Energetic lines with a touch of retro, naïve art and some comic book traits are all characteristic features of Katarzyna Bogucka's style. Her simply and expressively drawn human and animal characters spark the imagination and play a vital role in bringing back the classic style of the Polish fairy tale.
My paintings were too pushy in the narration, says Bogucka about turning to illustration. The artist originally graduated from studies in painting. She debuted with Pan Tu Nie Stał/You Did Not Stand Here, Mr., a design duo who gained acclaim by redefining and reviving motifs from the past – the design as well as the children’s’ visual culture of the People’s Republic of Poland. Bogucka was invited by the duo to illustrate some cult Polish books of nursery rhymes - Siała baba mak/Babooshka’s Sowing Poppies and Nie śmiej się dziadku/Stop Laughing, Pops as well as Dziadek z babką/Pops and Granny.
The limitation of using just two colours turned out to be a breakthrough for the artist. Bogucka realised that the colour reduction actually helped her come up with her very own style - I had tried various techniques before, but that diversity would always give rather sketchy effects.
The commissioned books turned out to be a success and the illustrator decided to focus on children’s literature. It was then that these publications started to get more serious consideration as a vital element of education, development and introducing children to the standards of contemporary times – it was a true revival of this genre of literature.
The publisher Dwie Siostry/Two Sisters, for whom Bogucka illustrated a visual history of fashion (2011; text by Katarzyna Świeżak), played a crucial role in this ‘revolution’.
Bogucka concentrates on the classics of Polish poetry and children’s fables. Her method consists in tracing back her own imagination, reviving motifs from her childhood and integrating them into an image. No wonder that readers in their 30s and 40s can also relate to O Panu Tralalińskim/Of Mr. Tralalinski by Julian Tuwim (pub. by Wytwórnia, 2010, nominated for the IBBY Polish Section Book of The Year Award, showcased at the 1€ Design Exhibition at the Institute of Industrial Design in Warsaw), since the the raw geometric shapes of the illustrations of the time are still vivid in their memory. Bogucka continues to cultivate this style.
The artist’s collaboration with Pan Tu Nie Stał/You Did Not Stand Here, Mr., for whom Bogucka designs t-shirts as well, confirms the nostalgic potential of her works. Her priority, however, is younger readers.
I really enjoy creating for children, hiding various surprises in the book, coming up with riddles. Simple shapes are quickly deciphered by the youngest, which at times startles their parents. I’ve come across a couple of opinions that my illustrations are too complex, ugly even (whatever that means). I have never heard the children say that - Bogucka laughs.
Bogucka’s illustration have always revolved around Polish culture; however, she is now planning to turn towards applied design.
I want to include everything that is dear to me and familiar. At the moment, I seem drawn to a sort of versatility, hence, among other things, the idea for wallpaper designs, sums up the artist.
At times you need to find a reasonable compromise, at times you need to have your own way. What I like the most though is doing things my way; having additional projects, doing them yourself, even if you put it back in the drawer. This is how Lala Lolka/Lolek’s Doll, which was published by Ładne Halo, came to life as well as the Rady nie od parady/Piece of Advice poster series.
Being conscious of the steps I take is the most important bit of my activity. It is impossible to stay away from the trends in this reality saturated with images – therefore you need to be alert.
Bogucka hopes that the Polish manufacturers will open up their minds and hearts to the illustration genre.
Authored by: Lidia Pańków, September 2013; translated by Kasia Dolato
Artist’s website: www.bogucka.com
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