February 6, 2024

Let's Talk Illustrators #278: Marion Kadi

I am so thrilled to present my interview with visual artist Marion Kadi, author and illustrator of 2021's BolognaRagazzi Opera Prima winner Harriet's Reflections. There's a lot to love about Marion's first picture book and her English-language debut, so I'll get right to the point and let her show you! 

About the book:
One day the reflection of a lion decides to reflect someone different. He picks a little girl named Harriet, who eagerly accepts the new face staring back at her. Harriet loves how ferocious she is now at school: she's not afraid to speak up in class, and she can romp around the playground like a wild beast. But soon Harriet starts to miss the reflection she had before, the one who looked like her. Can Harriet find a way to balance her old reflection and her new one?

Check out the endpapers:

Let's talk Marion Kadi!

LTPB: Where did the idea for Harriet's Reflections come from? How long did you work on it until it was published?

MK: The whole story started with the lion: he was a character in another story and I realized he deserved his own story. Since I started with him, of course he found Harriet and not the other way around. He led me to her character. I worked on the book for almost two years before it was published. In general, it took me a long time to make this book because I felt I had to find a new way to paint in order to make a children’s book.

LTPB: What did you find most difficult in creating this book? What did you find most rewarding and what are you most excited for people to see?

MK: I wanted the book to be both beautiful and funny and I wasn’t sure how I could achieve that. For the beautiful part of it, I took comfort in doing things that I think I know how to do: I can make harmonious or at least interesting colour combinations. I love to make patterns. I like to think about decoration and I tried to make interiors that I like. For example I was not interested in painting a classic classroom. So I borrowed elements from Roman architecture, in particular the mosaic on the floor. It was hard to figure out what Harriett looked like. At first she was completely painted but she looked too static and I realized I had to introduce some kind of drawing. But my strength doesn’t lay in drawing, I think. I found her hair first. I hope people notice all the little details. I was inspired by the work of an author I love, Anthony Browne. Like him, I introduced little changes from scene to scene. I hope it makes rereading fun.

LTPB: It looks like you do a lot of commissioned work and side projects! Can you tell me what else you do in addition to writing and illustrating children’s books?

MK: I do illustrations for magazines and brands, and I also take private commissions for paintings, including for portraits (pets too). I also love to paint furniture. I’ve been lucky to work a little bit with an interior designer whose work I love, Giancarlo Valle. In general I’m hoping to do more murals and furniture painting in the future.

LTPB: What did you use to create the illustrations in this book?

MK: I used acrylic paint, ink, and crayons. I’m the most comfortable with these media. The process is pretty consistent.

LTPB: What are you working on now?

MK: I’m working on two children’s books, one by myself and one in collaboration with a writer. I’m really enjoying working together with someone. I’m also working on a little solo exhibition that will take place in Paris. But the universe of the solo book project occupies me so much that it migrated into the exhibition. I’ll post some pictures from the exhibition on my instagram in April.

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?

MK: I would love for the painter David Hockney to illustrate my autobiography. I would also ask Alex Katz to make a portrait of me to put on my coffin.

A million thanks to Marion for taking time to answer some questions! Harriet's Reflections publishes from Eerdmans Books for Young Readers next week on February 13, 2024!

Special thanks to Marion and Eerdmans for use of these images!

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