A word from the judges ...
Over the last few weeks we have been featuring short interviews with each of the shortlisted illustrators for the Klaus Flugge award, this week, as the date for the announcement of a winner draws ever closer we wanted to bring you some words from a selection of the judging panel who share here their own experiences and explain what it has meant to them to be a part of this fantastic prize. Our thanks to Sarah Lovell for continuing to engage with this prize and all those involved in it including publicist Andrea Reece.
We begin with Eva Eland, Klaus Flugge Prize winner 2020
What has being a judge of the Klaus Flugge Prize meant to you as a previous winner? It’s been such an honour and very interesting to be a judge of the Klaus Flugge Prize. Being a newcomer myself as a picturebook maker, it felt strange to be in that position, but it was also very inspiring. Looking in depth at a wide range of picturebooks and trying to articulate why I thought they were exceptional and standing out, has given me so much insight and inspiration. Having conversations about how to look at the illustrations, the books and hearing the reflections of the other judges, all experts in an aspect of picturebooks, was even more insightful. I learned so much!
What were you looking for in the illustrations in the books that made them stand out enough to make the shortlist, and what will you ultimately be looking for in the winning book? First and foremost I like to be moved or drawn into the illustrations and the book. This is almost a visceral reaction and an intuitive one. It will most likely also reflect a personal taste. After that I try to articulate for myself what it is that draws me in. As all the books varied so much from each other and also in what they accomplished, I can’t name one thing, but I do strongly value originality and a distinct ‘visual voice’. This may be most evident in the lines and marks of an illustrator and the personality imbued in the various characters, but it is also reflected in all the choices made throughout the book, such as the colour palette, composition and choice of what to depict in the illustrations.
And as I myself am an illustrator as well, I can’t help but marvel at picturebooks that show a deep understanding of the medium and illustrations that demonstrate great skill and mastery of drawing and the media used.
Those two combined, mastery and personality, will be a winning book in my opinion.
What advice would you give to any illustrators trying to break into the world of children’s books? Nothing new perhaps to add to all the great advice out there, but keep at it and keep doing you. If you are still figuring out how this ‘you’ looks like as an illustrator, just keep drawing and experimenting. Not only on paper and with various materials, but also as a storyteller and with methods of working. Sometimes it can take some time to figure out what works for you and that’s okay. It might be forever evolving too, but that can also be the exciting bit of the job. You don’t have to imitate what other people are doing - as in this field of work I think it actually pays to create your own path, and to be and think a little different than others. We need unique voices, true voices. I think children need and crave that - not to be misled or talked down to in any way.
Next we go to Mat Tobin from Oxford Brookes University
What has being a judge of the Klaus Flugge Prize meant to you? It goes without saying that it was a true honour to be a judge for this prize and I was flattered to have been asked. People like Klaus Flugge (who both created and personally funds the award) and Julia Eccleshare are monumental figures in children's literature and have been both readers and critics or creators of the children's fiction which lay the foundation for the rich and ever-diverse literature that we are seeing grow today. What I have particularly enjoyed about being on a panel in which we celebrate illustrators' newest and brightest stars, is listening to the insights and knowledge of the other judges whether they are creators themselves, passionate enthusiasts or experts in the field. I was especially star-struck when meeting and listening to Posy Simmonds but then who wouldn't be? The longlist alone was extremely good and I wish each illustrator to know that I loved spending time in their visual worlds.
What were you looking for in the illustrations in the books that made them stand out enough to make the shortlist, and what will you ultimately be looking for in the winning book? There was plenty of discussion around this within the panel. I was personally looking at whether the illustrations merely embellished the words or brought something more to the story that went beyond them. I was also interested in the range of techniques the illustrator used to affect the pacing of the story as well as how they played with perspective, manipulated our reading of character through the use of positioning and the reader's viewpoint. I was looking for pictures that challenged the viewer's passivity and invited them to look closely and think beyond the literal. Finally, I was looking for stories that spoke 'up' to readers and not 'down' (in the words of E.B. White).
What advice would you give to any illustrators trying to break into the world of children’s books? I am absolutely not the right person to give advice to any illustrator. I am an enthusiast alone but perhaps I might encourage budding illustrators to always celebrate that sense of imaginative play that illustration/art/storytelling invites. When you're illustrating someone else's words, consider how you can add more to the moment and give us something that goes beyond the surface. Invite your viewers to interpret, question, deduce, infer, reason and interact with the world that you are presenting them with. Finally, I hope that all art brings you joy and that each spread has a little bit of you in there; that sense of childness that perhaps attracted you to drawing and art in the first place.
Last but by no means least we hear from Posy Simmonds, Klaus Flugge Prize judge and illustrator.
What has being a judge of the Klaus Flugge Prize meant to you? Judging the Klaus Flugge Prize was extremely enjoyable - a great opportunity to study a very varied range of work from new young illustrators, and where there was much skill, individuality and technique to admire. It was also illuminating to hear the opinions of fellow judges, from their perspectives in art education, book-selling, writing and illustration. And... emerging from the glooms of lockdown, it was wonderful to think about a world of glorious new children's books.
What were you looking for in the illustrations in the books that made them stand out enough to make the shortlist, and what will you ultimately be looking for in the winning book? The books on the shortlist that stood out for me were ones where the illustrations didn’t just echo the text. I think it’s important that pictures and words work together in their different ways to tell the story. I looked for illustrations that were fresh, not derivative; that described emotions which a child could easily recognise; I wanted the pace of the story to be built by means of colour, atmosphere and detail; and for double-page spreads to appear at the right dramatic moments. The winning book must tick all those boxes.
What advice would you give to any illustrators trying to break into the world of children’s books?
Advice: Research the market. Time spent browsing through children’s books in a bookshop is useful for getting to know what is going on. The ranges of books for different age groups can be easily seen, as are popular themes (especially those tired themes, best avoided). It’s also useful for seeing which publishers have specialisations eg picture books or educational books. Educational books often use a lot of illustration. The fees tend not to be large, but they are a good way of getting first work published.
The V&A and the Folio Society (amongst others) run annual illustration competitions. Worthwhile to enter, as there are exhibitions of the shortlisted illustrations.
Keep a sketchbook and draw every day…so that your hand is well in practice for when a commission comes along.
The more you draw, the more relaxed your hand becomes, helping to develop your own individual way of drawing, a personal “handwriting”.