March 31, 2020

Let's Talk Illustrators #138: Reza Dalvand

I was so pleased to catch up with Reza Dalvand about What Could That Be?. Reza has published over fifteen picture books in Iran, Europe, and Asia, and I'm so thrilled to see them making their way to the States (and quickly, too!). I hope you enjoy our conversation about his career so far and what he's working on now!

About the book:
On the edge of a clearing in the woods there's something mysterious lying on the ground. What on earth could it be? The raven thinks it is a piece of star fallen from the sky. The leopard fears he has lost his own spot The cat thinks it's her poo and buries it. The fox simply has no idea what it could be. What do you think it is?

Peek underneath the dust jacket:

Let's talk Reza Dalvand!

LTPB: What Could That Be? is centered around an unidentified blackish something that pops up in the forest one day. Can you talk about what it was like to create an image that is equal parts ambiguous and recognizable enough for animals (and readers) to connect to its presence? 

RD: I find the concept of the unknown and unfamiliar to be fascinating. I am attracted to strangers, different languages, different cultures, other nations, unknown artists and in total all things that I don't know, but it's not the same with the others, mostly people are scared and avoid unknown things. Why? It's simple, because they don't know how dangerous these things are! Maybe something black, without any special shape and smell, and lost in the center of the forest is unknown—even for the animals—no one can say, no one knows what it is! Everyone tells their experiences, speak of their dreams and fears. And, the beauty of it, is that it's open to millions of people with millions ideas.

LTPB: How did you create the illustrations in this book?

RD: I used oil colors and crayons for the illustration of this book. I love mixing techniques and using mixed media in my art. Different materials allow me to create unique things! My favorite media to mix are oil, crayon, permanent markers, ink pens and colored pencils.

LTPB: You’ve created over twenty children’s books, so how do you feel like your story process has changed over the years? How does your illustration technique change from book to book?

You are right, things definitely change over the years. I think that both my art and my voice as an author has changed. I matured along with my books and think that I learned how to match a style with a book. If I reflect on my work, the stories have a way of talking to me. They tell me how I should work on them! It’s because of that that you will find why my style may change in every book! However, you can always find some of my favorite elements repeated in all of them. I remember my older works were so very decorative and floral! But I then moved to simpler and minimal art. Because I loved both styles, I mixed them together in my new books you can see the simple illustrations with bursts of hyper detail in some of the pages. At times I will take a simple composition and fill the rest with detail. I learned how to be more sensitive and improved what I thought needed changing.

I think the method I used in Mrs Bibi's Elephant is a great example of my refining of my technique. While similar to the method I applied to "What Could That Be?, but I reduced the complexity by used markers and colored pens instead of oil color, resulting in a more elegant presentation. Like most artists, I experimented with techniques over the years, (poster color, acrylic, oil, pens, pencils, digital, handmade prints, collage, etc.) Through this experimentation, I have gained a varied tool box and can match my skill to the story. When I feel it is appropriate, I come back to my favorite method of oil color on paper.

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

RD: I'm working on a French book by Catherine Gueguen, a famous pediatrician, who has already published a few books! In this new text, you find a child who is learning to communicate with his parents, and telling them what he really needs. I find that I am really connected with this book, and hope it will be soon, so kids around the world can enjoy it too.

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

RD: Well, I love a lot of artists! Some of my favorites are Kveta Pacovska, Javier Zabala and Rajer Melo. However, I think that the art of young artist Marc Majewski is brave and in his talent, I sometimes think he illustrates my life—a little man lost in a big world.

A million thanks to Reza for taking time to answers some questions! What Could That Be? publishes from Orchard Books next week!

Special thanks to Reza and Orchard Books for use of these images!

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