Monday, 29 October 2012

The Selfish Giant - Q&A with illustrator Ritva Voutila

'My own garden is my own garden,' said the Giant; 'anyone can understand that, and I will allow nobody to play in it but myself.' 

The Selfish Giant, Oscar Wilde's classic tale of forgiveness, melts my heart every time I read it.

This week illustrator Ritva Voutila releases a stunning new edition of the story. It is a truly moving story and Ritva's illustrations match it perfectly. 

Ritva was kind enough to answer some of my questions about her inspiration, her artwork and why she loves Wilde's story.

1. What made you choose to create this new edition of The Selfish Giant?
The suggestion came from the editor, Erica Wagner. The meeting was about trying to find a suitable book for me to illustrate. I had taken a number of my favourite beautifully illustrated children’s books with me. One of the books was a version of The Selfish Giant. Erica pointed to it saying: “Why not that?”, and I said: “Why not!”
2. This is obviously a story that you have loved. Do the illustrations reflect the way you picture the story in your mind when you read it?
I cannot remember. I first read the story when I was in my early teens and still living in my native Finland. I found it in my schoolbook called English Proficiency. It was the first piece of real literature that I read and translated from English to Finnish. I can only remember that I loved the beautiful style in which it was written. I became an Oscar Wilde fan immediately.
3. It is lovely to see such traditional illustrations. Can you tell me more about how you create them?
I work in oils on canvas. I build up the colour by using several transparent layers. It is a slow technique, but it allows me to achieve the depth and richness of colour the way I find most satisfying.
4. I love the illustrations of the giant. Is his appearance based on someone, or is he entirely from your imagination?

Whenever I read a fictional story my mind is immediately flooded with images. I seem to have very little control over them. This is how the general type of the giant was born. Next I needed to find a real life model who more or less would fit that type. I searched around and the result is a combination of a number of actors and other public figures, and above all my own husband.

5. Do you think that The Selfish Giant is a story for adults or children?

For both.

Who'll love this: Oscar Wilde fans, art fans and school aged kids.
Cost: $29.99
Publisher: Allen & Unwin

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