I Love the Diversity of Japan

Last year, she won a bronze Japan International Manga Award for an original comic book, and today she lectures about her experience. Katarina Kratochvílová’s illus-trations are popular worldwide. Can you guess what illustrations she made for our magazine?

Katarina, did you fly to Japan to receive your prize? 
Yes, I did. I am very grateful to the Embassy of Japan in Prague for supporting my participation in the competition. The bronze award is a tremendous achievement for me. I love Japanese culture and the atmosphere at the Award Night was beyond description. There were 503 comic strips and books from 77 countries. The winner came from Korea, the second was from France. Most artists were from Asia; the French illustrator and I were among the very few who came from Europe. 

Why are you inspired by Japanese culture? What do you find so special about it? 
I have had this liking ever since my secondary school. I watched anime cartoons and fell for Japan. I cannot name one particular reason, I guess I like the diversity. There are so many inspiring things… I love their style of clothing. I adore kimonos. Every time there is a Japanese festival here, it is very special for me. I have designed my own belt that I can wear with my kimono, but also with other dresses. Or their origami paper. It is a special sort of paper, very pleasant to touch, with traditional ornaments. I have used them in the award-winning comic book. 

Katarina Kratochvílová
An artist who lives in Prague and mainly focuses on applied illustration. You can see her work in magazines and books (e.g., God’s Emissary, Nosy Witch Agata, Give the Sun an Extra Ray, Flying Kites...), on Woox T-shirts. Every year, she opens a stand at the LITR festival. More at www.angryalbatros.cz

So, the comic book really has a piece of Japan in it. 
Yes. I remember meeting a maiko (geisha apprentice) in Kyoto and giving her my book as a present. I was really anxious that I might do something improper in the presence of that elegant lady, but it turned out great. I have several pictures from the event, but they did not let us shoot videos. Anyway, it was a marvellous experience. I loved her amazingly precise and graceful dance.

Your illustrations are in books, on magazine covers, bottle labels, murals … what do you like the most? 
It depends on the project. I would love to illustrate a Japanese cookbook. And even more, I would like to publish a book in Japan. I really like topics like environmental protection, nature or animals. There is a book that I created together with my husband – The Diary of a Mysterious Expedition. And I really enjoyed illustrating The Secret Life of Woods. It took me three years and it is really a charming book, not only for children. I am also grateful for the long collaboration with the magazine Skaut, the clothing brand Woox, and I also enjoy illustrating your character of Lea.

What is the process behind the final picture of our Lea? 
First, I get the propositions from the real Lea of the Leo Express team. She tells me what the picture should look like. I would really like to meet her face to face, because I enjoy our communications. Then I make several sketches, which takes me about a week, and then I make the final illustration. When I am to draw a character in a posture, the first thing I do is take a picture of myself in that position to see it better. That is great. 

Which picture of Lea do you like the most?
My favourite Lea is the one with the backpack, or the one on the bike. That is fun. A great part of the work is inventing Lea’s outfits. Maybe, it could be turned it into a dress-up game one day.    

You can also see Lea on our regional Lint trains. What is it like to see your work in that size?
I haven’t seen the train in reality, but it looks nice in photos. I am used to seeing my pictures in big sizes thanks to murals that I sometimes make. 

Text: Linda Pacourková
Photo and illustration: Linda Pacourková, Katarina Kratochvílová
The whole article can be found in the summer issue of the 
magazine of Leo Express

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