Of her educational history, Joanna Rusinek writes that: '[she] trained as an English teacher, then an art teacher, before finally going on to graduate from the Faculty of Graphic Design at Krakow’s Academy of Fine Arts'.
Rusinek defended her degree in 2006 at the Animated Film department under Professor Jerzy Kucia. Although animation is no longer her principle area of activity, the graphic artist does take on projects involving motion pictures. In 2012, together with Joanna Wójcik, Jarosław Moździerz, Tomasz Godfryd, Grzegorz Wierzchowski, Rusinek created a documentary film entitled The Toy Emperor. Made as part of the Munk Studio and Polish Filmmakers’ Association’s Pierwszy dokument programme, the film tells the story of a toy collector and combines traditional documentary with animation. In the film, animation is employed to make the protagonist’s toy collection, pictures on the wall and postcards come to life.
Joanna Rusinek’s day job on the whole consists of illustration work. She and fellow artist Michał Pawłowski run the Kreska i Kropka studio, which designs book covers, printed matter, brochures and posters, as well as logotypes and corporate identities.
As an illustrator, Joanna Rusinek’s output is extremely diverse. She designed the cover for Wisława Szymborska’s last volume of poems entitled Wystarczy (Enough), and provided illustrations for Dorota Combrzyńska-Nogala’s extraordinary book Bezsenność Jutki (Jutka’s Insomnia). The latter tells the story of a child in the Łódź ghetto, and chronicles the tragic wartime events, seen through the eyes of a very young Jewish girl living behind the wall. Rusinek says that creating illustrations for the book was both a difficult and painful task; the artist chose to keep the resulting drawings within a grey and black colour scheme, and endeavoured to bring out the warmth and kindness surrounding the young girl — from her loved ones — rather than focus on the tragedy.
Another project which demanded a great deal of involvement was the illustration work for Agnieszka Frączek’s book Psotny Franek (Mischievous Frankie), written for children aged 5 – 7. It was published as part of a series aimed at encouraging independent reading. To make 'reading' easier for children who may still have problems with their letters, the book contains fewer than 200 words and is written in short sentences using twenty-three basic sounds. Rusinek explains that, in this kind of publication, the illustration tells the story and the pictures can be 'read' — this is why each picture must be full of detail and include minute features which may not be contained in a short text.
During one radio interview, Rusinek gave away the secrets of technique. Her illustrations are mostly created in the traditional manner — painted on paper with watercolours. However, the final stage of the process is done by computer. And perhaps therein lies the secret to their ethereal and subtle qualities. Rusinek’s illustrations are drawn using a 'soft' line; she avoids sharp colours and distinctive 'angular' shapes. These characteristics apply to all her illustrations, be they for fictional stories (e.g. the adventures of a dog in Wojciech Cesarz and Katarzyna Terechowicz’s Diary of a Well-behaved Dog; the naughty Julek from Agnieszka Frączek’s Oh Julek! How Julian Tuwim become a Poet), or indeed her drawings accompanying children’s verse. Joanna Rusinek has also illustrated several books penned by her brother, Michał, which include collections of poems for very young children, a volume dedicated to rhetoric (What are you saying? The Magic of Words: rhetoric for children), a book about the talent of young Frederic Chopin (Little Chopin — this has appeared in over a dozen countries around the world), and a story about little Włodek, who believes the newly begun Second World War is the handiwork of an evil sorcerer.
Author: Anna Cymer, September 2013
English translation: Garry Malloy
Read more at: kreskaikropka.pl (in Polish and English)