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Glenda Subrelin

Digital Journal of Illustration

Glenda Subrelin

When did you start to dedicate to the world of illustration?


I’m very grateful for your invitation.

Drawing has always been my way of observing and communicating reality. The sign is like a vector of emotions, which take shape and become language through the images.

I approached the world of children’s book illustrations, driven by the passion for drawing and the desire to make it a profession.

When I became mum I understood the great potential of illustrated books and their importance in the evolutionary age. So my desire was to deepen and understand their pedagogical value, but also all the formal, aesthetic and linguistic aspects that characterize it.


How do you define your illustrations?


I think that my illustrations can be defined “of the suspended moment.” Drawing has the ability to stop the time, freeze it and return the istant in which the whole essence of emotion is concentrated. Often my characters are placed in a rarefied environment, surreal, where realistic references are almost absent or just outlined.
My language is symbolic, uses a metaphysics of elements, in a correspondence between inner dimension, memory and reality.


Where does an idea come from and how does it transform from an idea into a book?

My experience as mother, has been very important also for my profession as  illustrator for children’s books: watching my children and their way of perceiving the world, their feelings, their fears, their desires, helped me in search of content. Each illustrator also has its innate stylistic language, which is born and developed, not only through exercise and research, but above all by its sensitivity, its way of perceiving reality and translating it into images. Certainly, there are some themes that are most interesting to me, arguments related to the sphere of feelings, relationships and also the condition of the environment and respect for nature.

Tell us about you and how do you develope the story and structure

I could answer by explaining the development of one of my recently published books, a silent book titled “Story of a Dream” for a South Korean Publisher (Agaworld Montessori, 2017). I think this book form is very interesting, because it offers to the child the opportunity to sharpen the observation and to fill that narrative vacuum left by the absence of written text. These books tell stories that are constantly transformed, precisely because the narration is hidden between the lines of “not told”, in which the child plays the role of interpreting and completing meanings.

In the case of my book, the incipit is the following: a little girl sees an orange feather that stimulates her curiosity, deciding to catch it. So the feather becomes a metaphor of a dream to be pursued. In her attempt to grab it, the girl crosses various new and evocative environment and situations, which from time to time, leave a colored sign on her white dress. At the end of the “journey”, her dress will be enriched with the colors of her experience.

After the study of the principal character, in this project I decided to set the sequence of pages, at a rhythm of visual alternation, that is intramezzling full images with very clear and empty images, so that the child can elaborate the information and understand the hidden meanings. The sensation is that of a surreal landscape, because it must suggest the dimension of the dream.

How do you decide what to include and what not to include in the book?

Each element included in the book has its “narrative importance”, both in the sequential rhythm of the pages, and in every single image, in communicative effectiveness function. Even the expressive value of the colors is important, as is the perception of chromaticity in the alternation of pages, so sometimes it is necessary to remove or add color or color-forms to balance or emphasize narrative meanings. I believe that it is necessary to seek that balance between form and language, between the aesthetics and the functionality of the visual narration.

What are some of the techniques or processes that you used in creating the artwork for the book?

The experimentation of pictorial technique is very important in my work. For each new project I try to develop a technique that is appropriate for that book. I use various techniques such as acrylic, watercolor, graphite, marking pen, pencils, collages and monotypes. In the case of “Story of a Dream”, the technique used is the digital illustration, inserting textures made with the monotype and photographic collage. I always start from the pencil drawing and basic techniques like acrylic and watercolor, later I realize digital processing.

Do you use any special technique? Please tell us about that

Lately, I am fascinated by the shadows and reflections on the surface of the watercourses, the transparencies, the velvets and the colors of the shapes on the backdrops. So I developed in my works of contemporary art, a technique that reproduced the effect of water, through the use of resin. In these artworks I have given a symbolic meaning to the “stratification” of time on our conscience. Without going into arguments that are more conceptual, I’m interested in explaining how my artistic research was developed also in the drawing, trying to experiment with a technique capable of transmitting the same perceptions of veils and transparencies. Making a detail or part of a more blurred image helps to give way to the “time,” the flow of moments, creating motion and prospective sense. I reached this intent using the watercolor or pencil, under a treated surface.

What is the importance of technique

Before to start working on a new book, I study a technique and style that best suits that text. The illustrated book is a set of languages that are mixed in a perfect balance of forms and contents, and thus also the technique has its own expressive value as a function of visual storytelling. Experimentation is a very important aspect of my work and the development of new solutions is always stimulating because it enlivens my enthusiasm and passion for drawing.

Do you personally find the process of working within self-imposed constraints or rules helpful to your work?




How is children’s publishing industry in your country?

In Italy, publishing for children enjoys a positive time, though the economic crisis. Our country boasts illustrators and authors of great importance, both in its history and in the contemporary scene, as well as a good number of independent Publishers who publish illustrated books of remarkable quality.
In fact, there is a careful eye on the quality of the books for children, due to the need to respond to the growing needs and solicitations of a constantly changing society, and also for the wide interest of pedagogues, educators and scholars, in asserting the importance of reading in the evolutionary age.

Basically, attention is concentrated around the illustrated book, as a complex tool of various narration forms that can stimulate the child’s thought. The illustrated book represents in its perfect balance of form and content, verbal and visual, an indispensable aesthetic experience.

There is growing sensibleness towards the publishing industry and the illustration’s world, through cultural events, workshops in schools, in bookshops and libraries, performed by professionals, as well as the considerable offer of high-level training courses. Do not forget that, just in Bologna, there is one of the world’s most important fairs annually.

Certainly, the globalization has facilitated trade and the opportunity for us illustrators to open up to the international scene, but considering the percentage of co-productions of Italian books abroad, the numbers are still low. The trend is that buying copyright from abroad, rather than selling it.


Is it very different from what is done in your country from other countries? What are your influences international illustrators?

In my country over the last twenty years we have witnessed a substantial increase in the spread of reading for the reasons cited earlier. I believe that much has been done in this direction, especially by observing the considerable response in the collective awareness about reading and Illustration’s world.
All we are in a rapidly evolving and open world, so information sharing travels at great speed towards a general direction of reading’s development.
The international illustrators that fascinate me most are those who can teach me a lot, for their skills in composition and stylistic originality, but most of all I look at the great professionals who have been able to develop a deep sensitivity and capabilities, such as complete narrators, just to name a few Wolf Erlbruch, Shaun Tan, Susy Lee, …

What do you think about e-books and apps like a new field of job?


In contemporary society, digital has become part of everyone’s daily life, so today’s children, as “digital natives”, make continuous use of electronic devices both for playful and educational purposes. Therefore, even in the context of reading for children, the so-called new ” augmented reality” of apps is undoubtedly an excellent tool for reading and its spreading, also considering the potential of interactivity. I believe that it is a new frontier, a new opportunity to experience the “aesthetic trip” offered by the illustrated book, giving to the child reader access to the virtual story through a new playful dimension of reading. E-books should be seen as reading supports, even considering the need for children with disabilities or reading difficulties to be able to be facilitated. These tools should not be considered as substitutes for the paper illustrated book, but the starting point from which new paths of experience related to childhood literature may arise.




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