March 29, 2022

Let's Talk Illustrators #208: Guilherme Karsten

Aaahhh! by Guilherme Karsten and translated by Eric M. B. Becker is a funny picture book with a surprise ending that you will both see and not see coming! I got to talk to in-demand author-illustrator Guilherme about the book and his process over the years. Enjoy a (spoiler-free!) peek inside the book!

About the book:
A gigantic noise makes its way around the world, knocking the stripes off a tiger, flattening mountains, and rallying all of humanity to respond. What could it be? An alien invasion? A meteor that crashed into a foghorn factory? A saxophone extremely out of tune? Where is the noise coming from?

Let's talk Guilherme Karsten!

LTPB: Where did the idea for Aaahhh! come from? What inspired the story?

GK: One night I was coming back from the grocery store, around 9:30 p.m., when I heard some loud noises in the condo where I used to live. It was very noisy, I thought about going to the landlord because the neighbors are not allowed to make noise at that time of the night, but I was tired and decided to go up to my apartment. As I went up, the noise got louder, and finally, when I opened the door, my wife said to me, "Our son is screaming in the bathroom because he doesn't want to go to take a shower, do something!" And I did, I wrote a story, I just changed the ending a little bit.

LTPB: What did you find most difficult in creating this book? What did you find most rewarding?

GK: I don't really like to repeat formulas or copy my own style when I create a new book. When I thought about the story, I imagined the illustrations made of collage, but I had never done this before. I started to cut out some magazines, but quickly noticed that it was very slow work, so I went back to my computer and decided to create digital collages. It was more practical and fun to do. But I confess I didn't know what to expect from publishers or readers. It was a very unknown style to me. This feeling of uncertainty passed after I won a few awards in Slovakia and China, as well as published in a few languages. I think people liked the aesthetic proposal... and the story.

LTPB: You’re in pretty high demand these days! How do you keep your process fresh with every new book? Are there any topics or stories in particular you’re still hoping to explore in the future?

GK: At this moment, I feel like I am on dry ground, the ideas are taking a while to come. I believe that this is happening because I have worked so hard for the past 3 years. I illustrated many interesting projects, wrote and illustrated most of my own books during this period, it was a very fertile time. I think my mind needs a little rest to start producing ideas again, maybe it’s like a garden, the soil needs to recompose itself, and soon it will flourish again. I decided that my schedule wouldn't be so heavy this year, I'm going to enjoy more time with my family, practice some sports, and I'm reading more to learn and study picture books. But I already have some sparks for the next books. I have no interest in specific topics, ideas come out of nowhere, and if they are worth developing, I keep them in my memory and start working on the text.

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?

GK: I basically used digital collage in Adobe Photoshop, plus some penciled and scanned textures. My books are almost all done on the computer, but sometimes I feel like getting out of the screen and trying some hand techniques. And, as I said before, I don't like to repeat styles, but try some new things for each book. I feel that each story calls for a specific aesthetic. But, even creating new experimentations, I know that all my books have my visual signature when looking at the Big Picture.

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

GK: Of course, I am constantly illustrating books for other authors and at the same time writing and illustrating my own stories. Some of my books are not yet on the US market (hopefully they will be here soon), but at the moment I am finishing a book called Are You a Monster? a very fun book to interact with the kids. The first book is ready and will be released in some countries soon. And now I'm working on the second volume, and all I can tell you is that it's really funny!

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?

GK: Tough question. I don't think my autobiography would be very interesting, so I need some great illustrators to catch the readers' attention. I would divide the book into a few chapters and call on Picasso, Beatrice Alemagna, Jon Klassen, Yara Kono, Shawn Harris, and Chris Haughton to illustrate each chapter... and I could call on many more.

A big thaaaaank you to Guilherme for talking to me about this hilarious book! Aaahhh! publishes TODAY, March 29, from Tapioca Stories!

Special thanks to Guilherme and Tapioca for use of these images!

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