February 11, 2020

Let's Talk Illustrators #130: Miren Asiain Lora

I was so excited to connect with Miren Asiain Lora, illustrator of Daniel Nesquens' A Good Day. Miren's sense of space throughout the book is impressive to say the least, but it's her gentle gouache illustrations that truly captured my heart. Take a look at our conversation below.

About the book:
The cat and the tiger are best friends. Every day, the cat enters the zoo and visits the tiger’s cage. They talk about everything, but when the cat confesses that he’d like to be big and strong like the tiger, he’s shocked to learn that the tiger envies him for being free to go wherever he wants. The tiger has a plan to escape from the zoo and find his real home—all he needs is some help from his best friend.

Let's talk Miren Asiain Lora!

LTPB: What excited you most about Nesquens’ manuscript? What were you most excited to illustrate?

MAL: I was excited about showing “the everyday,” which is a subject that I personally feel is very important in my work. I was interested in the relationship between the cat and the tiger, two strangers who tell each other stories, talk about their desires...Everyone gets a point of view and all this takes place in the same place, as time passes day to day.

LTPB: You use space so well -- every image crosses over an entire spread with the exception of one. Did you have a clear vision for the illustrations when you saw the text?

MAL: From the beginning, making some sketches and discarding many others, I knew what the cage would look like and I knew what I wanted the zoo to look like (although it also underwent changes during the process). I liked the idea that everything was down at the bottom of the page and that the upper area was airy, with only the text I liked. 

I did several tests because I couldn't find the right way to tell this story, and my body told me that there was a less common way to do it, I just had to find the way. I tried to make close-ups of the characters, but in reality this did not interest me, and I knew that it didn't contribute to the story. I knew there was a much simpler way, I just needed time to find it. And it was a while until I realized what that way was going to be. I discovered that what interested me most was watching the scenario from a distance, as a spectator. As if I could see everything that was happening, but they couldn't see me. And then I saw clearly that in this book it was going to be like I was filming a movie in which I have the camera attached to a large plane that only makes two movements, left and right. Now yes, everything suited me, I felt that I had found what I was looking for.

I really identify with the idea of ​​being a spectator. To look and not be seen. And I think this book is what happens and it is what usually happens to me when I paint scenes and I love that feeling. I also like the idea that in a book you always discover new details when you turn the page. Having to stop. Wanting to return to the previous page.

LTPB: What did you use to create the illustrations in this book? Is this your preferred medium? How does your process change from book to book?

MAL: I made these paintings with gouache. It is a technique that I like very much because it allows me to use it in different ways to achieve different textures and results. On the one hand I can use it very watery with translucent results, and on the other I can use a lot of paint, and the result is more dense and opaque. Another feature that I like about gouache is that the result is matte, dull, and porous and this allows me to use colored pencils on top.

It is true that in each project the process is different, and that each process nourishes you with new ideas along the way, but I think that my way of responding to a new challenge is always similar. I receive the text, and I decide if I appreciate it, if I am the person to illustrate it, if I feel that I can contribute something else, and I start thinking a lot.

I think, I think and I think.

I think about it when I lie down, when I bathe, while I eat and when I walk down the street. And I start writing down my ideas, which can be anything, even a song. And I continually create quick sketches, especially to think about the composition, tones, textures. Then I start with the final work where I get thorough and enjoy myself the most.

LTPB: Why did you start illustrating children’s books? 

I studied Fine Arts and I liked the idea of illustrating books for children and adults, making posters, etc. It could be a perfect way to live doing what I liked and to continue having contact with art. In the program I did not study anything about illustration, but when I finished it I started painting on my own, looking at books. I even made my first album book and won a contest in my province! So little by little I went deep into this world, and it has me to this day.

For me, the album books are objects of art, and of course I think that illustration is art, although many strive to separate them and say that they are not. I don't like it very much when books are labeled "for kids." I believe that these books are for all audiences, but depending on the age you are going to naturally gravitate to one book or another, and that is the wonderful thing. There are many adults who do not stop to look at these books and do not know what they are missing!

LTPB: What are you working on now? Anything you can show us?

MAL: Now I'm working on the poster for a beautiful Mexican movie, but I can't show much because it's still a secret. Also my boyfriend and I are working on ideas for two new books that I will illustrate, but as above, I still don't want to show anything! I am very excited about this, one of the ideas has been with me for a long time.

LTPB: If you were to write your picture book autobiography, who (dead or alive!) would you want to illustrate it, and why?

MAL: Wow! What a difficult question! There are so many illustrators that I like! Surely I tell you someone, and then I think of another person who would seem better! Besides, it's difficult to delegate the story of your life to another person! I would love to do it myself!

Although it is true that it would be fantastic to see the magic that other illustrators put into your life, so here I go: From the world of the living I will say that I would like illustrator Carson Ellis to do it, simply because I love everything she does. And the world of the dead I will say Štěpán Zavřel, I have not seen much of his work, but the little I have seen is beautiful. The work of the each illustrator is very sensitive, and they make something move inside me. When I look at an image, that's what I need and want, to make me sigh in love.

A million thanks to Miren for taking time to answer some questions! A Good Day published from Eerdman's Young Readers last November!

Special thanks to Miren and Eerdman's for use of these images!

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