From 12 mins 7 seconds into recording:
Next up we have Marichiara, author and creator of The Midnight Fair
Hi everyone, I’m thrilled and honoured to be here with you and present my book.
Oh well we are honoured to have you with us thank you.
Can I just remind the audience, in case you missed it when I said at the start, if you can’t hear Manuela doing the translation, towards the bottom of the screen there is an icon that says ‘Interprete’ click that and select English and it should work fine for you.
So Mariachiara, can I ask you to introduce The Midnight Fair for us in a few sentences.
Here it is! I have illustrated The Midnight Fair by Gideon Sterer; it’s a silent book, without words.
It’s Gideon’s text, a text you do not see and which I tried to express through my drawings.
Gideon is an American writer, and he grew up in a house in the woods, which is why the book talks about a group of animals who live in the woods.
A great funfair is organised at the edge of the forest and during the night when the humans leave, the animals manage to enter and have a great time.
[Shall I continue or do you need to translate?]
Gideon loves to talk about borders, about the confines between two different worlds and the book is about the contact between the world of nature and that of men, between partying and silence, between reality and imagination.
I thought of this book like a great carnival, during which for one night the animals switch roles and play humans.
What stroke me is that this book was published during the pandemic – presumably like the others – and during lockdown I heard on the news of many animals who were coming closer to the residential areas.
It made me think about how animals had in a way been removed from our everyday life, and during the lockdown, just like in this book, they returned and regained their space, like it used to be in the past.
Thank you, that leads me on to a question I have been told I have to ask you, this is from one of my Shadowers in my school. We have had some passionate arguments about favourite animals in The Midnight Fair, do you have a favourite animal to illustrate?
I don’t know, I could list what I like for each of them; I actually like them all. Some were more difficult to draw and maybe less likeable.
For sure the funniest was the racoon, I have a big fat grey cat and racoons remind me of him. The only difference is they have a patch around the eyes and opposable thumbs. They get up to no good with their little hands and I find them funny.
Excellent, thank you, well I know Meg in particular will be happy to hear it’s the Racoon because that’s her favourite. Are you able to share one of your favourite spreads from the book and tell us how you created it?
Yes, I choose this one, perhaps not the most representative from a narrative point of view but it is my first memory of a funfair as a child.
I remember the multitude of lights.
I was confused and, in the distance, I saw a pirate boat swinging like this, with people inside.
It was an incredible scene; I had never seen anything like it and it was a little scary.
It resonated with me.
I love this image because from a technical point of view, when working on this book I focused on lights and colours; I try to tell the story by recreating the atmosphere I have in my mind.
In this image, I think I managed to express what I wanted through lights and movements.
I used a peculiar technique.
I normally use many different colours. I use watercolours but also gouache tempera paints and ink – sorry I sound like an ad – and to reproduce movement I did something rather risky.
When you have a large painting in front of you, you can’t throw it out and this technique was rather stressful.
I sprayed the painting with water to move the colour and when it was dry, I would go back to it to give it a more precise shape.
It is a lot fun but also stressful. I normally draw small sketches and I prepare, to then move on step by step to the bigger and more difficult picture, so in the end I don’t stress too much.
I love that you describe some of the processes as fun because that is what we have all taken from the book, it is such a fun, colourful, warming book to read. That has certainly been really popular with my readers. We have about a minute left, but I have to ask you, so you said that Gideon created the text and then you create the illustration but we don’t see the text in the book so can you tell us really quickly about how that creative process works?
The text is important.
I once tried to do a wordless book alone, I didn’t write a text in advance and I found it difficult because you need a text to get organised and follow a certain narrative rhythm.
By reading I understand if a moment in the story is more or less important and I understand if I am drawing a small image, which can be read quickly or a large image, which takes longer to read.
The most important moments are more detailed, so the reader can observe the images and reflect on that moment longer.
With Gideon, I asked him to be very precise in the text.
When you are doing a wordless book, it has to be…. If you have too much to tell, it is better to use words, but for a wordless book, it has to work through the images.
It is like the book by Shuan Tan ‘The arrival’, a book that talks about foreigners in a country where they do not speak their language.
In that case language was not needed because they could not understand each other so it made sense not to use words.
It’s the same in my case: we do not understand the language these animals speak; all we need to do is observe what they do.
I am not sure if I answered all your questions…
No you really did, thank you, that’s so interesting, just that whole create process. I don’t know about everyone else watching but I know I haven’t really considered that there must be a text behind a wordless picture book before. So, thank you for explaining, thank you.
From Audience Questions section 50 mins and 9 seconds in:
Mariachiara, can you tell us what you have upcoming?
I am working on a book for a Swiss publishing company, NordSüd Verlag, and it’s about three children who build a dam that stops the flow of the river, which little by little becomes a sea.
It’s as if all their creative energy were blocked in this lagoon; then there’s pirate ships, Loch Ness monsters..
Here are some drafts of the scenery. And here are some sketches which I then print to see how it works out; then I have to paint them. We are still a long way..
Here are some stones, which recall Yu Rong’s work. I was trying to recreate the stones for the dam by using colourful paper cuttings…. but there’s still a lot of work to do.
Excellent, thank you. That sounds really exciting.