Levy Creative Management artist and Israeli illustrator ORIT BERGMAN helped launch the new semester on 5 September by giving a personal and inspiring lecture presenting her work and a historic tour of Israeli illustration. In the course of the next four weeks, Danish students will work on creating illustrations for an Israeli text as part of a project that the Bezalel Academy of Arts in Jerusalem and Kolding School of Design are working on. Orit was sent as a representative of Bezalel School of Arts & Design to start a co-operation between the two schools. She gave a talk about her work, about Israeli illustration in general and worked with the students on a project of children’s book illustration based on an Israeli text.
Bergman took time out of her busy two-day schedule to share some background information and insights on illustration. She encourages Danish and Israeli design students to be diverse and search for their own space in the market. Orit Bergman has found her space: exploring places where illustration is moved from its traditional location into other places; in particular the three dimensional and the theatre.
Israeli tradition of illustration is fairly new but it seems to play a significant role in Israel. For instance, The Israel Museum in Jerusalem, the largest museum in the country, has an illustration collection and even gives out a biannual children’s book award. Is illustration particularly important in Israel?
That’s true, but actually I don’t think illustration gets the attention it deserves. However, I’m sure it will eventually. It’s a relatively new tradition compared to the long tradition of writing and editing, and it takes time to grow and evolve. Publishers are extremely critical of text but still less so of the illustrations that follow the text. This is why the quality of illustration in Israeli books varies greatly. It has been improving over the last years, and I hope in the future, children’s illustrations will overcome these teething troubles.
So where do you get professional feedback?
The illustration community is very small in Israel – we all know each other; most of us studied together. I almost always look to my peers for feedback with anything that I produce. And illustration is so individual that I don’t regard them as my competition.
Does critique make you a better illustrator?
Yes and no. Of course, constructive criticism is a good thing and something you can learn from. But having too many inhibitions destroys the creative process. For myself, I can’t work if I concentrate. I’m always talking on the phone or listening to the radio while I’m working simply to shut my brain down and sometimes hush that critique in the head. Otherwise, my work turns out terrible.
How did you decide to become an illustrator?
I always wanted to be an illustrator. After graduating from Bezalel Academy of Arts I became a freelance illustrator but had to work as an art director with an internet company to be able to pay the rent. Eventually, that job took all of my time and I ended up working there for eight years before finally realising that the freedom and challenges of being an illustrator were too important to me.
What inspires your work – and what is it with you and the circus theme?
Well, I don’t know about the circus theme. Or, actually I do. Growing up I planned to become a trapeze artist, so that world has always fascinated me. Otherwise, I guess I’d have to say my own childhood inspires me. And life in general. My children’s books always have a lot of humour in them, and the power of the imagination is an overriding theme. Children’s books present a great platform for an illustrator because it allows you to create an entire world and evolve it gradually over 12 spreads. But the platform is changing. I try to expand my books by integrating other media or materials such as for instance computers and clay to create interaction with the child. Illustrators should look for different venues to show their work, because the traditional ones are dying. There’s always a need for creativity and talent but students should look for new places to display their talent.
Do you want to make a political statement or in other ways impact the world with your illustrations?
There is no place for political statements in children’s books. You can display a belief. I believe in humanity. Children are powerless in a world governed by adults. They use the power of imagination to grab hold of their lives. This is why the power of the imagination is a key theme for me.
What would you like the Danish students to take with them from your visit – and has this trip inspired you in any way?
Danish and Israeli students face similar problems. They both live in small countries with small languages, which means that their markets are outside their countries. But we can learn from each other. When I studied, having an international career was not an option – it is now. I want the students to realise this. I also hope that by collaborating with Israel the students will see Israel in a different light and not just as a country at war. We also lead regular, creative lives. To me it’s been interesting to meet people who live so far away but share the same love and passion as I do. I look forward to seeing how the Danish students will illustrate an Israeli text. I’m sure it will turn out very interesting.