Gabriela Lyon is a talented and imaginative illustrator who brings stories to life through her vibrant and captivating artwork. With a keen eye for detail and a flair for whimsy, Lyon has established herself as a prominent figure in the world of children’s book illustration. Her illustrations have graced the pages of numerous picture books, enchanting readers with their intricate designs, vibrant colors, and expressive characters. Lyon’s unique style combines traditional and digital techniques, creating illustrations that are both timeless and contemporary. Her ability to create visually stunning narratives has garnered her recognition and praise from both readers and fellow artists alike. Through her art, Gabriela Lyon sparks the imagination and invites readers of all ages to embark on unforgettable journeys within the pages of a book.
EBYR: What made you decide to illustrate books?
Gabriela Lyon (GL): I was about 7 years old when my mother bought a picture book from the illustrator Tatjana Hauptmann, a compilation of children’s classic stories. The illustrations were beautiful, and I felt an enormous desire to be able to draw like that woman. So yes, I always wanted to be an illustrator, although in my country it was very difficult to become one, there were not many publishers that accepted work from national illustrators, and there were no schools that taught that work either. (Now in 2021 it is different; it is very popular being an illustrator.)
EBYR: Who has been a major influence on your illustrating style?
GL: I have a lot of references! Some of them are painters like Edward Hopper, Odilon Redon, Francis Bacon, and David Hockney; also, I like the work of great artists and thinkers like William Blake and William Morris… Picasso; the unforgettable illustrator Beatrix Potter; currently, the illustrator Monica Doppert, Carson Ellis, Yuko Shimizu, and Stefano di Cristofaro, among others; to finally say that my biggest influence is my mother who is also an artist and draws wonderfully.
EBYR: What characteristics do you think illustrators need most?
GL: An illustrator must be very observant and perceptive, you must love research, and trial and error.
EBYR: Do you have a favorite place you go to create and illustrate?
GL: My drawing table, and if it’s in a studio with all my materials, even better.
EBYR: What would you say is your most used art supply or tool?
GL: For now, it’s my iPad and the apple pencil, but my favorite tool is the Prismacolor mechanical pencil.
EBYR: Do you each have a favorite moment in 9 Kilometers?
GL: My favorite part is when the text says that there are things that cannot be counted with numbers, and the illustration shows a boy looking at the raindrops. I feel that it’s a powerful and poetic scene.
EBYR: Were there any pieces that almost made the cut but didn’t make it into the final book?
GL: A lot of scenes didn’t come out… For example, in the first attempt, in the beginning, the owl was more of a main character, but in the end, we took it away, heh.
EBYR: Is there a particular art spread that is your favorite or maybe challenged you the most while creating it?
GL: There is a scene where the boy is inside the forest and a light beam fall into the river, that light was particularly difficult.But perhaps the most difficult thing was creating the zip line crossing system (when the child must cross the river on a raft), it was like being an engineer!
EBYR: There is anything else you feel we should know about 9 Kilometers or yourself?
GL: From a personal point of view, I want to teach about landscape using the 9 Kilometers illustrations.
HARDCOVER; Releases: 2/28/2023
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A memorable, compelling story about the perseverance of a child and the human right to education.
The sky is still dark when a young boy leaves home for school. He has a long path ahead: nine kilometers—over five-and-a-half miles—through the mountains and rain forests of Chile. But the boy doesn’t mind. While he walks, he can count butterflies and lizards, and he can think about where the 15,000 steps he takes every morning could lead. Nine kilometers could bring the boy across ninety soccer fields, up the world’s ten largest buildings, or into a classroom at last…
Set against the lush backdrop of southern Chile, this book features one of the many children around the world who travel long distances in order to go to school. After the story, thoughtfully illustrated back matter explores the unique birds of Chile and the courage of similar students’ journeys in other countries. Striking and timely, 9 Kilometers will open lasting conversations about social inequalities, the value of learning, and the resilience of those who push past obstacles toward a better future.
“A brilliantly illustrated account of an arduous—yet deeply rewarding—journey.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
Cover photo by @verobesa_foto from Instagram