Interview with Νicoletta Ceccoli multiple-award winning children’s books illustrator

[ 0 ] 02/02/2018 |

Nicoletta Ceccoli, a San Marinian artist, has illustrated over 30 children’s books. Nicoletta has won numerous awards for her artwork, including the Andersen Prize, ‘honoring her as the best children’s book illustrator in Italy’, in 2001, and a silver medal from the Society of Illustrators in New York in 2006. Her work has been exhibited all over the world. She gave me this interview back in 2009, and it was supposed to be featured in SOUL Magazine, Greece, but unfortunately, it didn’t get published. She’s a wonderful artist and this interview shouldn’t remain hidden in my drawer so I’m publishing it on my blog. I hope you’ll enjoy it <3.

1.How would you describe yourself in a few words?

I am a shy, private person, and I think that my drawings tell more about me than any words could do.

2. How did you get started in illustration and what made you focus on illustrating books for children?

It all came out so naturally during my years at the art school (editor’s note; she studied animation at the Institute of Art of Urbino, in San Marino, Italy). I always felt the need to start with stories in creating my artwork. Children’s books and children’s animation are what attracted and inspired me most when I  was at school so I naturally chose to go toward that field. I always loved to create worlds of my own to live other lives different and more magical than the real one.

3. You are also painting, exhibiting works of yours in gallery shows, and creating commission art products. Is that art similar or different from your personal work?

For children’s books, I have to deal with a publisher my choices and I need to apply  to a story with my images. My non-commissioned pieces are only about me, my personal ghosts, my fears, my obsessions.

4. Nominations: which one has been the most important for you and for what reason?

The recognition that made me more happy has been my first selection for the Bologna Children’s Book Show when I was 21. Only a few of the most interesting illustrators in the world are selected. This was during my last year at school and that had been a strong encouragement in that moment of my life when I was full of fears and hope for my future.

5. Your works give a soft, fairylike feeling, sometimes with a little dark twist. What is your source of inspiration that gives such results?

Probably it is a result of the many different things I admire and I am inspired by. I admire Joel Peter Witkin’s photography. He creates beauty far from stereotypes with what is commonly considered disturbing. I love Piero Della Francesca whose paintings are so clean, neat, pure, measured, and classical. One of my favorite illustrators is Stasys Eidrigevicious and his naive dark surrealism. I also love the frozen stillness in the illustrations of the German illustrator  Binette Shroeder. I also have an adoration for the Mexican artist Remedies Varo. And for the weirdness and wonder in the comics of the early 1900 ‘Little Nemo’ by Winsor Mc Kay but I can continue and continue with hundreds of names.

6. In the book stories, where someone else has written the text, do you have control over the design? Are you the one deciding what scenes and details to draw and what to leave in the imagination of the reader?

I am completely free to decide what to illustrate and to suggest ideas for the design but there is an art director that supervises things at the end. I share with him my initial roughs and then we discuss revisions and adjustments. The same when the whole colored work is finished. We discuss the last revisions until the final approval.

7. What helps you get through an illustration that you’re having trouble with?

A good documentation. I try to surround myself with many examples from art history or from other illustrated sources for inspiration.

8. What’s the weirdest thing that you’ve been asked to illustrate?

A challenge I found in a book was to have as a main character an invisible girl. Or another time, to have as a main protagonist a cloud. Another one was the give a ‘human’ look to the wind. I took some time in order to find a good way to give these a visual shape.

9. Can you tell us about a recent project that you got really attached to, either commission or personal, and why?

It is ‘The Girl in the Castle Inside the Museum’, a children’s book published in 2008 by Random House of New York (editor’s note; the question was posed in 2009). It is full of dreamlike and inside-outside visions and it has been my most interesting and personal project as an illustrator of books to this day. The story is very simple but unusual and ‘open’ to interpretations in images. I thought to set it in a toy museum and I imagined the girl as if she was living in a toy castle somehow so when children come to the museum they look for her throughout the windows of the toy castle. The results are quite surreal images with giant child faces spying on the small doll princess life.

10. Artists usually lead fairly solitary lives during their work day. Is this the case for you as well? If yes, how easy or difficult is it to spend several hours, or even days in isolation?

It is hard, I admit, to spend so much time by myself. It is insane. Luckily I live with my boyfriend who is also an illustrator. We share the same house and have personal rooms for work so from time to time we say hello to each other.

11. How does your job as an artist and illustrator influence your life? Would you say for example that this makes see things around you in a different way?

The fact that I spent most of my time drawing since I was 15 years old has of course affected my life. It increased my lonely mood. Many of my friends are artists too and my boyfriend, too, so it’s really hard to separate art from our life at a certain point. I see we look at things around us often as inspirations so we are always in our creations even while not drawing.

12. What’s the best and worst thing about your job?

The best in my illustration job is that it is always different. Every new project lets you discover something new and unexpected. The worst is that, again, a book needs you to spend a lot of time by yourself. I cannot draw with other people around. Further, sometimes I am not enough free to express myself when I apply to a children’s book because of the vision of a publisher or simply because I need to think about a children’s audience. That’s why I am trying to dedicate myself to artworks that are not commissioned from time to time.

13. When you are not working on projects, do you still draw or paint? Or do you prefer to do something else?

No, I don’t draw then. I prefer reading books, I love going to the cinema, swimming, going for a walk in the woods, seeing art, visiting museums and cities, and spending time in nature.

14. If you hadn’t become an artist, what would you be? Do you believe that artists are born?

I never thought what else to do apart from being an illustrator. Something that involves creating with hands anyway. No, I don’t believe one is born as an artist, at least not me. I believe in a person’s will, hard work, and luck in my case.

15. If you were one of your illustration heroes who would you be and why?

Peter Pan is a magical character. He decided to remain a child in an enchanted dimension, timeless. I still feel like that while drawing.

Find more about Nicoletta Ceccoli here<3

Category: Interviews

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