Bagram Ibatoulline Interview, plus links to author biography, book summaries, excerpts and reviews

Bagram Ibatoulline

Bagram Ibatoulline

An interview with Bagram Ibatoulline

An Interview with the illustrator of The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, Bagram Ibatoulline

You change your style dramatically with each children's book you illustrate, like an actor who never plays the same role twice. You've paid homage, always brilliantly, to Dutch masters, American realists, primitive folk art, Chinese scrolls, and more. Which style do you most enjoy using? What kind of research do you do for each book?
I enjoy any style—it is never my intention to copy a particular look or aesthetic. Instead I do a lot of groundwork and extensive research on the time period in order to come up with my own approach or style for a book that I can relate to and use naturally. I have a big reference library, and when that's not enough, I turn to public libraries and private sources, which was the case for Edward.

Do you use models or photographs for the people in your painting? How about the rabbit—did you see Kate DiCamillo's big rabbit or invent your own?
Usually I create sketches and work off of them to create the final image. Sometimes I take inspiration from people and faces in old photographs or pictures of a specific time period in order to come up with an idea of what a certain character might look like. Although Kate sent me photos of her rabbit, I still had to sculpt my own model of Edward's head, since we see the rabbit from many angles throughout the book.

Did you consider yourself an artist as a child? What kind of art training did you have?
Since the time I can remember myself, I was sculpting. When I was ten, with advice from my parents, I went to the Children's Art School. I studied there for five years. It was a basic art education—introduction to the world of art materials, history of art, basics of various crafts. Then I decided to continue my art education in the Art College of Kazan for four years. It was a time of the most intensive classic art training. After that I attended the State Art Institute in Moscow for five years. It was an important step for me, allowing me to understand and find myself as an artist.

Each painting adds a rich and emotionally affecting dimension to Kate's text. How did you find the heart of each of the characters? What did you want your illustrations to add to the story?
It's not easy to explain how I found the heart of each character. Everything is in the text, as in "But first you must open your heart." I couldn't say it better.

Unless otherwise stated, this interview was conducted at the time the book was first published, and is reproduced with permission of the publisher. This interview may not be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the copyright holder.

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