Wednesday, 19 July 2017

5 Minutes with... Shahar Kober

Today we're very excited to be catching up with PP artist Shahar Kober, from his home in Israel! We talk all things illustration, from Shahar's journey into children's illustration, to how he creates his stunning images and his advice for budding illustrators. Let's get to know a little more about Shahar...

Where do you live/work?

I live and work in the northern part of Israel, in a town called Kiryat-Tivon. The city of Haifa is a short drive to the west and Nazareth is a short drive to the east. I have a small home studio which I share with my cat and loads of clean laundry waiting to be folded. Other parts of the house are also shared with my wife, two sons (8 and 6) and Paula the dog. We have a small garden with two lemon trees, two plum trees, one magnificent peach tree, and three veteran oak trees.

What do you like about working there?

I’ve been working from my home studio for 12 years now. I like the fact I can work whenever I want, take frequent coffee breaks, and go out to the garden with my laptop and work there. It isn’t always perfect though! The guilt of watching the dishes pile up in the sink every visit to the kitchen (I mentioned the many coffee breaks), can sometimes be too much to bear. 

What do you love most about being an illustrator?

I like the challenges new assignments bring. Each project is different from the other and work is never repetitive. I also like to challenge myself every project and try something I never tried before – new perspectives, new angles, new techniques, etc. I enjoy having my own quiet space and having the ability to control my work hours.

How do you work – what are your techniques?

I’m sorry to say it’s a boring short answer – all my work is digital and is created using Photoshop. In the past, I started with real pencil sketches on paper, but in recent years, as technology advances and my digital drawing abilities improve, even my initial sketches are digital. I like to think I’ve saved some rainforests by not using paper for several years now. I do use my sketchbook once in a while though, mainly for very rough sketches of ideas.

What is your favourite thing to draw and why?

I like drawing animals, they are fun to draw, much more than people. The only animals I’m having trouble drawing are horses. I love drawing elderly people, they have so much character. And insects, for the same reason. I also love drawing architecture and strangely enough, I really enjoy drawing sofas and couches. 

What or who are you most inspired by?

I’m inspired by nature, by people I meet and mainly by spying on my colleagues online. There are so many excellent illustrators out there, I can learn something from each and every one of them. In recent years, I’ve been teaching illustration once a week, and I find myself inspired by my students as well. Sometimes fresh and “half cooked” illustrators do the most amazing work.

Do you have a favourite illustrator?

There are so many! First and foremost – Wolf Erlbruch and David Hughes. Some local illustrators from my country – Ofra Amit, David Polonsky, and Orit Bergman. Honoré Daumier is my all-time favourite classic illustrator. 

What do you like to do in your spare time when you’re not illustrating?

Even though I’m not very tall (an understatement), I play basketball once a week with some friends. I’m a mediocre player, but I enjoy playing very much. 

I also enjoy hiking. In recent years, I haven't had enough time to go on long hikes, but my town borders with a lovely nature reserve which I often visit when I walk the dog or play with my children. We try to go camping at least once or twice a year.

I also enjoy gardening and taking macro photos of insects. 

How did you get into illustration?

I always drew and painted as a boy, my school notebooks were mainly one big sketch mess and had very few words in them. As I’ve studied for my B.Des degree in graphic design, it was very clear from the start that I would specialize in illustration. The minute I graduated (in 2005), I started working on picture book illustration. Since then I’ve illustrated tens of books, and also contributed art to magazines and newspapers. In recent years, I’ve also started working on art for animation, which is very fun and very challenging at the same time. 

What are your three top tips for aspiring illustrators?

1. Don’t give up. There are so many talented illustrators around the world, but I think talent, though obviously very important, is not the main reason for success. It’s perseverance. Work hard and don’t let failure stop you. 

2. Draw every day, as much as you can.

3. Try drawing the things you find most difficult to draw, over and over again. After a while you will see you’re getting better at it.

What were your favourite books when you were younger?

Little Golden Books. I used to have many of those, but my two favourite ones were The Little Red Caboose and The Little Golden Book of Uncle Wiggily. Other favourites were Mercer Mayer’s There’s a Nightmare in My Closet, and some Alain Grée books, I vividly remember their art but can’t remember what the books were.

What was the last book you read? What did you think? 

I’m embarrassed to say I mainly read children books. I try finding old classics for my kids and I enjoy reading these for them. Astrid Lindgren books are our current thing. I’ve read so many of her books recently, and I think 'Mio, My Son' is her best book by far. I recently had the honor to illustrate a cover for a Hebrew translation of Norton Juster’s classic The Phantom Tollbooth. Even though it’s a children’s adventure novel, I would recommend it for adults as well.

What are your aspirations for the rest of 2017?

First of all, I would like to finish an animated film I’ve been working on for the past two years along with an amazing team of talents. It’s a 15 minute short for adults, which I hope would be amazing. 

What’s your ultimate dream?

I would have to say trekking the Himalayas. I’ve already trekked the Annapurna Circuit mountain ridge in Nepal some 15 years ago, but I feel the Everest Base Camp awaits me and my sketch book. I just need to find time. And money. And someone to take of the kids while I’m away. And to really work on my stamina. No big deal. 

We really hope you enjoyed getting to know more about Shahar! You can see more of his stunning work here...

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