Born and raised in Croatia, Magdalena (also known as Magi) studied at The Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb, earning a BFA in Art education. After experimenting with sculpting and oil painting she decided that illustration was her true calling. Magdalena now specializes in illustrating for the children’s market, with her work in digital media. She currently lives in Sunnyvale, CA. See what she is up to at her blog.
1) How did you become an illustrator of children’s books?
When I was growing up, two ways I entertained myself were playing outside or drawing pictures from my brother’s comic books. After studying art and moving to the Silicon Valley I continued painting in oils, but discovered having kids around a fresh, wet canvas wasn’t a good idea. Being surrounded with computers, Photoshop came in handy and canvas and brush were substituted with a Wacom Tablet. Reading picture books to my children gave me the idea that I could illustrate children’s books too. I was lucky enough to have a few friends that happened to be writers with whom I worked on creating one.
2) Describe your illustration style.
It took years for my style to form and it is still changing. Contrast of light and colours make my scenes alive, movements and expressions come to life. There’s often subtle humor hidden in the page.
3) When did you realise you could make a living off your talent?
I’m not there yet. I have to thank my husband for supporting me all these years and believing in me. I think you can call it unconditional love.
4) Who are the biggest influences in your artistic career?
When I was a kid my biggest influence was my talented cousin that would often challenge and motivate me. Other inspirations were comic books, Michelangelo’s paintings and a slew of artists I can’t recall at this point.
5) When collaborating with an author, how do you ensure you are able to translate their words into art and convey the message they are trying to portray?
We work together from the very beginning. We see each other on a weekly basis and talk it through. I like to understand how they imagine the scene by hearing it from them, rather than trying to interpret it from their text. Often their visualization will trigger ideas for how I should set up the piece.
6) Tell us about the proudest piece of work you have done.
Usually my latest drawing is the one I’m proudest of and that lasts until the next piece is done. I think this happens because ones style is constantly changing and evolving. I notice if I don’t draw for some time I lose progress in my evolution. Two steps forward, one step back.
7) What advice do you have for aspiring illustrators of children’s picture books?
Draw, every day, even for a half an hour. Without persistence you won’t improve substantially. Second, learn to motivate yourself in a positive way, you’re only going to get better the longer you go at it. Analyse others work but don’t get discouraged if they’re skill seems unattainable; the objective is to learn from them. See them as teacher, not competitors. You do not need to draw like somebody else; your style is like your fingerprint.
THANK YOU FOR LETTING US GETTING TO KNOW YOU!
Here are some of Magi’s beautiful illustrations. Both illustrations are from her last book Why is the Moon Following Me? They represent Galileo being taken and prosecuted by Inquisition.
Should you wish to know more about Magdalena Zuljevic, here are her pertinent details.