I recently interviewed Katarzyna Bukiert, the illustrator of our book “Christmas Fairies for Ouma” from Familius Books .
Hello Katarzyna! Your illustrations add such magic and emotional depth to the book. I’ve enjoyed learning a bit more about you and I’m sure readers will also.
I understand you live in Poland. Can you please tell us a little about yourself?
Currently I live with my daughter and two dogs (one small and one quite big) in a fairly large city – in Poznań. Every day I go in the forest for walks with my dogs, I make illustrations or design patterns for children’s clothing. When I have no other orders/work, I work on my own projects. I’m currently creating my own picture book. I also wrote and illustrated a book on analog photography for children early on.
How did you get started as an artist? Do you come from an artistic family?
No, I don’t come from an artistic family. I have always been fascinated by painting. But even if I drew or painted something, I hid it in the deepest drawer and did not show it to anyone.
Everything changed when I started studying medicine. I was very overwhelmed by the teaching system. In my sophomore year, something broke in me, I couldn’t go on. Then in a small art shop, I met someone who encouraged me to take part in a painting workshop. From the very first workshop, my first drawing, I knew that this is my life and that I had to paint.
My life changed. So you can say that I started painting when I was 20 years old. I finished my second year of studies, but at the same time I was preparing for the exams at the Academy of Fine Arts. I took a dean’s leave in medicine and applied for painting.
After 3 years I also started studying art photography. However, I started illustrating only after I finished my studies. I was fascinated by the fact that it is an art form that is present in almost every child’s everyday life.
What was it like working on “Christmas Fairies for Ouma?” Your favorite part? The most challenging aspect?
The most challenging aspect of the work was showing things that were happening simultaneously on different continents, but at the same time it was the thing that I liked the most. It was also important for me to show the bond between Tessa and Ouma.
What I like about working on illustrations for a book is that I need to learn a lot about the topic that I am going to illustrate first. Thanks to this I learn something new with each book. “Christmas Fairies for Ouma” was unique in this regard, because I had to find out what South Africa looks like – both how people dress, what the vegetation is, what the streets in Cape Town look like, and how postal workers in the US, UK and South Africa dress.
When illustrating, I must first get to know the world that I am supposed to describe visually. While working on this book, I really appreciated the support of the publishing house Familius. Their comments were accurate and thanks to them the book is better. I liked the atmosphere of our cooperation.
Katarzyna, children are delighted to trace the red line that follows the card’s journey across the world! What a sweet idea!
Please tell us about the materials and resources you used in illustrating the book.
While working on this book, I used watercolors, which I have recently been delighted with. It always seemed to me to be a very difficult technique. However, when the pandemic started I had more time because there were no orders for a while, I decided to use this time to learn new illustration techniques and watercolors delighted me. “Christmas Fairies for Ouma” is the first book I have made with this technique. At the end, some elements were put together on the computer.
Do your own interests or life influence your art? What else do you enjoy?
I am inspired primarily by nature. I find the best color combinations when walking with the dogs in the forest, by the river or by the lake. I also like the colors that appear after dark.
Many things interest me! I would like to multiply myself sometimes because I am drawn in many directions. For example, for a while I had a ceramics studio (I made flower pots, vases, teapots and kettles). I constantly find something interesting that draws me in.
I am also interested in physics, biology and the psychology of animal behavior. I train dog sport with my dogs – obedience training. I love carpentry. Sometimes I make simple furniture and renovations in my apartment myself. For example I can put tiles or putty on walls 🙂 I like to do this in the breaks between working on individual books. After working on a book, I need some physical work for balance.
Recently, I started playing bass guitar, although I had never dealt with music before. My daughter inspired me—she has been playing guitar and drums for some time. I also love reading books and comics. I think I will never be bored!
Thank you Katarzyna for your honest answers. They gave us such wonderful insights into your creative life. You have so many interests and talents! I look forward to seeing all you accomplish in the future!
For more information about Christmas Fairies for Ouma, please see this page. You can find a FREE download there with related activities for children and an easy South African recipe!