Magic Moments

Interview with Miren Asiain Lora, illustrator of The Twilight Library

“Come, come, come, my friends, let me spin, spin you a story.” These are the words that lure the inhabitants of field and forest into The Twilight Library, where the storyteller of the night begins to weave her magic. Miren Asiain Lora’s illustrations create a dreamlike atmosphere for Carmen Oliver’s enchanting story. In this interview, Lora speaks about the new book and her working methods, as well as what she hopes children will discover in her artwork.

What is your favorite technique?

I really enjoy trying different techniques and mixing them. My favorite, and the one I use most frequently, is gouache. It’s a very versatile material, and so I can never have enough of it. But for The Twilight Library I used mainly watercolors, which I sometimes mixed with gouache and crayon. I’d never used these before on an “official” commission, and it was a great discovery and experience for me.

How did you approach the task of illustrating the story?

I did a lot of experimenting. I drew lots and lots of sketches, because I was really keen to find something new. I wanted to create a magical atmosphere that would surprise even me, and in which I could lose myself and discover things that I’d never encountered before.

Which comes first – the details or the picture as a whole?

The first thing for me is always a feeling, an intuition about what the scenery and atmosphere should be like. I start with sketches, and assemble pictures and photographs of things that I connect with the project. And so I gradually put together a kind of carpet out of all these images. When I’ve finished a few sketches, I need to make them into a complete illustration – no matter which part of the story they relate to. It could be the beginning or the end, but I simply have to be certain that this is the right direction for the whole book. In this case, the decisive picture was the one where the text reads: “Crawlers and beetles march across the forest floor.” After lots of sketches and different versions, I was finally convinced that I’d created the right image, and that was when the magic of the book took over.

The range of colors in The Twilight Library is fascinating. How did you set about selecting the different shades and combinations that run through the book?

 For a long time I’d been waiting to use a few bottles of liquid watercolours that had slowly been gathering dust in my studio. When I read Carmen Oliver’s story, it was obvious that the time had come! The Twilight Library conjured up a certain light for me, with bright shades of pink and orange. But at the same time, I had to retain the darkness of the night.

Your paintings are very atmospheric. What inspired you?

I think that all our choices depend to a great extent on who we are and how we see the world. I’m a very visual person, and just looking at a landscape or a view from the window gives me incredible pleasure. On the other hand, when I look at the world, it always makes me feel very small. And I recently discovered that I see everything nostalgically, with a feeling that it will soon come to an end.

What do you hope children will discover in your pictures?

I prefer not to have any particular expectations. But I’d be delighted if they could fly to where I have flown as I’ve created my pictures.

I wanted to lose myself in order to discover new things. 

Miren Asiain Lora

What did you enjoy most while you were working on this book?

I thoroughly enjoyed the whole process, because I was totally absorbed in the quest for something new. That was my purpose right from the start. Whether it was the pictures themselves, the use of watercolors and crayons, or the range of colors – everything was new for me. And so the whole process from beginning to end was one of learning, and it was also a challenge. I wanted to lose myself in order to discover new things. 

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