I had the privilege of interviewing Víctor Visa and he was kind enough to answer a few questions about children’s books and art.
Víctor is a Spanish illustrator who works in the bookstore Leo (in Valencia). He is also a children’s book author and he’s striving to get his first book published. You can find Víctor on Instagram and Facebook.
Here are some examples of Víctor’s artwork. Make sure to visit his sites to check more of his work:
The use of these images have been authorized by the author for this page only. It is absolutely forbidden to copy or reproduce any of these images.
Víctor, tell us a bit about yourself: where does your passion for illustration come from and what is your experience in this field?
My father was also an artist and since I was little I used to see him work and I would sit next to him and draw. I attended art schools from a very young age, then I graduated from high school through the arts program, and finally I studied Fine Arts at the university. I actually haven’t worked as an illustrator for so long – during my university years I specialized in Painting, but Illustration has given me more joy. In the short time I have worked as an illustrator they have called me for several commissions and proposals that have made me very happy.
What techniques do you use to make your artwork? Which is your favorite?
The techniques I use the most are watercolor and gouache; now if the illustration will be published I create it on the computer, but if it’s going to be displayed and framed I usually finish them with color pencils and pencil sketches.
What would you say is the most difficult part of being an illustrator these days?
I believe the hardest part is to stand out amongst all the people who work in the same field. It is very easy to show your work on the internet and you have to engage in a huge intellectual exercise in order to stand out amongst the millions of people who share the same space with you.
What piece of advice would you give someone who wants to work as an illustrator?
You should dedicate a big deal of time to observation, to study your favorite illustrators and painters, to compare yourself to them and find things in common, and make the most of it, since later on and slowly you will develop your own style. Also, you should get immersed in everything around you, ‘cause everything is susceptible of becoming part of your work.
What project(s) are you working on now?
I am illustrating the poem Margarita by Rubén Darío, for an illustrated children’s album, it’s a project that has emerged from the bookstore where I work. I also have a few personal projects that are focused on self-publishing.
Where do you get the inspiration for your work?
I get a huge inspiration from the people, the things that we do and the reasons behind them. I like to focus on our mistakes more than on our virtues. On the other hand, I’m also interested in natural themes, noble materials and small objects.
Speaking of children’s books, please share with us three titles that you deem indispensable.
The children’s books that I usually recommend in the bookstore are:
–The Trip to Panama (Oh, wie schön ist Panama) by Janosch
–The Color Monster (El monstruo de colores) by Anna Llenas
–The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt
What is the most rewarding part of working in a bookstore?
To have access to any book and to work surrounded by interesting information. It is also very satisfying to work for and with people that are really wise. That makes you feel very small – from a positive perspective, of course – it makes you want to know more and more continuously.
What are the themes most requested by parents when they want to buy a book for their children?
Actually, it is very rare for parents to ask for a specific topic when they want to buy a book for their children, normally they just ask for books for a particular age and they seek for your advice. They tend to get interested on a book because of the illustrations or the appealing cover design. The people who are looking for something more specific like to wander around and rummage through the shelves.
According to your experience, from which countries do most books that are sold in Valencia (or Spain, if it is extrapolated) come from?
I wouldn’t be able to specify. For instance, during the Christmas Children’s Books Campaign the sales are focused more on French illustrators, such as Dautremer, Lacombe, Eric Puybaret – they create books that are very appealing esthetically speaking.
We live in a time when there is – at least apparently – more freedom to speak of old taboos such as sexuality, racism or feminism. Do you feel that these themes appear in the children’s books that are currently being published?
There are more books with those themes being published these days, which is not really hard because until not long ago that was inconceivable, but I think that it is progressing very slowly and not always in a good way.
How can we contribute – as readers, buyers, publishers, etc. – to increase diversity in children’s literature?
I guess that both authors and publishers should take chances – they are not the themes that will sell the most, but sometimes the non-economical value can be more relevant than the money that they can earn from it. As for the readers, they should give these books the importance that they have, understanding them as an educational and formative tool.
How do you see the future of children’s literature?
I foresee a good future for it, I don’t think that the new technologies will affect children’s literature much – after all, you can’t substitute a children’s album for an e-book yet. Parents buy books for children so they can touch them and play with them. As for the themes, I believe that the princesses books will slowly disappear, we very seldom sell those anymore, so they will be substituted by others. On the other hand, it is my personal opinion that children are treated often as if they were dumb, but they can take more than what they get from books. If we demand more of them they will rise to the challenge, because they are smart enough.
Finally, on a more personal note: is there any book(s) you would like to stop seeing for sale in children’s bookstores? Why?
Those books that I have mentioned before, that treat children as incompetents – they are books that do not provide anything but colors, and sometimes they have a very poor taste. I would also like to stop seeing in the stores those books that are exaggeratedly pink.
Thank you Víctor for sharing your insights!