Illustrator Interview with Petronela Dostalova

Petronela was born in the former Czechoslovakia. She grew up in a little village called Borša, surrounded by woods and vineyards. From the age of 14 she studied at a boarding school in Košice. When she was 18 Petronela decided to live and study in Suffolk, UK where she received her arts degree. Soon after graduation she decided to enroll in the MA Children’s Book Illustration course at the Cambridge School of Art. She currently lives in scenic Tattingstone with her partner Dan and dog Haribo. Petronela Dostalova is the illustrator of MILO’S MOONLIGHT MISSION, written by Kathleen M. Blasi, published by Yeehoo Press. Petronela loves exploring the coasts and estuaries of Suffolk where many of her story ideas are born. Today we chatted with Petronela about her journey of being an illustrator and getting published.

  • When did you first realize you wanted to be an illustrator? 

I loved drawing since very early age but I didn’t know what the word ‘illustrator’ means for a long time. As a child I have scribbled into every book and magazine in our house – literally! 

  • How do you describe your art style? And how did you find your art style? 

I found my visual language by accident which was caused ironically by a cycling accident. I was unable to use one of my arms for many months. I used to enjoy collage making before but cutting and gluing with one arm only was not fun. I started to explore Photoshop and a Wacom pen and tablet and played with the software long enough to developed certain methods and steps which engraved into my brain and became a ‘style’. 

  • What brings you to picture book? What is your publishing journey like? 

I completed the MA in Children’s Book Illustration in 2015 at the Cambridge School of Art. It only felt natural to try and push my feet through the door. I thank for my wonderful book projects and other collaborations to agents from the Bright Agency. My journey started out very slowly but like with taking a slow train I had the chance to absorb the view more. I still sit in the window seat but not always get to look outside. 

  • How did you get involved in MILO’S MOONLIGHT MISSION? 

The wonderful Ilaria Vigilante from the Bright Agency put me forward for this project. 

  • What inspires you to illustrate MILO’S MOONLIGHT MISSION? 

The story itself is a great inspiration. 

  • When do you know it is ready and finished? 

I tend to have this intuitive feeling when the image is approaching the final stage. I stop before this feeling gets stronger to allow space for feedback and corrections.  

  • What is your work schedule like when you’re illustrating a book? 

I run a small ‘one-man’ dog walking/pet care business. I walk the Suffolk estuaries and cuddle my furry friends for the first part of the day. I sit by my desk for the second half of the day.  I sometimes stay up very late too.  

  • How do you develop your characters? 

I draw and change their facial features, clothes, shape until I feel positive about the way they look. 

  • What do you like most about being an artist? 

The part I like the most is when time and space disappear when I am working and also the dress-code.  

  • Where do you get your information for your books? 

Google search is a very big help. 

  • What was one of the most surprising things you learned in illustrating books? 

I am often surprised when images I am not confident with get approval to go ahead and vice versa.  

  • Do you have multiple books you’re working on at the same time? If so, how do you handle different projects simultaneously?  

I try to avoid working on multiple projects simultaneously. I am just not wired that way however I can manage a minor overlap of two projects – one entering the final stage and the other beginning.  

  • Do you have any suggestions to help fellow artist become a better illustrator? If so, what are they? 

I find Pablo Picasso’s quote “Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working” the best advice – for myself at least. 

Thank you Petronela for sharing your journey with us!

You can find Petronela online at https://www.petroneladostalova.co.uk/ and connect with her on Instagram and Twitter.

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