Tihomir Čelanović was born in 1977. in Belgrade, Serbia. He grew up in Kotor, Montenegro, graduated in 2001 at the Faculty of applied arts and design in Belgra.
Tihomir is an illustrator who loves doing fantasy stuff, children books and anything interesting.
Here’s Tihomir Celanovic sharing his process:
I got the assignment of doing a cover for a children’s travel book. The editor wanted a scene with an Indian elephant and the main characters with guide on its back.
So the first step was obviously to find the right photo.
Next step is making a free, but comprehensible sketch so the editor could see how the final thing is going to look like. Also, I need to make sure there is enough space for the name of the book and the writer and the publisher’s logo.
Still working on a sketch, trying to set the lighting in a scene. It’s a jungle, so there will be a lot of rays of light through the trees adding the mystery to the scene.
This isn’t as detailed as it could be if I were a professional concept artist, but in my mind, I already have the idea of the final cover which is good enough for me to go on the next step.
Here I am doing the detailed pencil drawing using light table.
When it is scanned, the lines will be darkened, so it will look something between the marker and a pencil.
At this stage I look at some more photos of plants of Indian jungle. This includes the monkey. It should be an Indian one, not just any monkey.
The basic colors are done. This is the most boring part of the process, but when this is done, I can start adding the details…
… the grass blades, the leaves, the texture of the trees and of course the sun rays. Note that the crocodile in the water from 007 is gone. Too distracting. I have to be honest and say that I used some of the treatment ideas from Disney’s “Jungle book”. I was lucky with this one, the editor (“Pcelica”) was really happy with it, no corrections needed, which isn’t often the case with publishers.
A FEW BOOK COVERS
Interview Questions for Tihomir Celanovic
How long have you been illustrating?
My parents say that I have been drawing since I was 4 years old. I enjoyed putting many little drawings on one piece of paper, couldn’t find the discipline to do just one portrait or landscape and make it a “painting to put on a wall”. Storytelling was my favorite way of expressing myself, that’s why I was always into doing comics.
Where do you live?
I grew up in Kotor, Montenegro, now I live in Belgrade, Serbia, with my wife and daughter.
What was the first thing you painted where someone paid you for your work?
The first time I ever published an illustration was in a local satirical newspaper “Karampana” in Kotor. My dad gave one of my illustrations to its editor without telling me, so I was really surprised seeing it in print. The drawing of some silly animals was put in some political context, that (or the next one published, I’m not sure to be honest) was the first time I was paid for drawing, it was enough to buy new sneakers.
What made you chose to attend the Faculty of applied arts and design in Belgrade?
I knew that attending school of applied arts is the closest thing to doing comics and illustration, so I went for that.
What did you study there?
We had illustration, we had lettering, anatomy drawing, croquis drawing, great experience! Anatomy drawing helped a lot in studying the human body and learning to analyze in general.
Did college help develop your style?
College introduced me to many various disciplines I wasn’t aware of, most of my colleagues went to design school prior to college, so they were familiar with all these things, but not me.
What type of work did you do after you got out of school?
I started illustrating books during my college years, so I just continued to do so after I finished it. There was a children’s magazine “Veliko dvoriste” (“Big yard”) where they let me publish my own comic “Milicko” on a monthly basis. It was about a boy who had a bat stuck in his hair because he wouldn’t cut of his hair. I also did a lot of comic fanzines.
Did they help you get work after you graduated?
After college, I started the “freelancer’s routine”, offering my works to everyone. People would recommend me, I would meet many new editors, art directors and work on whatever came along.
Have you seen your work change since you graduated?
Some time, after graduation, I started focusing on technical sides of illustrating that I deliberately avoided for years: perspective, architecture, color palette, etc.
I guess I tried to be more open to different styles and not run away from challenges of the unknown themes and techniques.
When did you decide you wanted to illustrate for children?
The world of fantasy or the imaginary world has always been with me, it’s something I am addicted to, so illustrating children’s worlds came naturally to me.
Was Descubre… La botánica your first book?
No, I published my first book in 1994 when I was in high school, but this one was a great combination of humor and exact botanical facts. It was originally illustrated for Kreativni centar, the Colombian editor published it few years later.
How did that contract come about?
People at Kreativni centar know me for years, so they are familiar with my interest in drawing fantastic worlds of plants and bugs, that must have pointed them in my direction.
How many books have you illustrated?
To be honest, I don’t know, it must be less than 100 and more than 50.
When did start doing comic strip illustrations?
It went alongside with illustration. My first big assignment was comic “Milicko”, I did 48 page comic “Eudora” (world of bugs again) as a project for my graduation.
Have you illustrated any books with a US publisher?
Not yet, I recently started contacting some of them, but it really takes time, it’s a big market.
Do you have any desire to write and illustrate your own books?
Yes, very much! That storytelling process is what attracted me to comics. I love drawing and illustrating, but to develop characters, to set the mood, to tell the story is the most exciting part of the whole thing.
What do you think is your biggest success?
My biggest achievement is the fact that I managed to keep myself amused and excited by this job. (cont.)
It’s a wonderful occupation, but as anything else, there are ups and downs, but I always work on new ways of amusing myself. I try to have broad interests, to sketch freely whenever possible, to keep “the spark” alive. Currently, I am trying to get coffee shops and clubs interested in a “Live drawing session”, a combination of music and my live drawing. The idea is to have a band playing jazz or some similar improvisational music and to see my drawings develop on a canvas projected by video beam, live. It’s still hard for me to explain the club owners what it would all look like, but someone will take a chance on that soon. I hope.
Have you ever tried to do a wordless picture book?
No, but that’s a great idea!
Do you have an artist rep.? How did the two of you connect?
Not yet. It would be very helpful to have someone who “gets” what you do to represent you in a proper way. It seems to me that my style can be a mixture of animation, comics, children’s illustration, a style that may seem difficult package to market, I guess.
Do you illustrate full time?
I illustrate for 5 hours, then take a break, then I continue. To be honest, don’t know, but 8 hours each day is approximately the daily routine.
Do you have a favorite medium you use?
I will always work on paper (sorry, trees!) and use pencil and pen and ink. There is something still unique about that. After I scan those drawings, digital coloring does the rest.
Do you take research pictures before you start a project?
Yes, almost always. Most things require some kind of documentation, so I’m used to that.
Even the artists with very simplified styles get the best results if they base their drawings on real examples.
Have you worked with any educational publishers? If yes, is there any difference working with them?
It’s an interesting question. Yes, much more attention is given on the illustration’s purpose. It has to be clear, understandable, engaging. When I worked on a textbook for physics, they needed a drawing of a foot hitting a ball as an example of a particular law. The editor laughed at my drawing because it was a “Goofy’s leg” cartoonishly hitting a ball, so it had to be done again in a more calmer and serious manner.
Do you use Photoshop with any of your work?
I use it with almost anything I work on. I use some other program for painting here and there, but Photoshop is pretty irreplaceable. Started working in Illustrator, but it’s too stiff for my way of working.
Do you have and use a graphic tablet?
For coloring always, for drawing sometimes.
I published my works in several magazines in Serbia including “Politikin zabavnik” which was a big part of my childhood, just finished illustrations for children’s magazine “Storytime magazine” from UK, I love working for magazines, but there aren’t many of them now, it seems. The great thing would be to have a weekly assignment for a magazine.
Do you have a studio in your house?
Yes, a small, but cozy balcony that my wife and I turned into a working studio.
Is there anything in your studio you couldn’t live without?
I don’t get attached to things, really. A paper and a pencil I always need, but that’s it.
Do you follow any type of routine to attain your career goals?
I try to be realistic and excited at the same time, if it makes sense? Survival is necessary, but so is a joy of working and living, so having a job that pays and inspires is more than most people have, so I’m pretty lucky and thankful for that!
Any exciting projects on the horizon?
I am hoping to develop a project called “Creatures that can only be seen by kids”, a collection of photographs of children with imaginary creatures I added. Also, performing “Live drawing sessions” would be a great thing to be a part of. Wife and I play in our acoustic band “Alhambra”, we’re recording our own songs, it takes time because we have a baby daughter, but no hurry, it will happen sometime in the future.
Do you think the Internet has opened any doors for you?
Yes. Internet is a huge “ocean of opportunities”, but I am only recently learning to “swim” in it, pardon the metaphore. One has to be persistant, to realise that constant selfmarketing and portfolio submitting is a part of daily routine. If you’re offering something potential clients need and if you are patient enough, people call back.
What are your career goals?
To work more on my own stories and projects and to combine music with visual expression.
I remember reading about the excitement the first screening of “Steamboat Willie” brought to people. Anything that can get close to that is something to look forward to!
What are you working on now?
I started working on few games that require characters and backgrounds, couple of children’s books, and (a new venture for me) a collection of portraits of famous people for economy magazine.
Are there any painting tips (materials, paper, etc.) you can share that work well for you? Technique tips?
Don’t have much knowledge in materials, but I would advise anyone to keep their mind open for new ideas, to have stuff always working in their heads, so that it can easily come out, the materials would be a secondary thing.
Any words of wisdom you can share with the illustrators who are trying to develop their career?
Work with love and dedication, don’t be a perfectionist. Paint what you know (as they say for writers) and be realistic, get to know and understand the market.