A Series Of Illustrations Which Find The Balance Between Innocence and Truth In A Childhood We Have Long Forgotten

Childhood is a worldwide phenomenon – hardly appreciated while it’s happening and forever elusive once it’s gone. Yet Israeli illustrator, Sveta Dorosheva, has managed to re-create the colourful existence of youth through powerful black and white sketches. Big eyes, taking in more than perhaps our adult selves end up doing, peer out at us from the page, freckled, fragile and fascinated.

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Baring a likeness to Alice in Wonderland, the illustrations are mystical, dream-like yet anchored by the notion that childhood blurs the boundaries between real and imaginary. From tables scattered with sketches to world’s growing out of the top of the character’s head, creativity and naivety are intertwined and Sveta manages to create something truly heartwarming and heartbreaking simultaneously.

Pillow fights, passing notes in class and playing in the sand until tired and weary – they are all captured by Sveta. Even in black and white we can imagine them in colour – their subject matter so light that it is impossible to let the monochromatic colour scheme dampen them.

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We spoke to Sveta who gave us her insights into parenthood and the details on her own childhood and that of her children which lead to her illustrations.

TP: The series is based on childhood but what inspired you to create the series?
Sveta Dorosheva:
‘My childhood’ is actually a series of illustrations for the new book. It started out from an unexpected perspective. I have three kids, all boys, aged 3, 7 and 11. Several years ago I started to keep something like a journal about them on my Facebook page – different stories and fun incidents and observations of the way kids perceive life and things. Surprisingly, these stories became rather popular and gathered quite an audience. I was offered to write a book based on these stories. It’s a fake ‘how to’ book, embracing the most arguable questions of parenthood, but never really yielding a single sober advice. People shouldn’t be taught how to handle their kids. They should be soothed and comforted that parenthood is a most perplexing task in the universe, and so, whatever they are doing, they are doing a great job. Mistakes and failures are inevitable, joys and rewards sporadic, but with a little bit of humour and philosophy, the whole parenting business is a priceless fuel for observing life itself.

Anyway, there was an issue of illustrations. I try to avoid illustrations that are ‘dubbing’ text. My editor and I arrived at the concept that it should be 22 incidents from my childhood, loosely related to the topics of the 22 texts.

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TP: Is the series your childhood or does it draw on aspects from it and reimagine them?
SD:
The illustrations balance between the ‘child’s eyesight perception’ (magic, unreal, enchanted, yet taken for granted as solid fact of life – just as kids do) and brutal truth (things that did actually take place and were actually the way they are depicted in the illustration. The trick is – the reality is way more wild than anything I could invent). Everything there is true and autobiographic, it’s just that child’s perception is different from that of an adult, but one remembers how exactly one perceived things, even if it seems like a previous life.

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TP: What emotions or reflections on childhood, yours or in general, did creating the series bring up?
SD:
I found there is a subtle twist to illustrating stories about my kids with scenes from my own childhood. After all, if adults remembered themselves as kids very well, there would have been much less anxiety about their own kids’ future. Memory tends to erase all the weird, strange, adventurous, dangerous, crazy, lazy and plain stupid things and ideas that one used to have as a kid, because there you are – a normal adult.

Also, as I was drawing this series, I couldn’t help but notice how dramatically different my childhood was from that I my kids, and yet the core things that make childhood what is it are intact – the freshness of perception, the agony of growing up, the mischief, and the absence of borderline between the real and the unreal.

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TP: What is your favourite image of the series?
SD:
I can’t pick one, but I can say which ones I especially enjoyed drawing and am more or less happy with the result. The kindergarten group. The school scene. Weird bookshelf and The drawing girl.

TP: How did you create each image?
SD:
It took me about two weeks to choose the technique, find the combination of paper, nibs and inks that would suit it. Then I laid out the book and drafted about half the drawings, hoping that the other half would come easy when I gained enough speed in the middle of the project (which is exactly how it happened). The rest of it is fast and easy, because it’s the fun and rewarding part of the job – drawing actually.

I did collect material – old photographs and such to remember how things looked like. In that aspect I tried to be rather accurate – the drawings feature the school desks of the exact period, USSR uniforms, furniture of a typical Soviet home, my childhood carpet, yard, local newspaper, etc.

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TP: What is the significance of red?
SD:
No significance at all. Just a fun thing to do – enhance some element in the drawing with red throughout the book.

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TP: Tell us about yourself.
SD:
Well, I was born in Zaporozhye, which was an industrial city in the former USSR. I had a typical Soviet childhood. Then I went to Soviet school and studied well. I was a ‘pioneer’, but by the time I should have become a young ‘komsomolka’, the USSR broke down. I did not understand what happened and did not care much. In several years my family moved to Israel because of the complete crisis and breakdown ‘back in the USSR’. I stayed. Moved to Kiev. Worked as a translator, journalist, designer, art director and creative director in advertising. Got married. Had a son. Quit everything and moved to Israel. Had two more sons. After immigration (7 years ago) started illustrating books and doing commercial illustration. Still doing that.

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TP: What’s next for you?
SD:
I don’t know. Book illustration is not a happy place at the moment. And it doesn’t yield much hope. The industry is having a hard time. Evidently, it’s high time to move on to… I am clueless actually. True – illustrating books is a very pleasant pastime… completely unviable, yet irresistible. I have been thinking about ‘what’s next for me’ for almost a year. I have used this year well to get as frustrated about book illustration as possible, so I am pretty open at the moment. Searching.

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