The 10th Book Illustration Competition theme is Love Poems which was selected and edited by Imtiaz Dharker. The 2020 Winner was Mikki Lee will be commissioned to complete a further six illustrations and a binding for a book which will be published by The Folio Society.
Albert Victoria was shortlisted for the 2020 Book Illustration Competition and will receive £500 prize money for his entry. Albert lives in Madrid and studied Fine Arts at Complutense University of Madrid and Editorial Illustration at Escuela Superior de Dibujo Profesional.
Hi Albert, thanks for talking to TNC, congratulations on being Shortlisted for the BIC 2020 People's Choice Award, what has it meant for you be part of this competition?
First of all thank you for having me! I feel really flattered to have been shortlisted! There were amazing illustrators in the list, so it is a privilege for me to have ended so far in the competition. I became a big fan of The Folio Society some time ago and to be recognised by them and The House of Illustration it's a huge honour. The whole preparation process for the competition was really fun and challenging for me, so it has been a really positive experience that has taught me a lot about myself!
Do you ever feel apprehension when you hand over your work like this to the pubic to vote on?
I think there is always a feeling of insecurity when you “leave” your work and let other people judge it. But in my case I'm quite confident in what I do, and this confidence (although sometimes is “veiled”) has come from hard work through the years, because I know I'm really committed in what I do, I'm really passionate about it, and I'm learning from the mistakes I make. Not everybody is going to like what I do, because I know my style takes distance from the simplicity, the concrete and pure forms of the current minimal tendencies. But there are a lot of people who have been really supportive with my work lately and I'm so grateful for that.
Can you tell me a little bit about the work you submitted to BIC 2020?
This year the Book Illustration Competition, alongside poet Imtiaz Dharker, selected three poems to be illustrated, with “love” as the central theme. Inspired by the principles of Romanticism, my three pieces illustrates love as an extension of nature. In “The Good Morrow”, love awakes the person who was in a state of dreaming before being in love, so the poppy and the sunflower (in this case acting as the Sun) are present in the artwork. In “Wild Nights” there are symbols associated to “femininity”, like the water and the Moon, to approach the vision of Emily Dickinson, who remembers with melancholy a past love encounter. The Eye reflects the object of desire, carnal or spiritual. And in “The Trick” the person is only awaken when is asleep in a love dream, and there is an obvious element of oneirism that I tried to represent with the surreal composition.
The theme for this years BIC 2020 is Love Poems, how did you go about creating your pieces based on this theme?
I think it is really challenging to illustrate poems, because in my opinion the illustration should not give an obvious answer to the questions the poem are presenting. And when you have a huge and complicated topic like “Love” is so easy to fall into clichés and typical representations, so I decided to include symbolic elements in order to achieve a more elegant representation and avoid to fall into a more cheesy and obvious approach. It was my first time illustrating poems so I thought about every element of the illustration carefully.
"I find this duality very interesting. There were also elegance and sensitivity, that I think sometimes are missing in our current times."
Did any other love poems inspire you whilst you created your pieces for the competition?
Emily Dickinson inspired me a lot through the process. I hadn't read much about her poems before so this competition gave me the opportunity to deepen her poetry. “Wild Nights” was the first artwork I made for the competition and I connected instantly with it, so I started to read more from her. There is something so inspiring in the way she wrote and she expressed a lot with just a few words.
What was the most challenging aspect of creating these pieces for BIC 2020?
I think timing and organization were really challenging aspects in the process. When you have a big project like this with a deadline, you have to be very cautious about it. In my case, my creative process can be long because there are many steps in the creation of the picture: a lot of referencing and sketching, a detailed line work with ink, monochromatic shadows and then colour and details. So I had to create a calendar and be constant. I learned my lesson very well and started very soon, because the funny thing is that I tried to participate in the BIC 2019 (that had “Howl's Moving Castle” as the theme of the competition) but sadly I couldn't finish the artworks. I still have the illustration of Howl dying his hair half finished!
Have you always had a passion for illustration?
Yes, since I was a child who liked to draw mermaids with long hair and traffic signs. I was always drawing and creating my own stories, so drawing became the way I expressed my inner world.
What is it about the Victorian era that fascinates you so much as an illustrator?
What I really like about Victorian era is that is really complex. It had a society with really structured manners and morals, moving in a carrousel of flamboyant clothing and a theatrical environment. But it was very acid and very hypocritical at the same time, and behind the scenes the morals weren't as strong as they liked to show. I find this duality very interesting. There were also elegance and sensitivity, that I think sometimes are missing in our current times. The way art was reflected in the garments, the home-wear, in every element of daily life, is really inspiring for me too. Of course all of that only happened if you were part of the higher classes, but I don't think anyone would love to be the poor 10 year old child who works at the factory and has almost lost his vision due to the 12 hours of daily work at night.
Your recent piece featuring Lady Gaga, what was the inspiration behind this?
I enjoy drawing Lady Gaga because she is a powerful artistic figure. I have made other illustrations about her before (in fact she has acknowledge my work and I will be forever grateful for that) and this time I wanted to made a connection with the past through her fashion. I chose to draw her with the dress she wore at the Golden Globes in 2019, because it had a silhouette that reminded me of the 1830's fashion, so I decided to draw her like she was in a painting from that era. The fun fact is that the original portrait from Leopold Fertbauer features a lady with a blue dress that is really similar to the one Lady Gaga is wearing.
You are are a graduate from the Fine Arts at Complutense University of Madrid and Editorial Illustration at Escuela Superior de Dibujo Profesional, what was this experience like for you?
My experience doing Fine Arts could be compared to eating a pickle cake with a beautiful frosting. The cake looks nice on the outside but when you eat it the pickle flavour is strong and vinegary, and once you have been able to eat the cake your stomach is hurting for days. Of course not that all art studies are like that. For me it was a mixture of a lot of things and I feel that I wasn't mature enough at that time. But I really enjoyed studying Editorial Illustration, because it showed me the path I wanted to follow, and it made me reconcile myself to art.
How much would you say your style and approach to you illustrations has evolved since your course?
I think I evolved so much, and it is a good sign! Daily practice is, in my opinion, the key of improving, so drawing almost everyday made my style evolve a lot. I used to produce a lot with digital media but since I studied Editorial Illustration I rediscovered the charm of the traditional work, and I started to experiment with ink, watercolours and coloured pencils. This new way to create made my style and my direction change and now I'm polishing this new style, investigating the work of other authors and taking references. Reading is also important in the way I approach my artwork, so the more I read and the more I draw, the more my style improves (and I hope it keeps improving!).
"I like to read a novel and try to imagine how the character looks, what scenes I would illustrate, the colour palette...it keeps my head busy in a constant creative process."
Do you have any advice or tips you would offer an emerging illustrator?
I believe that everyone has their own path to follow, that things can be done in a variety of ways and I'm not an authority neither I have the knowledge to tell anyone what they should do. But I can share some things that really helped me going through the turbulent sea that is the illustration world. Constance, hard working and patience are really important, because is a long-distance race after all, and great opportunities may arrive after a long period of time. Being passionate about what you do can make your work highlight and make yourself keep going through difficulties. Oh, and have a cool name, because apparently if your name is Daniel Fernández nobody is going to remember you!
What inspires your work?
Anything that has a sense of beauty. It could be a painting, a movie, a photograph. Actually I have a Pinterest account full of pictures of artists and photographers that I like to look when I need to find some inspiration. Artists like Edward Gorey or Stephen Mackey, for example, really influenced my work. But most of all I think what really inspired me lately is 19th Century literature. The mystery, the elegance, the frivolity, the acid humour. I like to read a novel and try to imagine how the character looks, what scenes I would illustrate, the colour palette...it keeps my head busy in a constant creative process.
And finally, what do you hope people will take away from your work?
When I was a child I liked to look at the illustrations from the books to escape mentally from unpleasant situations and it made me feel better, and I hope people who look at my work can feel the same way. A gate to another place with its own atmosphere, like Alice going down the rabbit hole to Wonderland.