“Babam bir gün ağacın dalında duran bir kuş çizdi defterime. ‘Ben de çizerim bunu’ dedim, kalemi aldım elime, başladım çizmeye...”
Interview: Şener Yılmaz Aslan
Please introduce yourself. When exactly did you start to draw, and what did you study?
I was born in Bulgaria, and we came to Turkey when I was four years old. As far as I remember, I was six when one day my father sketched a bird on a tree in my notebook. I said, “I can draw this too,” took a pen and started drawing. I never saw my father draw again. I don’t know how it got to our home, but there was this thick music book by the Ministry of Education, featuring all kinds of musical instrument images. I am not sure if they come like that, but there used to be those sketchbooks with transparent papers between the pages. I would use those papers to copy the instruments’ images, wet the papers and apply the designs on my legs and arms as tattoos. An oboe on my arm, a cello on my leg… I participated in drawing competitions in primary school, and won awards. And then, I studied Graphic Design in high school, and Arts in university. So drawing has always been a part of my life.
What drives you to draw, and what types of things do you like illustrating?
It will sound like a cliché, but drawing is a way of communication for me… It is like screaming in silence without uttering a word. Sometimes talking or writing can be a problem. So, I draw instead of talking. It can be perplexing for the viewer. As they try to figure out “what message is he giving”, I sip my coffee in a corner.
Rather than what I like, I draw things that I contemplate and mature internally. Sometimes it is a feeling, or sometimes it can be a song. Sometimes a facial expression of someone I see on public transport attracts my attention. It triggers something in me. Of course this applies to personal drawings. If a request comes from a publisher, there isn’t such freedom. I cannot drift away of the script much.
Which project have you enjoyed the most while preparing it, and why?
Apart from my personal work, I cannot say that I enjoy them fully. Dealing with editors or publishers, whoever is my contact, can be a challenging process. Since the task or the job is usually not defined clearly here, there is a lot of unwarranted intervention. There is this revision madness. But despite all this, I am happy to be able to illustrate children’s books.
Let’s talk about children’s books. What do you think about illustrating children’s books, do you enjoy it, or is it a necessary means of making a living for you?
I grew up with children’s books. There is so much that I have learned from books that have stayed with me. I think children’s books are an essential part of education. It’s a wonderful thing to attract children’s attention and enter their world. It is possible to go into that world and plant positive seeds. This is why I value books. I wasn’t thinking about the money when I first started. My intention was to do what I love. But of course, it’s nice to make money from this line of work. There are different things I do other than this. I teach a digital illustration course in Izmir. When I find time, I also do wood carving and similar stuff.
How does your work progress technically, what can you briefly tell us about illustration? Do you use methods other than digital?
Ever since I started professional drawing, I have not used pen and paper much. Initially I was using Wacom Intuos Pro. Sometimes I would sketch on paper and transfer them to Photoshop. For nearly three years now, I have been using Cintiq Companion. Since I work on the screen, I do not need pen and paper much. I do the sketching and coloring in digital medium. In terms of speed and time, digital medium is a bit more advantageous than conventional manual work. I start with draft sketches. Once I capture the suitable line and composition, I create a clean copy and paint it. If time is limited, I start directly with painting. I add the details as I paint. I like the conventional style, but the paint and other chemical smells do not agree with me. My wife and I can be in disagreement about it because it can be somewhat messy. As a solution, I try to create the conventional style in digital medium. There is no smell or mess.
What about music, movies and books? Who are some of your favorites?
I do not listen to Turkish pop because I find the songs shallow. Oldies but goldies! If I’m writing, I usually listen to instrumental music. But when I’m illustrating, it doesn’t make a difference. I do not have specific likes. I listen to music that sounds nice to me. When it comes to books, reading is like having a conversation with the author, and not every author’s style draws me in. So choosing books can be tricky for me. I like the imagination of Gianni Rodari. His book “Fairy Tales over the Phone” is very nice, for instance. There are so many books to talk about, but that is for another time. As for movies, I feel an affinity toward directors Iñárritu and Nolan, and David Lynch. And finally, Superman was really wronged.