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Toi Gallery Blog

Artists in Motion. Camilla Engman: A nurse, a singer and a princess with long hair

Artists in Motion. Camilla Engman: A nurse, a singer and a princess with long hair

Interview with Camilla Engman 

Swedish artist Camilla Engman’s work is fascinating, beautiful and mysterious. There is something very moving about her color palette of yellows, greys and neutral tones, but also her dreamlike scenarios where animals and humans share enigmatic stories. In this interview, she talks about her experience of being an artist, and all the possibly different lives left behind in her journey.

camilla engman toi art gallery prints 

Where did you grow up? How was your childhood like?

I grew up in Trollhättan, a small town in Sweden. I think my childhood were pretty average. 

camilla engman toi art gallery

Are there other artists in your family?

Not at all. My mother was cleaning at a school and my father repaired cars. None of them were creative as far as I remember. 

When did you start drawing?

I don’t remember but at least when I was 4 years old. I have a memory of sitting on the floor with markers and a glass of water, since some of them had dried.

In a wonderful interview by Susannah Conway you said that, when you were a child, you wanted to be different things depending on your age: a nurse called María, a teacher called Eva, a princess called Rose-Marie, Agneta - the Abba singer-, and also wanted to have long hair (but your mom used to cut it short) and ride a horse to school. Do you think your actual profession allows you, in a way, to be all those things? Which one do you regret not becoming the most?

I still think it would be cool to be able to ride a horse to work! I think we all are those things, each and one of us. In a dream, in a thought or in reality. We have all been the singer of a famous band, the prettiest girl or a good person we admired. 

camilla engman toi art gallery

camilla egnman toi gallery

Before becoming an artist, you worked as a hairdresser assistant, cleaning trains and planes at night, in a car factory, and also had three attempts to get into art school before you actually got in. Can we say that persistence is one of your strong qualities? What would you say to young artists that are struggling to find their way?

When you put it like that it sure sound that way. But I don’t think so. Maybe even the opposite. I’ve never been determined to be anything, but during all this it made me clear that I didn’t want to work at the car factory or anything like it. I knew I wanted to work with something that made me want to go to work and not crying. I wasn’t sure I was an artist, of any kind. But making pictures was what I was best at. I’m not sure at this at all but it might be so that it could have been anything creative.

Being an artist is, for most of us, being poor. You better know that. You’ll have to cherish time and freedom more than money. I am happy almost everyday I go to my studio and I do it even when I don’t have to. There is a community but is mostly pretty lonely work. I also think, for me, it is better to have a completely different place to work and keep the fun in creating. 

camilla engnman toi art gallery

camilla engman toi art gallery

For some artists is hard to work in shared projects, but you collaborated in several projects with other artists, including the creation of Studio violet with Elizabeth Duncan. What have your learned/liked from working closely with colleagues?

Collaborations can be heaven and hell. You’ll have to choose your partner carefully. I’ve been lucky. A good thing with working with others are that you will have to define yourself, where in this can I bend and not. What is my soul. Another thing is that you learn new things and if you are lucky it will take you to new places. When collaborations work it is the best thing ever! When collaborations work at its best it makes you even better 1+1=3.

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Your little cutie dog Morran is part of your work and blog, as a companion and inspiration. How/when did you get her? Why did you choose her name? Tell us about her personality.

I think I got Morran in 1999. She got old and sick and is dead now. Her name is the sound dogs do (in Swedish), growling. As they say - be careful with what you name your dog. She was the reason I started blogging in early 2000. I was the webmaster for a website on her breed, nothing new ever happened there. So I started to upload two photos of Morran’s day every day. And that transformed in my own blog with Morran as my alter ego. There were many sad people around the world when she died. I’m not still sure what it was that made people like Morran so much, maybe it was my love for her that shone through. The funny thing is that Morran didn’t like people very much. 

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Do you watch TV?

I watch TV a lot and has always done. I grew up in front of a TV. The best part of the week was when the whole family was gathered in front of the TV on Friday evening. I love watching TV. When you see a movie you just see that movie, but when you are watching TV you can end up seeing something that you didn’t plan, something that will teach you something, something that will start a new way of thinking, a new interest. I hate reality shows though.

Your studio is in a building that used to be an Epidemic Hospital and now is called Epidemic Art. It’s funded by a non-profit organization that provides studio facilities for more that 100 artists. How is it to be part in such a rich community? Do you have any interesting anecdotes to share with us?

It is in an area that was an Epidemic Hospital before. It is sure a great place! As I said before, being an artist is mostly a lonely work, but being at a place with all these people makes it less lonely indeed. Also if you want to try something new or need help with anything it is easy to ask your neighbor artist. Here is a restaurant/cafe’ and we have different kinds of galleries. Sometimes there are workshops and artist talks. Right now I can’t come up with any anecdotes at all… but I’m sure there has to be many. This place started for over 25 years ago,  and a place full of creative people - you can just imagine.

camilla egnman toi gallery

camilla egnman toi gallery

You’ve referred to your work with collections as “therapeutic art”, could you tell us about this? Is it related to a particular emotional state?

I guess it is that old collector state of mind that most people have. I also like how seemingly meaningless items suddenly gets important. Something that was trash two seconds ago now you look at it again and you see the shape, color and the structure and you see its beauty. There is also something therapeutic in arranging things, like a puzzle you have to solve.

camilla egnman toi gallery

camilla egnman toi gallery


Your work seems to have elements of surrealist painting, especially in relation with dreams and the unconscious, tell us about this.

It is like a parallel world. Just like this one, but a bit twisted. Just as twisted as this one but maybe in another direction. I don’t understand them fully myself. Especially not when I make them, it gets clearer after a while.

camilla egnman toi gallery

camilla egnman toi gallery

camilla egnman toi gallery


How do you see the role of women artists today?

Maybe I should, but I don’t think about that at all. I know I am a woman artist but I would like to be an artist. I am a pink, middle aged, tall, woman from Sweden. I know this defines me. But I am also a human on planet earth. Just as the rest of you.

camilla egnman toi gallery

You work with paper, painting, ceramics, installations, children books… is there anything you haven’t done yet that you would like to try?

I’d like to try out the film media a bit more! That will be the next :-)

camilla egnman toi gallery

camilla egnman toi gallery

You said that if you could choose another profession it might be “dog psychologist”, what do you think Morran would had to talked about in her sessions?

I think Morran was pretty happy. Of course she would have been even happier if we had l lived outside the city so that she could have done what she was supposed to, keeping an eye on strangers and rats. Maybe she would have tried to convinced me to move to the country side.

camilla egnman toi gallery

vamilla egnman toi gallery

Did you knit her sweaters?

Yes I did and she absolutely hated them.

I absolutely love your poster for the Gothenburg Film Festival, what inspired you in that particular work?

I had been to the Film Festival since I was a teenager. I was thinking about the feeling it gives me. Meeting different cultures, seeing films you would never been able to see otherwise. The magic in film, that anything can happen. I also thought about those old black and white movies with smoking beautiful women. And in the end that was what stayed. The possibility to be someone else for a while.

camilla egnman toi gallery

Name two of your favorite books

I haven’t read much lately. But I like Haruki Murakami a lot, pick any two.

Why should we have art at home?

Yes, why should we? I think having things around you that means something for you, that you like and don’t want to loose, that is important. It doesn’t have to be art. Stop by meaningless things just because buying is fun. Make your things count.

Imagine a world without art. That would be a sad and dangerous place!

camilla egnman toi gallery 

camilla egnman toi gallery

Do you wear your hair long now?

Yes I do. I cut my hair myself a month ago, it was a disaster! I’m going to a hairdresser tomorrow. Looking forward to it.

                                                                                                     Karina Miller


camilla egnman toi gallery 

camilla egnman toi gallery


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Artists in Motion: The meaningful art of Joanna Concejo

Artists in Motion: The meaningful art of Joanna Concejo

Joanna’s work is like a pebble thrown in the water: its splash reverberates in circles of emotion and thoughts that linger. How does she achieve this magic? There is an element of mystery, perhaps even to herself; it seems that when she makes art, she surrenders to her own creative powers; she creates art that invites us, the viewers, to enter a portal and get transported to her remarkable world.

meaningful art joanna concejo toi gallery 

Interview with Joanna Concejo

1.What was it like growing up in Poland? 

Growing up in the Polish countryside was wonderful! Of course it was a bit difficult, hard and at times brutal, life in the countryside, but I think I couldn’t had have a better childhood. Being outdoors all the time, in contact with nature, animals, walking in fields and forests, gathering mushrooms, blueberries ... that's just what I’ve always adored!

My wonderful grandmother told me amazing stories, she was always singing, knitting, embroidering ...


joanna concejo meaningful art toi gallery


meaningful art joanna concejo toi gallery


2.When did you decide you wanted to draw?

I feel like I've always drawn. At first, of course, it was like all children. But when I was 14 or 15 I thought I wanted to do it seriously and decided to attend school to learn other techniques, meet people etc. ...

the meaningful art of joanna concejo toi gallery

3.Do you keep a favorite drawing from when you were a child?

No, I don’t not keep anything from my childhood, the oldest drawing, or rather painting, that I still have now, it’s from when I was 14 years old. It is a painting a little "kitsch", a sunset at the seaside.

4. What kind of child were you?

I was a very obedient child, I loved school, I did not do stupid things, I did not cause problems to adults. I was very wise! And rather silent.

the meaningful art of joanna concejo toi gallery

the meaningful art of joanna concejo toi gallery

5. What inspires you?

 Inspiration is not something I seek, it is more a state of availability in life, an openness to things that happen to me, to the encounters I have, to images, landscapes, to everything I can see, hear, touch ...

meaningful art joanna concejo toi gallery

meaningful art joanna concejo toi gallery

 6.Where do you work? How is your work routine?

I work in a small studio. I go there in the morning, I make coffee and I draw. I drink a lot of coffee ... I'm all alone there. I do not listen to music, I do not need it. I like the silence. I take a lunch break around noon, then I go back to work. And it's like that until 5 pm ... I work only with daylight, I do not see very well with artificial light. So my days are longer in summer and shorter in winter. The weekend in general I do not work. I spend time with my family.

7.Your work is extremely poetic, it seems to me if your drawings are poems written in images. Do you read poetry? Can you share a poem with us? 

Yes, I read poetry, but not much. I do not have any favorite poems. I read much more prose. I read a little bit of everything. But my favorite writer is Andrzej Stasiuk. I love all his books. I feel very close to what he writes. I also like Henry D. Thoreau. I like to read about his walks in nature, and these thoughts ...

8. You wrote a beautiful text published on Brightness Magazine, in which you describe the relationship your work has with paper and time; You mentioned the idea of ​​continuity, could you explain this idea and give us an example of a particular work that shows it?

I have a great affection for paper that has already lived, that has grown old, which bears on it the traces of the passage of time, spots, fragments of the writings etc….I like to work with papers like that. I feel like I'm part of their story, continuing it. What I also like in drawing is the aspect of the passage of time in the process of drawing, because it takes time. For when I work on a drawing for several days, it happens alongside many things at the same time. I can think of a lot of things, I can interrupt to do the dishes, to clean the house, to look at the sky, trees, feed the family, receive good or bad news by telephone ... And all this influences and lives in drawing ... This slowness is necessary to me, I need to be attentive enough to both the drawing and all the things I do next.

meaningful art joanna concejo toi art gallery

meaningful art joanna concejo toi gallery

meaningful art joanna concejo toi gallery

9.What is the relationship between Red Riding Hood and the Wolf?

Oh, of course it's a love affair! An impossible love! Unique, and one that will change their lives. Unfortunately this story cannot finish well. For the Wolf and the forest share a single nature. He is Wolf and cannot change what he is. And Little Red Riding Hood and the village: she cannot change what she is, either. But I think that her encounter with the Wolf transforms her, makes her grow. The girl will never be the same again.

A few things brought them together, they live beautiful story of friendship, play, love, but they cannot stay together ...

meaningful art joanna concejo toi gallery

meaningful art joanna concejo toi gallery

meaningful art joanna concejo toi gallery

meaningful art joanna concejo toi gallery

10.The characters you draw are usually alone or they seem alone, even if they are in a group. There is an element of the unconscious that appears to be uninhabited your drawings. Something that's there and it's not there. A play between the visible and the non-visible. Tell us about that.

 I do not know what more to say. I'm sorry. I think that if I could speak better, write, I would stop drawing and I would start writing books ... And to return to the things I draw, to the characters ... I am often surprised myself of what I can do. It is often very unconscious. I just know, that it must be like that. I do not need to explain to myself everything that appears under my hand. The problem begins when it is necessary to explain it to others ... When I draw, I let myself lead by the intelligence of my hand. I "think" through the gesture of the hand. And I try to stay attentive to my own work, watch it....I never know where the drawing will take me. So, yes, there is a lot of that, visible, invisible ... but I cannot explain it in words. That's why I draw.

meaningful art joanna concejo toi gallery

 11.How do you work with/ think about color?

I have no clear idea of ​​color. It appears a little by surprise ...

As a child, when I lived with my grandparents in the country, I did not have colored pencils to draw. I had only one carpenter's pencil from my grandfather and a gray pencil. So in a very natural way, if I think of the drawing, I think of the gray graphite pencil. And that's how I do it. Color requires effort. And when I was little, the only colorful things were my grandmother's woolen threads, fabrics and threads to embroider ... I loved it all. My grandmother knitted many wool flowers ... and then, now, the color appears mostly in flowers, nature ...

But I have not yet fully understood the mystery of color ...

 12.What is your favorite book / movie?

 My favorite film is "Stalker" by Andrei Tarkovski, and the book ... I think it's "On the Road to Babadag" by Andrzej Stasiuk.

13.What is the girl of "Breakfast" thinking?

 I do not know. She is just there, present, sitting at this "mountain" of her table. I like very much not formulating exact thoughts. I like the blur, the wandering of confused thought. The girl is there, waiting for her day ...

meaningful art joanna concejo toi gallery

 14.Why should we have art at home?

 I do not know how to answer that kind of question. It depends on everyone, every person feels differently. As far as I'm concerned, I have it at my place and it's quite natural. I do not even ask myself the question "Why?"

15.What are your projects for the future?

Well, I have several book projects to do. I'm always drawing, thinking about telling things through pictures. But I do not know exactly. Maybe I would do something else, maybe I'd build a house ... We'll see ...

meaningful art joanna concejo toi gallery

meaningful art joanna concejo toi gallery

 meaningful art joanna consejo toi gallery

meaningful art joanna concejo toi gallery

joanna concejo meaningful art toi gallery

meaningful art toi gallery joanna concejo 

                                                                                                            Karina Miller




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Artists in Motion: Lieke van der Vorst "I learned so many things: from being alone and overcome my fears, to how lovely people are to strangers"

Artists in Motion: Lieke van der Vorst

Dutch artist Lieke van der Vorst was born in Kaatsheuvel, a village between Tilburg and ’s-Hertogenbosch in the southern part of the Netherlands. She started her blog and studio Liekeland, in 2011.

In her work she combines everyday life with dreamlike scenes: a dinner table with people and wild animals, a garden with a girl and a bear planting together, meaningful and beautiful images that transport us to a whimsical land.

Perhaps her drawings are reflections of how Lieke would like the world to be: a place where we are all connected with nature, where every living thing can find a place at our table and people and nature live in harmony.

Lieke's work is printed on Arctic Paper from Sweden, with only a minimum amount of water and energy, Arctic Paper produces ecological and FSC certified types of paper.

liekeland animals toi art gallery

liekeland prints toi art gallery

Interview with Lieke van der Vorst

Where did you grow up? How was your childhood like?

I grew up in a little village in the South of the Netherlands, Kaatsheuvel. Where I lived with my parents and dog. I had a very great childhood, with lots of holidays to the South of France, where we did camping close to the sea or in the mountains. I was always drawing and for every birthday I've got pencils or my parents let me choose anything from the art-supply-shop.

Liekeland Like van der Vorst toi art gallery prints

Are your parents artists?

No, my dad works with printers and my mother is a hairstylist. But they are both creative and always supported me.

Liekeland Lieke van der Vorst Toi art gallery prints

Liekeland Lieke van der Vorst Toi art gallery

When did you realize you wanted to be an artist?

I never really did.  When I was young I wanted to do ‘something creative’ so my teacher told me I should study graphic design. While I was studying graphic design I figured out I wanted to work with my hands instead of the computer. So I starting drawing a lot. When I was in the art academy I loved making big illustrations and that’s where I started using ballpoint pencils.

Do you like to cook?

Yes I really love to cook, it’s one of my favorite things to do. I love to make Indian and Thai curry’s, salads and try lots of new recipes from cookbooks.

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lieke van der vorst liekeland toi art gallery

Who/what inspires you?

Lots of things, I think just the daily routines, working in the garden and cooking. Also going to the market, drinking tea with friends, and having picnics in the park. I love good documentaries and books about healthy food, maybe when I am not  illustrating I would do something creative with food. I also love good cookbooks and cooking shows.

liekeland lieke van der vorst toi art gallery

liekeland lieke van der vorst toi art gallery

Nature is very important in your work, tell us about that.

I believe nature is everything, everything is connected and in harmony. People should trust it more; like if you would try to listen to your body and eat no human-made-food, your body will tell you what it needs.

Lieke Liekeland Toi art gallery prints

liekeland lieke van der vorst toi art gallery nature woods

Recently you traveled around parts of the Maldives, India, Nepal, Malaysia, Thailand, South Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, Indonesia and the United Arab Emirates, how this influenced your work and what did you learn from these travels?

I learned so many things, from being alone and overcome my fears, to how lovely people are to strangers who are lost. We met so many wonderful people, eat great food and saw wonderful nature. I was really looking for inspiration and sometimes I found it, but when I look back at the adventure I think I learned more about myself than I have found inspiration for new work.

Liekeland Lieke van der vorst toi art gallery prints

lieke liekeland toi art gallery prints

You contributed with your work to the book “Goof Night Stories for Rebel Girls” about Lakshmi Bai, queen and warrior of India. In this book stories about other heroic women are illustrated by 60 female artists, from every corner of the globe. Tell us how would your like your illustrations to inspire young girls.

That would be so great, yes! The book is about strong independent women, so it’s a book with lots of inspiration and motivation. In every illustration I try to tell a little story or communicate a thought, sometimes it’s very clearly visible and sometimes not. But to inspire young girls to start illustrating, or to eat more healthy from nature, or to be an independent woman is wonderful.

Where is home?

At this moment home is in Eindhoven, a city in the Netherlands. I live together with a very good friend, cooking good meals every evening.

Lieke van der vorst toi art gallery prints

Where do you work and how is your work routine?

I work in a studio about half hour bicycle ride from my home. It’s in a old school building with lots of light coming in. Every morning I start working in my studio between 9 and 10, then I first answer my emails, making some packages if I got orders and then I start illustrating. At 1:00 I make lunch, mostly salads, and then work until 6:00 pm.  The post office closes at 6:30, so then I ship out some packages and go home.

lieke van der vorst toi art gallery prints


What kind of music do you like?

From punk, electro, country and metal, to Cuban and Spanish music. Like Restavrant and Manu Chao.

Name three of your favorite books.

- Awareness from Osho:

- toxic free from Julia Kang:

- The green kitchen cookbooks

Your illustrations seem to be very connected with your life experiences, is there a particular message you would like to convey?

That people should start listen, to themselves, their bodies and nature. It would be so nice if we can all live together without hurting any living thing.

liekeland toi art gallery prints

liekeland toi art gallery prints

What are your projects for the future?

I am now working on some new prints, also inspired by all the travel I did last year.

Why is important to have art at home?

I got a painting from one of my interns, it’s a table with flowers on it and some cigarettes. I traded it with her and it was one of my first things I got in my new house when I got home from the trip.

liekeland lieke van der vorst toi art gallery prints

Where do you want to travel next?

South America, I would love to visit Mexico and eat lots of beans, corn and avocados!

liekeland postcards toi art gallery

liekeland postcards toi art gallery

liekeland postcards toi art gallery


                                                                                                                  Karina Miller 





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Artists in Motion: Cinta Arribas

Artists in Motion: Cinta Arribas

Cinta studied Fine Arts at Salamanca and completed her education in Kassel (Germany). Now she lives in Madrid, where she works as a freelance illustrator.

 Among her publishing projects is Bababum, a series of activity books for kids, or Hijos de Fruta, a colorable fanzine "for kids who enjoy farts and burps championships". 

Cofounder of the Crispis studio in Madrid, she publishes fanzines and works on projects such as Bababum.

 For several years she illustrated articles in the Economy and Society section of the Eco magazine, in Galicia and she also coordinates the illustration workshop for children, Taller de dinosaurios

Cinta’s work focuses on people, she likes to imagine stories inspired by different characters. Her work is intense, colorful and expressive; it plays with a subtle sense of humor that highlights the fact that life should always be a little fun.

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We Love Art

We Love Art

At Toi, we think art is the best present you can give someone you love.... so, in anticipation of Valentine's Day, we asked Toi's artists about the connection between art and love. 

They illustrated their answers, and we love what they did. You will too! 

Eleonora Arroyo

How risky to talk about love without sounding cheesy! Especially when talking about art and love. The most important thing for me is to express a feeling or an idea through my work. When I illustrate, I translate that idea or emotion to a visual language. I allow the image take charge. Form, color, composition, everything has to communicate, to express a feeling.

I’m not sure what is the best present for someone we love. But I’m certain art is one of the best possible presents. What a joy is to choose an artwork, to think of how this would please this person, and how this piece will be in their life forever.

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The Meaning of Meaningful

The Meaning of Meaningful

I find the dictionary definition of meaningful, (and its synonyms significant, important, valid) very similar to some aspects of art.

Meaningful is described as “communicating something that is not directly expressed” the same way that art transmits feelings or, as Leo Tolstoy put it, “[in art] the receiver enters a kind of relationship.”

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Artists in Motion. Anne Baier: "I think to surround yourself with beautiful things has an impact on the way you feel."

Artists in Motion. Anne Baier:

Anne Baier grew up in the North of Germany. She has studied Visual Communication at the Bauhaus University Weimar and at École Supérieure des beaux-arts de Toulouse. Since 2013, she works as a freelance illustrator in her studio in Potsdam, Berlin. Her illustrations have been published in several magazines and newspapers in Germany, Switzerland, Austria and England. She also works for publishers and clients in the field of graphic and editorial design. Anne loves using graphite pencils and doing all kinds of prints. Her illustrations are inspired by nature, everyday life and music and have a strong sense for abstraction and textures.

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Artists in Motion: Catarina Sobral "Literature creates readers, visual arts create the possibility of reading and thinking through images... All those types of literacy are equally important."

Artists in Motion: Catarina Sobral

Born in Portugal in 1985, Catarina Sobral is a published author and illustrator. After studying Graphic Design, she graduated in Illustration in 2012. Her illustrations are a regular presence in editorial, album covers and posters, and she has ten books published in eleven different languages. Her work has been exhibited both in solo and group shows in many places around the world and recognized by the Bologna Children’s Book Fair, the Portuguese National Illustration Award, the Portuguese Authors’ Society, the White Ravens catalogue and the 3x3 magazine.

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Artists in Motion. Miren Asiain Lora: “I like to create climates, atmospheres and/or sensations. I prefer to leave my work open to interpretation.”

Artists in Motion. Miren Asiain Lora: “I like to create climates, atmospheres and/or sensations. I prefer to leave my work open to interpretation.”

Miren was born in 1988 in Pamplona, Spain and now lives in Buenos Aires, Argentina. She graduated in Fine Arts from the University of the Basque Country, attending her final year in Buenos Aires. Her work has been shown in several exhibitions in Spain, Argentina and Mexico. She has created posters for various musical and theatrical projects and festivals, as well as a project-image for Amnesty International. In 2012 her book Hara, written and illustrated by her, won the Etxepare Illustrated Album Award.  In 2013 she was a finalist for the Euskadi prize for Literature; in 2015 she was awarded the "Iberoamérica Ilustra" award from SM Foundation, The Ilustradero and the Guadalajara International Book Fair (Mexico). Her works convey the magic of everyday life, the charm of little moments that hold a secret to be deciphered.

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Anna Castagnoli: "For me art is not an accessory, it is a need of the human being to relate to the world."

Anna Castagnoli:

Interview with Anna Castagnoli

anna castagnoli. toi art gallery blog


You’ve travelled a lot as a child, how does this influence your work?

More than traveling, what impacted me a lot was my parents' passion for beauty. My mother knew how to make me discover the beauty in a flower, a common garden or a museum. It appeared to me that I was surrounded by marvels everywhere. I’ve kept this vision of enchantment.  There is no place that I don't like and everything can inspire me. Sometimes I feel like my vision is blurred and nothing moves me. When this happens, I know that the problem is inside, not outside, and I try to feel again that marvelous state.

My father loved the mountains, he took us there from the time we were little to the mountain trails, telling us stories about gnomes and ancient creatures that lived in those woods.

Anna Castagnoli. Toi art gallery blog

I don’t think it’s traveling that enhances your perception of the world, I think it’s actually how you look at the world right here, right now.

interview with ana castagnoli. toi art gallery blog


Are your parents artists?

Not in the strict sense of the word. My mother used to teach art in a school when she met my father; so we grew up around colors and art books. She used to draw on our bedroom walls and I thought it was magic that my mom’s hands could give birth to such beautiful fish, trees, and faces!

My dad is a quantum physicist ( with a great love for philosophy. He used to read Plato and Nietzsche to my siblings and I when we were 6 or 7 years oldl!

anna Castagnoli. toi art gallery blog 

Where is home?

My sister lives in France, my brother in Berlin, mi parents in Italy. I was born in Italy and live with my husband in Barcelona… My husband is French but grew up in Algeria. I believe home is where my husband and my family are, no matter what place of the world.

anna castagnoli interview childhood toi art gallery

How was Le Figure dei Libri born? Tell us about the beginning of the project.

When I started my career as an illustrator and author I used to buy many picture books. I used to talk to my husband about them, what I liked the most, why, etc. He is a journalist and used to work for a digital agency. He suggested that I start a blog. He says I have too much passion for books and art to keep it to myself. I didn’t have any experience with internet and I thought it was very difficult. I thought of the name first, “Le figure dei Libri” [The Book’s Pictures]. I liked that name because when I was a child and someone would give me a book I would ask: Does it have pictures?

Anna Castagnoli. Toi art gallery prints

In 2007 I’ve found the book Hansel and Gretel, Illustrated by Susanne Janssen. It was love at first sight! I started a blog in two minutes on Blogger to write about this book. It was a very long work, I don’t know how, more and more people started to read the blog every day. I decided to move the blog to Blogpress and I think it was a good decision because the blog soon stood out from other Italian blogs. That gave me the energy to keep going, and some years later "Le figure dei Libri” is one of the most important blogs in Italy, it has more than 30.000 unique visitors per month. I also collaborate with different Universities and Journals, but I could say that my career as a critic and scholar was born with the blog.

Anna Castagnoli. Toi art gallery prints anna castagnoli toi art gallery blog 

My latest acquisition (I just got it yesterday!) is the first edition of What is the World? By Betty Miles and Remy Charlip. Such a beautiful, visual and poetic work. Another title I adore is Roland by André Francois. The first edition has such and incredible blue for the ocean and the sky, it’s fantastic. It’s the most beautiful blue I had ever seen in a book. I also collect other illustrated books for children. In my collection I have the lovely The World from my Window edited by George Mendoza.

Anna Castagnoli. Toi Art Gallery prints Remy Charlip

Anna Castagnoli. Remy Charlip. Toi art gallery prints

Remy Charlip. Anna Castagnoli. Toi art gallery prints and blog


What is childhood for you and how is this idea connected with illustration?

A child is a person with a more elastic, curious, intelligent and open perspective of life and the world. Some adults have lost this perspective and they confine themselves to a microscopic life, with very narrow believes.

Anna Castagnoli. toi art gallery blog prints art

I don’t like books written by adults that think they have answers to teach children. They write slogan-books with false truths. The only truth is we don’t really know anything about life and I like books that ask questions instead of giving answers. If the book is written for kids or for adults; by kids or by adults is the same thing, listen to this:

I am me
I am just me
I am a Little like other children
Bust Mostly
I am just me”

Mark Giloni Age 11 (The Word from my window. Hawthorn Books, Inc. Publisher, New York 1969).

This, for me, is the best definition of what a kid is.

Anna Castagnoli. Toi art gallery prints blog interview 

anna castagnoli. toi art gallery interview blog prints 

Tell us about your favorite or favorites books as a child.

My absolute favorite: I am a bunny, by Richard Scarry. My mother bought it for me when we lived in Seattle. I liked my parent’s poems books, even though I didn’t understand what they meant (maybe I liked them because of that) and I also liked that they didn’t have pictures.

richard scarry anna castagnoli toi art gallery prints 

richard scarry anna castagnoli toi art gallery prints blog


Tell us about your video series “Mano a mano”, how did it start?

The idea was born from a conversation with my friend, the graphic designer Anna Martinucci. We wanted to make a 3 min. video in which the artists’ hands drawing are the protagonists that show an art technique. It works like this: we send the illustrator the instructions to film the video and we edit the material afterwards. One can’t only imagine how much work there is behind 3 min. of video!

 How is your work routine?

I’m not very organized. Sometimes I work from 8 AM to 8 PM without interruptions, like a clock. Sometimes, I waste a lot of time. I don’t really like when I have an obligation to do things, I have to actually like things if I want to finish doing something.

 People must think you read all the time, do you watch TV?

No, I don’t read all the time :), but I don’t have a TV either. It’s been years since I don’t like what is on TV, and my husband and I decided to get rid of it. We read the news on the computer or listen to the radio, and in the afternoon we watch a film at home or we go to the movies.

I have to confess that I try no to waste my time. If I have free time, I go to the park to draw, read, or look for books on Ebay.

What are your future projects?

Last summer I finished writing a Working Guide for the Illustrator with everything people need to know to publish a first book. It will be published this Fall in Italian by Editrice Bibliografica, but I also have the right to publish it in other countries.

This fall I’m going to the Frankfurt Book Fair. My book La voliera d’oro, illustrated by Carll Cneut, is finalist in its German version. I hope it gets an award, but if it doesn’t, I will be happy visiting a Vintage Illustrated Book Fair that will open around the same dates :)

How do you see the future of illustration?

We are entering a golden age for the picture book. It will last about 10-20 years and it’s going to have an emphasis on printing, paper quality and manual techniques such as engraving. After that, I believe, the paper book will change into the digital book. That doesn’t make me sad. Art takes different paths, and when it comes from a true inspiration, it doesn’t matter which media utilizes. I can say I’m happy to have been part of this “swan song”.

Anna Castagnoli interview toi art gallery prints

Do you think is important to have art at home? Why?

Yes, I think it’s important. It doesn’t have to be a painting: a book illustrated with quality, an artwork, a vase, anything. Art is something that speaks to us, or can move us through a medium. It connects with our subconscious feeling and the way we perceive the world.

I believe that a child surrounded by beautiful things would not need to be educated in morals, because the development of morals is natural and follows a path of equilibrium in our own being. Iosif Brodskij, in his speech for the Nobel Prize said that morals are, first of all, an ethical necessity. For me art is not an accessory, it is a need of the human being to relate to the world. If you think about it, when there is a war, the first thing that is destroyed is the art of the people that they want to annihilate. There is no humanity without art.

                                                                                               Karina Miller


anna castagnoli interview toi art gallery blog




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