by Laura Ljungkvist
When I arrived in New York from Stockholm, Sweden in 1993 with my portfolio in hand the response for my work was quite overwhelming. Having freelanced as an illustrator in Sweden for 5 years before my arrival, my portfolio contained several different styles. Cute, graphic, painterly, one line drawings and more, but it was the “one liners” that art directors responded to the most. Working in Sweden as an illustrator you really had to work in many different styles. Being such a small country and “market”, your style can easily become “worn out” and overexposed.
Coming to New York I quickly realized the importance of having a “signature style”. Since there are so many artists here, having one is essential to standing out and making a mark. This suited me just fine as I wanted to explore “my single line thing” and take it as far as I could.
I had done my first “one liner” for a client about a year earlier in Stockholm and became enthralled with the concept of connecting everything in a single line.
After many, many frustrations and numerous twists and turns, my first book, “Toni’s Topsy Turvy Telephone Day” was finally published in 2001 by Harry Abrams.
All of a sudden I was being called “author” which felt very strange and to this day after publishing 10 books (soon) still feels unfamiliar. The ideas for my books always start with a visual. Then I write to accommodate my art!
I am best known for my “Follow the Line” series of 4 hard covers for Viking Children’s books. In these books the line travels from place to place and tells stories forming concrete things and objects. Everything from camels to base guitars.
It was absolutely thrilling when POW!/PowerHouse wanted to publish “A Line Can Be”, which will be my first board book. I always wanted to do a board book. The thickness of the board lends itself perfectly for putting fingers on the line and following it throughout, spread by spread.
“A Line Can Be” is a biography of my line. Here the line explores abstract concepts – opposites, by telling the reader what it can be and where it can go. I love watching people’s faces and the smile that appears as they turn the page and see the conclusion. That last spread gives whole new meaning to all of the previous spreads!
My profession is a very lonely job. When my family is away, days can go by when I hardly talk to anybody! And I don’t mind, as a matter of fact, I couldn’t do what I do with other people around.
Now as an “author of children’s books” I have interactions and get more feedback from my audience then I ever did as an editorial illustrator.
I remember a book signing I did years ago for maybe my third or fourth book, when a woman came up and handed over, what was by the looks of it, an extremely “well read” copy of my very first children’s book, and asked if I would sign it.
It had been a favorite in her house for a long time and when she read in the newspaper that I was appearing she just had to come and tell me.
That was big!
It makes me happy knowing that once my work is done in my studio in Brooklyn, my books go out into the world and makes connections with people. And should they somehow make an impact on someone, however small, that’s just fantastic!