Andreja Peklar was born in Ljubljana, Slovenija.
After studying Art history and philosophy she graduated in painting at the Academy of Fine Arts in Ljubljana.
She devoted herself to illustrating for children and her work can be seen in several picture books, text books, popular science books and magazines.
She also designed and illustrated educational material for children for several museums in Slovenija.
Her work was exhibited at various exhibitions in Slovenija and abroad (Biennial of illustration Bratislava, Golden pen Belgrade, Bibliotheque nationale de France, Paris, Museum of American Illustration at the Society of Illustrators, New York).
Andreja Peklar has also received several Slovenian and foreign awards. Some of her books have been included in The White Ravens selection.
Recently she has been focusing on writing and illustrating her own books for children. She lives and works as freelance illustrator in Ljubljana.
Here is Andreja explaining her working process:
The theme of this illustration was POTTER – it was made for partly fiction partly educational book about ancient crafts.
I start with the research. I browse a lot on internet and in different books. In this case I have searched in some historic and archeological books.
Then I put some different ideas on a paper. I draw rough sketches with the chalk or very soft pencil.
From one idea to another …
… and finally there is a sketch I will use for the illustration. If the sketch is too small I photocopy it to the final size. I always draw illustration a little larger than it will be printed in a book.
Then I place a scetch (or a photocopy) on a light box and copy it to paper – usually Canson Montval 300gr aquarel paper. If I work out of studio I use “natural” light box – I tape a scetch on a window glass (this “tehnique” works only from dawn to dusk!)
I tape the final drawing on a plexiglass board and begin with colouring. I usually work with Ferrario’s Tiepolo tempera. First I put very bright colours using quite wide brushes.
Then I add some structures with painting knives searching for the right atmosphere…
… finishing some details …
… to the final illustration.
And this is how the illustration has been placed in a book.
How long have you been illustrating?
I have been illustrating for about 20 years now.
How did you decide to attend the Academy of Fine Arts in Ljubljana?
I studied philosophy and art history at first. But I have always wanted to draw. And way back in the primary school a few of us, teenagers have founded an “art group”. We were so keen that the municipality of our town has given us a nice studio in the attic of the town’s gallery (I am exhibiting my illustrations in that same gallery right now – how nostalgic!). I have spent so much of my teenage and student time there – painting, drawing, chatting about art … beautiful time … so switching to Academy of Fine Arts was somehow a logical continuation.
What were you favorite classes in college?
I have studied painting, not illustration and my favourite technique was graphics – engraving, lithography. I intend to incorporate more graphics into my illustration work right now – doing some monotypes already.
Did the School help you get work?
No, not really. We have not received “education” for living in real world. I had to learn it by myself. But on the other hand at the Academy we were taught a lot of different skills and techniques and given a lot of time to experiment. And this was a kind of help to begin living as an artist.
What was the first painting or illustration that you did where someone paid you for your artwork?
My first illustrations were black and white drawings for my friend’s book of poems when I was in high school. They were done in the name of a friendship, of course. But the first artwork I was paid for was the illustration for an old Chinese board game called Jungle.
What type of job did you do right after you graduated?
Right after I graduated I did quite a lot of drawings for stained glass, I also painted glass, taught drawing classes for a while, designed, but quickly I began illustrating.
Do you think the classes you took in college influenced your style?
No, not directly. In my opinion you hold your expression within and the style emerges later while working.
When did you do your first illustration for children?
Very soon after having graduated. It was an illustration for a series “Adventures of Goga The Millipede” for the children’s magazine Ciciban.
How did that come about?
Well, it was quite funny. My husband’s daughter (she was 7 years at the time) came to me one evening and asked me to draw 6 elephants, 6 giraffes, 6 badgers, 6… and I drew and drew… Next morning she took these drawings to school and showed them to her teacher Majda Koren, who by chance was also the editor at our main children’s magazine (and a very good author too!). And I got the job!
When did you decide you wanted to illustrate a children’s book?
The very first time I thought to be an illustrator was when I was about 10 years old. I admired the Slovenian illustrator Marija Lucija Stupica very much and therefore decided to become one myself. Then I forgot this for a while and wanted to be an archeologist, a psychologist, a chemist … gradually I came back to illustrating. Sometimes things just come to you, you don’t have to interfere much …
How long did it take you to get your first picture book contract?
A few years after I started to illustrate, I suppose.
What was your first book that you illustrated?
It was a book about old Romans.
How did you get the opportunity to exhibit at the Museum of American Illustration at the Society of Illustrators, New York?
I saw a call for entry to the 50th Annual Exhibition on internet and sent my illustration. I was very happy that it had been chosen for the Annual!
Have you illustrated any books for the American Market?
No, I have not.
Have you worked with educational publishers?
Yes, quite a lot. I’ve illustrated a lot of educational books about history for schools and museums.
How many children’s books have you illustrated?
All together about 50.
Your bio says you are writing and illustrating your own books. Are any of them finished?
Yes, two of them have already been published. I have some new projects in my mind, they are actually in different stages.
Have you done any illustrating for children’s magazines?
Yes, from the very beginning I have been illustrating for different children’s and teenage magazines.
Do you have an Artist Rep. to represent you? If so, who? If not, would you like to find one?
No, I don’t have an Artist Rep. I have been trying to find one from time to time but there are so many! And somehow I never have enough time to search among them to find one who will be just the right one!
What types of things do you do to find illustration work?
At the very beginning of my career I visited some publishing houses to show them my portfolio. After a time they usually searched me when they wanted to engage me. I also sent some submissions and query letters from time to time. And I go to Bologna Book Fair every year. I have to admit – it is more for a pleasure of seeing all these beautiful books than for business.
Do you think living in Slovenia causes you to work harder to find work?
Slovenia has a long tradition of printing way back to the 16th century albeit is a small country, which has a bright side as well as a darker one. Practically everything I do publishers can see and if they are interested they contact me. But on the other hand our market is small so there are not many publishing houses, less editions, less numbers of print runs etc. You have to work on a lot of different projects to survive. Still, I would like to be focused more on a specific kind of illustration work that I prefer.
What is your favorite medium to use?
I love tempera, it is soft and not glossy. I also like black ink for drawing expressive wide strokes with brushes or delicate drawings with fine pen.
Has that changed over time?
Yes, I like to experiment with different mediums to find a technique to go along with a particular atmosphere or feeling of a text I am illustrating.
Do you have a studio in your house?
I have a “room of my own” in our apartment, yes. But I am still dreaming of a laaaaarge studio with a very high ceiling…
What is the one thing in your studio that you could not live without?
Some brushes with specific sizes and shapes and a music background.
Do you try to spend a specific amount of time working on your craft?
Yes I do, but when it comes to deadlines – it is day and night.
Do you take pictures or do any types of research before you start a project?
I do research, for non-fiction or educational books a lot of research: from internet, books, magazines. I also have my “treasure box” in which I keep photographs, cuttings from papers, magazines, ideas, inspirations …
Which illustrated book is your favorite?
If I think about my books it is “The boy with a little red hood”, which I have written and illustrated. If I talk about others there are so many, so different: “Die Nacht” by Wolf Erlbruch, “Stuck” by Oliver Jeffers, “This is not my hat” by Jon Klassen, “If I were a book” by Andre Letria, “I am not a little red riding hood” by Linda Wolfsgruber, “The three golden keys” by Peter Sis and many many more.
Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?
Yes, definitely. Sometimes I actually don’t understand how we have been working and communicating in those days before!
Do you use Photoshop with your illustrations?
I use Photoshop for my work as well.
Do you own or have you used a Graphic Drawing Tablet in your illustrating?
Yes, I have Intuos 5, love it!
Do you have any career dreams that you want to fulfill?
To make more of my own books (good ones, of course!)!
What are you working on now?
I am illustrating for a children’s magazine and preparing to continue working on my own book.
Do you have any material type tips you can share with us? Example: Paint or paper that you love – the best place to buy – a new product that you’ve tried – A how to tip, etc.
Usually I am working with Canson Montval paper and Ferrario Tiepolo tempera. My favourite place to buy materials is Boesner in Austria. But you have to experiment and search for some new materials all the time!
Any words of wisdom on how to become a successful writer or illustrator?
Work hard, be honest with your work and believe in it! And if you think you can’t find an inspiration, just sit at your working table and begin drawing … the inspiration will soon come …
• The International Golden pen of Belgrade Award, 2007 (for the book Varuh)
• The most original Slovene picture book Award 2006 (for the book Fant z rdečo kapico)
• The most original Slovene picture book nomination 2006 (for the book Mojca Pokrajculja)
Thank you Andreja for taking the time to share your process and journey with us. We look forward to hearing about your future successes.
To see more of Andreja’s illustrations you can visit her at: http://www.andrejapeklar.si/home.html
Please take a minute to leave a comment for Andreja, I know she would love to heard from you and I always appreciate it. Thanks!