Meet The Illustrator: Anna Pignataro

Name: Anna Pignataro

Describe your illustration style in ten words or less.
Expressionistic, evocative, classical but contemporary, whimsical, quirky, magical, heartfelt, innovative, creative.

What items are an essential part of your creative space?
Pencils ,brushes, coloured pencils, charcoal. I mostly use drawing paper and paint from England, Japanese and Chinese ink and Italian watercolour paper. I use tracing paper to do all my storyboards and character sketches so I can layer my ideas. I make coloured pencil swatches and paint washes of colours and patterns to use for collage. Notebooks filled with nature studies , people, travels, words, and everyday things, are abundant.

Do you have a favourite artistic medium?
I adore watercolour and pencil.  

Name three artists whose work inspires you.
Modigliani, Charles Blackman, Egon Schiele, Vali Myers, Arthur Rackham
Sorry that’s five! It’s so hard!

Which artistic period would you most like to visit and why?
The 20’s/30’s especially Paris . An era of new movements and exciting ways of expression in painting, music, dance, fashion and literature. They were amazing times of exploration and liberation. I myself love trying new media and techniques. Everything adds to my illustrative style, I have never liked being closed into a particular box and I am always expressing myself creatively in different ways. I think I would fit in there. Then, of course, the 60’s London , which was similar in many ways.

Who or what inspired you to become an illustrator?
When I was very small I remember my mum reading to me from a very old fairy tale book. It was Grimm’s Fairy tales illustrated by Arthur Rackham. The minute I saw it I knew that I wanted to be a book illustrator.

Can you share a photo of your creative work space or part of the area where you work most often? Talk us through it.
At the moment my studio is a room in the front of my home so it’s quite open and very much part of the house. Around me are old musical instruments, books, sketches, paintings and icons. I have candles and special things collected and treasures that have been given to me. Paddington Bear from London, a handmade doll and other woodland creatures, gumnuts, plants, trees, feather quills from Venice, flowers from my garden, fairy lights, ivy and snow globes. I barely have room to work!
But actually all the things around me here are an inspiration, a fond memory, a spark of a new idea and all make this my very own magical space where I can escape.
We are building a new studio that will be added on to the back of our house. It will have much more space and a place to sit outside too. I love to look at the stars.

What is your favourite part of the illustration process?
Creating the character and their world is a lot of fun. I enjoy choosing their clothes and giving them a quirky little trait then building their home. It might be a room or a tree but it’s always a special place all their own. I love the whole storyboarding part too because its challenging and full of possibilities. That said the very first piece of finished art for the book always turns out to be my favourite one.

What advice would you give to an aspiring illustrator?
Draw, draw, draw and work hard, very hard. Dedication is everything. Develop you’re own way of seeing. It’s a great thing to really master in a technique or two. That way you will grow your own style. At art college I enjoyed all types of art but I decided to specialize in watercolour and it has become the medium I am most known for. I practiced so much and I still do.
When I first started out I was told that I wouldn’t make it, that I would never find work in Australia as my style was too European! If I had listened to this person I wouldn’t be doing what I do today.
So I guess my biggest piece of advice is to listen to your heart, follow your dreams and believe in yourself. For me being an illustrator is a vocation, a way of life not just a job so finally, I’d say always try to enjoy the journey, the highs and lows along the way to your first book, to every book, are all wonderful.

Anna Pignataro is an author and illustrator of over sixty picture books. Published
internationally and translated in more than fourteen languages, her stories include the
award winning Agatha and The Heart of A Whale. Anna works from her studio by the beach
inspired by the little everyday things, the landscape and characters around her.

For more information, please visit Anna’s website or follow her on instagram.

May 13, 2021 at 12:30AM Katrin Dreiling