Interview with artist Sharon Spitz, winner of 2021 Jewish Children’s Book Award
How does it feel to have received the 2021 JCB Award?
I was incredibly honoured and grateful for it. It was wonderful meeting everyone in person at the ceremony in London, including Carol Isaacs who won the author award. I had a lot of fun and would highly recommend the experience if you have a chance to participate and submit your work.
Has receiving the award in any way changed your personal or professional life?
Of course, everyone was very happy for me, which was nice. And as a consequence a
connection was established with Green Bean Books and we are now discussing future
collaborations, which is very exciting.
What makes great children’s book artwork?
First of all, you always have to think about composition and colour. But what I personally love in children’s books is hidden details, something you can come back to or discover later on, which is always fun. The second thing would be to see if the illustrations can bring something new to the text, maybe show something that the author did not describe, offer some surprising or exciting addition to the story. And the third thing for me is humour, which is not necessarily always relevant, but you can find ways to insert your own personal jokes into the illustrations, add things that make you laugh. At least I enjoy that.
How best to approach the text you want to illustrate?
When you receive the text and review it, try to allow yourself some freedom of imagination, explore what is not described in the text so you can add some new feeling, or something surprising or clever. It does not have to happen on every spread, but I think that can help elevate the text.
What is one feature of your writing space you cannot do without when working? For me that would have to be some variation of chocolate; my favourite is dark hot chocolate.
And since I live in two places, in Berlin and in Haifa, I take my tools with me all the time
everywhere, often on vacation too, so I always have my colour pencils and my watercolours with me.
What is your favourite Jewish kids’ book?
What comes to mind is my favourite book growing up, and that’s The Missing Piece by Shel Silverstein. I loved it as a child. And it’s interesting because I obviously read it in the Hebrew translation and, now I come to think of it, I am very curious to read the English version. The rhymes worked so well in Hebrew, and I am really intrigued to read the original.
Which artists inspire you the most right now?
I’d say this is always changing in our social media times, because every week I’ll see someone and be like “Oh my god, that’s amazing”. David Polonsky, the Israeli illustrator, really stands out for me, he is just wonderful. He is so versatile, doing so many things – children’s books, theatre, stage design, animation, video production. He is just amazing, I adore him. The second would be the French artist Rebecca Dautremer, she is my hero. I went to a workshop she led in Paris, and that was just a dream experience. Her books are exceptional: the amount of detail, the colours – everything. And the third would be Matthew Forsythe, a Canadian artist. He also works with watercolours and colour pencils, and his books are beautiful and so funny. I also have to mention Omer Hoffman from Israel, who is funny and hilarious and talented. And there are of course many more wonderful artists and illustrators.