Sandra Stolle on editorial illustration for children
Sandra Stolle, art director and picture editor of the Children's section at Süddeutsche Zeitung, one of the largest newspapers in Germany, told Brush Up Mag about the specifics of editorial illustration for children, shed some light on her approach to working with artists and illustrators, and shared her thoughts on the the impact the exposure to analogue illustration has on children.
Illustration plays a special role in the children's section of the Süddeutsche Zeitung. There are large spread illustrations well as spot illustrations scattered here and there through the section. Why do you think it is important to use illustrations, what kind of value do they add to the text?
Illustrations speak to children on a different level than text or photography. They also stimulate the imagination – this is particularly important for developing your own creativity. Children can relate because they recognise their own experiences and adventures in these pictures.
The illustrations we see in the Süddeutsche Zeitung for kids are often analogue. In almost every issue we see paintings, collages, ink drawings and watercolours - this approach is very unusual for our digital age, why is that? Is it a wish to preserve a certain original style of the publication, or a personal preference?
Maybe both. The illustrations are a chance to show the children the variety of possibilities and techniques one can use even without a computer. In addition, it is, in a way, the kids’ first exposure to the visual arts. The analogue illustrations in particular encourage children to try and create their own artworks.
Tell us a bit more about your approach to finding illustrators to work with? Do you look for anything specific in illustrators’ portfolios?
Not really. It's more about the children being able to understand the illustrations. It’s not that the illustrations should be specially made for children. It is more about the way the information is conveyed.
How do you brief an illustrator? Do they get the full text or just a short excerpt? What do you think is important to clarify and discuss before diving into work?
Most of the time, the entire text is not yet available at the time of the briefing. But that's not a bad thing either, because usually a sentence or a few lines is enough. For example, when the article is about certain animals that you may never have heard of. The illustration not only interprets the topic of the article, but also often complements it in terms of content. When I hire and illustrator, I have thought my choice over carefully and I want to give the illustrator the greatest possible freedom. We only correct something when we think it is too complicated or too ambiguous for the children to understand.
Can you name any artists and illustrators that inspired you recently? What is it that you like about their work?
It's hard to pick just a few. I love the work of Leiko Ikemura, Anne-Liese Costa, James Castle, Julius Bissier, Karel Appel, Jockum Nordström, Marian Bijlenga, Oswald Tschirtner and all the artists from Gugging. All these artists appeal to me in a poetic way in terms of shape, color and material. They inspire me in my work as a picture editor and art therapist, in my work with the fantasy workshops for children and expand my view of the world.