Anna Desnitskaya's GINA FROM SIBERIA

I love working with smaller publishing houses who obviously have very good taste. Their books can get overlooked, when they shouldn't! Take, for instance, GINA FROM SIBERIA from Animal Media Group. It's a soft story about immigration through the eyes of the family dog and will make a great segue or introduction read before dealing with heavier books on refugee topics such as THE JOURNEY. I think the book fills a hole. And it is beautifully illustrated by Anna Desnitskaya who visits today all the way from Russia!
e: What was your creative process/medium for Gina from Siberia, can you walk us through it?
Authors - Jane [Bernstein] and Charlotte [Glynn] - found my portfolio on the internet and asked me to illustrate the book. I was really exited: it was my first experience with a client from US so it was a very interesting offer for me. Jane and Charlotte sent me the text, I made a sketch of the whole book layout as my proposal, and so we started to work. The working process was like that: I would draw a sketch and then send it to the authors. Sometimes they would totally agree, and sometimes not. Following their comments I would draw the final illustration, which we would discuss with Jane and Charlotte.
e: You live in Russia! What is the picture book market like there for an illustrator like you?
Well, picture book market in Russia is not as big as in Europe or in America, but we have some very good publishing houses and I'm happy to work with one of them - Samokat Publishing House. I have some successful book projects in Russia, so I receive enough offers to choose what I’d like to illustrate.
e: Is there a unique or interesting story behind the creation of Gina from Siberia?
Yes, this book is based on a real story that the authors heard from their friends who had immigrated to the USA from the USSR in the 70s with their dog named Gina. Even with the episode when Gina was dressed like a baby in a train had actually happened!
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?
For me it's a very deep dive into a story you are illustrating - to find information and details which readers may not even ever notice - but you know it for yourself, and these details make a picture really special. I always try to find a lot of materials, photos etc. for the illustration.. The more real life is there behind the picture, the more lively it actually is.
e: How do you advertise yourself?
First of all my Publishing house does this for me - thanks to them my book is being published abroad, they send my illustrations to competitions (this way I was awarded the Golden apple at the Bratislava biennale the last year). Besides I send my illustrations to different competitions by myself. And of course I use my instagram and behance accounts to promote myself.
e: What is your favorite or most challenging part of being a creator?
The most challenging part for me is the very beginning of a book project - when I should figure out how it will work. It feels like my brain is boiling! My favorite part is to color illustrations in Photoshop listening some podcasts or an audiobook during my work.
e: Is there something in particular about Gina from Siberia you hope readers will take away with them, perhaps something that isn’t immediately obvious?
I think the authors and me, we see this story from different angles - I'm from Russia, where Gina's journey begins, and Jane and Charlotte are from New York, the final destination of her journey. I hope this difference made our book more deep and real (speaking of the "heart art"!) But neither me nor Jane and Charlotte are immigrants while Gina is building a kind of a bridge between us. So I hope our readers will look at the story with Gina’s eyes like we did.
e: What are you working on next or what would be your dream project?
At the moment I'm working on the book about the Transsiberian railway and the cities it connects. It's a challenging but rather interesting task, I hope it will be finished before the next summer.
e: I can't wait to see it!
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