Play and Reality

Sunday, April 4, 2010 · 13 comments

Every illustrator has some sketches that have never been rendered to final art, although they were meant to be. Here is one of mine, but at least it was a small project – illustrating a book cover by Uri Orlev.
It is based on a true story which takes place during WW2, about a boy who had to escape with his mother and sisters from the Germans, to a small Moslem village in the prairies of Kazakhstan. His resourceful mother managed to make a living for her family, and all the boy’s acts and experiences are described from his own point of view.
This boy reminded me the boy from the film “The Empire of the Sun”. The story begins with the escape, when he is forced to abandon his beloved toy car, which he will be thinking about and to which he will miss so much. By the end of the war, while he is wandering through ruined German apartments, he finds a toy car exactly like the one he used to have…
Whenever I have to do a book cover, I am never sure my style really fits in. I think that book covers must have a “clean” look, while my illustrations usually are heavily textured. That is why I try to make it up with a minimum amount of objects, and a large area of smooth (at list as smooth as I can get) background.

I thought the toy car was a perfect symbol of early separation from childhood, but also a symbol of “make believe” dreams that help to survive. That is why I chose the toy car to be held by the boy, while he is watching an explosion in the horizon. The background of horizon and explosion was meant to be colored very “neat” and almost graphic, just as a symbol of that horrid reality. This juxtaposition of toy and explosion suggests “play vs. reality”.

Eventually, Keter Books decided to go for a photographed cover for the book. The final cover shows three Tarot cards, which is a bit disappointing, I think. (That is because the boy’s mother used to read in Tarot cards in the village and this was one of the ways she made a living).
Anyway, I recommend this book for children aged 10 and up.

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