Having recently read and enjoyed two titles illustrated by Catell Ronca, I am delighted to be sharing my interview with her, along with my reviews, in this week’s Spotlight.
Title: The Drum
Author: Ken Wilson-Max
Illustrator: Ronca Catell
Publisher: Tiny Owl
This is the drum. This is the beat. Clap your hands. Stomp your feet!
Feel the rhythm of the drum and discover joy in your heart with this delightful picture book – guaranteed to get you and your baby dancing to the beat!
This series explores different musical instruments from around the world and how they make you feel and move! Music is great for the physical, emotional, and intellectual development of babies as well as strengthening cognitive and sensory development.
Every spread is a celebration of the drum and shows the happiness and joy it brings to people around the world. My little girl loves to shake her hips when she dances so this spread particularly stood out when we read it.
This book does exactly what it claims to do: it gets children dancing to the beat. I love the size of this little picture book, it is perfect for my toddler to hold and, well, you can see for yourself how much she loves it in this video:
Publication date: 1 March 2018
ISBN: 978 1910328309
Title: How to Be a Butterfly
Author: Laura Knowles
Illustrator: Ronca Catell
Publisher: Words & Pictures, Quarto
Should a butterfly be big or small? Should it be bright and bold, or perfectly pale?
A joyous, imaginative, yet informative non-fiction picture book about what it takes to be a butterfly – body parts, behaviour and life cycle – with the underlying message that diversity is a wonderful thing and that, in fact, there are 20,000 ways to be a butterfly!
With labelled butterflies throughout, there is plenty for young nature lovers to spot and explore time and again.
I truly loved every page in this wonderful book. There is so much variety in the pages, some packed full of butterflies, others highlighting a particular feature of a butterfly.
The way the text and illustrations blend together creates a subtle but powerful message to celebrate diversity and not be quick to define what a butterfly must be or not be. The spread before my favourite says:
“To be a butterfly, you have to be BIG!
…or you could be small, I suppose.”
I adore butterflies so I was desperate to read this book. However, it surpassed my expectations, offering so much more than just an account of the different species and anatomy. It celebrates and showcases the full spectrum of butterflies and makes the “facts” feel fun. I loved it.
Publication date: 18 April 2019
ISBN: 978 1786038838
The Drum and How to be a Butterfly showcase Catell’s great use of colour and I was eager to find out more about her process and experience as an illustrator…
Hi Catell, did you always want to be an illustrator and what do you like most about illustrating?
Yes, I always was drawn to pictures and picture books. I started to draw in my late teens and always loved to visually express the images in my head. I was never particularly good at drawing from life, but really love to explore inner feelings mainly with colour.
I love illustration, because it is a personal vision of the world and allows to create an atmosphere totally of its own. That is also why I am very drawn to children’s books.
You’ve recently illustrated The Drum and The Butterfly. How do you decide on the style of your illustrations for each project?
The style is mainly dictated by the age group the book is targeted towards. Also, the publisher tells me what they want and what style they prefer.
I used to paint figures and work in a naïve style which I think works for smaller children.
For the botanical / science illustrations I work with the computer a lot. I make digital collages with marks and paper stencils and cut-outs from hand-painted paper.
Where do you find your inspiration for a project? Do you have a particular place you like to work?
I usually always work in my studio. I am lucky, as it is right next to a nature reserve with a lake and a forest, so this is a great inspiration for me (as well as a place to think and contemplate). But I also use a lot of visual reference from the internet and books. For the butterflies book I researched each butterfly and the publisher also gave me picture references. I also went to the Butterfly House, the Papiliorama near Fribourg in Switzerland, that houses lots of exotic butterflies.
Can you tell us about the illustrating process from first reading a text to holding the finished book? How do you decide on a project and what kind of input/direction does the publisher give you? Are you a fan of illustration notes from the author?
The Drum was a project that me and my friend Ken started a long time before finding the publisher Tinyowl.
I really liked Ken’s writing and was very keen to paint images of happy exuberant children from every corner of the world to go with the text. We both felt that diversity is missing in children’s books, so this was our joint vision.
The publisher requested some minor changes but generally gave me a lot of creative freedom. The same applied to the The Flute, the sequel to the Drum. I could really come up with my own ideas and the direction was only on a technical level.
With regards to the Butterfly book, I received a very rough sketch from the designer with a layout idea. I came up with a more refined finished version of this sketch and then translated it into colour. I also received the instructions from the designer, which butterflies needed to be portrayed. I normally don’t work directly with the author.
How do you juggle your workload? Do you enjoy working with a variety of publishers?
Yes, I think it is great to work with a variety of publishers. Luckily, the book assignments come in at separate times so I don’t have to worry about juggling the workload. I also do teaching work now, my other passion, so it could become more difficult to illustrate books as well. Fingers crossed, things will work out.
What’s next for you, in terms of illustrating projects?
I am in the process of illustrating a third book for Tinyowl Publishing called The Guitar.
What advice would you give to someone trying to become an illustrator?
The best things are to collaborate with others, to develop a personal vision, not a style – ask yourself what subject matter is interesting? Keep exploring new techniques and new avenues to promote the work. And keep at it and be patient.
Thank you, Catell, for giving us an insight into your work and wishing you all the best with your upcoming projects. I’m sure it will all work out great!
About Catell Ronca:
Born in Basel, Switzerland. Lives and works in Lucerne. Catell graduated from the Royal College of Art in London and works for a variety of international clients in publishing, editorial and advertising. Her work is regularly recognised in illustration annuals. Some of her favourite things are the Swiss Alps, hand painted Folk Art and making ceramics.
I am very grateful to Quarto for providing me with an advanced digital copy via Net Galley of How to be a Butterfly in exchange for an honest review.
Photographs of Catell and her inspiration are copyright of Catell Ronca.