Five Questions with Barbara Nascimbeni
The rules of our Five Questions interview series are simple: we send each of our guests a long list of questions. Some are serious; some are . . . not so serious. They choose their favorites and respond.
Our guest today is Barbara Nascimbeni, illustrator of Our Father. Nascimbeni was born in Italy and now splits her time between Germany and France. She has illustrated numerous books, and her books have been translated into many languages.
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1. How did your collaboration with Rainer Oberthür materialize, and what is your process for working together?
Rainer translated into German the French book that I illustrated, Les visages de Dieu (Images of God for Young Children in English). He liked the book so much that he wanted me to be the illustrator for his new project, Our Father. We first made contact through mail and on the telephone, but Rainer Oberthür never told me what visual ideas he had in mind. He respected my visual interpretation of his own words and of the prayer.
I drew my own ideas, then, without asking for explanations about the text. When the sketches were finished, I showed them to the editor and to the author, and then we talked about them and discussed some details that I later corrected.
2. Why did you choose to work on Our Father?
My first approach to the project was intuitive. At a book fair some years ago, the German editor Gabriel asked me if I would be interested in working on a new project. There was no manuscript yet, just the idea that Rainer Oberthür would write about the Lord’s Prayer. I didn’t know what to expect, but I accepted thinking that it would be very interesting to find ways to illustrate the prayer, and I was delighted by the text from Rainer.
3. What influenced your visual style in Our Father?
In the book Les visages de Dieu that I illustrated in 2010 for Bayard Éditions, I found a way to interpret a religious book with illustrations that at first sight did not have overt religious associations. I kept the strong colors and the collage style I usually use in my illustrations for children’s books and applied them to Our Father.
4. What challenges did you face in illustrating Our Father?
Turning the pages of the book and looking at the illustrations, one wouldn’t think that Our Father is a book about prayer, an explicitly religious book. I wanted to address my images to all children, believers or not. I’m not a believer myself, so the aim of my illustrations was to find a way to transmit my “faith” in life, mankind, and nature. The challenge was to find a new idea for each page, so that children or grown-ups would be surprised and could interpret the drawing in their own way. I think that each reader can have a different feeling and emotion by looking at the pictures and see things that go beyond the words.
5. What are you doing when you are not illustrating a book or answering questions for Eerdlings?
I split my time between Hamburg, a big city in the north of Germany, and Sorède, a village in the south of France next to the mountains and the sea. In the south I live close to nature. I work in my garden, grow tomatoes, and plant trees. I love to walk, cycle in the mountains, go horseback riding, and swim in the sea. In the city when I’m not illustrating books, I go to exhibitions, go to the cinema, or watch ships entering the harbor. And in both places I have my accordion to play music.
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