April 27, 2021

Let's Talk Illustrators #175: Camilla Pintonato

When I saw the cover of Full Moon, I knew instantly that I was going to connect with the illustrations and story. And I was right!. Although Camilla Pintonato is new to the children's book illustration scene, she has four books publishing just in 2021, and she shows no signs of slowing down. It was such a thrill to catch her at what I know is the beginning of a long and successful career (feels like I'm getting in on the ground floor!). Enjoy our chat.

About the book:
As the sun sets, the little gray rabbits are busy in their secret workshop, but what could they be making? Follow along as the rabbits prepare for the big event, inviting all of their forest friends to the celebration. The mice, foxes, porcupines, and other forest creatures gather as the full moon rises, and finally the big surprise is revealed. The little rabbits release beautiful paper lanterns into the sky, where they sparkle like stars in the light of the full moon.

Let's talk Camilla Pintonato!

LTPB: You have a wonderful story about how Full Moon became a book, can you share that with us? What inspired the story?

CP: I created Full Moon for the Silent Book Contest in 2018 (where it was a finalist) and initially it was a book without words, which allowed me to live the transition from illustrator to author-illustrator more serenely.

That said, it's hard to explain where ideas come from because they often come subconsciously when we're not really thinking about them. They come to me when I'm in a state of drowsiness. I think in this case my obsession with time was decisive. I am one of those people who starts working at 9 o'clock, who drinks coffee at 10, who eats and watches the news at 1:30, and, if by chance I have to change my routine, I always do it with a sense of anxiety. I chose to live in Venice precisely because time passes very slowly here (to go somewhere you have to wait for the vaporetto or take long walks) and sometimes it’s marked by the tides and the high water (with which you just can't leave the house!). So right from the start (even before the rabbits) I decided that time would be one of the protagonists of the story: half of the pages are about the movement of the sun and the moon in the celestial vault, and they allowed me to mark the passage of exactly 12 hours.

On the other hand, I love nature, the woods, and being in the countryside, living in contact with nature in all its forms. I have always seen nature as an aggregating and benign force (in the book all the animals are invited to the party) and as a beauty to be discovered most of the time, perhaps something that needs a pinch of magic to be seen.

Until a few years ago I had this rabbit that I had called Mr. Bunny that ran and jumped all over the house at night, so it came naturally to me to wonder what rabbits and all the other animals do while we sleep. Obviously I thought about it in my drowsiness, seeing the rabbit's shadow jump somewhere!

LTPB: You’re working hard lately, with Chickenology out earlier this year, Pigology out in October, and Detective Mole publishing in November! Do you find that you prefer writing and illustrating versus being just the illustrator?

CP: From a certain point of view, creating my own book is very liberating because I don't have to follow anyone else's directions… but in reality I always look for a second opinion. And two heads (or three or four) are better than one (often, not always).

I personally find that collaborating with writers, with editors and above all with my agents, Debbie Bibo and Ilaria Demonti, is a very educational experience. Illustrating children's books is a very lonely profession, and I actually wish to work more collaboratively in the future. But you asked this question after a year of lockdown, so I don't think I’m completely impartial (haha)!

As for the -ology series, I must say that it is a very special collaboration because I actually set out looking to illustrate chickens and I was searching for an author! I contacted the authors of the Italian blog Everything about chickens (Tutto sui polli) and asked them if they would be interested in making a book about chickens with me. From that first email, we worked for months on the index and first spreads to be presented, and there was a wonderful exchange of ideas where sometimes the illustration didn't come after the text but together or even before! The same thing happened with Pigology, only it was much easier being the second title of this series.

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

CP: I only use Photoshop. Many people believe that I draw by hand because I use the functions of this program in a very analog way: if I can, I avoid doing too many different levels, and, for example, if there is an option to delete a color that goes above another I do not use the eraser but use the second color, like you would do in real life.

My process changes little from book to book. I have definitely improved but mostly because it's hard to get worse when you are always working and drawing! Now I know how to do certain things and I do them faster, that’s it.

LTPB: Can you show us what you’re working on now from Pigology, Detective Mole or something else?

CP: Here are some preview images of Pigology and Detective Mole:

The world of publishing is very slow, so when a book is being published you are already working on the titles afterwards. In fact I have just finished the sequel to Detective Mole called Detective Mole and the Golden Lantern. In this second book, my mole detective will be grappling with a missing necklace, a fluffy countess in tears, and an incomprehensible night watchman platypus.

Plus I'm working on two other personal projects of mine but they're still TOP SECRET (which is a nice way to say I still don't know where to hit my head!).

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

CP: I love to laugh, so Jon Klassen! I want to be represented as a hen with a hat! I would like a Borsalino hat Jon, please.

Thank you so much to Camilla for talking to me about all her books coming out this year! Full Moon publishes TODAY from Princeton Architectural Press!

Special thanks to Camilla and Princeton Architectural Press for use of these images!

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