Posted by: Kathy Temean | March 27, 2021

Illustrator Saturday – Renia Metallinou

Renia Metallinou is an illustrator from Greece. She studied graphic design in the Athenian Design College (AKTO) and a few years later, after winning a two-year scholarship she studied fashion design. Since 2014 she started working as a full time illustrator, creating books for publishers in Greece and abroad. In 2017 she was shortlisted for the World Illustration Awards in the children’s book category. She is a member of the Greek IBBY (INTERNATIONAL BOARD ON BOOKS FOR YOUNG PEOPLE).

I mostly work with pencils, ink and digital media but I also enjoy using gouache, watercolours and collage.

ReniaI lives a few miles away from Athens, in a small house by the sea, with her husband, two children, and lots of pets. Her favorite food is chocolate!

AWARDS/ACHIEVEMENTS:

2020 Moonbeam Awards Gold Medal for Picture Book, All Ages (For Willa’s House, PlumLeaf Press)
2019 Public book Awards / Books for Teens-Won (For Everything started the day they brought Zachary home! by Phychogios editions GR)
2018 Cypru’s National Literature Award for Young Children with special mention on illustration (For White Uniform by Teleia Editions).
2018 Little Hakka International Picture Book Award. Shortlisted for the professional group.
2017 World Illustration Awards 2017. Shortlisted for children’s books category

She is represented by the Bright Agency worldwide (ex. Greece and Cyprus).
Please contact Anne Moore Armstrong (anne@thebrightagency.com)for commissions or inquiries.

Here is Renia discussing her process:

Interview with Renia Metallinou:

How long have you been illustrating?

I have been illustrating since I was a kid but I started working as an illustrator 7-8 years ago.

What and when was the first painting or illustration that you did where someone paid you for your artwork?

To be honest I don’t really remember my first commission. I must have been some type of illustrated invitation I think.

What made you chose the Athenian Design College to study graphic design?

In Greece, when I finished school, there where only 2 state universities for studying arts and graphic design. The National School of Fine Arts and the Technological Educational Institution of Athens. As it was quite hard to get into these schools I decided to study at AKTO which was one of the best Art and Design colleges in Greece at the time.

Did you take any children’s book illustration classes at AKTO?

No. I was studying graphic design and I only had some traditional illustration and painting lessons as part of the educational program I was following.


Did you do any fashion design after winning a scholarship to study fashion design?

Unfortunately no, I didn’t, because I was working as an art director for a newspaper at the time. But fashion design studies put some foundations for my later career in illustration.

 Did the school help you find work after you graduated?

Not really. But I had got my first paid work as a graphic designer while I was still studying.

What type of work did you do when you started your career?

At the beginning of my graphic design career I was mostly designing logos for small businesses, advertising leaflets and brochures, which were really interesting at the time.

What made you decide you wanted to illustrate children’s books?

I always loved illustration.  I originally started by creating some fashion illustrations for the magazines I was working for. I had no influences from children’s illustrations back then.

But when I became a mom and started buying all these wonderful illustrated clothes and books and accessories for kids I just fell in love with children’s illustration. At some point I began to work on an activity book for my kids that were 2-3 years old at the time, to help them learn the Greek alphabet and that project became really creative and interesting for me. I felt I had finally found a new path for my career, as I knew I was not interested in graphic design and magazines as much as I used to, plus it was something that I could do without leaving home and being able to stay with my kids.

What do you think help you develop your style?

I was drawing a lot! I was trying techniques and materials that I was not familiar with. I started following illustrators on social media and studying their work. I also read (and keep reading)
books about art and illustration. Style is something that constantly evolves.

It looks like you wrote and illustrated your first book in 2013. It is in Greek, so I cannot read the title. What is the title in English and what it was about?

The book’s title is “coloring, playing and learning the alphabet”. As I’ve mentioned before I started working on this book for my kids when they were around 2-3 years old. I couldn’t find a book in the Greek market that would combine writing practice and coloring activities with fun illustrations. So I decided to create a book that I thought it would be nice for my kids to have.

How did you get that contract with Patakis Editions?

In 2013 I created a Facebook page with some of my early illustrations (mostly fashion illustrations). A Greek author who was working with Patakis Editions saw my work and asked me to illustrate her new book. On my first appointment with the publisher I had my book with me to present a children’s illustration portfolio. The publisher liked my work and asked me if I would be interested in having my book published. I guess I was really lucky because on my first interview with a publisher I got to sign 2 contracts. One for my book, and the other to illustrate a children’s book.

In 2016, you wrote and illustrated published another book with the same publisher, Patakis Editions. Do you plan to write and illustrate more books?

Yes, of course I do! But not another activity book this time. I have 3-4 stories written but I haven’t had enough time to work on them yet.

You have illustrated 53 books. Ten have been published in English. In 2015, you illustrated Without Birthday Presents, with EdVenture books in Singapore Was that your first book published book in English?

Well, actually this book was in Chinese! But it was the first book that I did for a foreign publisher. The book’s editor send me the text in English, which I later replaced with the original. My first book in English was  “Romeo and Juliette, a coloring classic’’ published by Little Tiger Books in 2015.

How did they find you?

In 2015 I was working with another agency. The agency asked me to do some samples for a coloring book for adults, which was going to get published in England and worldwide. These books were really popular at the time. So I did some samples that the agency submitted to the publisher and I took the job.

In 2020, you illustrated Willa’s House published by Rubicon Publishing in Canada and were awarded the 2020 Moonbeam Gold Metal for Picture book, All Ages. Was that exciting for receive?

It was exciting and also unexpected because I had no idea that the publisher had submitted the book! This award made me really happy, it was a wonderful surprise for me.

Was Now I’m A Bird by Sue Schmitt your first US published book?

Yes, it was!

Do you think that is how Sleeping Bear Press found you to illustrate The Color Collector?

Oh, I don’t think so because Now I’m A Bird wasn’t published at the time I signed with Sleeping Bear Press. I think my agent submitted my work to the editor and I was asked to do a sample for the book before signing up with them.

Do you feel the Bright Agency is responsible for getting you into the US Market?

Yes, definitely! The Bright Agency has opened the doors to the US market for me and has given me great books to illustrate.

How long have you been with the Bright Agency? How did you connect with them?

I have joined the Bright Agency about three years ago, in 2018, after submitting my portfolio through their website for consideration.

In 2020, you exhibited your work at Time, Greek illustrators for the Hellenic Foundation of Culture. Was this by invitation or something where you submitted work and was accepted?

I was invited to participate as part of the Greek children’s illustrator’s community.

I love the animation Blu you did for AnimaSyros festival 2017. Did you take classes to learn how to do this type of animation?

Oh, thank you so much! No, I used my graphic designer’s skills.  It was made with Adobes Photoshop.  Almost all the graphic design programs allow you to do this kind of simple animations.

Do illustrators do school visits to help sell their books in Greece?

This is something that the authors usually do. Illustrators most often attend the book’s presentations. Of course this last year with the lockdown and quarantine nothing of these is possible.

Have you ever tried doing a wordless picture book?

Actually one of the books ideas I have is for a wordless picture book. I find this type of books really interesting and creative. I saw the winning books of the Silent Books Contest in Bologna a couple of years ago and they were all amazing pieces of art!

 Do you have a studio in your house?

Yes, I finally do have a studio. I originally had a corner inside our living room but eventually I needed more space. We had a storeroom right next to our home that my husband cleaned, painted and turned into a wonderful studio for me this December!

Have you done any illustrations for children’s Magazines? If so, who?

No, unfortunately I have not done any! But I would love to.

Is working with a self-published author to illustrate their book something you would consider?

Yes, sure! I have already worked with a couple of self-published authors in Greece. I also worked with an author from Doha that met through a common friend.

What do you think is your biggest success?

My biggest success in my career is that I have followed my path in illustration and I’m really grateful for being able to work in the children’s books field.

What is your favorite medium to use?

My number one medium is ink, especially black Indian ink. I love the textures and imperfections that ink creates.

Has that changed over time?

Oh, yes, a lot! As a graphic designer I used to work mostly with computer design programs like Adobe’s Illustrator, so my very first illustrations were vectors. Later I started experimenting with Adobes Photoshop. Now I create mostly hand drawn illustrations with traditional media combined with a final digital touch.

Do you own or have you used a Graphic Drawing Tablet when illustrating?

Yes, I work with an iPad pro and Apple pen.

What materials and/or tools do you use to create your work?

Pencil, ink, coloring markers, gouache and Procreate app. Procreate is a great and affordable app and it’s digital brushes combine great with traditional media.

Do you try to spend a specific amount of time working on your craft?

For every project I undertake I make a time plan that I try to follow. I usually work every day for as many hours as I need to catch my deadlines. Some times that means working almost all day. But I try to have the weekends work free so I can rest and spend some time with my kids and family.

Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?

Oh, definitely! Internet is a great window to show your work to potential clients. I was a graphic designer/full time mom trying to be an illustrator. Sharing my work on social media was the key to achieve that.

Do you have any career dreams that you want to fulfill?

I have many career dreams. My biggest is to have an author-illustrator picture book published outside Greece.

What are you working on now?

I’m currently illustrating a folk story for a Greek children’s book publisher.

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.

Experiment with ink using different types of brushes and paper. Ink creates the most amazing textures. My favorite is Winsor & Neuton’s black Indian ink, which I use almost for all of my personal projects.

Any words of wisdom on how to become a successful writer or illustrator?

Work more, practice more.

Love what you do, set goals and always try to get better.

Avoid comparing your self with others and don’t let rejections get you down.

Renia, thank you for taking the time to answer the interview questions and showing us your process. Can’t wait to show off The Color Collector on April 6th Please let me know your future successes so I can share them with everyone.

To see more of Renia’s work, you can visit her at:

WEBSITE: https://www.reniametallinouillustration.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/reniametallinou_illustration/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/reniamet.illustration

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Responses

  1. Really lovely work. The “bad hair day” illustration cracked me up. Thanks for a beautiful post.

    Like

  2. What a wonderful collection! Lots of emotions included in your work. Thanks for sharing, Renia!

    Like


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