I’m so thrilled to welcome author-illustrator Valentina Mendicino to BookEnds Jr. and #TeamMarchini! I just love the humor in her art, and the feel of her characters. I don’t know quite how to describe it, other than when I see her monster characters, I just want to give them a squeeze. They have such a tactile feel about them! I also love that her characters – both monsters and children – have a style that is distinctly Valentina’s (especially in the eyes!)
I hope you enjoy learning more about her work and process!
Tell us a bit about your writing\drawing process. Where do you write, and how often?
I usually start sketching and writing an idea on some paper and then, delving into that idea, I end up with a messy piece with scribbles, doodles, and thoughts in every corner.
Over time it slowly evolves into a story.
I sometimes help myself using a couple of guides on “how to write children’s stories” as they provide thoughts, questions, and suggestions on characters and plot. These guides are aimed at children so they are easy to use.
I always double check with these that the structure of my book is actually working and developing properly.
in picture books, text & illustrations are complementary and it’s also essential to observe a specific page count, therefore, while I write, I always try to visualise the illustrations and plan in advance through a storyboard what’s happening page by page.
Once I’ve storyboarded all of my stories, I start to draw each page in more detail.
I usually Google or browse on Pinterest first, collecting images to use as references. When I’m sure how I want my illustration to look, I then start to sketch.
When I create an image, I always keep a perspective grid on my drawing sheet which helps me with the composition of the images. Once i feel the sketch is ready, I finally color it digitally, but for a book project, I usually only color just a few spreads initially for promotional purposes.
I can take days to complete each illustrated page, therefore the whole process can take quite a long time .
I used to draw daily for many hours, but now with a 2 year old around, I admit, I take the pen in my hand a bit less and spend time in the playground a bit more 🙂
I love the fact that I can make someone smile when they see my stories or characters.
I love that it’s something I entirely create from my imagination, without restrictions.
I love to see someone stopping on my illustrations and trying to catch all the funny details.
I love the excitement that a publication deal can give you, it’s a fantastic sense of achievement and validation
Why did you choose the genre you’ve chosen?
I’m first an artist and then an author so the right genre is the one that highlights my art as much as my stories. So picture books is about right!
What is the hardest part about writing&illustrating a picture book?
A few things come to mind..
- It’s difficult to create something smart and original. Deep enough to make you think, funny to make you laugh, sweet enough to make your heart melt.. something that flows well, that looks good and is worth the read. It takes a very long time, discipline and dedication to get it right.
- This one is more about choosing a career as an author and illustrator. The work you produce can become quite personal to you and publisher’s rejections can be painful. It feels like a broken heart! But I learned how to overturn that feeling… I just put my efforts into a new book or a new project, it’s like finding new love after a breakup!
- In order to compete in the market, I think an author has to be very productive and pro-active, so sometimes it’s a struggle to balance that with all the other parts of your life.
Do you get inspiration from any TV shows or movies? If so, which ones?
On this topic, my response could be incredibly long..
I’m passionate about animation as much as children’s books. I studied animation at University and specialised in it. I also work in the industry sometimes, so I get inspiration from many animated stories (since 2 years of age really)
When I was a child during the 80s/90s, Japanese animated tv series were incredibly popular in Italy and I’m a big fan of these genres.
Among my favourites are : “Ohayō! Spank” which tells the stories of the dog “spank”, “Pollon” the little Greek goddess niece of Zeus. (hilarious) and “Creamy Mamy” about a 10 year old girl with magic powers, able to turn herself into a pop idol singer (still very modern topic)
I’m also a fan of 80s American productions like the “Snorks”, “The Care Bears”, “He-Man” and “Rainbow Brite”.
More recently, Studio Ghibli has become one of my favourite animation production studios.
“Spirited Away” by Miyazaki and “My neighbours Yamadas” by Takahata are some of my favorite movies. The quirkiness of “Spirited Away” is fascinating and I find Takahata’s movie incredibly clever and fun.
The stop motion animation studio Laika create beautiful movies. Coraline is my favourite.
Aardman studios in the UK is my Mecca! My son & I spend endless hours watching “Shaun the Sheep” and all of their productions are hilarious and very clever.
More broadly I make sure I watch all the Pixar, Disney and Dreamworks animated movies and I own several books on “the making of” their animated films. They are very good sources of inspiration.
My son Sebastian (and husband!) loves “Pingu” – the stories and characterisation are very clever for kids of younger age. I also LOVE Spongebob Squarepants – it cracks me up.
I also feel to mention these beautiful movies which have inspired and moved me:
“Persepolis” the biographical comedy-drama film based on Marjane Satrapi’s graphic novel is SO smart.
“The Triplets of Belleville”, the animated comedy film written and directed by Sylvain Chomet is just visual poetry.
“The Nightmare Before Christmas”, the stop-motion animated musical produced by Tim Burton, brilliant.
“Song of the Sea”, the animated fantasy film directed by Tomm Moore, simply beautiful.
And finally, my best friend, Totoro, by Miyazaki-san.
If money were no object, what would be your dream writing location?
I love travelling and I do it as much as I can. As you might have understood by now, my heart is in Japan. I would move to Kyoto or Okinawa in this very moment!
Obviously, I would be very happy as well on some exotic island like Bali, Palwawan, Bora-Bora, Fiji, Maui, Bahamas.. (Sigh)
Do you belong to any writing & illustration organizations?
I’m a member of the AOI – Association of English illustrators and I’m planning to join the SCBWI as well.
Pictures are taken from my Instagram accounts :