Bologna Children’s Book Fair 2012

The Bologna Children’s Book Fair 2012 was knock-your-socks-off inspiring. It was also completely overwhelming. I wanted to run off to sit in a corner and draw quietly most of the time - partly to escape the crowds but mostly because, you know, I felt moved to produce better work straight away. My work from this book was selected for the Illustrator’s exhibition, which is why I was invited to attend.

(I bought a pen and a rude nib my first evening in Italy. Surprisingly they work even better than they look.)

Visiting Bologna and the fair was something I'd thought I might get to in middle age - never imagined something this good now. So here are some serious notes: 

There is a thriving international industry in picture books  • It's possible to make a living doing just that - illustrating books. Not probable, but possible  • Competition amongst peers should never result in isolation • Guilds and associations are vital to healthy freelance practice • There's a strong current pencil-sketch tendency in book illustration (which I love!). Final products are less polished and look more like process work • The Swedes are in top form facilitating fair publishing contracts that respect copyright • It's important to have a strong grasp of your own culture before you venture into another; this book, Migrar tells a compelling story of Mexican history in one continuous picture • The classics, reinterpreted are particularly interesting - and challenging. Last year's Bologna Ragazzi winner, Page Tsou talked to us about illustrating The Tin Soldier.

And some more things...

• Violeta Lopiz's work was my favourite on exhibition. One of the judges said her work sings and I agree!

• The special guest country, Portugal's exhibition was a highlight in exhibition design and each featured illustration was totally engaging. See more of Como as cerejas here

• Corraini books had the most exciting collection of picture and art books I've ever seen. I dropped a fair amount of cash here...
I was introduced to the work of Bruno Munari. He shares this piece of goodness:

 "perfection is a beautiful but stupid"

• Lately I’ve been doubtful about whether my fondness for (obsession with) drawing trees could lead somewhere interesting in narrative illustration and/or book design. Look what I found:

Raccontare gli alberi

(I've collected some favourite picture books here including some more pictures from the titles above.)

And this:

Page 22 from Drawing a tree by Bruno Munari. It is a simple but excellent lesson.
Published by Corraini edizioni

Another gem I got to hold and page through was this beautiful book on clouds by Katsumi Komagata. Each page cut from different paper stock. And another genius thing.

Katsumi Komagata
• I saw an exhibition by Atak. Love his renderings of Struwwelpeter.

• The illustrator's exhibition space at the Bologna Ragazzi is enclosed by a high wall which gets absolutely covered in visiting illustrators' promotional material. Tons of swag, essentially. Mind-blowing. I followed my notes to find these two online:

1) I love this lad's bio
2) Beibei Nie's simple stop motion for her new friends

• The Italian experience was made even more special by my talented fellow exhibitor Janneke de Kock. She is particularly important because we were in grade one together and were taught by the same magnificent woman, Mavis Foale. And also because Janneke's smile is huge like a hug.

PS The best gelateria ended up being the one with the comic-sans typeface across the road from the apartment.
It seems Italy never tries to be cool, it just is.


gec said...

The wait for this post has been SO worth it :D

JaneA said...

I LOVE Bologna Book Fair. Unfortunately I wasn't able to go this year, but I went the two years before, and learned so much. I love looking at all the foreign books (especially asian, they're so beautiful!). Also, all the seminars in the illustrators cafe are inspiring. I'm glad you got to go! What wonderful memories you'll have.

All the best,


Michelle Gow said...

Did I tell you we're getting wood-fired pizzas for the party in Maine? I will make you one in your honour :)

Also: I love love loved this post. When you first popped it up and even more now. xx