lunes, 28 de mayo de 2012

All Roads Lead to Austen - The Book & an interview

Last Argentinean spring, I got the beautiful proposal of illustrating the opening of the chapters of the book All Roads Lead To Austen, which is a journey diary about the experiences of American scholar and writer Amy Elizabeth Smith across Latin America with the twist that trough the organization of Jane Austen reading groups, she gets to know different kinds of people and finds some other things along the way.
Amy interviewed me recently and I refer to the work I did with the illustrations of the book. I am sharing with you and excerpt and hope that you enjoy it! 

Interview with the artist: Lucía Mancilla Prieto

When did you begin to draw? Have you been interested in art since you were young?
In my oldest memories, I´m drawing. I´ve always had the feeling that drawing was my favorite activity, from the time I could use my reason. Recently, talking with my mother, she was more exact about chronology and told me that my relationship with pencil and paper began when I was two years old. That fact´s a little abstract to me, but it coincides with the time when I started pre-school.
Stories told with pictures have always moved me, from illustrated story books to animated films and comics to paintings in museums and galleries. By that I don´t mean to set a hierarchy of expressions -that´s just how I discovered mediums over time.

I like to envision other people, other lives, and for me, details are always fundamental, the little revelations that characterize and support a story. The idea of art was very abstract for me for a long time, I think, to the point that I didn´t specialize in studying it after high school and I didn´t think much about the question of doing so. A relationship with images, for me, always came more from life tham from theory.

What are some of the important influences on your artistic style?
The first that marked how I see drawing was the Argentinean comic artist, Quino, with his creation Mafalda. Despite the fact that Mafalda was a child immortalized back in the 1960s, I was always fascinated by the precision with which the author created that world, aside form the physical traits of the characters - the many observed details in the development of the environment and the "economy" of the blank ink lines. Sometimes Mafalda´s lying on a sofa, just thinking or sitting on a little chair, but you can distinguish exactly what type of couch it is and her own materiality, through the way her body sinks into that couch; or the size of the little chair is just right to evoke a set of wooden children´s furniture, just like what many households with kids (including my own when I was a child) had then and still have today.
Physically, Mafalda and her little gang of friends looked like any of the kids I´d known - and at the same time, like none of them. Their world always belonged to me because I could see it and understand it, regardless of the distance in time.
This genius for storytelling was always a model for me. The japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki, except for the difference in the mediums, the style of his art and the plots of his stories, also accomplished this; his minimalist tales are the essence and the pillar of his epic. Artists of this type move me, and I enjoy and study them a lot. I try to incorporate these forms into my work.

Are there any books in particular that influenced you?
In my family we share a love for beautiful objects and collect illustrated books of all types: comics, children´s books, vintage books, books on art and architecture, special editions of literary books. These all stay with me in daily life as objects of pleasure and also to consult; but there are so many of them and they´re so diverse that to quote any specific examples would take up this whole interview!

You often work with children´s books - was it a challenge for you to do the illustrations for All Roads lead to Austen?
Every project is a challenge, whether it´s intended for children or adults. Readers of images are ageless and are always demanding. Children have in their favor that they´re not ashamed to ask questions or make observations, while adults often approach things from a specific framework, with prejudices; either of these two situations puts the author in a difficult situation, and dialogue with the audience always enriches a work.
All Roads Lead to Austen was a great challenge and opportunity for me for various reasons: in the first place because the books is in English (which I can read but with certain limitations) and text is always, to me, the fundamental point of departure for illustration work. My intention was to carry through with your story and vision. Like I said before, I´m obsessed with details and I knew I´d find the key to the images among the pages of the book and through interviewing you when we got together in Buenos Aires. It was also a challenge because the audience would be North Americans and I don´t have much experience working in projects for publication outside of Argentina. I also don´t know, broadly speaking, what the vision citizens of the United States have of Latin America beyond what stereotypes we have in the south about "gringos" and their vision of the world. I couldn´t ignore the audience that the book would be directed toward. And that question of "visions" was, to be honest, an exercise in discovery for me because I had to explore my own prejudices. I´ve never visited two thirds of the places where All Roads occurs (I do know Santiago de Chile, since my father´s form there, and I live in Buenos Aires) and lack of knowledge always carries the risk that you´ll fall into a characterization loaded with stereotypes. But then again, why be afraid of them? As much research as you may do, you´ll never going to reach the depth of someone who´s been there. So, your vision of the story, insightful and sensitive, and at the same time open and intelligent, allowed me to find the tone of the illustrations. Stereotypes can be keys in the collective imagination and I used them to construct, in each illustration, the entryway to a world, and in the encounter between you and your readers, the rest will happen.

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