job as a literary translator, but on that particular day I happened to be free to listen to some talks by the German illustration association, to stroll through the exhibition showcasing the most beautiful books and to spend hours among the stalls of children’s book publishers.

That was the day I decided to pursue my dream to become an illustrator.

As soon as I got home I went online and started searching for illustration workshops – anything that would help me along and wasn’t another full-time college course. There wasn’t really much on offer. With one exception: a weekend event near Munich only a couple of weeks later by an organisation I’d never heard of. Ah well, I thought, I might as well give it a go and email them to see if there are still places available. There were.

Bridget, Kirsten and Donna made me feel incredibly welcome, and there was a whole bunch of lovely people there, as there always are at SCBWI events.

That was three years ago and a lot has happened since. Apart from the many inspiring regional SCBWI events, there was the amazing Europolitan conference in Paris in 2013, and I also got to travel to Winchester to experience the great buzz at one of the annual British Isles conferences with all the wonderful people there (including some of the fabulous team behind Words and Pictures – thank you so much for inviting me to be a part of this and for making it all possible!)

One of the highlights was, of course, the day I heard that my illustration was among those to be included in the Undiscovered Voices 2013 publication!

I had chosen that particular story starter partly because I was intrigued by the theatre atmosphere described so vividly in the text. I also liked the challenge to create an illustration that would appeal to a YA audience. It was actually my first black-and-white ink illustration in that style. Here are a couple pictures from the process:



Creating the illustration for UV 2013.
Because I was quite happy with the result and had spent a lot of time thinking about the scene between Ruby and her Dad, I decided to create another two pieces illustrating what I imagined might happen after this first encounter.

My studio space is very flexible: when I’m working full-time on something it tends to spread out from its contained corner to an extra desk and eventually on to the dining table.


Drawing of me working away at my art desk.
The corner desk is great because it has lots of shelves and spaces to store things. Everything has its place because I hate searching for stuff, yet sometimes I feel somebody messed around with my brushes and pens while I was asleep or in the other room working on a translation … 


Mice often find their way into most of my work!
If I had to choose a single desert-island art material it would be my favourite 2B pencil. I’ve always loved drawing and I got my first set of watercolours when I was nine, so I feel pretty comfortable with that medium. Thus, pencil and watercolour is what I choose for most of my illustrations, except the ink drawings. When I’m working on a watercolour piece there usually comes a point when my inner draftswoman starts elbowing her way to the front calling for clearer lines, i.e. some sepia ink, or more contrast between light and dark. That’s why I often add final touches with coloured pencils, but a while ago I discovered the amazing qualities of pastel pencils, which are much easier to blend with the watercolour – especially on coldpress paper.

I can’t see myself ever switching over to digital illustration because I simply love the feel of pencil on paper too much, as well as being surrounded by ink bottles and watercolour tubes. However, I’ve begun to appreciate the advantages of Photoshop, in particular at the sketching stage where you can try out new compositions by moving objects around etc. without having to redraw everything.


Studio space.
Illustration of the corner of my desk.

Over the past three years I've learned A LOT about children’s book illustration, yet there is still SO much more to learn, and sometimes I feel I’m only at the beginning of this exciting journey.
However, so far one of the most important lessons for me was this:
it’s incredibly inspiring, encouraging and invigorating to go to workshops and conferences, to talk to other artists, to read books about art and illustration, to look at art. But what makes me an illustrator is to sit down at my desk, silence the inner critics, pick up a pencil or brush and create new work.







Personal work to illustrate a friend’s story.



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See more of Julia's work in her Featured Illustrator Gallery
Her personal website is here.
To email Julia click here
Julia Walther is represented by Maria Bogade at Wundergarden Agency

12 comments:

  1. What lovely illustrations, Julia, and a nice interview. Thanks for sharing a bit about your work area and process. I enjoyed reading this.

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    1. Thank you so much, Linda! It's really exciting to be a part of this.

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  2. It's wonderful to see new illustrations from you, Julia, and I still LOVE the one of you at your desk. I think it will be my favorite forever.

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    1. You're so kind, Laura! And always among the first to get in touch :-) Hope to see you again soon to chat about books, stories and pictures...

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  3. Yikes - is it three years ago already since I gave that Munich pictrue book workshop for SCBWI! All your work has really paid off. Power to your pencil Julia and best of luck with the next projects!

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    1. Yes, I know, Bridget - isn't that crazy?! I have such fond memories of that workshop though, and am really grateful for your feedback and support since!

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  4. Good luck Julia, you have a strong international platform and fine skills!

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    1. Thanks a million, John! Also for the helpful tips you gave me in February.

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  5. Julia, I love your ink drawings - they have something of a 21st century Aubrey Beardsley about them, your swans are beautiful and it's great to see your process too - Thank you!

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    1. Wow, what a compliment! Thank you so much, Jan. Delighted to hear you like the illustrations.

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  6. Dearest Julia, congratulations! I know you will work your way to the top. keep on..... drawing!
    Ruth

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