While stuck in typical Southern California traffic one day, I was mentally trying to escape my momentarily parked car by listening to NPR. At this time, the book review section began, reviewing the a new picture book While Mama Had a Quick Little Chat written by Amy Reichert. I was no longer sitting in traffic but in the world of little Rose and the hijinks that ensued as her oblivious mother chatted away on the phone. It was such a cute little tale that I went to the library to give it a peek. I can't tell you how blow away I was by this book. Rarely do commentators give book illustrators enough credit and this book was no exception. Alexandra Boiger illustrated this book with such life, silliness and exuberance that I was immediately a fan and have been internet stalking her growing portfolio since. I am immensely thrilled to share her interview with you, knowing that you will also be blown away by her amazing talent.
Alexandra Boiger was born in Munich, Germany as the youngest of seven (very spirited!) children. Yes, the house was full of life and stories. After a year at Kunstschule Seeger, a school for illustration, in Munich, she studied Graphic Design at the Fachhochschule Augsburg. It was always clear, that the arts would be the future, but a career in Feature Animation was a surprise. As part of her studies she had to work as an intern for a semester in a related field. The Animation studio "Munich Animation" had just started its first production and Alexandra was given the opportunity to work on her first Feature Animation movie and literally fell into the spell of this new world. It became her career and life for the following six years and brought her from Munich to Warner Bros. UK in London, to Dreamworks Animation in Los Angeles, to New York and back to California. Alexandra lives now with her husband, daughter and two cats in Northern California and is illustrating children's books since the last ten years.
Describe yourself in five words:
Ha! I will ask my eleven year old daughter to give me some suggestions:
-Funny ( I love that one!)
- Kind of strict (still my daughter's words) in a sort of strict way (Pre-teen is all I will say here)
...and I will take it from here. Because, I realize my daughter is quite biased. And sticking to five words is tough, too.
Art, food, languages, hiking through the woods, family and time alone ( my soul needs it), oh, and also: cold feet and chocolate.
Five is simply not enough.
Now, please tell us how you got started in picture book illustration (in more than five words)...
Even before I studied Graphic Design in Germany,I always knew, that I would like to illustrate books. But I didn't know how and I also wanted to discover the world. When I had the chance to work in Feature Animation for the first time, I simply felt, that I had found a place I belonged to without knowing, however exactly what I should do within the field. I was still a student and at the beginning of everything. I appreciated the energy the studio offered, the full immersion into story telling and working with fellow artists, who all share the same interest. I know, you asked me about how I got started in picture book illustration. But these six years in Animation really were so important for me. I learned so much of what I know today in Animation. I also met my husband and fellow artist.
While I was still living in LA, I went to see a Lisbeth Zwerger exhibition. This became a defining moment that finally brought me to illustration. as i was wondering through the exhibition, I felt such a fire burning through my whole body. I knew, that this is what I needed to do. Shortly after I put together a portfolio. I sent it out and was very, very lucky. I received my first book offer from Simon & Schuster to work with the incredible Art Director Ann Bobco and Editor legend Richard Jackson. WHILE MAMA HAD A QUICK LITTLE CHAT written by Amy Reichert started my new career path. I didn't know Amy then, but she is one of my closest friends today. Illustration has brought me many gifts and wonderful friendships over the years.
If you had to describe your work in terms of your artistic influences, you would say it is...
Lisbeth Zwerger, Simplicissimus, Hayo Miyazaki, Gustav Klimt, Olaf Gulbranson, so many of my artist friends.
Of the six fundamentals of 2D design (line, shape, volume, perspective, shading, and color):
a. Which is your greatest strength?
I think, line. I still like my sketches more than my final art.
b.Which poses your greatest challenge?
Given that illustration is different than many day to day jobs, how to you manage your time and maintain a daily routine?
This would actually be the real answer to the question before. It is my biggest struggle. When my daughter was smaller, I simply worked full gear, whenever she slept. Now I certainly have more time. Still, being a mom dictates my schedule. After she leaves for school, I usually go on a early morning hike. The rest of the day, I try to settle my mind and work on the project on my drawing desk for as long as I can until I bring Vanessa somewhere, or we get ready for dinner, or our (very) bushy yard needs some serious attention.
What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve been given as an illustrator?
Be passionate and patient.
How was the transition from animation to print?
It was an amazingly rewarding experience. All of a sudden, I was able to explore every aspect of this art. The story, the design, the editing, the layout, characters, color. I take the books I am working on very serious and treat them with respect. I carry a big responsibility, when I try to bring a manuscript to life the best I can.
What new projects have you got coming down the pike?
Currently I am working on Tallulah's Nutcracker, written by Marilyn Singer and Doreen, A Fishy Tale, written by Sally Lloyd-Jones. I have two personal projects in the pipeline right after this and then another first. A non-fiction picture book with a fascinating story.
O.K. Normally I would conclude the interview here, but how can you not be burning with curiosity after that last sentence?! Mark my words: Alexandra is one to watch!