With the international release of An Alphabet in Bloom just around the corner (May 22nd), we thought this was the perfect time to sit down with artist Nathalie Trovato and talk about the creation of her art for the book. Nathalie is also the artist of The Environmental Pack, Air and In My Garden; all which have the common thread of understanding and observing nature. Throughout Alphabet in Bloom, Nathalie’s interest and knowledge of the natural world is beautifully rendered. From the Julia butterfly to the Xenops at the end of the book, kids can learn the alphabet and new vocabulary while losing themselves in this natural wonderland.
Home Grown Books: Can you talk a little about your artistic process while creating the art for Alphabet in Bloom?
Nathalie Trovato: An Alphabet in Bloom came to life after a trip to Mexico. Last year I really needed a break to reconnect with myself and make room for creativity. I decided to go backpacking in the Yucatan region. I didn't pack any drawing supplies with me. While over there I bought some colored paper and scissors but in the end I didn't feel like doing any of that. I was just content with having time to contemplate and empty my head. The following day after I returned to New York I took some paper and my scissors and began to cut out flowers, birds, etc. without having a real plan in mind. I did 3 or 4 drawings and then thought it would be nice to continue. This turned into An Alphabet in Bloom.
HGB: How many drafts do you create before your work becomes finalized?
NT: With papercut art the funny thing is that your drawing is a permanent draft until you decide, "That's it, I am ready to glue all the different elements". Until then, the drawing is like a moving image. This is the fun part! You can play around by adding or removing shapes, it allows room for trying different things out and allows mistakes. I don't record the different phases, some drawings take longer than others. The drafting part becomes actually part of the drawing itself and is erased by your next move. So in the end, the final drawing is the result of overlapping drafts.
HGB: Alphabet in Bloom has so many references to different types of plants and animals, where does your extensive knowledge of the natural world come from?
NT: I wouldn't say that I have an extensive knowledge as I am not an expert in Flora and Fauna. Nature has become a recurrent pattern in my work, even more so since living in New York. I do miss being more in touch with nature so creating images is like inventing my own secret garden, I have to make nature visible for myself.
HGB: The images in Alphabet in Bloom are so simple yet intricate. Does your inspiration come from your personal experiences with nature?
NT: It is actually a mix between my personal experience as a child and my imaginary world. I remember as a child receiving images for good behavior by my teachers. One was of a crocus and the over of a dahlia. I had never seen such flowers in my life so I started to fantasize about them. I have vivid memories of myself as a child painting flowers and birds, I actually still have some of those paintings. A lot of the flowers, birds, butterflies, etc, in the book are things I have never seen in real life before. There is a lot of research behind each drawing, blended with my imagination as to what these things would look like if I saw them in person.
The simplicity you mention is a big part of my work and is also how I relate to the world in general. My images are straightforward and simple so that there is room for the viewer to see themselves in the art. In the end I want the reader to pause, to take the time to travel through the picture without being interrupted by unnecessary information. The minimalism I often refer to exists to show the essential without any detours.
HGB: Are you creating any new work at the moment? Tell us a little bit about it.
NT: I am currently working on a project about the definition of home. Is it a roof over your head; the place you come from? I’m tackling the idea of shelter, the need for protection but also how you build your own identity according to where you live. Again, animals are integrated in this project in the many different ways they make their home and how they have to migrate and build new homes.