Our readers have been pretty wowed this month by our stunning Storytime 50th Issue cover for the marvellous and magical folk tale, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. All credit for this striking illustration goes to the amazing Marko Renko who is based in Ljubljana in Slovenia.
Long-time subscribers might recognise Marko Renko’s work, as he’s illustrated for us before. He created the artwork for Stanley and the Rampaging Robot – a new story in Storytime Issue 32 by Stan Byford. Marko’s exquisite attention to detail and use of colour for this story just blew us away and we knew we had to work with him again. Luckily, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice felt like just the right story and, even better, it was for a very special issue.
We were very grateful that Marko took time out of his busy schedule to answer our questions. We hope you find lots of inspiration here!
Illustrator Interview with Marko Renko
1. How did you get started in illustration? Have you always been arty?
Yes, I think I have always been arty. At least my school books and tables were always full of doodles and cartoons. When the school subject was boring to me, I started doodling and the canvas was whatever was available at hand. The teachers were not always happy about that. Drawing was always one of my favorite things to do. So the career kind of just happened.
2. Do you have any favourite artists or illustrators who have influenced your work and why?
There are so many. Every time I go online I feel bombarded by inspiration from people all over the world. Sometimes I get inspired by an old masters painting, other times by a quick sketch from someone on social media. To just point out a few at the top of my list: Jonny Duddle, Robb Mommaerts, Mike Bear, Goro Fujita and Daisuke Tsutsumi. One of the biggest influencers on me as a kid, was the Slovenian comic-book artist and illustrator Miki Muster. He was just a wonderfull artist and storyteller. As I get older, I try to get the most inspiration from nature itself. The world and things in it will never let you down on inspiration.
3. What’s your favourite place to draw?
As I mentioned above, I feel that everything around us can be interpreted as a beautiful piece of art, but my favourite places are usually somewhere beyond the city and concrete walls. I’m always drawn to natural and organic motifs. Maybe it has something to do with me growing up in a woody, rural area. So my idyllic place to draw would probably be a small cottage near some hills, trees and creeks.
4. What’s your favourite fairy tale or children’s book. Is there one you’d love to illustrate?
I love adventure, magic and fantasy, so I like a lot of old fairy-tale classics. One of my favourite stories as a kid was definitely Robin Hood. I loved spending my afternoons running around the woods and climbing trees with my brother – making tree houses and chasing down imaginary villains. So some day, I would love to illustrate a story along those lines. A mysterious adventure somewhere in an ancient forest.
5. We’ve been so lucky to work with you on Stanley and the Rampaging Robot and now The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. How do you go about creating your characters?
First I read the story a couple of times. I need to meet the character and get to know them. I try to imagine what they are thinking, where they come from and what is their back story. Based on this, I try to visualise how they look. Sometimes I go online and search for inspiration there. Sometimes a someone you know can be an inspiration. The great Glen Keane‚ a character artist and animator‚ said that you are not inventing a character but searching for it. So it usually takes a lot of drawings, but when you find the one you know.
6. Are there any projects you’re working on you can tell us about?
For the past year or so, I’ve been working on a couple of children’s books that can be personalised. You can name your hero or heroine and choose how will they look in the book. So every book that is made, is one of a kind.
7. Is there any work from the past that makes you particularly proud?
I’ve worked on a couple of different projects, but my favourites are children’s stories and books. I think my favourite to date is a book about pirates and magical pearls. I’ve always been a sucker for pirates so drawing those buccaneers was a real blast.
8. What’s your preferred creative medium and why?
I have no preferred medium. I love them all. Nowadays, digital is almost a must in a professional and commercial world. It’s the most practical. But then there are gouache and watercolors for those Sunday hikes and outdoor painting. Pencil and ink for cold and cozs autumn afternoons. And there is always that fun, adventurous feeling of experimenting with a completely new medium.
9. Are there any different areas you’d like to explore in the future?
My dream for a while has been to try writing. I’ve always wanted to illustrate my own stories. And I’ve never done anything in self publishing, so I’d like to try that someday. There is something special in being free to write and draw whatever you want. Of course, I imagine it is quite challenging too, but that can be a good thing.
10. Is there any advice you can give to children (or aspiring illustrators) who want to get into illustration?
Have fun and love what you do. It takes a lot of work to always improve, so you really need to love it to get through those rough times. But I strongly believe if you love it enough, you will work on it enough to get better. And sooner or later people will find your art and they’ll want to buy it. Also, don’t forget it takes time. Not weeks and months, but years and decades. So don’t rush it, just enjoy it!
Sage words for any illustrator’s apprentices out there! If you’d like to see more of Marko Renko’s work, particularly his nature drawings, be sure to follow his Instagram account, which is a real treat. And if you’d like to find out more about our rather special 50th issue, click here or head straight over to our Back Issue Shop and grab a copy before they’re magicked away!
See you next time for more story inspiration!