Krystyna Lipka-Sztarbałło is an interior designer by education, and an illustrator of children’s books by choice. This graduate of the Department of Design of the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw has been involved in book design since the late 1980s.
Illustrator of children’s books, interior designer, graduate of the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw.
Krystyna Lipka-Sztarbałło was born in 1949 in Warsaw, where she obtained a degree in interior design in 1974. After graduation, she worked in the fields of architectural, exhibition and set design, fashion design, and applied graphic arts. In 1989, she began her adventure with illustration and has remained true to this passion to this day.
Lipka-Sztarbałło received 1st prize at the Poznań Biennal of Art for Children for the graphic design of Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi. The illustrations were an attempt to combine a painting sketchbook with a comic strip narrative, and one of the chapters was designed to unfold like a pop-up book. Though the project never saw the light of day, the artist did not run short of work. Her illustrations were included in more than 30 books and 15 Polish and 16 foreign textbooks. They are mainly known in: Korea (Maps Tell Us, The Dream That Went Away, The Balloon Sailors, Little Viking), Germany (Eine Geschichte Gelbe, Wo ist mein Traum?), Canada, and the United States (The Balloon Sailors).
The artist draws inspiration from the surrounding world. She admits that she builds on the experience of book designers from the 60s, but stylistically – in terms of composition and narrative – she feels like a child of the 70s. She deals not only with conventional fairy tales and abstraction, but also with non-fiction books, like Where To Go? Maps Tell Us by Heekyoung Kim, an educational journey in the world of cartography. This publication, repeatedly awarded in Korea, was on the list of the one hundred most beautiful books in the world in the 4th edition of the CJ Picture Book Award competition in 2011. Its German edition received the Book of the Month award from the German Academy of Literature for Children and Youth and was nominated for the prestigious Deutscher Jugendliteraturpreis 2012.
Lipka-Sztarbałło’s illustrations do not just contribute to the content, but constitute an independent visual story.
She devoted the last decade of the previous century to social initiatives in the field of illustration. The first Illustration Department in Poland was founded on her initiative as part of the Warsaw Circle of Visual Artists in 1990 and was headed by her in the years 1999-2005. She was also animator and curator of three editions of the Pro Bologna exhibition and competition for unpublished illustrations (2000-2002). She became member of the Board of IBBY as a representative of its Polish Section (2003-2007). The artist got involved in research on the condition of Polish books following the political and economic transformation of the 90s. She was the initiator and co-editor of: Almanach 1990-2002: polscy ilustratorzy dla dzieci / Almanac 1990-2002: Polish Illustrators for Children and 1990-2005. Twórcy dzieciom / 1990-2005. Artists for Children (almanac of the Polish Section of IBBY – International Board on Books for Young People).
Lipka-Sztarbałło has also acted on behalf of Polish literature for children on the international stage: she led the Polish representation of illustrators at the fairs in Frankfurt (2000) and Bologna (2003) when Poland was an honourable guest.
At the age of 65 the artist had the courage to take the next step: she debuted as both a writer and an illustrator. The Łazienkowe pytania / Bathroom Questions released in 2014 deal with an often overlooked topic with erudition and charm. The book is a clear example of the dialogue she attempts to establish with the reader, of the interactive form of play-based learning.
Author: Agnieszka Warnke, April 2015, transl. Bozhana Nikolova, May 2015