To bring some well-deserved extra attention to our most active and inspirational uTalers from around the world, uTales presents uTaler of the Month.
For November 2011, Jonay Bacallado Martin has truly earned this title. He has already published two uTales books (The tortoise & the hare and Ancor) filled with amazing illustrations, he is an active member of the uTaler community, and has even created his own promotional uTales video:
That surely deserves some kudos, so we decided to find out more about this uTales talent and do an interview with him. Here is what we learned…
Tell us a bit about yourself and how you started making children’s books?
Like in all stories, let’s go back to the very beginning. When I was 10 years old I discovered what I wanted to be, not that I didn’t know before, but I didn’t know what to call it. My classmates wanted to be firemen, policemen, and football players. I was the boy who could draw in the class. And literally, since I can remember, that’s what I’ve always done. I was telling stories through my drawings way back before I knew I was doing it. There wasn’t a toy that could bring me the same joy than a blank page and my pencils, clay or plasticine.
A few years later, I studied fine arts where I continued exploring all the traditional media. My studies were focused on painting, illustration and animation, which still remain my biggest passions. I wanted to know how the films, books and masterpieces I loved were done.
Life for artists is never easy, so it took time until I started to work as an illustrator for a living in Spain. Knocking at the right door can be as important as the quality of your work. However, like most of the important things in my life, my chance arrived without looking for it. But it wasn’t a book that I was commissioned. It was concept art for a film. Illustrators in the movie industry, so I found out, are called “concept artists”. I started in the industry in 2005 with Apocalypto, followed by other projects such as HBO Rome, Avatar and Dragon Ball. I tried to combine this side of my work with children’s books illustrations, working freelance for clients in Europe and America. My work in film has opened some doors for me in illustration, but not always.
Why have you chosen to become a uTaler and be part of uTales community?
uTales combines various fields in a new medium that is full of possibilities. It blends the tradition of storytelling and picture books with animation and sound thus offering a unique possibility for writers and illustrators to make their stories “come to life” in a way that was not possible before. It’s something that I would have loved to have when I was a little boy! I’ve worked on the creation of printed books before, but there’s something in this interaction between the reader and the book that I find kind of magical, and it’s only the beginning of what it’s going to be like in a near future!
What do you think the picture book industry will look like in 2015?
I think the technology in creating digital picture books will evolve quickly in the years to come. The animations will be more sophisticated and will respond to the needs of each single story. The reader will have a richer multimedia and learning experience. The inclusion of video, animated scenes, richer animations, personalized features for each reader to make the kid the “star” of the story… The possibilities of this medium are so vast! For me there are no boundaries that limit one way of storytelling from the rest. They all come from the same place in our minds. The only difference is that sometimes it ends up being part of a book, a movie or a painting. But in the future those boundaries will be even more flexible, and the best part of each artistic discipline will serve for the good of the stories and the enrichment of the reader. The collaborative spirit of uTales as a team will be essential in this matter, uniting so many different skills from each uTaler around the world.
What’s your advice to aspiring uTalers?
What a responsibility! I consider myself “a permanent student”, so I’ll try my best here! Learn new things all the time, there’s always a new program, technique, tutorial, workshop, etc to help us in the process of story telling.
Be humble and honest with your work and don’t settle on what you’ve always done.
Be open to receive criticism, and try to learn from it, but also to stand up to defend your work from non-constructive criticism.
See what’s happening in the picture book, film and entertainment markets, but don’t copy what other people are already doing.
Watch animated films every so often. There’s a lot a cinematography involved in what we’re doing. I always tend to see my stories as if they were to become a short film or an animated movie.
And, maybe most importantly, keep in touch with the child within you.
What’s your favorite children’s book of all time?
I love “The never-ending story”, even though it’s not illustrated, and “Peter Pan”. Nurturing fantasy and imagination is an essential part of growing up. All thoughts and ideas come from the same place where dreams are conceived.
What project of yours are you most excited about right now?
I’m really excited with the new stories I want to create for uTales, some are completely new, and some are a new version of classic stories. But there are also some new projects that will come out in 2012, such as John Carter (Pixar), where I worked for the costume designer Mayes Rubeo as senior illustrator, designing and conceptualizing the characters from Edgar Rice Borroughs books. It was a challenge and a thrill to see Barsoom come to life.
I’m also preparing my next show with some new oil paintings I’m doing at the moment.
If you were a famous children’s book character, who would you be and why?
I’ve always seen myself like the tortoise in Aesop’s fable “The tortoise and the hare”, and it’s one of the main reasons I chose that story to be my second book on uTales. As the tortoise, I felt not so sure about myself in the beginning of my career, and sometimes that feeling returns. But I’m determined to keep going, despite the adversities. I’ve met lots of hares along the way, and there will more to come in the future, I’m sure. Every step along the way is important, not only getting to the finish line. As we say in uTales, making the world a better place, one book at a time.