This months featured illustrator is Gizem Gözde Uçar. She is a children’s book author and illustrator based in London, from Istanbul, Turkey with a double major in Literature and International Relations at Koc University. She established a workshop called 'Story Workshop.' It is the perfect mixture of interactive storytelling and arts and crafts. She continues to do this around schools and libraries around London.

Look at this silly face! Who would have guessed that little girl posing like she wrote Ernie and Bert, would go on to create picture books?

Here is the undisputed proof that I was born to create picture books!

I'll tell you who, my mum! She witnessed me drawing on pretty much everything even from a very young age: walls, furniture, my legs and at some point, I was so impressed by the Renaissance artists that I started painting a mural on my ceiling. How might you ask? Well, of course by climbing up on top of my wardrobe and laying on that tiny area between the wardrobe and the ceiling and drawing on my back. I wish I had a photo from that time. I always say my first picture book was “published” when I was 7, that is written, illustrated, AND published by me. Oh, and of course, sold by me as well; to my parents! I guess you can say I always liked making up stories and drawing pictures. Lucky for me, now I am doing that professionally.

Rolling on the floor and laughing since 1990.

I was born in Istanbul, Turkey and double majored with a focus on literature. After graduating, I worked for a brief period as an editor before quitting my job to answer my childhood calling and starting my journey as a children’s book author and illustrator. I have illustrated many children’s books for various publishing houses (even illustrated a best seller! WOO!), wrote and illustrated stories for magazines and apps and was part of great exhibitions. The first ever picture book I wrote and illustrated; “Kara Tina” sold 10.000 copies in a very short time after its publication. Even during the pandemic, I did online workshops and met with children for my book. I feel like meeting with children and doing workshops are some of the best parts of my job.

My workshops are a great excuse to dress up as a unicorn or a witch.

I have been doing workshops, and author/illustrator events with children for more than 10 years. I like doing interactive Story and Art workshops where we dance play, sing and draw. I am also very passionate about children’s causes, and I have been volunteering for underprivileged children, painting murals on schools and children’s hospitals.

Reading to children with my puppet Pinky.

I don’t see my illustrations and writing as separate. I feel like I’m a storyteller in different forms. And with my books, I usually use both elements to tell a story. Because words can tell something that images cannot and vice versa. So, I like to use them in conjunction with each other. I don’t like to just portray what’s written; I like to enhance the words and build a bigger world. I apply this approach to my own books as well as the books I am illustrating. If you look closely, there are little details that I like to hide in my illustrations. For example, in every book I illustrated I put a pinwheel hidden somewhere. I like putting cute, little Easter eggs.

Find the pinwheel! For more go to my website and go on a treasure hunt!

If you look closely, there is always another story going on in the background where a character is going through stuff. For example, I have a picture book that has just come out recently in Turkey: “Aklımda Bir Şey Var! (There is Something on My Mind!)” It is a story about a little girl learning to find a place for all the things on her mind. You will see that there is a frog who is not a main character. It is introduced on the first page when the girl likes the frog so much that it stays “on her mind”, and what stays on her mind starts staying on top of her head :) And you can see progressively that as the top of her head gets crowded, the frog starts to get a little bit jealous. So, the frog is not just a prop, but part of the story and I’d like to imagine that the frog has a storyline and going through all these emotions. So, it’s not just the heroine’s story, it’s a big world with intertwined stories where everything has a storyline. When you think like that, the story comes to life. Because even though the focus is on the main character, the children can relate to every other character’s story and emotions.

The cover of my latest picture book: Aklımda Bir Şey Var! (I Have Something on My Mind!)

I love how angry the frog is here.

Meeting with children through my workshops over the years has been so inspirational for me. Even though I’m the one teaching them, I’m learning so much from them. They have a huge imagination and a unique way of looking at life and stories. That's why I try to create a safe space in my workshops that will encourage them to show their uniqueness and experiment with art. And after every workshop, I end up with these amazing, funny, and beautiful memories. For example, in one of the Story & Art Workshops I did recently, I met a little boy who was lovely but had doubts about his drawing skills. He kept asking for my help during the part where I teach children to draw our character step-by-step and that day the character happened to be a giraffe. My aim in these workshops is never to teach how to draw a perfect giraffe. I want them to experiment and not worry about making a perfect giraffe. That’s why after helping him a couple of times, I tried to encourage him so he could give it a try himself. After some encouraging words, it was priceless to see the way he proudly held the giraffe he made all by himself. You can see from the photo below that he didn’t draw a conventional giraffe, but I’m living for these deconstructed giraffes in my workshops. Because the important thing is that he is not afraid of experimenting, not afraid of making mistakes and can find joy in art. If I can touch one children’s imagination and affect their love of art and stories, and then maybe when they grow up, they are inspired to be a storyteller in any way, any form, then I am happy with myself. That’s why I love doing these workshops with children.

The famous deconstructed giraffe and the proud boy behind it.

A photo from one of my elf workshops

I am constantly learning from and getting inspired by all the things around me, and I think evolving is really essential for my art. Lately, I’ve been incorporating collage aspects into my art, such as laces, buttons, yarns, threads and traditional Turkish tile patterns. I’m playing around with these patterns and putting them in place of complicated natural patterns like trees or bushes. Because I feel like nature has these beautiful patterns that I want to symbolise it in an artsy way. I can replicate it, but I want to stylise it. In a way, I believe it is a beautiful metaphor for art and nature.

This artwork was part of a group exhibition in London.

My process is very visual. I love experimenting with colours, patterns, and textures.  I don’t like just doing linework and then colouring it in. I feel like there is chaos in my mind so it’s only logical my approach to art is also a bit chaotic! But I feel like art comes from these chaotic experiments. So, I like to experiment and when I know the structure that I want to do, I like trying out colours, patterns, textures and doing layers over layers. I like paper textures, old letters, and vintage papers. I incorporate them into my illustrations to create that collage aspect of it. I collect and treasure all that stuff to create a beautiful illustration.

I feel like that in my own life, too, I’m kind of a collector of trinkets. I like collecting rocks, and leaves, I like putting little bows and labels on them to remember where I found them. If you’re out, having a good day, just take a rock. That rock is a trinket from that day. So, I like to do that with my art as well. I want my pages to tell a story but also to be a collection of beautiful trinkets coming together to tell that story. I feel like having these trinkets underlines the emotional aspect of my art.

Collecting memories as I collect all these little trinkets.


Me with all my trinkets and my big heart.

I had a very busy and amazing year. I was exhibited in London, Greece, and Serbia, just had a picture book published and I am working on new projects. So excited for what is to come.

In the meanwhile, I am chasing squirrels in the park for a sketch, making up stories and turning them into my next picture book and having deep conversations about why the owl says "who" with 5-year-olds I meet in my workshops.

Gallery of illustrations

*All images: Gizem Gözde Uçar


See Gizem's Portfolio

Follow Gizem on Instagram

Contact Gizem via Email


Ell Rose is the Illustration Features Editor of Words & Pictures.
Find their work at fourfooteleven.com 
Follow them on Instagram and Twitter
Contact them at illustrators@britishscbwi.org

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