Saturday, October 5, 2013

Interview and giveaway of „Hast Du den kleinen Troll gesehen“ with Constanze von Kitzing

It is time for another wonderful interview with one of our illustrator members. Today it is Constanze von Kitzing's fantastic work we want to share with you. And of course there will also be a giveaway of her new book she tells us a little more about in the interview. You can find out how to enter the giveaway at the end of this post. Now grab your cuppa and enjoy all the insights Constanze shares with us today! :-)

Constanze, could you tell us a little about yourself? How did you get started in illustration or what made you want to become an illustrator in the first place?

First of all I grew up with 5 younger siblings, which in itself is quite a specific setting. I used to spend most of my time drawing horses and princesses, while listening to tapes (kind of boring, I know…). Every night, my parents would read a picture book to us and I remember thinking, that I would like to draw children’s books myself one day. And looking back there wasn’t much distraction. After school and a year of voluntary service in South Africa I started studying visual communication in Weimar, then Minneapolis, graduating in Hamburg, where the university focuses on children’s books illustration.

Cover for Babybug Magazine March 2011 was chosen to be published in the 3x3 magazine.

You have won numerous awards for your illustrations and have exhibited at the Bologna Book Fair and in other exhibitions. Would you say this has supported your illustration career in the children's book world or is some of your exhibition work not connected to publishing but another art outlet?

It’s hard to say… I often hear publishers say that there are those illustrators that get jobs and those that win the prizes. I don’t know if I can say this is true, but I rarely got jobs through awards or exhibitions. It’s more to show that my illustrations are recognized on a certain level and also to get seen by other illustrators. They are important as a reference when it comes to teaching illustration in universities, which I do and love doing.

This illustration won a gold medal at the 3x3 Children's Show

This image along with others was exhibited at the Bologna Children's Illustration Exhibition in 2010

I came across your work a while ago and was stunned to see you have published books as author-illustrator in the French market. How did this come about?

It started with my diploma, which I offered to my French publisher “La Joie de Lire” in Bologna. Since then they have published most of my self-written works and it is always a very pleasant collaboration. Some of the books have been sold to Korea, Mexico and Sweden.

This book won a bronze medal at the 3x3 Children's Show

Apart from the French and German market, what markets have you worked for and what are the differences you have observed? What would you say are the advantages of working for different publishing markets?

I’m also working for Korean, Spanish, Dutch and English (US and UK) publishers. There are huge differences in pricing, the treating of the illustrator or the illustration, the freedom you have as an illustrator etc... The advantage is that you have a broader market, you can be happy with some things one publisher does and another doesn’t, you feel international and get a feel for how different these cultures treat books and art. The challenge is to be very flexible and open and see cultural differences for what they are and not to take things personal. But through the Bologna Book Fair I find it quite easy to stay in touch with international clients and also to make new connections.

One of the differences in the French book market is that they have a lot of salons where tons of authors and illustrators sign books. Here I'm at the Salon de Livre in Montreuil.

This book of prayers for children has recently been published in the US by Baha'i Publishing Trust

You have just released a new book with the Sauerländer Verlag written by Wolfram Hänel titled “Hast Du den Troll gesehen”. How did you get commissioned with this book?

I’ve been working with the editor Bettina Herre before. She’s a wonderful editor, very experienced and very open to the illustrator’s ideas. She appreciates art and rarely asked me to change my final work. I guess she thought my illustrations would fit nicely, so I got the job.

Can you share with us your process of illustrating this book? How did you design the main character the “Troll”?

First of all I was sent the text and then I made sketches. I can’t really explain it, but a lot of the images and characters take shape in my head immediately when I read a text. They are part of me and somehow already seem to exist. I’m not spending a lot of time creating and re-creating and designing characters - maybe I will in the future, but for now, I start drawing and say “hi” to my new friends. 

The process I follow in general is that I create sketches digitally, so it is very easy to make changes and adaptations. Once the publisher is happy, I copy them to the art paper and then proceed with colors. It sounds quite simple, but does take some time.

Here are some process pic from another of Constanze's projects, were you can see how she takes it from her digital sketch to acrylics and coloured pencils and ads final touches digitally. What a beautiful style!

This is the place were all the lovely art is created

When asking illustrators about their books most of them are often happy with one or two spreads in particular. Which spread or spreads of “Hast Du den Troll gesehen” are the ones you are most pleased with and why?

Let me see… I do love the first page, where you see the forest and all the different kind of trees and animals, it’s the troll’s world and home, you get into the right kind of mood and automatically start looking for what there is to see. And then I do love the spread where the troll is sleeping, somehow I feel calm and content looking at him slumbering. (the spread we saw above with the process sketches)

When looking back at your work when starting out as an illustrator or maybe when still studying how would you say has your style evolved since then?

I think I was very lucky in being able to take my time studying, developing my style while being a student without any disturbances. Since then, I would say that my style has become a little more concrete, friendly and colorful.

Are you working on any own stories at the moment we might be happy to enjoy as books soon?

It’s not really a story, more of an idea or concept, but I think the book is going to be nice. Obviously I can’t say too much about it now, but I’m happy to give another interview when the book is being published! :-)

Is there a specific story or topic you would love to illustrate but neither have found it in a commission nor written it yourself (yet ;-))?

I always wanted to do a fairytale book and just this summer I was asked to illustrate Cinderella, Snow White and Sleeping Beauty for ALDI, which is about to be printed. So, for the moment I’m mainly looking forward to start working on the book I mentioned above, besides, I’m open to anything! Maybe a bestseller would be nice…

We all have our good and our bad days. What do you do when having a bad drawing day? Do you have routines to overcome it or a special working routine anyway that prevents this from happening?

Well, having a young daughter and the next one being on his way, you don’t have time any more to have a bad day. It’s actually as simple as that for the moment. Also, it’s SO enjoyable to get a break and be able to be creative and paint and don’t think. So, although it can be very exhausting and time-consuming at times, having children actually made me VERY efficient!

For those that don’t have the pleasure of being forced into fanatic efficiency by their young (yet): what I usually do when I don’t feel like painting – I will do something else, take a break, get my head free and return with new energy later that day or maybe even the next. Creativity can’t really be forced, I feel.

The sleeping elephant was for a children's CD, "Rubys Wintergarten" by Markus Reyhani, it was also shown in the 3x3 magazine

This is the final question I like to ask everyone, so here it goes. Now that you have been in the business of illustration for a while what advice would you give your younger self at the point when you were just starting out as an illustrator?

Be fanatic, LOVE what you do, never give up, believe in yourself and your work, never stop improving, built networks, trust that if you work really, really hard, that you will be successful. It’s a process!
Thank you so much, Constanze, for sharing your work and insights with us! I very much look forward to that secret project of yours and hope we can share it on here soon too!!!

Thank you so very much, Constanze for this wonderful interview! It's been a real treat to see your lovely art and learn a bit about your process!

This was a nice interview with Silvia Mucke (Eselsohr) for the German Illustration Organisation at the Frankfurt Book Fair last autumn.

To win a signed copy of Constanze's beautifully illustrated book "Hast Du den kleinen Troll gesehen" you have to:

1. leave a comment below this blog post and also

2. tweet or share on Facebook the following:
'I just entered the #giveaway of Constanze von Kitzing's newest book over at #germanSCBWI #blog !'

One winner will be randomly chosen and announced on the 21st October 2013.

The giveaway is now closed! Thanks to everyone who entered!


  1. Wow! Very inspired by your work. It's beautiful and very compelling (I'm not an illustrator, but a writer). Hard to say which piece shown in this blog that I love the most: The fairytale illustrations are more than lovely, but I also like the troll one on the sea coast. As Maria suggested, I got my cup of coffee and sat down on a Sunday morning to read your interview and it has invigorated my passion to write children's books. Inspired by your whole story and international publishing career. Thank you, Constanze and Maria!

  2. I absolutely LOVE Constanze's work. So varied, each so beautiful. I'm especially drawn to the illustration that won the 3 x 3 Gold Medal. Thank you for this interview. It is fascinating.

  3. I've had a lovely browse through your website Constanze - thanks for a great interview :)