Mixing Colors with Maja Kastelic

“Dober dan! (good day!)” Slovenian illustrator Maja Kastelic greets you at her door. Together with author Heinz Janisch, Kastelic has created a book that breaks boundaries of genre, past and present, reality and fantasy with Hans Christian Andersen: The Journey of His Life. The book is simply alive with her extraordinary illustrations.

“To me the story seemed very rich and also quite complex.”

Zurich-based editor, Andrea, visited Maja in her studio to learn more about her work and creative process. Maja’s studio contains a lavishly designed wall, full of notes, sketches and curios. Her studio also includes a remarkable picture book library, filled with both samples of Slovenian illustration art and internationally known illustrators who are pushing creative boundaries, like Jon Klassen, Catarina Sobral, Isabelle Arsenault, Peter Sís, Kitty Crowther and many more.

Sometimes she cannot control the creative process, and finds herself carried away by it, submerged and unavailable for a while, even to her editor.

Next to meticulous research, studies and experiments with color and technology, a certain amount of “playing” is necessary for the illustrations to emerge. Figures and things come into the picture that were not planned, but which literally awaken a child’s joy when looking at them, such as the tiny eyes in the flowers pictured in the “Thumbelina” scenes or the traveling

Andersen who casts a shadow that looks like a pair of wings. It takes the viewer a second or third look to see these subtleties. Some others are more obvious with illustrations that are full of exuberant details, such as the scene from The Emperor’s New Clothes.

“This is a story about the courage to follow ones dream and a beautiful tribute to playfulness and imagination.”

The character of Maja’s illustrations is strong and delicate at the same time. Strong in the sense of a balanced composition, and delicate because the figures seem light as a feather in the picture. A truly extraordinary combination, which make this book so special. We wholeheartedly agree with Maja, when she says “I honestly hope you will find Andersen’s life as inspiring and moving as I did.”

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