June 13, 2023

Let's Talk Illustrators #253: Zo-O

Corner by Zo-O is a nearly wordless examination of space, creativity, and determination through the eyes of a little crow who becomes inspired by his empty surroundings. I'm so happy I got a chance to chat with Zo-O about how she developed this super-fun book, and I'm even happier that I get to share that chat with you all today! 

About the book:
A crow finds itself in an empty corner and begins to make the space its own. First, it furnishes the corner with a bed, a bookshelf, a rug, even a potted plant. In the newly decorated space, the crow reads and eats, listens to music and waters the plant, but something's missing. What is it?

The crow decides to decorate more, drawing geometric patterns on the walls in yellow. The corner is filled with color and shapes, but something is still missing. The crow adds a window, and finally discovers what it needed all along--a way to connect with the world outside and to make a new friend.

Let's talk Zo-O!

LTPB: Corner is brilliant! Where did you get the idea? And how long did you work on the idea before it became a book?

ZO: I am always interested in drawing space and structure, and the closest and the most familiar part among spatial factors to me was corner. Corner reminds me of my childhood that I played alone, keeping myself hidden. When I designed this book, Corner, I went up and down the stairs of the flat for exercise and I had a chance to observe every corner. As you assume, you can find something that looks like dust there. But you also can find something else in a corner depending on who and where exist, which attracted my interest.

I thought the corner continued to be built over years can be a vehicle for presenting yourself like as the crow filled with things which would express himself in his corner. And by garnering ideas like that, I created this picture book. It took over a year from designing my ideas to publishing a book.

LTPB: How did this book become (mostly) wordless? Why did you choose to limit the text?

ZO: Actually, there’s no particular reason. I just feel more comfortable to express my thoughts through drawing than in writing. I normally visualise some concepts through images rather than language and I assume that many illustrators would chime in with the mood of me. I am using text as supplementary means of expressing the parts difficult to show through drawings.

LTPB: What did you use to create the illustrations in this book? Is this your preferred medium, or do you use different media for different projects?

ZO: I mainly use Graphite Aquarelle and a pencil. I love the sense of being in-between, of the wet system and dry system which Graphite Aquarelle can express, and I am fascinated to see that it’s possible to control to some degree even through it’s mostly unpredictable. I don’t have a plan for now, but I am thinking of creating new project by only using digital tools.

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

ZO: I am working on the next story of Corner. Also, I am planning for something different from Corner, so I am looking forward to showing this to readers soon!

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?

ZO: To make my own picture book autobiography, I will do for mine☺ But if the question is about an author/illustrator whom I admire and look up to is Eva Lindstrom. She is my recent favourite! I have a tendency to obsess with realistic description or composition, but Eva Lindstrom presents it simple, free but portrays emotions richly even sadness and loneliness. I wonder if Eva drew my crow in her style!
A big, big thank you to Zo-O for talking to me about this wordless wonder! Corner published earlier this year from Owlkids!

Special thanks to Zo-O and Owlkids for use of these images, and an extra special thank you to the original publisher of Corner, Woongjin Thinkbig, for translating my questions and Zo-O's answers for this interview!

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