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A Picture's worth 1,000 words

Dedicated artist draws books for children to instill values and virtues

A Picture's worth 1,000 words

If children's book illustrator Nuntawan Wata can finish two titles a year she is working overtime. This woman believes in quality rather than quantity.

"Why must everything in this world be in such a hurry?" the 32-year-old asks. "Why can't things be done at their own pace?"

To award-winning illustrator Nuntawan, the more time she spends on a book the better it will be.

"Not everything in the world is a matter of life and death. Working on a children's book is not a competition. If I don't finish the book in three months it's not the end of the world - I just don't earn as much."

Nuntawan has been a freelance book illustrator for four years. It is a job that pays between Bt10,000 and Bt20,000 a month.

"You'll never get rich - but being happy is what it's about," says the Chulalongkorn University masters art-education student. She completed her undergraduate degree in applied arts at Burapa University.

"The life of a children's book is longer than other kinds of publications. Its core is to teach kids about good and bad.

"When you produce a good book, it'll reach more readers for a longer time. And, when children read it they learn right from wrong - and that's something that stays with them forever."

Nuntawan won the best-illustration award at the first Children's Literature Foundation competition 11 years ago with her first book, "Joi search for the Moon".

It is in its third print edition and was translated into English last year. There have been other awards since then and last year her "I'll save, too" was runner-up in a Stock Exchange of Thailand competition.

"Entering competitions is a good way to make yourself known to the public and publishing companies."

No university offer degrees in children's book illustration but there are courses included in some art degrees, she says.

"Your portfolio looks better if you have illustrations from competitions you've participated in."

Children's book illustrators must study each publisher's style and be able to use as many forms and techniques as possible - portrait to sketch and drawing to painting.

"The more styles you have the more opportunities you'll get. Most children's book illustrators are freelance due to the nature of the work."

Even after an editor has viewed a portfolio it may be weeks, even years, before they give illustrators a call.

It all depends what work they have needing to be completed.

Illustrators often work with writers to propose ideas to publishers. Many write their own stories, too.

"Working with writers requires you to share certain understandings. Writers have pictures in mind for a story. You must communicate well and be able to interpret their messages," she explains.

It often happens characters are not drawn "just so" and lay outs and compositions are not 100-per-cent okay, or colours and techniques are not suited. "These need to be corrected little by little and at their own pace," she says.

"Pictures play an immense role in children's books. They help tell the story as much as words," Nuntawan concludes.

By Rojana Manowalailao

The Nation

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