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22 February 2018

Sonja Danowski's SMON SMON

I remember books with images that haunted my imagination when I was a kid. They weren't easy images, they were deeply different and interesting, and I devoured them. Sonja Danowski's SMON SMON reminds me of that feeling. She's here today to share her amazing new work with us - enjoy!
e: What is your creative process/medium, can you walk us through it?
Sonja:
Pencils are my basic tool to work out the detailed composition. Luckily there is some correction possible, because even if I have a quite concrete vision of how it should look like in my mind, it is challenging to bring it to paper. In my pencil hatching I try to already set light and shadow and give the forms depth. For coloring I use mainly ink and watercolor. I work on heavy crème colored drawing paper with a smooth and matt surface. Some of my favorite colors to paint with are English red, sepia and transparent blue, which I also used for Smon Smon. For the finishing touches I also use soft colored pencil.

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?
Sonja:
I think already the expression “Heart Art” indicates its character, Heart Art transports more than just the plot, it opens the door to our inner world by touching our feelings. Thinking of other artists’ illustrations that I consider as magical, I cannot define a common pattern or way to achieve it; medium and style do not matter, but they have all in common that I feel somehow attracted by the artwork’s soul. It can be something like an expression in the depicted creature’s face, a combination of colors or a stunning landscape. Maybe we feel especially attracted by things that remind us of our desires and wishes or of something that happened in our own lives, or by something that is beyond our imagination by combining unusual picture elements and therefore captivates us.

e: Is there a unique or funny story behind the creation of this story?
Sonja:
My bed has always been close to the window and I like to keep the curtain at least partly open so that I can see the night sky. Viewing the darkness of the night sky with its sparkling stars lets so much space for imagination. What we connect with foreign planets has, due to the genre of science fiction, often to do with technical things like futuristic spaceship and the way through the galaxy away from or towards the earth in order to meet aliens. Instead of thinking about the encounter I like to think myself directly into the life as a creature from another world. I already loved such fictional journeys to other planets as a child. Of course the existence of the planet Gon Gon is totally unlikely, but that’s what picture books with fictive stories are for! I am not much of a scheduler. Instead of drafting a detailed concept, I just started drawing the picture world with its friendly residents that I had in mind. Honestly, my imagined world that I already visited in my childhood was even more fantastic, shining and weird than shown in my book, but the borders that are set for an artist when depicting something also open new and unpredictable possibilities. As soon as the appearance of the Smon Smon was defined, the story grew from picture to picture in a totally intuitive way and it generated a certain rhythm that I caught to create the accompanying text.

e: How do you advertise yourself?
Sonja:
  When it is about showing my work around, I am a bit shy and I am not good in advertising myself. I am really thankful for the attention and lovely feedback that sometimes just comes to me. Thank you so much for featuring Smon Smon on your wonderful blog!
e: My pleasure!

e: What is your favorite or most challenging part of being a creator?
Sonja:
As an illustrator I spend much time alone with my pictures at my drawing table. I like the quiet and freedom and the time for considering that being a creator involves, but sometimes it is so difficult to decide, which ideas are worth to follow. After having decided for a theme, I often think of all the other possible ideas that I maybe missed or oversaw and might have been much more interesting and compelling. It is so good that there is always a next project with new ideas and very likely also with new self doubts if it was exactly the right decision to concentrate on this theme.

e: Is there something in particular about this story you hope readers will take away with them, perhaps something that isn’t immediately obvious?
Sonja:
I hope that coming to know friendly creatures like the Klons Klons and the Flon Flons will be soothing, I hope that following the Smon Smon on its way on the planet Gon Gon in the rhythm of the text will somehow lead to lightheartedness. The idea for a book about Smon Smon sometime appeared and it kept on and on, in my creative urge I worked on the pictures for several months, during the creation the Smon Smon developed kind of a life by its own; it surprised me by its weirdness and brightened my mood.

e: What are you working on next or what would be your dream project?
Sonja:
I am dreaming of a picture book project where I have complete freedom about the theme and for that I can take all the time that I need, … how lucky I am to have again the chance to work on exactly such a project right now! I decided for the theme a while ago and I am in midst the process of creation.
e: I can't wait to see it!

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