Laura Brenlla

Laura Brenlla

Represented by Good Illustration
Laura Brenlla Interview

Laura Brenlla

Children's Illustrator

Who or what made you want to become an illustrator?

My mother. I love to tell this story: as a child, I used to watch her doodling little dolls while she talked on the phone. I liked those dolls so much that I spent hours and hours trying to draw them, so that is how I started. I remember years of practice just to achieve the same charm my mother put in her doodles - to be honest, even now I don’t think I could draw a little doll as good as she did! 

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Did you attend art school or undertake any other formal artistic training?

Yes, I studied arts at university and then attended several courses on 2D animation.

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Where do you currently live and where did you grow up?

I am based in Madrid, where I was born and grew up.

Was creativity part of your childhood?

Indeed! I remember my mum and aunt always coming up with creative ideas in many levels of our daily life. Like when there was a party, Halloween or Carnival, they always made special fancy dresses with whatever we had at home. Also, I was always drawing or painting. I remember my teachers put up an exhibition of my pictures at school which was a big confidence boost for me.

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Who or what have been some of your major artistic influences?

My main influences come from the 50’s and 60’s, like the UPA artists or Miroslav Sasek, Ronald Searle. As for the artists nowadays, if I had to pick just one, I’d say Carson Ellis. 

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Which books from your own childhood really stand out?

I remember reading Lord of the Flies, it was fascinating. Also, Tina in Hiding by Tilman Röhrig and a Spanish book titled Gustavo y los Miedos, illustrated by an incredible artist called Gusti. I recall studying his drawings over and over!

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Who or what has been your greatest mentor?

I’ve been lucky to learn directly from massively talented artists. I would like to mention a great spanish animator, Fernando Moro, and Guillermo García Carsí, creator and director of Pocoyo. Behind their talent and technique is a great sense of humor and also a gift for storytelling.

What was your first commission as a professional illustrator?

It was a black and white adaptation of Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer. I still remember how impressed I was when I first read it - I really loved the book.

What is your favourite medium to work with and why?

I use to work with Adobe Photoshop because is the tool that suits me the best as it allows me to work faster. But it’s fair to say I enjoy traditional techniques too, specially gouache. I love to play with different materials, brushes, papers…Currently I'm trying color pencils - so much fun!

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Do you keep a sketch book?

I just started a travel sketch book and I love it. I regret not having this before. But it’s hard to loose the fear of a white page.

Tell us about the creation of your favourite character from one of your books.

I don’t have a favourite character but the raccoon characters are the ones I enjoy drawing the most. Raccoons are special because they perfectly encarnate silliness, mischief, expression, fun, cuteness… all at the same time!

Have you ever thought about trying out a different technique or a different style?

Constantly - We have immediate access to other colleagues work, and there are so many great illustrators nowadays. It's hard not to be inspired by them, their styles and techniques.

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What do you hope children take away from your drawings?

The same I got from my favourite books as a child. The desire to come back to read the book again and again and discover new things, new sides of the story…

What do you do in your spare time?

Recently I started abstract painting. I did not think I would have so much fun! And it has ended up being a great way to explore different shapes and textures, compositions… Also, I like gardening, recovering old furniture and going for walks around the medieval areas of Madrid.

What is your favourite children’s book and why?

There are so many, but I’m going to pick Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie. The story has so many levels of interpretation, you could keep re-discovering it at any age. Plus, it is beautifully written

What advice would you offer someone just starting out as a children’s illustrator?

To simulate commissions, create a series of illustrations, and keep posting on social media. But don't commit to a personal project until you have found out what you truly want to make.

What makes a good children’s book?

Mainly that the kids enjoy reading it I think; also I like children books that not only show the bright side of a story, but introduce other concepts that are not as easy to handle in a way that is manageable and even fun for a child. Roald Dahl would be the perfect example of this. 

Which project are you most proud of?

One of my first commissions, Hibernation Hotel by John Kelly and published by Little Tiger.

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When you are not drawing, how do you like to relax?

I like to watch videos of people cooking tiny meals with toy kitchens, somehow I find this relaxing, with all the sounds and pretty tools.

How do you overcome a creative block?

Looking at other people’s work. In any field: cinema, illustration, comic, advertising… any visual stimulation is valid. Sometimes, by takin time away from my work and doing something completely different from what I usually do; or going for walks and watching people, the way they dress, their body language. It kind of resets the mind and makes me want to get back to the studio and make something new.

Animals feature heavily in children’s books – do you have a pet?

There have always been dogs in my family so I grew up with a great love for animals. We recently adopted a lovely senior dog named Lena, she is the best and brings so much joy to everyone she meets!

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