Plymouth illustrators celebrated at Bologna Children’s Book Fair
BA (Hons) Illustration students visited Bologna and Venice to experience the Bologna Children’s Book Fair, network with industry professionals and take inspiration from the local landscapes, accompanied by Arts University Plymouth Illustration lecturers Bridgette Ashton, Jack Viant and Caroline Pedler.
Bologna Children’s Book Fair houses over 1400 publishers from all over the world. It is the world’s only book fair that is solely for children’s books and celebrates picturebooks on a large scale, with exhibitions, talks, showcases, award ceremonies and many competitions that are free to enter.
Bologna Children's Book Fair
This year was Bologna Children’s Book Fair’s 60th anniversary and BA (Hons) Illustration lecturer and illustrator Caroline Pedler was selected to feature prominently in the celebrations. Caroline’s artwork was chosen to be part of the fair's identity and included in the ‘Landscapes and Portraits of BCBF’ exhibition. ‘Landscapes and Portraits of BCBF’ grew out of an invitation-only international illustration contest. Artists selected for the Illustrators Exhibition over the past 10 years were asked to produce an illustration that for them sums up Bologna or the Book Fair. Caroline was one of 20 winning illustrators whose work was shown at the exhibition, which was held at the Illustrators Café within the book fair.
Caroline Pedlar and her work displayed at the Bologna Children's Book Fair
Caroline said: “We had originally arranged for Illustration students to take a trip to Bologna Children’s Book Fair in 2020, but it was cancelled during the height of the pandemic. Now that international travel has opened up again, we’ve been able to finally take the students to the book fair, while also staying in Venice to enjoy time in one of the most picturesque and inspirational destinations in the world.”
“We took 33 students in total and three members of staff. Bridgette Ashton organised the trip alongside Jack Viant and myself. We all held sketching workshops throughout the week and organised portfolio reviews for students with Advocate founder Ed Burns and HarperCollins publisher and illustrator Ken Wilson-Max.”
Students and staff from BA (Hons) Illustration in Italy
“I felt elated to walk into the fair through the entrance lobby as I do every year, but this year I turned the corner and there was the ‘Landscapes and Portraits’ exhibition with my work as large as day on the wall, alongside the 19 other illustrators who were chosen for the exhibition and fair identity. We were only allowed to use the brand colours of orange, pink, black, red and white, and the brief was to illustrate the essence of the fair as we saw it. It looked so good and it was a lovely moment to share with the students and to have them there to celebrate with me. To be celebrated at that level, at a fair so respected throughout the world, was incredible.”
Illustration students sketching in Italy
The work of Illustration lecturer and illustrator Jack Viant was also featured prominently at Bologna Children’s Book Fair, on the stands of his agents, Bright Agency, and publisher Miles Kelly. A graduate of BA (Hons) Illustration at Arts University Plymouth, Jack has a long history of association with the University and joined the team as a Lecturer last year. Specialising in children’s illustrations, Jack is also published by Bloomsbury, Hachette and Oxford University Press.
Jack said: “It was great to see my work displayed at Bologna and I even managed to sneak a peek at new prototypes for future applications of my work in print. It was my first time attending and definitely not my last! The students had a blast and it gave them all a burst of energy and inspiration which they then carried through into our drawing workshops for the rest of the week. For me, walking around Venice and having deep conversations with my colleagues and students and drawing together as a team is something I won’t forget, so much so that we’ve tried to implement a similar vibe on campus, watch this space!”
Students with Jack in Italy
While at the fair, lecturers arranged a series of portfolio reviews with leading industry figures. The students were able to receive advice from Ed Burns, the founder of Advocate Art, Illo Agency and It’s Me.
Caroline said: “Ed was so generous with his time and feedback for our third-year students and we were very proud of how professionally ready they were with their digital portfolios. Professional practice is deeply embedded into the curriculum for our undergraduate Illustration students, which really helped to prepare them to make the most of this encounter.”
“We also got to see Ken Wilson Max from HarperCollins, who is looking for talent for a new book list that he launched at the fair. He was also very generous with feedback and insights about the industry and has given permission for the students to email him with any updates that may be relevant for publishing.”
At the beginning of the trip, students were set sketching tasks to complete throughout the week. Students spent time focusing on the various buildings, streets and responding to the shapes and details, as well as capturing interesting interactions and moments from the fair. Students and lecturers engaged in a group crit session, going through all of the sketchbooks together for feedback and guidance.
Sketch by Illustration student Peter Lloyd-Dimitrov
Bridgette said: “We also did a lot of location drawing wandering around Venice with the students. They produced some amazing sketches of the architecture (outside and in), the people, each other and just the general unique atmosphere of the city. They visited churches, museums and art galleries really making the most of their visit”
Caroline said: “Seeing the students enjoy these tasks and their creative lights turn on was the highlight of the trip for me.”
Second-year student Peter Lloyd-Dimitrov said, “Venice has always been one of my dream destinations. Since travelling on my own for the first time, I began to experience the real essence behind Italy, and as an illustrator I gained a new perspective on culture and diversity. It’s a moment I will never truly forget.”
Zara McDermott, who is in her second year of BA (Hons) Illustration said: “I enjoyed the reportage sketching tasks, it was challenging but fun. It's not something I do a lot in my practice, and helped me out of my 'digital' comfort zone. I also loved attending the Bologna Children’s Book Fair, it was so inspiring and I really enjoyed bonding more with all the lovely people on the course. In a nutshell, I loved every minute of the trip!”
Students exhibited the work generated in Italy in Art University Plymouth's Project Space 1
Third-year student Kate Taylor-Lewis said, “The trip was really fun, the book fair was amazing and it was a great opportunity to see how big the picturebook industry is. I really enjoyed the drawing tasks and I have definitely been incorporating more location drawing into my work since being back in the UK. It was also really fun to meet new people from other year groups and get to know everyone and be able to go and explore Venice by ourselves too.”