SIBF guides children in the art of making future careers as artists - GulfToday

SIBF guides children in the art of making future careers as artists


Illustrators Nicolette Bertelle (right) and Alia Al Badi at SIBF.

Muhammad Yusuf, Features Writer

Leading children’s book illustrators at the 41st Sharjah International Book Fair (Nov. 2 —13) gave an illuminating insight into the art of book illustrations, from concept through to the various stages of execution, in an engaging panel discussion at Expo Centre Sharjah on November 6.

The panel talk, featuring Italian children’s book illustrator Nicolette Bertelle and Emirati illustrator Alia Al Badi, demonstrated how artists transform stories and text into arresting images and exciting visual material, to engage young readers.

Al Badi, who enriches children’s books with colourful and evocative images, says that she reads the stories from a child’s point of view, and translates the mental image that touches her the most, into illustrations.


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Her fellow panelist Bertelle said that “I discuss with the publishing house their expectations regarding the images; and then I take in the book as a reader, not as an illustrator. The final illustrations you see are a result of both processes.” For books catering to younger children, especially those who are not old enough to read themselves, certain criteria such as larger illustrations with brighter colours are followed, while more abstract images and colouring may be used in works for older children.

Both illustrators also said that they strongly follow their own emotions while illustrating. Bertelle, who has more than 120 books to her credit, said: “You incorporate your own life experiences and visual references into your illustrations. While there is constant research and work that goes into illustrating, I know I’m on the right track if the images evoke special emotions in me.” Colours can also add powerful references or symbolism, opines Al Badi, who pointed out that in her stories catering to young Emirati children, she takes painstaking efforts to get the local culture and its details right. “Words by itself have a magic spell that helps us create,” Bertelle said, while Al Badi said that a rule of thumb she follows while illustrating is that she imagines that she is a kid playing with colours.

Camera operations being explained at SIBF.

The artists also advised young children to “draw, draw, draw” to become artists and illustrators in their careers. Bertelle added: “Don’t be afraid of making mistakes; for that’s when you also make incredible discoveries. Be determined and tenacious in seeing your work through and be passionate about what you do.” Tapping into the growing global interest for anime and Manga series, organisers of SIBF have filled the Comics Corner with numerous activities for visitors to get hands-on experience in building comics. In a session titled ‘Create a Digital Comic’ on November 7, young participants were introduced to the basics of creating the character of their choice.

Workshop attendees also learned the process of developing a character into a comic, starting from creating panels and speech bubbles, to finalising the techniques of doing so. Grace Fawaz, an interior designer with a passion for digital art, who led the session said: “Kids are fearless to express themselves and experiment, and this is the soul of comics.

“It’s the blend between verbal and visual expression. Most kids who attend these sessions are just getting introduced to the concept; and yet, I’m often surprised by the clarity of emotions that they convey while they work on their characters.” “We also have sessions on colour mixology, character creation and even NFT artworks,” she added. “Multiple interactive sessions are on schedule and free-to-attend for those who are curious and want to know more about the subject. Our morning sessions usually range for 30 minutes while afternoon sessions last for one hour.” The Comic Corner is situated at Hall 7 workshop area at SIBF 2022, which is taking place under the theme, ‘Spread the Word’. A baby in a plant pot, a toddler in a teacup, and a boy jumping out of stage, were some of the images that were created at the ‘Perspective Photography’ session on Day 4 of SIBF.

Families thoroughly enjoyed the 30-minute workshop as they formulated their action plan to curate a frame of their choice. Accomplished filmmaker and workshop facilitator Hasan Al Moussawi, explained basic camera operations to a group of professional photographers and hobbyists, including children.

“Strong background and foreground are very important in perspective photography,” he noted. “While camera techniques can be interpreted endlessly using various technical terms, the real result of an impactful image lies in having a perspective. Finding individuality is key to bringing life to your visual idea.” While participants collaborated to conceptualise and derive an image, photographer Amer Hazem assisted in fine tuning the final take of a photograph — which was then presented to the participants as mementos for having attended the session. Six workshops on various aspects of photography are conducted every day at Hall 7 workshop area throughout the 12-day book fair.

Other art highlights at SIBF include a silkscreen printing workshop, involving a technique that includes a textile material and stencil to print on a surface, such as paper, T-shirts, posters, vinyl, or wood; a place to learn paper quilling or paper decoration, also known as paper filigree; a resin art workshop that offers an opportunity for beginners looking to explore using epoxy resin to create beautiful abstract pieces of art - an excellent way to add colours to your home or start your own decor projects and the doll, sculptures, and mask making workshop for children of all ages that allows them to tell their own stories through paper and cardboard.


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