The very first time I stumbled upon the ‘Illustrators Annual’ of Bologna Children’s Book Fair, it was in the children’s section at our local library, right there on the bottom shelf. There was a whole row of these big, dictionary-like books. I must have been about six or seven back then, and I wasn’t much of a reader, but something about the unique illustrations in that book caught my eye. They were nothing like the usual Japanese cartoons, Disney animations, or kids’ picture books I was used to. They had this magical quality that just drew me in. Even though those books were pretty heavy, I decided to borrow the whole lot and lug them back home. Every morning, while munching on my breakfast before school, I’d dive into those pages and let my imagination run wild.
Those books, dating back to the early 1990s, were like picture encyclopaedias. Some of the illustrations I adored, while others could send shivers down my spine. Even though I couldn’t decipher the text, the emotions that the pictures conveyed hit me like a ton of bricks. That’s when I first realised my profound love for visual storytelling.
As time rolled on, I got caught up in the whirlwind of movies, TV shows, video games, and was drawn into a whole new world of technology, the internet, and software programs. I even ventured into the fascinating realm of philosophy during my university days. After graduating, I found myself in the cool world of computer animation, hopping from one country to another. Gradually, the world of children’s book illustrations slipped away from my mind.
But one day, during a casual bookstore visit, I stumbled upon something both familiar and distant – the cover of the latest ‘Illustrators Annual 2016.’ An overwhelming sense of joy washed over me. It was then that I discovered this exhibition had been captivating minds since 1967. The unique cover art, like a sudden thunderstorm, reignited my inner flame, my passion for the enchanting world of illustration.
The realms of animated movies and illustration might seem like two branches of the same creative tree, but they often feel as distant as two separate mountains. I found myself in my cozy comfort zone, wrestling with the decision to venture into uncharted territory. It meant shaking up my life and dedicating more time and energy to enhancing my drawing skills and storytelling abilities. It wasn’t until 2018 that I wholeheartedly embraced my love for illustration. I was determined to make it a significant and thriving part of my life, both professionally and personally.
Submitting my work to the ‘Illustrators Exhibition’ of Bologna Children’s Book Fair became a driving force for me to progress. However, for several years, I battled with a lack of confidence and self-doubt, which kept me from participating. But this year, I finally created an illustration that I wholeheartedly loved and hit that “submit” button! It took me five years to muster the courage. Regardless of the outcome, I conquered the mountain of self-doubt. Through daily practice and drawing, I’ve improved my creative speed and found it easier to convey emotions through storytelling, colours, and composition. Right now, I’m brimming with pride, feeling like I’m inching closer to the enchanting world of illustration!
✱Ever since the pandemic hit, they’ve made things easier by moving the whole contest online. No need to ship your physical artwork to Italy before you even win. This year, though, the ‘Illustrators Exhibition’ of Bologna Children’s Book Fair, which used to be free, has added a 22 Euro fee. Here’s what you’ll need: five images that together tell a story, give your story a title, provide a quick description for each image, write a 200-300 word bio in English about yourself, and don’t forget to add a photo of you. Make sure each image is under 5MB, 150dpi, and in RGB format. Once you’ve paid the fee and entered the your purchase code, you’re all set! And if you’re thinking about taking part in the 2024 Bologna Illustrators Exhibition Contest, mark your calendar – the deadline for submissions is October 29, 2023!