This month we are really excited to be publishing Oliver, the debut picture book from Icelandic author/illustrator Birgitta Sif. Beautifully illustrated and lovingly told, Oliver is a story about being different and finding your place. Birgitta tells Picture Book Picnic about her journey to becoming an illustrator and how writing Oliver helped her find her own place...
When I started working on Oliver, I was studying for my Masters degree at Cambridge School of Art. I loved my time there! And the program was something I didn't know I'd been missing till I found it (and the many people I came to love and cherish during my time there). Finally, I was surrounded by friends who liked the same things and talked the same language as me, projects and mentors who interested me beyond anything I'd ever been apart of before! Having always felt a bit different, I'd finally found a place and people who were a bit different, too (in the same way as me). One time, we were all sitting around, and I realized we were discussing different types of erasers (how silly!). But it was quite funny. And I remember looking around and I knew I had found friends for life. It was also the same time I met Thor, my partner, and things seemed to click right together, as if I'd always known him. I think life can be amazing like that, stumbling across something you didn’t even know you needed. I had finally found my home. In many ways, Thor is my Olivia.
I spend a lot of time sketching and doodling. And in one of those doodles, Oliver came about. Since this is my first book, I don’t really have a method yet. But for Oliver, I began by making thumbnails on little pieces of paper that I had cut out. Then shifted them around like a jigsaw puzzle, often redrawing and redrawing and doodling again until it came together to form the story I had in my head. I tried to leave some room from the sketch stage to the final art, to allow for things to happen while I recreate to make the final artwork. It’s important to me that the drawings are still hand drawn. Once I have the final drawing drawn, I scan it in and add colour in Photoshop. This means lot of layers. A LOT of layers, hundreds and hundreds I’m rubbish at watercolour, and Photoshop is the way I found works for me for now. It probably takes me longer to do the colouring in Photoshop, but I like how I can change the colour of something if I change my mind. And sometimes deciding if a couch should be yellow or blue or purple or green, takes too much time.. OH there are endless possibilities of colours. However, with watercolour there is usually just one option for me.. muddy brown ;)
My journey with Oliver was long and hard but it was the most exciting thing in my professional career so far. I worked with such talented people at Walker Books who helped me so much. I have learned a lot and am so excited to start working on my next project. Oliver is a big part of my life and I hope that you will love him as much as I do.
Birgitta lives in London with her partner Thor and her beautiful new baby Soley.
Buy your copy of Oliver here.