Throughout the last week, I have sent numerous emails with questions to various illustrators, who’s works I admire and find interesting. As a student of Illustration I realize that a professional artist can be quite taken with his work and he/she may have very limited time scale of responding to such emails.

Well, today was a good day, because I have received a response from one of the illustrators that I have contacted.

Adam Pękalski, a Polish illustrator, born in Gdansk in 1975, who currently lives and works in Ankara, Turkey, where he teaches graphic design and illustration.
Pękalski works as a freelance illustrator, book and poster designer and cartoonist.
(You can view his full bio on his website )

What I find interesting in Pękalski’s  works is the way he invites the viewer into the image, through the use of movement, lively colours and compositions. Moreover, I have enjoyed the link between the works and the specific audience, that the images reach.

One of the media that he uses are the watercolors. Easy to use, but also quite demanding of the artist, as one wrong move can destroy the whole piece of work.
Pękalski once said that ”Sometimes, one sentence can be enough, whether read or heard, or a single clip of a movie, a fleeting memory of a painting in the museum, to create a very concrete vision that demands instantaneous manifestation on paper. Rarely does a concept arises from a laborious process, drudgery starts later, when a brush is picked up.” –
A high number of this Polish illustrator’s works is commissioned for editorial purposes, for magazines, where the main themes are history and geography.
However, the images that I liked the most, where created as book illustrations, aimed at children.

It is interesting to note, that the artist himself admitted to preferring to work on these, rather than the editorial commissions.

Editorial illustrations for magazines include:  
– Miś
– Sukces
– Charaktery
– Media & Marketing Polska
– Świat Ciszy
– Nasze Morze
– Przekrój
– National Geographic Traveler

Recently published illustrated books:

– Sanatorium, Dorota Gellner, Wydawnictwo Bajka, Warszawa 2015
Kot, który zgubił dom, Ewa Nowak, Egmont Polska, Warszawa 2016
Nie płacz, koziołku, Sergey Mikhalkov, Nasza Księgarnia, Warszawa 2016
Praktyczny pan, Roksana Jędrzejewska-Wróbel, Wydawnictwo Bajka, Warszawa 2016


Here is a ‘short’ interview with the artist. (Mr. Pękalski, if you are reading this- Thank you once again for answering these questions.)

Corvus Could you describe your process of work when responding to a project/brief? Are there any steps that you always take in order to generate ideas?

  Adam Pękalski– I usually start with a insightful visual research. Lots of the commissions I get are for educational books and articles related to history or geography, and in such cases this step is absolutely de rigeur – you can’t just make the things up as you go, even if your illustrations are supposed to have a light-hearted or even humorous approach. The gathering of visual materials takes quite a long time – the trick is to know more or less what you are looking for (which requires also some extra reading about the subject of your project) and to be able to select things that are useful from the piles of rubbish which Google search often provides.
The next step is finding a concept – this is when the drawing starts; initially in the form of thumbnail sketches and doodles, up to more advanced images. In the meantime the vision of a finished illustration clarifies in my mind, and I know more or less where to go to from there.
Sometimes the clients require the rough sketches of the ordered piece for the acceptance, then of course I have to prepare more than just one version, but usually no more than three. It also happens quite often that they just trust me with my judgement, so we can omit this step.
Finally there’s the execution of the illustration itself. I like using diverse styles and techniques to match the subject, so the technical details may vary. These days I use mostly computer to make my illustrations, but nonetheless they always start as hand-drawn pictures that are scanned and processed with Photoshop.
All the above applies mostly to editorial illustrations, while with a bigger projects, like illustrated books, the process is much more complicated. The visual research step remains more or less the same, but the doodling and sketching step takes way more time, as you must deal with a bigger number of illustrations that will create some kind of a sequence. There’s also a character design, layout design, choice of the font, and last but not least figuring out what the mood will be like, i.e. what the book is supposed to look like. Once this is done, I send a sample double-page spread to the editor to see whether my idea gets accepted. And then the labour begins…

CLooking through your portfolio and blog, it is clear that you have your very own style. How did you discover it and do you sometimes experiment with other media?

AP- I believe that the style is something that develops with time, so it’s not like a once-and-for-all decision that an artist spontaneously makes (“From now on, all my characters are going to have red noses and bulgy eyes!”), but more like a never-ending process. It is the sum of your experiences, inspirations and personal inclinations, and it constantly evolves, just like yourself.
I’ve noticed that many young artists (I’m thinking about some of my illustration students) tend to treat their style as some kind of a fetish, to such extent that they are reluctant to try something new, because it might affect their precious little style which they have just came up with. I think it’s silly; in my opinion sticking with just one type of illustrations makes you get bored and burnt-out very fast. Also, the illustrator has better chances of surviving in the market if he (or she) is more flexible and embraces the variety of techniques and visual styles. I suppose that if your artistic personality is strong enough, your personal “handwriting style ” will still be visible, even if you  radically change the mood or technique.

C- Do you think you prefer working with editorial briefs or are you trying to keep your work balanced between magazines and books?

AP- In last four years the majority of my work is related to children’s books illustration. It might not be the best way of making a living as an illustrator (one spends a lot of time and energy, while the fees paid by Polish publishers are often ridiculously low), but I find it more satisfying and enjoyable than editorial illustration, and this is what I want to focus on in the future. Also, I think that book illustration has a longer “expiry date”. The point is: the editorial illustration usually has a life span of a magazine’s issue in which it appears, while a book is something that lingers for years, and sometimes it’s being passed to the next generations of readers. I still have some wonderfully illustrated books that my parents owned when they were kids, and I’m going to eventually pass them to my daughter.

C- What advice would you give to a recent graduate, who is trying to find his way in the industry?

AP- Oh, God. Advices. There’s only one that really matters: Do what you love, and love what you do. And stay honest and true to yourself. Oh wait, that’s two.
No, but really: I don’t feel like I’m qualified to give any professional advices, because I don’t think they would apply to everyone. It’s a very individual thing, how you want your career to grow and what kind of illustrator you want to become. But if you have the passion for that job, and ambition, and you fell like no other profession is suitable for you, surely you will find a way to succeed in some way. Maybe you won’t get awfully rich, but at least they will pay you for your hobby…

C- Lastly, are you happy with where you are now in regards to your art? Do you enjoy what you do?

AP- Yes 🙂

All the images used belong to Adam Pękalski.
They can be found on his website-
As well as on his various profiles and magazine’s websites: