The highlight of our latest issue (Storytime 49) is a brand new story series called Storyland Adventures. It’s set in a fictional world and stars everyone’s favourite fairy-tale characters – from Puss in Boots and the Gingerbread Man to Goldilocks and Jack and the Beanstalk. Developing a whole new world like this is fairly mind-boggling and time-consuming, so it was a blessing that we had a clear idea of which illustrator we wanted to bring it to life from the start: Giorgia Broseghini. It was a huge cause for celebration when she agreed to come on board.
We first worked with super-talented Giorgia on the Native American legend, White Buffalo Calf Woman, in Storytime Issue 34. We were so blown away by her beautiful depiction of the characters and use of colours, we couldn’t wait to work with her again. Luckily, We were able to do so on last year’s gorgeous Christmas issue (Storytime 40), when Giorgia provided the cover and illustrations for Clement Clarke Moore’s classic poem, A Visit from St Nicholas.
Now she’s taking on the challenge of monthly illustrations for our new fairy-tale world, which puts famous faces in entirely different situations. Giorgia even created a beautiful map of Storyland for us (see below). You just can’t beat stories that come with a map to pore over! We really hope you are enjoying the first story, featuring Goldilocks and the Three Bears. There’s also a whole cast of supporting characters including Hansel, Tweedledum and Tweedledee and the Big Bad Wolf.
We caught up with Giorgia to find out more about her career so far and her inspirations.
Illustrator Interview with Giorgia Broseghini
1. How did you get started in illustration?
For as long as I can remember I’ve always been drawing: on the couch, on the carpet, on the bus, at school, at home, at the restaurant. One of my most vivid memories is watching an old lady painting flowers. I was on vacation with my family and every night she was standing there. I could watch her for hours. Most of my birthday gifts were related to art and my favourite was the coloured pencils I got for Christmas. They became my favourite tool to draw. But I didn’t know what illustration was and even though I was passionate about art, I didn’t pursue it until after my bachelor degree in philosophy. I didn’t believe drawing could be a job!
One summer I found a digital art school named Nemo, based in Florence, with a very professional program. I still can’t believe I talked my parents into it, but I am grateful I succeeded! It was a life-changing experience. I learned a lot about the illustration world – about techniques, composition, tools, illustrators – and I had the honour to learn from the best. Also, I met super-arty and nerdy people, and I lived in one of the most beautiful Italian towns. I’ve been working as an illustrator for four years. Even though it was hard at the beginning, I’m glad I never gave up.
2. What or who is your biggest inspiration?
Disney, anime and movies have a great impact to my style. I love artists like Klimt and Mucha – decorative styles have always been my favourite. I really like illustrators and artists that play with soft and clear shapes. But it is very hard to say which one is my favourite, since I go through different phases. Every day I find a new illustrator or artist I love. The list could go on forever. I can name a few such as Norman Rockwell, Loish, Julia Sarda, Annette Marnat, Brittney Lee, Lorena Alvarez Gomez (who illustrated our Storytime Issue 15 Christmas cover and story – Ed), Glen Keane and Carter Goodrich. Studying character design, I also got used to observing real life, people, situations and colours. When I don’t know what to draw, I just rely on nature and funny people.
3. What has been your process for creating new versions of the famous fairy-tale characters in Storyland Adventures?
Every time I have to create a new character, I start with research. I spend a lot of time on Pinterest trying to understand what a character looks like to other artists, and what he or she could wear. I look for outfits and hairstyles, colour palettes and moods. This helps me collect ideas. Then comes my favourite part: the sketch phase. Even though digital painting is my favourite tool, I love sketching. I feel free to try a lot of different characters and I can do it wherever I like. Always, I keep drawing and trying (maybe sipping a milkshake or a coffee in my fave café) and every sketch has something new. Sometimes it takes a while to find my character.
I found Goldilocks waiting for my dinner while I was in Rome. Cinderella travelled with me during my vacations. Once I have nailed every character, I put them into their situations. I draw many thumbnails and try different compositions. When I know what the illustrations will look like in rough, I go to my computer and start finalising it. The colouring part is pretty much the same. I always try a few palettes before going to final. I really like playing with hues and values. At a certain point it looks like, “This is it.”
4. How do you stay on top of your busy workload? Do you have any top tips for illustrators on staying creative, inspired and on schedule?
I keep a monthly paper calendar (that I draw on) and a list of the things I have to do. Writing it down instead of using devices is more helpful, at least for me. The exercise of writing helps me focus. I write everything in pencil and move things around when needed, and I tend to separate days into mornings, afternoons and evenings. I fill my little square boxes with goals, which I love to highlight with a bright colour once they’re done. When I have lots of projects I also force myself to wake up really early, and I plan my breaks and stick to them.
I have my rituals, such as going out for a coffee after lunch or taking a walk, and I don’t give them up. I think it is very important, even when you’re stressed and a deadline looks like a hungry bad wolf, not to give up breaks (especially if you have to work 10/12 hours a day – a 20-minute nap is precious). These little tricks help me through. And if I am struggling with creativity, I go back to my sketchbook and try to find the joy of drawing again. It is normal to have hard times now and then – a job is a job. It isn’t always easy to stay focused, inspired and excited, but everyone has to find their own way to deal with those moments.
5. Are there any favourite or interesting projects you’ve worked on that you can tell us about?
Well, the project with Storytime magazine is one of the most interesting I have had the pleasure to work on. I can’t wait to see what will come next. Another awesome project I illustrated this year is a new version of the Three Little Pigs for Edizioni Piemme, Mondadori (fairy tales, twist and turns: lovely!). I loved that project because I loved how I felt when I was drawing it! Fairy tales makes my imagination fly and I felt incredibly free drawing it. Every page was a surprise and a joy.
6. What would be your dream subject to illustrate and why?
I think my dream subject may be Harry Potter! But I’d also really like to draw The Little Mermaid. I can’t say the original fairy tale is my favourite. It is pretty sad and also bloody, but I love the Disney adaptation of it. Mermaids are my fave subject since that movie came out – the water, hair, movement, colours. I have tried many times to start a personal project on her, but I got stuck or was too busy. Who knows – maybe the Storyland Adventures will feature her, too? (It’s a possibility! Ed)
7. So, is The Little Mermaid your favourite fairy-tale character?
No, I think I have to make a clear distinction between who I’d like to draw and who I like as a character. I’d love to draw the little mermaid, but she’s not my ideal
character. My relationship with fairy tales is influenced a lot by Disney. When I read the original story, I tend to dislike it. The only character I really like is the Beast because he changes. We learn he’s capable of love and caring. He makes a journey into himself and he’s able to be the best he can be. I think this is a goal
everyone should have. (You can see Giorgia’s interpretation of Beast in our first two Storyland stories and there’ll be more Beast to follow! Ed.)
8. Is there any advice you can give to aspiring illustrators, young and old?
Just draw, be patient and be curious about things. Let yourself be amazed by things even when others think it is stupid or childish. Be humble and accept advice, but also be proud of your work and your improvements. If you’re passionate enough and if you study hard enough, you can draw. Someone might say that you have talent, but talent is like a flower – it blossoms and lives if you take care of it.
We’re loving the top tips for creative organisation, especially being strict about taking breaks – though we’re absolutely dreadful at following this advice, so promise to try harder in future.
Make sure you check out Giorgia’s portfolio on Behance and Facebook, and don’t miss her work in Storytime. In coming months, you have much to look forward to, including Cinderella’s Pumpkin Party, Jack and the Beanstalk’s rock band, Gingerbread Man on a mission for Santa, and Puss in Boots meeting a scary troll!
Stay inspired, folks!