Francesca Sanna's THE JOURNEY - Interview

Today I am thrilled to have Francesca Sanna visit to talk about her debut picture book, THE JOURNEY. And what a debut it is! It's a refugee family's journey from war and loss, and it could be taking place anywhere in the world and at nearly any time. Even though it is especially timely now. It's a book that will grab you and never let you forget...

e: What is your medium?
Francesca: I work with mix media, I usually start with sketching and doing my textures with pencils and inks, and then I move to a digital support and I develop the final artwork.

e: What do you think makes an illustration magical, what I call "Heart Art” - the sort that makes a reader want to come back to look again and again?
Francesca: In my opinion it is "that something" that leaves a space for the person that look at the picture to fill with his own experience or emotions. When a picture leaves a small part of the story open, this makes you want to watch it over and over, trying to complete it.

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e: Is there a unique or funny history behind the creation of this story?
Francesca: This is a very important question for this book, because it is in fact a collection of stories and experiences. I interviewed a lot of people before I started creating this story, and they came from many different countries and cultural backgrounds. One time in particular, I was interviewing a young guy from Tibet, but we could not find a way to communicate (he did not speak English but only German, and my German was, and still is, pretty bad!) and after a few attempts we found that the situation was stuck: we really could not understand each other. So we ended up drawing, me to ask him the questions, and him to answer them. It has been an intense and at the same time also funny experience, and since that time I discovered that sketching is a very good way to overcome language barriers!

e: What was your path to publication?
Francesca: I developed my book project at the Master of Arts I finished almost a year ago in Lucerne, Switzerland. Once I had finished with my studies I sent a description of the project to Flying Eye Books. About a month later we started working together on what now is the final version of "The Journey".

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e: What is your favorite or most challenging part of being a creator?
Francesca: My favorite part is when you are completely absorbed in your project and it flows one step after the other. I think the most challenging parts are the beginning, when it is only you and the white paper, and the end, when you can't sleep at night thinking "did I forget anything? Is this project really done?"

e: How do your creations invade your reality?
Francesca: Physically: on every small piece of paper around my apartment or my studio, every shopping list or memo note is full of small sketches. In a less material way: it is very hard for me, if I have a project or an idea I want to develop, to not use every single free moment I have to think about it. For this reason sometimes it gets hard to switch off the brain, even when it would be useful to take a break from work!

e: Is there something in particular about this story you hope readers will take away with them, perhaps something that isn’t immediately obvious?
Francesca: It is always a difficult exercise to empathise with a situation that seems very far away from ours. I would like this book to fill the gap between us and "the others", and really make a reader think "this could have been me" or "what would I do in a similar situation?"

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e: What are you working on next or what would be your dream project?
Francesca: I am at the moment experimenting with new ideas and topics, and I am in that phase where I am not completely sure about what direction the next work will take.
     One of my dream projects (I definitely have more than one!) would be to work on the theme of gender equality. I am Italian and in my home country there has been a lot of discussions lately whether this topic should be the center of a children's book and children's literature or not. I personally think it is very important to talk with children about this issue and I would really like to start a visual research about it.

Francesca is an Italian illustrator and graphic designer based in Switzerland. After she finished her studies in Cagliari, the main city of her beloved Mediterranean island (Sardinia) she said goodbye to her family and her cat (Berta) and moved to Germany before and Switzerland after, in order to follow her dream and be able to work as illustrator. She graduated with honors in 2015 the Lucerne School of Art and Design, with a Master of Design with focus on Illustration. Learn more at

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