Barbara Dessi

Barbara Dessi

Barbara Dessi Interview

Barbara Dessi

Children's Illustrator

How and why did you decide to pursue illustration as your career?

Although I've been drawing since I was a child and illustrating was a dream job during my childhood, it took me many years to realize and believe that I could actually work as an illustrator. I have explored different paths, studied Literature and History and done different jobs before committing to illustration as a career.

It's not until I moved to Norway and met people who actually illustrated for a living, that I realized that it was possible to do so.

I guess something clicked inside my head, I started looking at illustrating with different eyes and here I am.

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

I was born and I currently live in Cagliari, the largest city in Sardinia, a beautiful island in the middle of the Mediterranean.

I lived in Norway for years and it is very possible that one day in the future I'll move back. My heart feels at home in both countries.

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Which books from your own childhood really stand out?

The book I loved the most when I was a child is definitely Fairy Tales by Charles Perrault and M. Catherine D'Aulnoy.

I would never get tired of looking at the illustrations made by Laura Rosano, they are so beautiful!

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What piece of software or hardware could you not live without and why?

I love using iPad and Procreate. I find it intuitive and it allows me to work from almost anywhere, whether it's the park, the beach or the local dance school, waiting for my daughter to finish her dance lesson.

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Do you keep a sketch book?

Yes, I do, it relaxes me and it allows interesting ideas to pop up.

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

One character I really enjoyed drawing is Pons the manatee. The whole process was quite interesting and educational.

The story was set in Réunion Island, I started researching the flora and fauna of this peculiar island to recreate the right environment.

I looked at many pictures and videos of manatees, such lovely creatures! Then I started sketching Pons, for days, until I found him.

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How many times do you tend to draw a character until you are happy with it?

That really depends, I can find the character immediately or having to sketch over and over until I'm satisfied. 

Talk us through the process of creating one of your latest illustrations or books.

The first step when creating the illustrations for a book is always to read the story over and over until ideas start spinning in my head. Then I make some rough sketches, I follow the brief carefully and I draw all the characters in their environment. Usually this gives the client an idea of how the illustrations will develop. It is also quite normal at this stage to make some changes and adjustments. Then I redraw the sketches, more detailed this time, focusing on the expressions and, if they are approved, I colour them.

I like to keep the client updated often so that we work in the same direction so that there are no disappointing surprises when delivering the final illustrations.

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What do you hope children take away from your drawings?

I hope my illustrations can convey good and warm feelings and that children enjoy all the little details that I like to draw.

When I was a child I used to get lost in the smallest details I could find inside the illustrations. It almost felt like a treasure hunt.

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What would you say is a distinguishing feature of your artwork?

People often tell me that my illustrations "have a soul", they find my characters to be quite expressive. 

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Which 4 words would you use to describe your illustration portfolio?

Sweet, delicate, expressive, cute

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Outline your dream project.

I would love for my illustrations to be used to create a line of stationary products or clothing for children.

Do you have a favourite soundtrack you listen to when you’re working?

When I work I need to variate music often, I have a playlist that goes from Morricone to David Bowie, from meditation music to Depeche Mode...

Which project are you most proud of?

I'm very proud of the book I have recently illustrated for the European Parliament. It's about multilingualism and multiculturalism, which are two very important matters to me. I've always been interested in different cultures and languages. Also, my family is Italian-Norwegian, we speak three languages at home.

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What’s one thing that most people don’t know about you?

I keep a diary where I write all my dreams. I've done it for years now.

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What are some of your favourite subjects to draw?

I love drawing animals, they are such beautiful and interesting creatures.

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

Yes, I have a sweet dog named Ailo, which means "sacred" in Sami (Norway).

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