Artist Interview: Amalia Hillmann, Little Boy Soup
Balcony 7 is proud to present Little Boy Soup, a delightful new bath time book by Joshua Russell, illustrated with a contemporary approach by Amalia Hillmann. The following Q&A with Ms. Hillmann expands on her process and is accompanied by numerous images provided by her as she completed the project.
B7: Balcony 7 | AH: Amalia Hillmann
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B7: When Joshua Russell first approached you to illustrate Little Boy Soup, what ideas crossed your mind about the illustration style, and how did you determine this process?
AH: Once Joshua and I sat down to discuss how we wanted this book to look, I illustrated three sample images in three different media: cut paper illustration, acrylic paint, and a mix media of graphite pencil and digital coloring. At the time, I had just completed a large cut-paper illustration series. The style, texture, and character of cut paper seemed a perfect match for our book. Joshua was not familiar with the medium but was open to the concept. Once he saw the sample illustrations, we both agreed our book was meant to be illustrated with cut paper.
B7: Take us through the steps as you begin the concept of an illustration and then proceed with building it to the final version submitted for print.
AH: Each illustration begins as a quick black-and-white pencil sketch and grows into a colorful paper design. After reading the book’s text, I spend some time brainstorming ideas and sketching concepts. Once I have the final design approved, the illustration transforms from pencil sketch to cut paper as I begin cutting colored papers and cardstocks into seemingly random piles of shapes. I assemble all the unique elements of the illustration—such as a toy or the little boy—separately. Once all the characters and environments are finished, I glue everything down together on a piece of illustration board. The final illustration is then photographed to bring it into a digital format, edited, and sent to the publishing house.
B7: It’s a very unique approach that lends particularly well for this early reader niche of bath time books, especially with the clean lines and the depth of shadows from your cut-paper art. How did this process evolve over the course of your creative endeavors?
AH: Even before working on Little Boy Soup, I had already refined the main aspects of creating cut-paper illustrations, during both my creative work at university and earlier projects. However, each new project offers its own learning experience—from color choices to the order in which I glue down elements of a single image. I think the greatest evolution in my illustration process during Little Boy Soup was finally taking control of pacing the work.
B7: And now that this book is complete, what was the stand-out take-away from this experience?
AH: For me the most challenging part of the book-crafting process is working with the author, the editor, and the publisher—all the cooks in the kitchen. It’s a unique experience. Everyone involved with making a book wants it to be the very best it can be. We all come from various backgrounds with vastly different perspectives. Most of the time, this is a wonderful thing—I have learned more than I could have imagined from the people I have collaborated with on Little Boy Soup. As a layout designer and illustrator, I have strong opinions on the visual aspects of the book, but the author, editor, and publisher may have completely different thoughts. Finding the space where all our visions align is challenging, but when we do so, it makes the book even stronger and more beautiful.
B7: In conclusion, please share your own background of influence from children’s books; is there an artist of note that inspired you long ago, and perhaps fed the creative energy we see from you today?
AH: As a child, I grew up reading and loving books by authors such as Eric Carle, who creates gorgeous, vibrant illustrations with painted tissue paper. At university, I was introduced to cut paper as an art form in a color illustration course. Although I fell in love with the process that semester, it wasn’t often requested by my freelance clients, so I didn’t often illustrate in this medium for several years. Recently though, I missed working in cut paper and began creating cut-paper illustrations again for my personal projects. As I work with cut paper, my process continues to evolve. I love experimenting with new ideas of how to use paper in my images! When Joshua agreed that Little Boy Soup should be designed this way, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to illustrate a book in one of my favorite media.
B7: Thank you, Amalia Hillmann. Best of luck with Little Boy Soup!
About The Artist
Amalia Hillmann earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design/Illustration from Concordia University, Nebraska. Now a resident of Silicon Valley and a full-time artist, she innovates through a variety of mediums and art forms for numerous creative endeavors, including designs for sale on Etsy.com, and uniquely layered techniques mixing pen and ink, watercolor, gouache, and cut-paper illustration for contemporary children’s books.
Visit www.littleboysoup.com for events and news.