Boaz Gabai is a freelance illustrator and designer with experience both in print and animation fields.
Among his illustration projects: Three Grimm Brothers' stories in a Grimm treasury book for the UK market; Several English teaching books both with 'Eric Cohen Books' for the Israeli market and 'Burlington Books' for Spanish and Greek markets; More than 10 children and young adults' books; Personal projects are an important part of Boaz' portfolio as well.
Exhibitions: 2 Exhibitions with the Israeli Illustration Organization both on 2010; 2 Exhibitions abroad with an Israeli artist's group- The first in an art center in Hovinkartano Finland, and the second in a gallery at Chelsea, London.
How did you first get into illustration?
The first thing that comes to my mind is a memory I have of a visit as a 4 year old boy in the kindergarten I was supposed to be at next year. On that visit, one of the teachers said to me: "Hey, so you're Boaz the painter", and I was so embarrassed "How did she even know my name?", but that's the way I saw myself as well- I draw for a "living" from ever since I can remember myself!
At first it got me past my furious teachers, being the only one around capable of drawing (well… illustrating…) things for class. Then, later on, after my art studies at the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design, I gradually became a professional illustrator.
To be honest, my path to illustration was, and in some aspects still is, gradual, and with lots of twists and turns throughout the vast animation world, which have had much influence on my style.
How do you start a new project of children book illustration?
After a nice and thorough talk with my client, the project always starts with allot of reading. I always feel I need to know more, no matter how short the story is. Sometimes fewer words need more meaning in the illustration, and I believe some of it comes from my readings around.
Then I look for references, usually photos from the Internet, but if possible, I will always prefer taking my own pictures (and a nice excuse to get out of the studio). In periodical stories it is obvious, but I would look for visual references even for subjects I know very well, like animals and natural landscapes. I treat my memory both with love and suspicion.
Whilst looking for visuals, I sketch here and there, and try to bring my own visuals to life.
If the project has a crazy deadline (what else?!), than I'm forced to use my memory, but the ongoing visual refreshing I do with other projects is there to help me. That's why I'm always taking photos, even with no reason whatsoever.
What is your artistic process, creating a new illustration?
Regarding the actual illustrating process:
First I sketch it more for composition purposes- quite similar to storyboarding in animation. Sketching could be on paper with pencils or ink or both, but only if I have access to a good scanner, as lines tend to flatten when scanning is unprofessional. Sometimes all the process is digitally generated.
Than I do the rough sketch, and afterwards the refined sketch which should be as clear as possible.
It is at that time that I realize if it'll be a 'contour' illustration or a 'non-contour' one- and that's an extremely important issue in my process.
Now comes the painting/colouring part which always starts with allot of digital brushes tests on Photoshop. I simply fill millions of layers with digital paint spots in order to find the right technique needed. Obviously, I have my preferences, but just in case, I check other brushes as well.
The process ends in the fine tuning process in which I check and double check the colour relations between the objects and its effect on the composition.
What would be your ultimate goal as an illustrator?
Wow, I have so many goals as an artist!
One of them is writing and illustrating, and successfully publishing a series of picture books. I write for quite a long time and never even tried publishing. It is a goal I intend to achieve!
Ultimately I'd like it to be also animated, and take an important part in the design and storyboarding of the project.
What advice would you give to aspiring illustrators?
My best advice would relate to visual references- Look around you and see what other illustrators do, but don't stop at the art world only- take a step outside and look at the true reference nature gives. By 'nature' I include Human nature (buildings, cars, artificial products, etc.). Even the most imaginative art or abstract as far as it gets in illustration, came from our memory of things we saw. Neglecting the memory 'refreshing' we do in the reference searching process, is a problematic thing when you tell a story.
Remember that an illustrator is a storyteller.