Tatia Nadareishvili studied illustration and graphic design at the Tbilisi State Academy of Arts. After working as an art therapist and teacher, she now works as an illustrator in her own studio. One day, while watching a random TV channel, Tatia came across a video of sperm whales sleeping upright in dark blue water. That inspired her to research the ways other animals sleep, which led to the creation of Sleep Like Me.
Tatia lives in Tbilisi, Georgia, in Eastern Europe. This is her first book published in the English language.
What made you decide to become a writer and illustrator?
I always knew that I wanted to be an artist, but I decided to become an illustrator in the third year of my study at the Art Academy. In the beginning, I thought I would be just an illustrator, but then I made my first picture-book as both an author and illustrator. The book was about my childhood house, based on real events. After that I created another book (based on my memories again), which got published and then I realizedthat I like to tell stories. I could do it with both images and with words. It became very clear for me: this was what I wanted to do with my whole life.
What are you most passionate about in your work?
The whole process of book creation – when I’ve got the idea in my head,and it makes me anxious. I’m looking for the form, for characters, trying to build the perfect storyline for this idea. Meanwhile I’m looking for visual style. I don’t like to work in just one style, and every story should have its own. I make lots of sketches, storyboards, etc., and then finally I have the printed book in my hand! This is a long process, but it is extremely pleasant for me. I love it!
Where do the ideas for your books come from?
Mostly from my memories, but in case of Sleep Like Me– it was totally different: I was sitting at TV and eating, just watching a random channel, just because I like to watch TV when I eat. Suddenly I saw wide blue space and giant sperm whales swaying in it, but they were in a vertical position, sleeping in the ocean. It was really a magical picture: their giant bodies suspended in dark blue water. It was a telecast about whales. I stopped eating and began thinking about a book, because always when I feel something special, I begin thinking about it. I thought a lot. At first I was influenced by the magic of that picture, but soon I began researching. I surfed through the internet. I started to figure out how various animals sleep. It turned out that they have diverse and interesting sleeping habits. I decided to make a children’s book about it. In the beginning I worked in a non-fiction direction because these habits have their own history – why animals sleep this way; it is very interesting. I chose 12 animals with special sleeping habits, and on every double page spread, I just wrote how they sleep and why. I took a break and started a new research for age groups and genres for children’s books. After a year, I decided to create a bedtime story to deliver the ideas to children in a more interesting way. At that time I was pregnant. Perhaps it was another inspiration source for me, and I was thinking more directly about children while creating. I created a character that had some trouble with falling asleep.
Do you have a favorite medium or style?
I like to use different techniques; I’m always in search of something new. Mostly I use watercolors and pencils. I love monoprinting. After the images are ready, I scan them and then I work on them in digital programs. But I mostly only use those programs for composing.
Who has been a major influence on your illustrating style?
I think many people in general, from the people who taught me to the people whose works I admire. But I always try to escape them and think of images I saw with my own eyes. I experiment a lot while working, and sometimes I find textures I didn’t expect at all.
How much research do you do before you begin a book?
I do lots of research. As I said, when I was working on Sleep Like Me, I read a lot about animals and their habits. Same goes for the other projects.
Where do you find your inspiration for new stories and characters?
As I said, the idea of Sleep Like Me came very spontaneously. But mostly, my childhood is my biggest inspiration. For example, my recent book Tina Takes Heart, published by Baobab Books, which came out in 2020, is based on my memories. I spent lots of time playing in our bamboo grove in my childhood. When I grew up and I became an author of children’s books, that bamboo grove was always in my mind. I always wanted to make a book about that bamboo thicket from my childhood. It took me quite a long time and much speculation to find an appropriate story. It’s very interesting process, how memories change shape while working on a book.
What characteristics do you think illustrators need most?
Patience and strong will. If you are both the illustrator and the author – doubly. You needs Time to create something good. Also one must be very loyal to the phrase“kill your darlings,” because very often there is something you like very much, but it doesn’t fit in particular book or story. Sometimes it’s necessary to say goodbye to your favorite spread or illustration which you have done.
What has been the highlight of your career so far?
I think it’s definitely Sleep Like Meso far. The book has been translated in several languages. I have traveled with it, and I have met many interesting people because of it, for example my publisher, who has been one of my biggest supporters. I have had lots of readings and workshops in different cities.
What do you wish you’d have known starting out as an illustrator?
I think everything went on its natural way; I wouldn’t change anything. We gather knowledge, and we make mistakes, but we have to experience this to learn things.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
I don’t know, maybe: “Listen to yourself more carefully.”
What is your favorite image from Sleep Like Me?
“Whales,” definitely – the image which was the beginning of everything about this book!
What do you hope kids learn from Sleep Like Me?
They will learn many interesting facts about animals. In my experience, children don’t like to go to bed, and from this book they will learn funny methods of sleeping J.
Can you tell us one thing people may not know about you?
There are many things people don’t know about me, I guess. Maybe they don’t know that I always cry while reading a good children’s book, because it’s too emotional for me J.
A little boy can’t fall asleep, so he asks the animals how they do it. Will he doze off if he floats on his back like an otter? If he keeps one eye open like a duck? If he hangs upside down like a bat? Nothing seems to help, but all this trying is getting tiring…
This whimsically illustrated book features the real sleeping habits of ten different animals. Whether you snooze like a whale or nod off like a giraffe, Sleep Like Me is the perfect bedtime story for restless nights.