Illustration by
Illustration by

Katerina Voronina on Her Collages for Bologna Children’s Book Fair

Katerina Voronina, an illustrator from Russia now based in Berlin is a big fan of collage and paper-cut illustration. Her collage series titled "Migratory Birds" was selected to participate in the annual exhibition at the Bologna Children Book Fair in 2020 among only ten other illustrators. We wanted to know what influenced her choice of technique and asked her to tell us a bit more about her process.

Kate, congratulations on being shortlisted in this significant competition! Tell us a little bit more about this series that you sent in. Why did you choose collage?

I picked collage because I knew that at the Bologna Fair the  jury loves it when when illustrations are made in mixed media or in some unusual technique. Truth be told, I discovered collage many years ago when I studied at the British School of design in Moscow, and in fact, I used to make more collages and paper-cut works back then. Nowadays I am experimenting more with some new materials, but collage still plays an important role in my work and I have been doing collages and paper-cuts from time to time for the last 7 to 8 years. So it was an obvious choice for me.

How did you create such interesting textures? What materials did you use?

In Bologna series I used flat and soft acrylic textures, diluted to watercolour transparency. I came up with a specific palette, then I painted 10-15 different sheets with colours and textures, and used these sheets to produce all the illustrations in order for them to be stylistically consistent. I also added some lines and shapes with pencils and opaque acrylic paints on top.

Did you illustrate some existing text?

No, I didn't work with someone else's text. I worked with my personally collected stories, I’ll tell you about them a bit later.

What was your process in general?

I have been dreaming of writing and illustrating my own children's book for a long time. The first time I participated in this competition, I made a story about mythological monsters of different peoples in Russia. It was kind of interesting, but my heart was not in this project. This was probably my main mistake. That’s why, when approaching the 2nd project, I asked myself honestly what actually inspired me. It seems to me that artists should be honest with themselves about what sparks inspiration and brings joy to them. It might seem obvious to some people, but I realised it relatively recently. It turned out I am endlessly inspired by the fact that I live an emigrant life, and that there is a huge number of people around me with some incredible stories. I have accumulated quite a lot of them and I wanted to do something with them, and this is where these 5 illustrations are originating from.

How did you come up with the characters?

Every time I listened to these stories, I wrote them down. In fact, this series of illustrations are five stories I have selected from my collection. For example, the story about a girl who was 6 years old when her parents from another city in Spain moved to Malaga, she didn’t know anyone and it was hard for her to make new new friends at the kindergarten, and then at school. For several years, her best friend was a statue in the park, sitting on a bench. She came, constantly told stories to it, shared her experiences, and many years later she learned that this first best childhood friend was Pablo Picasso.

When working on your pieces, did you use sketches and storyboards?  

I'm a terrible nerd, so I did a million sketches before starting working on these illustrations. There has been a lot of research on what the jury at the fair generally likes. I have looked through the works of the previous years’  finalists, reviewed the illustrations that I liked many times. I tried to analyse why I like them and what makes them good illustrations. And when you start looking closely and analysing, the secrets start revealing themselves. I spent a lot of time analysing and thinking.

How long did it take you to create this series?

I finished  them in around a month. The illustrations were made in September and the deadline was October 4th. I ran to the post-office and barely managed to send them in in time!

Katerina, thank you very much for your time, we loved having a little sneak peek into your illustration “kitchen”. 


Katerina Voronina

Katerina Voronina is an illustrator from Moscow,Russia currently based in Berlin. She is an avid sketcher, and co-founder of a sketching project called Sunday Sketching Berlin. Her works can be found in various magazines and children books. Among her clients are The Washington Post, The Culture Trip, Breathe, GQ, Women`s health.

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