ABOUT TANJA BAUERLE
In order to understand the illustrator that I am today, follow me for just a moment back to my childhood in Germany. This is truly where my love of drawing began, when I was old enough to hold a crayon. While my dad and brother were sitting at the table solving math problems for fun (no, I’m not kidding) I could always be found drawing. Unfortunately, my German heritage was not necessarily conducive to a career in art. It was understood that kids draw, but grownups work. Drawing is just for kids, at least that was the sentiment that was echoed to my budding artistic wings.
If ‘coloring’ was limited to childhood, then my flight would soon have to take a different path. My journey of artistic discovery steered me to the world of graphic design. If drawing for a living was not to be, then perhaps I could find fulfillment in the arena of design and visual communication. Creativity is an integral part of this vocation, so I was somewhat content but there was always that proverbial hole that needed to be filled.
When that hole became a huge chasm it was time to finally follow my inner voice and pursue that which I always envisioned myself to be; a children’s illustrator.
There is something about creating images that touches that inner something that can’t be explained and is often only understood by other artists. When I’m creating, painting, or drawing, I feel at home. Feeling the paint move under the brush and bringing the story to life has a euphoric effect. My medium of choice is Acrylic Gouache. It is such a versatile vehicle that any type of effect can be achieved. The transparency and sensitivity of watercolor, the luminance of oil, the dimensionality of collage, all can be realized using acrylic gouache and the various mediums, gels and additives that work with it.
Looking at a blank sheet of paper is like a treasure hunt. The illustration is hiding; you simply need to uncover it. For the illustration to be truly successful it must be more than simply an image. It must convey the story, express emotion, transport the viewer, and make them identify with what is happening.
Marrying the narrative image with the tactile art form is very exhilarating even though I tend to be somewhat restrained in the creation of the actual artwork. My goal is to completely free myself of this limitation and create dimensional pieces that rival Van Gogh whose surfaces are so seductive one simply wants to be absorbed into them.
Illustration, especially for picture books, needs to be enticing and draw the viewer in. I love that when kids experience a picture book, they read the illustration first. Illustrators have the opportunity to connect with their audience and provide an enticingly rich experience that goes so much further than mere words. Kids spot the tiniest of details in the artwork and this is tremendously motivating to me. I want to provide an interactive experience to my readers by enthralling them visually with multitudes of facts about the subject matter that I am illustrating. This is even more amplified in a wordless book because there are no words to fall back on. The art must stand on its own and convey story, emotion, setting, atmosphere, factual elements, and the list goes on.
Each of the books that I have illustrated to date, included detailed research before I even begin the sketching process. Becoming familiar with the subject matter and looking for opportunities to engage the reader and provide additional knowledge is vital to my creative process. Kids are amazingly attuned to the visual and they discover and point out elements in the artwork that grown-ups usually miss. This is what I live for!