Anna Forlati was born in Padua, Italy. After receiving a degree in contemporary art and a degree in film history at the IUAV University in Venice, she now dedicates herself to the world of illustration for children. She has illustrated several books and has taken part in many international exhibitions dedicated to illustration. Since 2014 she has been collaborating with the Onlus Radio Magica Foundation.
Illustration & Me
I am an Italian children’s book illustrator, working in this field for approximately 10 years.
By now I have published around 30 illustrated books in Italy and abroad. I have almost always worked with commissioned projects, but I am currently working on a book of my own.
I love books, and I think of them as objects with infinite potential. I am happy that more and more attention is given worldwide to the illustrated book and hope it will gradually be considered as a product not only aimed at children, but to people of every age.
The biggest challenge was for me to realize how an illustrated book is not simply a collection of (hopefully) beautiful pictures, but it is an organic structure that needs to be balanced in each part.
There are so many elements that have to be taken into account in the illustrated book, most of which I didn’t fully consider at first: among many others, the rhythm of the pages, the narrative of the image, the balance between text and image, the graphic design, the importance of the white space, the print, the paper, the size of the book… When I had my first book in my hands for the first time I experienced a big disappointment. Now, after years, I am starting to consider it with a more benevolent eye.
Perhaps the most fascinating books I had as a child (and still keep on my shelves) were the two volumes of The Gnomes by Will Huygen and Rien Poortvliet. I used to get lost between their pages and in the mesmerizing illustrations that are hosted in them. I could open one page almost randomly and spend a long time exploring the images and tales, wondering if somebody had imagined that world, or if it really existed. I am still wondering about that.
Where the Wild Things Are. I consider it one of the most perfect children’s books ever made, for many reasons that are probably obvious to most people. Another of my most favorite books, maybe a little less known, is The Island by Armin Greder. One common trait of those otherwise very different books is the importance of the white space. Far from being simply “empty” and unmeaningful, the white space in them becomes extremely significant. In both books, the reader has the very important role of filling that white space.
I am currently working on different book projects. One of my favourites is Banvard and Geoff, a story written by Luca Tortolini, that will be published in 2019 by the Italian publisher Kite. It is the beautiful and dreamy tale of the friendship between an elephant and a boy.
When I’m stuck on something – for example, if I am not able to find the right idea for an illustration – I start messing up on the sheet with stains and casual distribution of colors. I then slowly start to let shapes emerge from that abstract chaos. At first, my hand is working almost instinctively, without me having full consciousness of what’s happening. I gradually find a way to direct those emerging images. The images that are so created appear more spontaneous, and sometimes help me find original narrative solutions to the illustrated tale.
I love going to the cinema. Regardless of the movie, I still feel a great emotion in front of the big screen.
I think there are some important common aspects, and many significant differences, between cinema and the illustrated book. Considering the dynamics of cinema helps me to better understand how the illustrated book works: for example, unlike cinema, the illustrated book is constructed on a limited range of images and on a quite fluid time framing.
I think that style it is not something that you choose from the start, as if from a catalog, rather the opposite. I think that it slowly emerges from practice, especially from drifts and errors, which I consider very valuable. Furthermore, every book is a different universe, and I tend to use slightly different styles and techniques depending on the book’s features and atmosphere.