Saturday, November 21, 2009

Free as a bird, warm as a bug

It's easy to fall in love with Beatrice Alemagna. The delicate touch and poetic beauty of her illustrations
 and children's stories masterfully play their tender melodies on the powerful chords connecting
 the eye to mind and heart. Beatrice writes books that deal with strong and important themes
 and emotions such as tolerance, loneliness, love and the difficulties of growing up and fitting in,
 but she does so with a lightness and simplicity perfectly attuned to her young audience.
 Her enchanting world is pervaded with the magic atmospheres, secret joys and warm scents 
of a childhood cherished and embraced.

Stitched fabric illustrations from Mon amour, Autrement Jeunesse 2002

Beatrice was born in Bologna, Italy, and studied at ISIA school of graphics in Urbino. 
At 23 she won first prize at the Figures Futur illustration competition in Paris, where she went to live
 soon after. Her motivation for moving to France owed much to the appeal of its publishing world,
 which is strongerlivelier and more innovative than its Italian counterpart (luckily, things here
 have been recently changing with the emergence of a number of small but very active and courageous
 independent publishers like orecchio acerboTopipittoriZoolibri and Corraini).
Since then Beatrice has published over twenty books with many important publishers in France and abroad,
winning prestigious awards like the Andersen prize and a special mention at the Bologna Ragazzi awards
 in 2007 for A lion in Paris (published in France by Autrement, and just recently in Italy by Donzelli).
 She was also selected three times as a finalist for the Prix Baobab for best
 French illustrated book of the year.

Etching illustration from Je voulais une tortue, Panama 2005

Pencil and collage illustration from Les corbeaux de Pearblossom by Aldous Huxley, Gallimard Jeunesse 2005

Gouache, pencil and collage illustrations from Un lion à Paris, the story of a lonely lion
 looking for love, adventure and a sense of belonging in a big and too often indifferent city.

Oil, pastel, acrylic and collage illustrations from Omega et l'ourse
by Guillaume Guéraud, Editions du Panama 2008

While Beatrice's artistic style is always very personal, her media and techniques vary according
 to the particular mood and narrative requirements of the story she is illustrating.

For the past 11 years, Beatrice has also illustrated the posters

for the children's movie festival at Centre Pompidou.

Until the 25th of November, the Parisian bookstore and gallery Artazart (one of the best place
for all things design and illustration) is exhibiting the lovely artworks created for the new book
Au pays des petits poux (Bugs in a blanket, Phaidon Press). Beatrice developed this new illustration technique
 involving felted wool, fabric, stitching and applique while searching for ways to evoke the dusty
 and hairy cozyness of the old blanket where her story takes place. The book addresses issues
 of tolerance and identity through the charming and funny tale of the struggle of a colony
 of little insects to come to terms with their different appearances.

Here at animalarium I tend to focus mostly on images, but if you understand Italian take the time
 for a visit to Le figure dei libri, a beautiful blog dedicated to illustrated children's books.
The author Anna Castagnoli (herself an illustrator), who I also thank as the source for some
 of these pictures, has dedicated a whole series of insightful posts to Beatrice, including an interview
and in-depth descriptions and analysis of her works.


  1. Funny that you should post this now. I read about the exhibition in Paris for her blanket book last week. It looks beautiful and I'd love to buy it for my children for Christmas.

  2. Gorgeous textural elements and depth! And such fantastic versatility, all the while a pervasive aesthetic throughout. It is no wonder her work has received so much well deserved attention!

  3. I like her work so much.
    It's a great artist!



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