Varda Livney graduated with honors from the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design in Jerusalem.
Her career has taken her through various adventures, from illustrating children’s books and posters, to designing tissues, t-shirts, greeting cards, ketubot (jewish wedding contracts), giftbags, and cream cheese packaging (!?), for companies both in the U.S. and in Israel. She is a member of SCBWI and the Israel Illustrators' Association.
When and how did you first begin to express yourself creatively?
It was that self-commissioned wall mural I started when I was 10. My parents, after letting all of the steam out of their ears, agreed to let me continue. Eventually, with the help of kids from the neighborhood, the entire wall got covered. That one wise parental decision pretty much gave me the courage to pursue a creative life, and to do things like saw up ikea furniture and hack it into stuff I like better.
From where or whom do you draw your inspiration?
My children and their sticky fingers, nature, Maurice Sendak, Keith Haring, illuminated manuscripts, Pinterest (new for me, but fabulously inspirational), and lots of www's. Being out on a farm in the Middle East was once an obstacle to seeing what's out there in the world, but now I can window shop to my heart's content in my pajamas! (OK, I actually get up and get dressed and sit at my desk in a pretty disciplined way; that whole working in your pj's thing is a slippery slope to lying in bed eating bonbons all day.)
Tell us about an interesting illustration project you were involved in.
I proposed a book idea to Simon & Schuster, and they accepted it! (The only book to date I have written AND illustrated.) It is called “What I Like About Passover” and the family depicted in it is multiracial, based on my own family. I thought the editors might comment, but they never said a word. 10 years down the road and I still get the occasional letter from a multiracial family saying how surprised and happy they were to open up the book and find a family like theirs.
What is your artistic process in creating a new illustration?
I make 1 million little line drawings. Then I scan the one I like, tweak it in photoshop, print it onto watercolor paper, and paint it. On occasion, I scan it again, and tweak it again in photoshop. Simple as pie. I love being able to fix mistakes in photoshop, instead of starting an illustration over again if I make a mistake, but I have to be careful not to play with it too much and lose the freshness.
Describe your style in one sentence.
Whimsically childlike and bright, with a dollop of quirky humor.
What would be your ultimate goal as an illustrator?
If I could figure out a way to bring world peace through drawing bunnies, that would be my goal.
What do you see as the biggest challenges in being an illustrator today?
The illustration profession, along with other creative professions, is changing at a dizzying pace. Digital interactive products have created a whole new necessary skill set, as has social networking. Illustrations are seen as free for the taking on the internet, crowdsourcing has lowered prices, stock art sites are proliferating, products have a shorter shelf-life… Should be interesting to see how it all progresses, but I personally wish it would all slow down. I’m getting a bit dizzy.
What advice would you give to aspiring illustrators?
They probably could give ME advice, as they probably are more savvy in the digital fast-paced social-networky world. Having said that, here’s my advice: Hone your craft, find your voice, and don’t let the rejections get you down. They're an inevitable part of the package.