Susan Batori is a Hungarian illustrator, graphic designer and a character design addict. She studied graphic design at the Hungarian Academy of Fine Arts, Budapest, Hungary. As an art director at DDB Advertising Agency, Susan designed many print ads, websites, posters, packages etc. She has worked for a variety of clients including: Volkswagen, Signal, Vodafone, Zwack, Jófogás.hu, Astra Zeneca, Pick, HVG, Nők Lapja, Kaiser, Libero etc.
Than she noticed that drawing hilarious characters was much more fun. She likes to laugh with her boyfriend Robert – the Great Cat-Fondler, and her cat Kamilla, who inspire her funny characters. Humour is the most important element in her work. She also loves creating new digital textures. Susan is enthusiastic about the color turquoise, nature, animals, and the works of Lisbeth Zwerger, Carter Goodrich, Sven Nordqvist and Anna Laura Cantone.
At present she works in her small studio in Budapest, focusing on children’s book illustrations and her own projects.
As a first step I searching the Internet. In this case, for example, I check to see how dog like itching.
Then I do a sketch paying attention to the composition.
I clear the contours a bit and fill the forms with colors. It is here, that I determine how the colors dominate the picture and how the atmospheres will be.
After I put down the lights and shadows.
This step is the most important in my process. Here the patterns go to their place. Usually I design the patterns by myself. It is a long process. Here, on the attached picture the wall, the carpet and the armchair have got their own patterns.
Finally I do a few color corrections and fix some details. Tadah! It’s done.
Have you ever visited the US?
Unfortunately, not yet. Since my first favorite American cartoon, “The Flinstones”, I’ve had a dream to live in the USA. As a child, I often found myself dreaming, that I’m walking on a beach in Florida, or on a busy New York avenue among the skyscrapers.
How long have you been illustrating?
I have been drawing since the age of 3. Even though I made some illustrations while I was a graphic designer, my main illustrator career started 3 years ago, when I started to focus mainly on children’s illustrations. My path wasn’t a common one, to get where I am now.
What was the first art related work where someone paid you for your work?
At the age of 14, I made a price-table for an ice-cream shop, with ice cream illustrations on it. I found it terrible, but the client liked it.
What inspired you to attend the Hungarian Academy of Fine Arts to study graphic design?
Elena, my drawing teacher, and Salvador Dali. I was so impressed by the works of Dali that I decided to be an artist myself. And why graphic design? I thought this could be the best choice to be an artist, and make a living out of it.
What type of classes did you enjoy the most?
Artistic anatomy. Those classes were really interesting. I remember, that my drawing skills developed greatly here, and I also learnt to pay attention to the details more. I also loved typography classes as well, but my favorite class was graphic design.
Do you think college helped to develop your style?
I would say, that during my early years it was not the Academy, but my classmates who inspired me, and drove me slowly towards new styles and techniques. But the truth is, that during many years I worked a lot on my own development in which the internet was of great influence too.
Did HAFA help you find work when you graduated?
If HAFA means Humorous Art Facility Academy then yes. 🙂 Otherwise, I’m sorry but I don’t know what HAFA means. I found my first job without the help of anyone.
What type of work did you do right after you graduated?
First I was graphic designer at smaller company. Later I became an art director at DDB Budapest. I designed posters, print ads, brochures, and so on.
Do you feel the years you spent being an art director for an advertising agency helped prepare you for a career in illustrating children’s books?
Absolutely yes. It taught me how to work together with the clients. I also learnt many technical things in printing and publishing, so I can now better understand and oversee the book publishing process. It also helped me to have an insight in branding, which comes along useful now, to help me in self-branding.
What made you decide you wanted to illustrate for children?
Some years ago I realized that my job as a graphic designer didn’t bring much fun to my life any more. I always had specific instructions on how to do a piece of work, so that it pleased the client. I couldn’t put myself in, or use my creativity in these ads or posters. I wanted to have a little more freedom, to express myself, and to show the humour inside me, that always makes children smile.
Have illustrated a picture book, yet?
Yes, although I am a beginner in this area, but I’m working on it.
Would you like to write and illustrate your own picture book?
Writing is not my strength, but I do have a few ideas that I would like to achieve. Yes, I would love an own picture book.
What types of things do you do to find illustration work?
I am present on the Behance site, and on my own website (www.batori.hu) where I try to improve my portfolio and make it more colorful . Besides that, the Good Illustration Agency represents me, which is a huge help.
I see you are represented by Good Illustration; can you tell us how you made that contact for representation? How long you have been with them?
They actually found me through my works on the Behance site, and asked me, if I wanted them to represent me. I said yes 2 year ago, and since then we have a good cooperation.
What materials do you use to paint your color illustrations?
Initially, I used the classic techniques and painted aquarelle on paper. Nowdays, I work on computer only.
Have you done illustrations for any children’s magazines?
Yes, I have worked for an e-magazine for children, but I had too many expectations to meet which made it less enjoyable.
Have you worked with educational publishers? If so, which one’s?
I haven’t worked for any yet.
How much time do you spend illustrating?
I illustrate almost all day long. If not in front of the computer, then in my head. I often wake up and start to work on a new technique or a specific drawing that came to my mind. I spend a lot of time with drawing, but as I enjoy doing it, it doesn’t feel like work.
Do you have a studio set up in your house?
I am living in a tiny apartment in the middle of Budapest. I don’t have a working-room, but I have a desk and a computer in the corner of the living-room which is more than enough for me.
Do you still do artwork other than for children?
Yes. My best friend has an online stationery page where she sells postcards, greeting cards, notebooks etc. I often do the designs for her products. I also get a lot of similar requests from new clients.
Do you ever exhibit your work?
My graphical works have been exhibited a few years ago, but my illustrations not yet.
What is the one thing in your studio that you could not live without?
Do you try to spend a specific amount of time working on your craft?
Yes, I pay attention almost every day to other illustrators’, painters’, graphic designers’ or photographers’ works. If I discover a style, technique or composition that I like I test it immediately and build it into my style.
Do you take pictures or do any types of research before you start a project?
I don’t take pictures but I start looking at the internet for inspirations, as soon as I get a new assignment.
Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?
Sure enough! Only the internet opened really doors for me. I’ve got all the support I have, from there.
Would you be open to working with an author who want to self-publish a picture book?
I have already worked with some. A year ago I’ve got an assignment from a very nice Mexican lady, Minerva, who wrote some funny poems about dogs. (¡Perro qué divertido!) She published it by herself and she offered all the income of the book for dog rescue foundations.
This is my favorite work so far.
Do you use Photoshop or Corel Painter with your illustrations?
I use Photoshop. I love it.
Do you own or have you used a Graphic Drawing Tablet in your illustrating?
Yes. It’s my preciousssss. 🙂 I remember when the computers and digital tables started to spread in Hungary in the 90’s, I was the biggest opponent of them, and insisted I would never use one. 🙂
Do you have any career dreams that you want to fulfill?
Career dreams? I guess every illustrator has one. One of my dreams is to make more and more children to laugh through my illustrations. The other one is to have a book, illustrated by me, to be in the New York Times top 10 children’s book list.
What are you working on now?
At the moment I am working on 3 different children’s books projects: Crocs, fleas and crabs…. 🙂
I also plan to start my own business: would be great to see my characters imprinted on kid’s shirts…
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.
Yes, I have a tip. If you don’t have any inspiration, find a soul mate and keep a cat……
Any words of wisdom on how to become a successful writer or illustrator?
I don’t think I am successful yet, but it would be: Never stop developing yourself.
Thank you Susan for sharing your talent, process, and journey with us. Please make sure you keep in touch and share your future successes with us.
If you have a minute, please leave a comment for Susan. I am sure she’d love it and I enjoy reading them, too. Thanks!