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  • Writer's pictureMary Boone

Six Questions with Tatiana Gardel

Tatiana Gardel is a New York City-based artist whose work has been recognized by the Society of Illustrators and American Illustration. She illustrated the picture book The First Day of Peace (Candlewick, 2023) and the forthcoming titles Abuelo, The Sea, And Me (Roaring Brook Press, Spring 2024) and Painting the Sky With Love (Feiwel & Friends, fall 2024). Born and raised in Brazil, Tatiana's art is inspired by her culture, mythology, nature, and childhood memories. She is a co-founder of LatinxPitch and teaches animation to young artists at the Harlem School of the Arts. Visit her website or find her on Instagram and Twitter/X at @gardeltatiana

1. How did you begin your journey as an illustrator?

Growing up, I was always interested in creating art and imagining stories. My biggest influences were animation and comics. I went on to study painting, education, and animation. I wore many hats until I decided to pursue illustration professionally in 2015, a year after I moved to the U.S. That's when I learned about picture books and fell in love with it. It took me about 5 years to land my first book offer and sign with my agent.

2. Who was your favorite author when you were a child? Why?

Brazilian cartoonist Mauricio de Sousa. The comic books of Turma da Mônica and his other titles were my favorite things to read as a child. Actually, I started “reading” his comics before I could read words, and was still reading them until my young adult years. Friendship, childhood, and fantastical themes were some of the elements that spoke deeply to me in his stories. I also loved the colors and design of his characters.

3. Do you work on multiple projects at the same time?

Yes, I do. I'm currently working as a full-time children’s book illustrator. In the process of

illustrating a book -- from sketches to revisions to final art -- there can be some unpredictable downtime, especially when waiting for feedback. Working on multiple projects allows me to keep the engine running.

4. Where did you get the ideas and inspiration for your illustrations for these books?

To illustrate Abuelo, the Sea, and Me, I was inspired by my grandfather who had recently passed away. For Painting the Sky with Love, I was inspired by my childhood and the neighborhood I currently live in. I enjoy illustrating manuscripts that I connect emotionally with so I can express myself authentically.

5. What was the most challenging thing you faced while illustrating these books?

The text of Abuelo, the Sea, and Me, written by Ismée Williams, was based on her personal life with her grandfather, who was an immigrant from Cuba. It was challenging to find a balance between working on such a personal manuscript and bringing my own input to the visual narrative at the same time.

With Painting the Sky with Love, a poem written by Mary E. Haque, the challenge was in developing a visual storyline that harmonized with the words once there wasn't a description of characters and setting. Every new manuscript I read has its own challenges and that's what makes the work exciting to me.

6. Where do you get inspiration for your characters? Are you influenced by people you know?

Yes, most of the time. The influence can show in different ways though. For example, it can be a character who physically looks like someone I know. Or it could be a character who doesn't look like someone I know but has the same expressions and/or personality of someone I know. Sometimes I also combine traits and create a character based on more than one person. The possibilities are endless.

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