Drawing reference from the glacial nomadic landscapes of Northern Poland to the bustling city streets of Paris, illustrator Joanna Concejo’s background is a major inspiration to her. This results in graphite and colour pencil works that bloom and breathe with nature’s movements and human narratives. She contributed to Death and Resurrection with a twist on the Red Riding Hood fairytale.
~Interview by Ysabelle Cheung.
Hi Joanna – pleasure to meet you. How would you describe yourself?
I’m an artist who works as an illustrator. My work is mostly for illustrated books, in general for European editions houses and also in Asia. I have published more than 15 books. At the same time, I also do collaborations with other artists.
Where did you spend most of your childhood and how has that dictated your current body of work?
I was born in a small village in the North of Poland in 1971. Now I work and live in Paris. Both places are very different from each other – I didn’t live the artist’s life in the place where I was born. I was lost in a forest. But in my soul, all my childhood experiences of living in a small town far from urban life, still stays with me – the lakes, the hidden landscapes. Paris, on the other hand, is all about art and aesthetics. Today my life is quiet different, not only because it offers me option as an artists but also socially speaking. I have the chance to interact and ex-change ideas with other artists, which is very important to me. What I miss most today are those places of my early years, and the simplicity of it all.
How do you feel when you pick up a pencil, and when a drawing is complete?
When I work with my pencils I feel like I’m on a trip, I’m very happy to discover more about myself and go further in my knowledge. Drawing with pencil is something very special: intimate and also sensible at the same time, which is what I like about it. The feeling of something coming from my soul goes through my hand and expresses itself through the graphite. The lines and the vulnerability of my images bring me a great feeling of completeness. I love dark black and the breathing of the white. I also like the solitude of my hand and my heart while drawing.
We hear the paper you use has a special quality too.
For me the quality of the paper is very important. I always search for old papers which might have been crafted or used for some other purpose, meaning they have a past and stains from the past. I don’t like new white paper.
Could you talk a little bit about your own interpretation of the Tiny Pencil theme, Death and Resurrection?
When I was asked to draw a piece for Death and Resurrection I was also working on a project about Little Red Riding Hood. In the version I was working on, Red Riding dies swallowed by a wolf, but she is brought back to life afterwards, liberated by a hunter who kills the wolf. I expressed that precise moment which moved me. I drew without hesitation or doubt. Even I was surprised at the result when I finished. I found it a magic moment.
Can you tell us about a favourite creative experience?
I remember that when I was working on my first book Il Signor Nessuno I felt like I was in a state of grace – the ideas flowed easily and I was overwhelmed with joy. I was sure, at every moment, that I was doing what I really wanted to do. I think that was then when I realised that I found my place in the world.
What were some of the first things that you drew?
When I was really young I drew flowers. I loved to draw flowers. I also copied ant drawings.
Where can people get a hold of your work, or find out more about your previous projects?
Joanna’s work also features in Issue 4 of Tiny Pencil: The Death & Resurrection Issue! Available to buy here.
This interview was brought to you by Ysabelle Cheung and The Tiny Pencil – fine purveyors of the pencil arts. Follow us on twitter @TheTinyPencil, Facebook, Tumblr, and Instagram for the latest news on all of our new anthology artzines.