We had the opportunity to interview the outstanding children’s book illustrator Pia Valentinis. Pia was born in the northeastern Italian city of Udine. She graduated from the Udine Art Institute and has illustrated many different books like Line and Scribble (Chronicle), The Garden of Monsieur Monet (Royal Academy), and many other books for children and adults. She has received the XXI Italian Andersen Prize for Best Illustrator and her books have been published in over a dozen countries. Pia now lives in Cagliari, Italy. Visit her website at piavalentinis.com.
What made you decide to become an illustrator?
I’m shy and you don’t need to talk to draw.
Who or what has been a major influence on your illustrating style?
The editors and people I’ve worked with.
Which children’s book most inspired you as a child or in recent years?
“Little blue and little yellow” by Leo Lionni.
What is a typical workday like?
I get up, work about three hours, take a walk and then have lunch. Then I draw at least 4 hours, take a walk. Sometimes I also draw after dinner.
Where do the ideas for your books come from?
I do not know. I think the ideas come from the films I see, from the readings, from conversations overheard on the street, from friends, from the dreams I have at night.
How closely do you work with the author?
In this case the writer is a very dear childhood friend of mine and we worked very closely together. I finished a few of the drawings at her house, under her eyes. The houses that can be seen in the book “Black and White” are those in via Pirano, the street in Udine where we both grew up. How much we shared on that road! And how much we dreamed growing up together! And argued, of course. Ours is a very intense relationship: so it was also for this book.
Where do you find your inspiration for new stories and characters?
From observing the world around me.
What is the one thing an illustrator must keep in mind when illustrating a children’s book?
For me it is important to ask myself about the meaning of the book and the tone of the text.
If not an illustrator, what would you have been?
A gardener or a dancer.
Why do you believe reading is vital for children?
Because it is an individual activity that opens your mind and asks questions.
What has been the highlight of your career so far?
At some point in 2012, I started writing and drawing a graphic novel. It was an inner necessity, I didn’t care whether or not it would be published. For me it was important to do it for my own personal growth, not for the audience. When the book, Ferriera, was awarded the 2015 Andersen Prize for Best Graphic Novel it was icing on the cake.
What do you hope kids learn from Black and White?
We are all different and cannot live without others.
Can you tell us one thing people may not know about you?
I’m not passionate about coloring drawings: I prefer black and white.