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- author Jackie French

Thursday 23 June 2022

Meet The Illustrator: Shelly Laslo

Shelly Laslo

Describe your illustration style in ten words or less.
Quirky and heart-warming, and hopefully sweet but not saccharine.

What items are an essential part of your creative space?
My iPad, a tiny pad of Post-Its to manage all the ideas that pop into my head, and a sketchbook.

Do you have a favourite artistic medium?
I’m obsessed with layering coloured pencils over gouache, on hot press watercolour paper. There’s nothing quite like it. My other love is working in Procreate app on my iPad. And I love combining the two methods- starting an illustration in gouache and adding details digitally.

Name three artists whose work inspires you.
I’m inspired by Miroslav Sasek’s whimsical characters and his stylization of them.
I’ve always loved Maira Kalman and her unique visual language. There’s a certain carefree abandon in her textures and lines, that I always hope to instil in my own work.
And lastly, I’m so inspired by contemporary mega-talent Beatrice Alemagna. Her work always takes my breath away. It somehow combines a childlike wonder with an incredible sophistication, and her colour palettes are just….wow. Her work simply transcends all rules and trends.

Which artistic period would you most like to visit and why?
I’ll say the Post-Impressionist era, because it feels to me like an exciting time to break rules and experiment with bold colours and fresh stylization.

Who or what inspired you to become an illustrator?
My kids. Since they were tiny, I’ve loved flipping through beautiful picture books with them, and soon realized I could be the person making them.
It took me years of trying a bunch of “wrong” career paths to find my way to picture-book illustration. I use quotations because I do believe that it’s often the wrong routes that lead us to the right ones.
These paths all involved illustration in one way or another (including a 5-year bachelor’s degree in fashion design, graphic design, and working as a baby apparel designer).
One trip to the Bologna Children’s Book Fair was all it took to make me dive head-first into children’s book illustration. It’s a world that inspires me, challenges me, and sometimes frustrates me, but in a good way. In the way that I’m always scratching me head and wondering “how can I become better, more innovative, and express my truest self?”

Can you share a photo of your creative work space or part of the area where you work most often? Talk us through it.
For the last few years, I’ve realized it’s important for me two have two distinct work areas. One for the analogue, one for the digital.
First, for practical reasons, as I don’t want to risk paint-water spilling over my keyboard.
But second, I’m more free to create, sketch, and paint when I’m not distracted by emails popping onto my screen and a zillion other internet distractions.
We moved to a new house two years ago, and my new analogue workspace has the most amazing skylight above it, allowing my pages to be washed in natural daylight, but zero direct sunlight.
The downside? It’s smack in the middle of a shared family space, and I’m always finding my table covered in the odd pile of unfolded laundry, or Knick knacks my kids leave there when passing by. I might fence it off, we’ll see. :)

What is your favourite part of the illustration process?
Either the character design at the beginning, or the colouring phase.
It’s the stage I can do with a podcast or playlist playing and it’s quite relaxing.

What advice would you give to an aspiring illustrator?
Accept that you never really land upon a “style”, you are constantly changing and evolving it. Like, forever.
Protect yourself as much as possible from self-comparison. Minimize your time scrolling Pinterest and Instagram, and dedicate your time to your own process. I, too, am working on shutting out the noise.
Get yourself some illustrator friends, even if only virtual ones. Make online connections, and reach out to artists who inspire you. Bonus points if you do things IRL, like visiting book fairs or attending sketch meets.
And lastly, fill your creative well. Visit museums, go out into nature, and travel if you’re lucky enough to be able. I don’t do this last one enough, because #momlife. But I’m working on it, I promise.

Shelly is a self-taught children’s book illustrator working from her home-office in sunny Israel. She has illustrated for select publications including Usborne Publishing, Puffin Books, and Bravery Magazine. Her work features sweet and quirky characters that aim to put a smile on your face.

For more information, please visit Shelly's website or follow her on instagram.