Freya Blackwood's THE TREASURE BOX

Freya Blackwood is one of my favorite children's book illustrators, hands down. She moved onto my radar when we lived in the UK and I first saw HARRY & HOPPER.
Her new book, THE TREASURE BOX is such a different style, I didn't realize who the illustrator was at first. But I truly believe Freya is one of the bravest, most experimental, and energetic illustrators in the biz today. So, I am THRILLED to have her here today to talk about her new book, THE TREASURE BOX.
e: What was your creative process/medium for THE TREASURE BOX, can you walk us through it?
I began this book like any other – reading the manuscript, making notes, gathering reference material, making decisions in conjunction with the author and publisher, and then gradually building up an idea of what could be on each page. I like to experiment with materials to find an appropriate technique for different stories. And early on stumbled upon the idea of incorporating text as a graphic element in the illustrations. This idea was then developed further to include layers within the illustrations, like simple dioramas, adding depth to the images. The careful cutting and layering created illustrations that felt fragile.
      Each page was a bit of an experiment. And then I had to work out how to photograph the pages too.

e: It’s a pretty intense process! How long does it take you to work typically?
I typically spend about 6 months on a book.
e: What was your path to publication?
I come from a family of artists, so drawing was something I did as a child and while growing up. I was always interested in design, art and anything visual, including film making and production design. In my mid 20s after working in several different jobs, I turned back to drawing and decided to teach myself to be an illustrator. And eventually after several years of practicing and sending out samples, I received an introduction to a new publisher at Scholastic Australia who gave me my first picture book. I was extremely lucky to learn about illustration and visual literacy on the job. And I’ve worked as a picture book illustrator ever since!
e: Is there a unique or funny story behind the creation of The Treasure Box?
There is a very embarrassing story, yes! It’s got nothing to do with the actual work though. I live about four hours away from Sydney, where the designer of this book was based. So one day I drove to Sydney to show her my progress on the work. I was lucky enough to be offered a parking spot in the office building, which happened to be on the first floor of the building, accessed by a lift. And getting up there was no problem at all. But when it came time to leave, I just couldn’t maneuver my car into the right position to get into the lift and ended up wedged half in, half out, car scraping against the side of the lift, so that I just had to grit my teeth and go for it. My car still has the tell-tale signs down one side.
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?
There’s a definite though elusive magic that seems to happen when I’m drawing. I spend a lot of time trying to find the magic, and if I’m lucky it will appear briefly. In that moment, I’m completely immersed in the character and their feelings and find the drawing is like an extension of myself. But of course, this doesn’t happen all the time, or even often. And for the rest of the time I’m just trying very hard to emulate that magic. I hope that the drawings created in that magic moment can bind the rest of the drawings together to create something good enough!
e: How do you advertise yourself (or do you)?
I’m afraid I don’t really advertise myself. I have an Instagram page, but self-promotion isn’t my strong point.

e: What is your favorite or most challenging part of being a creator?
There’s a lot to love about being an illustrator. There is the personal joy of creating a world and characters that you inevitably bond with. The joy of the aesthetic journey and being able to realise and bring to fruition an initial idea. And of course, the best would have to be the connection you make with readers and their parents; the joy or understanding or empathy that you help to create.
     The biggest challenge for me would have to be working by myself. It can be very solitary.
e: Is there something in particular about The Treasure Box you hope readers will take away with them, perhaps something that isn’t immediately obvious?
When I was working on this project, I developed an overwhelming sadness for people in this situation, and what their plight must be like, especially the woman with a baby at the head of the line of people fleeing the town. I guess I hope readers feel a glimpse of that, (without descending into misery of course) and come away with a greater empathy for all.
e: What are you working on next or what would be your dream project?
I have a project coming up in a year or so that I feel may be my dream project. It feels close to what I want to say through my work, both creatively and emotionally. I’m doing it all backwards - I’ve drawn it, and now need to come up with the words!

No comments: