Juan Palomino the interview

Juan Palomino is a mexican young artist, winner of the 2016 International Award for Illustration Bologna Children’s Book Fair - Fundación SM. At the 2017 edition of the Fair he will present his book entitled Antes del primer día, published by Ediciones SM thanks to the Award, and his solo exhibition. We asked him some questions about his life and work.

How did you learn about the Bologna Children's Book Fair and when did you decide to submit your works to the 2016 Illustrators Exhibition?

"The Illustrators Exhibition at the Bologna Children's Book Fair it's pretty known in Mexico, both for the recognition it represents, as for the quality of the exhibited work. Actually, I didn’t think about sending my illustrations until I created the book that got selected. This was, maybe, the first project where I was completely satisfied with the results, at a conceptual level and also with its graphic characteristics. I really didn't have in mind applying to the book fair, but a series of lucky events enabled me to send the images just in time."

Last year you won the 7th International Children Book Fair Illustrators Exhibition Award - Fundación SM 2016, a highly regarded prize in the Children’s Illustration environment. How did your life and your work change after this?

"Perhaps it is too soon to know the aspects of my life and work that have changed. Nevertheless, I can say that there are new possibilities, at least in these two senses: an award like this amplifies my work's visibility at an international level, which would be rather hard to get in other circumstances, but this fact allows me to develop editorial projects outside of Mexico and Latin America. On the other hand, I realized that the publishing houses that already knew me, are now more receptive to my ideas as an author, which makes it easier to think in my own projects.

Finally, the fact that the prize consists in the creation of a picture book of my own authorship, has given me the chance to keep developing my visual language and my expressive possibilities with more freedom than what I have had in other type of projects."

Thanks to this prize, you will have the chance to present your book and your own personal exhibition at the Fair. Can you share some tips about the book? What is it about? Did anybody help you with the whole project?

"The story I chose to adapt is part of the Popol Vuh, a book where the k'iche mayan from Guatemala wrote down their founding myths, in order to preserve them, in the context of colonial persecution. In this book I tell the story about how the creator gods formed the world through words and dialogue, as well as the stages of creation, whose crime is the birth human beings.

To create the adaptation I used a couple of translations: Adrián Recinos, and a more recent one, Michela Craveri. Like with many of my books, Ana Paula Ojeda, my girlfriend, helped me through all the process."

The Spanish publisher SM is set to publish and distribute your illustrated book worldwide. Are you ready for this big challenge?

"I don't know if I'm ready, I also can't imagine the impact this will have. All I can think of is in this project I tried to grow and explore resources I haven't used before. I also believe that this story is worth telling, especially outside Latin America, and I hope that the way I treated the story would help to make it meaningful to any reader."

What are your projects for the near future and what tips would you suggest to an emerging illustrator?

"I hope to have time to think and develop more personal projects. For now, I've only got plans to illustrate a couple of books of some other authors, which I enjoy, but I'd also like to have the chance to take a pause, and think of what I'm interested on, both in editorial projects and other ways of plastic expression.

My advice for the emerging illustrators would be that they make an effort to acknowledge their own possibilities and limits, to make up their voice from that reflection, and to maintain their authenticity; a commitment to themselves.

The awards I've won, I've won them for very personal projects. Projects where I search for a personal language, and where I wanted to communicate things that are very important for me. These are the products of my journey and the subjects I deal with.  I believe that this could be my advice for the young illustrators. To make every project a personal one, an intimate one, without minding too much what's in fashion of the market today."