Sarolta Szulyovszky was born and grew up in Budapest (Hungary), she studied Applied Art, after which she moved to Italy. Since 2004 she start activity in the field of graphics and illustration working in a graphic design studio in Udine (Italy). Now she lives and works as a freelance illustrator and graphic designer in a little city in northern Italy: San Daniele del Friuli.
She works for children’ s books, magazines, cover books, Brochure Design and Packaging Design.
Sarolta works both traditionally in acrylics, pencil and digitally.
In 2012 her work has been selected for the ‘Annual Illustratori Italiani 2012’ (Society of Italian Illustrators) and for the 30th edition of the exhibition ‘Le immagini della fantasia’ (Sàrmede, Italy) – 60 illustrators from all over the world.
2011 – selected for the 23rd Biennial of Illustrations Bratislava.
In 2010 she won the 1st Prize (Category Children’s Book) at the ‘Marosvásárhely Book Fair Award (Romania).
Draft drawn in Photoshop, and the final illustration for a magazine. The commission was to illustrate the month of July. (Image: Progress_1)
I needed a model to draw the woman so I photographed my son for the face and my hand for the hand!
I found the fruit and vegetables on the internet.
After sketching out the draft, I prepare an acrylic base for the background colour and, with carbon paper, I transfer the draft I have printed onto the base I have prepared. (Image: Progress_4)
Here is the final illustration entirely painted with acrylics.
How long have you been illustrating?
I began to illustrate children’s books 11 years ago. My first publication (2003) was a drawing for an anthology of world fables published in Italy, but I have only thought of myself as an illustrator since I began to devote myself entirely to this work in 2009.
Did you go to college to study graphic design?
I began to study drawing at the age of 14, attending evening classes while I was studying at a science academy school in Budapest (Hungary). My dream was always to become a designer, so once I graduated from high school, I attended a textile design college and another college to study interior decoration, then went to the university “Nyugat-magyarországi Egyetem” on a Packaging Design course, but I never imagined that one day I would be illustrating books! I became involved in the world of children’s books illustration in Italy where I attended courses on advertising graphics and editorial illustration.
What were you favorite classes?
At university, I really liked design and drawing from life, especially portraits.
How did you decide to move from Hungary to Italy?
I moved to Italy not for work but for love. I met my husband in Budapest and, after we got married in 1997, I came with him to Italy.
Do you feel the illustrating opportunities are better in Italy?
I don’t think Italy offers more opportunities for work in the field of illustration compared to Hungary or other European countries. Italy is currently undergoing a severe social, cultural and economic crisis and illustrators (and anyone who works in the cultural sphere in general) is often considered an amateur, and not a professional, and so they are paid little or nothing. However, I do think that Italy is an excellent place to study illustration: it is a country that boasts 50% of the world’s cultural and artistic heritage, a very stimulating environment for an artist, and there are excellent schools specializing in illustration.
It is very true that “no-one is a prophet in his own land” and so the first publications I had in Italy were due to the fact I was a foreigner: they were looking for foreign artists for multicultural editorial projects. After that, I was published in my home country and in other states.
What was the first art related work that you were paid?
The first paid work was for the illustration of a children’s book translated into Italian from Hungarian, “Ha én felnőtt volnék” (If I were big) by Eva Janikovszky, published by L’Omino Rosso Editore, a small publisher in the region where I live. The book is a major classic in Hungary, a very entertaining story that I illustrated using digital techniques (Adobe Illustrator), which did not turn out to be my style.
What do you think influenced you style?
I think my style has been influenced by many things: the popular Hungarian art passed on to me by my grandmother, who taught me embroidery, the late Renaissance painters in the Fine Arts Museum in Budapest, where I acted as tourist guide when I was a student and, of course, many contemporary illustrators that I discovered in books, exhibitions and on the web (Gianni De Conno, Gabriel Pacheco, Alice Wellinger, Pierre Mornet……. the list would be very long!).
What type of work did you do right after you graduated?
After university, I gave birth to my two children and for 6 years I concentrated on being a mother….. although it was during that period that I discovered illustrated children’s books!
How did you connect with the Wilkinson Studios? When did you join them?
I came across Wilkinson Studios in 2011 thanks to an illustrator friend of mine who was already working for them. I sent them my portfolio and they immediately gave me a job. The client was very pleased with the illustration and so we continued to collaborate and they included me among the artists they represent. It was a great honour for me.
Do you do any exhibits to show off your work?
Yes, I am often invited to take part in joint exhibitions and I have had various personal exhibitions in Italy and abroad. In 2011 and 2013, my work was exhibited at the Biennale of Illustration of Bratislava, Slovakia and, 2007- 2012 every year at the “Le immagini della fantasia” of Sàrmede, the most important exhibition of children’s illustrations in Italy.
The last exhibition has just ended and it was “Il posto delle favole” (The place of fables), a joint exhibition by international artists in Rocca Sinibalda, a picturesque little town in central Italy. The next exhibition will be a personal exhibition of my work in Hungary in October 2014.
When and what was the first children’s book that you illustrated?
The first book that I illustrated was, luckily, the one I mentioned as my first paid work.
How did that contract come about?
The contact with the publisher came about through a friend we had in common, who was a book translator.
Do you consider that book to be your first big success?
My first book was an important experience for me, I learned a lot, but I don’t consider it a great success.
Have you published about children’s picture books for a US publisher?
So far, in the United States, they have published my illustrations in academic books and magazines, but I haven’t yet illustrated a whole book in the United States and I can’t wait to do so!
Have you tried to write and illustrate a children’s book, yet?
My first successful book was actually one that I wrote and illustrated: “A hálás virág “(The grateful flower) is an autobiographical book that deals with the subject of diversity and the Great Mystery of death, life and rebirth. The story came from an episode that actually happened in my grandparent’s garden in Budapest. In 2008, the album won first prize for the best unpublished illustrated album for children aged between 6 and 9 years at the 11th International Competition “Syria Poletti: On the wings of butterflies”. It was subsequently published in 3 languages: Italian, Hungarian and Polish.
Does the area where you live have a large artist community?
I live in the countryside near a little town in northeast Italy that lies between the Alps and the Adriatic Sea, a land of excellent white wines and ham. There isn’t a large community of artists here, but you live and eat well!
What type of illustration work do you do?
I work both on children’s books and books for adults, and on Packaging. I work both digitally and with traditional techniques. I like to adapt my style to the text and always try out new things so that I continue to grow and renew myself.
Have you won any awards for our art?
I have won various prizes but the most important was the one I received at the Frankfurt Book Fair in 2013: the cover I illustrated of “Folyékony tekintet” / Liquid gaze (published by Libri, Budapest) was selected from the 12 most beautiful covers at the Fair by the Wall Street Journal.
How many picture books have you illustrated?
So far, I have entirely illustrated 11 books, without counting the anthologies that include the drawings of several artists.
What do you consider your biggest success?
The greatest success has been the last book I illustrated, “Folyékony tekintet” (Liquid gaze), a collection of poetry for which I drew the digital illustrations using only the colours black and red.
Do you feel living in Italy has broaden your career as an illustrator?
For an illustrator, I don’t think it matters much these days where you live, an internet presence is more important because that’s where work meetings take place. 23. Yes, I have worked for Italian and Hungarian magazines and in the United States, for the Christian Reformed Church of North America’s Dwell Dive Magazine. 24. I use acrylic colours and sometimes I add some details in Photoshop.
Have you done illustrations for any children’s magazines?
Yes, I have worked for Italian and Hungarian magazines and in the United States, for the Christian Reformed Church of North America’s Dwell Dive Magazine.
What materials do you use to paint your color illustrations?
I use acrylic colours and sometimes I add some details in Photoshop.
What type of things do you do to find illustration work?
To find illustration work, it is important to have a website or a blog, send your portfolio to the illustration agencies and publishers, and go to specialist fairs, like the Children’s Book Fair of Bologna.
What is the one thing in your studio that you could not live without?
The thing I miss the most is the view from my window: the hill with the historic centre and the mountains. When I’m at home staring at a sheet of paper or a monitor all day, it is important sometimes to turn and look into the distance!
Do you try to spend a specific amount of time working on your craft?
It is very difficult to work set hours when you’re a freelance. I often work at night to meet deadlines…
Do you take pictures or do any types of research before you start a project?
Research is the first phase of working on an illustrated project and that often takes whole days. I have a folder on my computer where I collect photos and texts that inspire me and that might be useful one day. If I don’t find the photos I need on the internet, people in certain poses, for example, then I’ll use relatives or myself, taking the photos I need.
Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?
Yes, I think the internet has opened many doors, but it has also increased the competition.
Do you use Photoshop or Corel Painter with your illustrations?
Yes, I use Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator.
Do you own or have you used a Graphic Drawing Tablet in your illustrating?
Yes, I use a Graphic Drawing Tablet to sketch out drafts and add details to my illustrations.
Do you have any career dreams that you want to fulfill?
My dream is to illustrate the Bible, especially St Paul’s Hymn to Love.
What are you working on now?
At the moment, I’m working on two books: an illustrated album: The Garden of Tears, written by the French author, Laurie Cohen, and a Hungarian novel by Zoltán Hajdú Farkas.
Any words of wisdom on how to become a successful writer or illustrator?
Above all, it is important to inquire within and understand ourselves. What would I really like to do? Devote time to personal works that haven’t been commissioned, be humble (we always need to learn), have a little entrepreneurial ability (we have to promote our work ourselves) and great steadfastness.
Thank you Sarolta for taking the time to share your process and journey with us. We look forward to hearing about all your future successes.
To see more of Sarolta’s illustrations visit her at:
Please take a minute to leave a comment for Sarolta, I know she would love to heard from you and I always appreciate it. Thanks!