Welcome to the next guest edition of What Was on Her . . . This time with Gabi Swiatkowska!
Gabi is our first illustrator in the series, and what a success story with which to kick things off! Gabi began her artist’s life in Poland, where she studied at the outrageously prestigious Lyceum of Art. After moving to New York City, she attended the Cooper Union School of Art, and in no time at all was creating gorgeous artwork for children’s books. Over the past decade, Gabi has illustrated no less than 12 books, garnering a huge pile of awards—everything from The Ezra Jack Keats New Illustrator Award (for My Name is Yoon by Helen Recorvits) to A New York Times Best Illustrated Children’s Book of 2012 (for Infinity and Me by Kate Hosford).
Not to be slowed down, Gabi’s thirteenth book, Queen on Wednesday (both illustrated and written by her) will be released in 2014 by Farrar, Straus & Giroux. And, as if all of this wasn’t enough, Gabi has moved to France, where she composes, as well as performs vocals and contrabass, for the folk band Tildon Krautz.
So, beyond all of this, what is the life like of an incredibly busy, incredibly successful illustrator?
In her own words, What Was on Gabi’s . . .
Desk: Every element known to earth—or almost. Snail shells (calcium carbonate), Vaseline (petrol), paint (latex), dead flies kept in a jar for painting (protein), and it only gets worse. That desk is a world of its own. I try and keep it clear—I really do—desperately fighting against its natural tendency, but as you can see, I’m not hugely successful. And there’s more . . .
If I’m painting—the entire set of required materials.
All the current bills—on the desk till paid.
Cards from people—which, really, is a bit . . . Wonderful.
A Dell laptop that sounds like a well-aged pug—so ancient, in fact, that it might possibly be dying. Although, I hope to god that’s not the case, because true to top artist form, I never back up anything. Once gone, gone forever!
Agenda: Figuring out a way to hang a lamp with absolutely zero knowledge of electrical current.
Mind: Er…… Wait, did my daughter just leave a dish in the empty sink and walk away?? Even when I’m leaning over a page, wrapped in new ideas, I can’t help but notice. It’s the Polish grandmother in me. I clean a lot. I’m a bit mad that way. My desk might look CRAZY and have every element on it, but it’s organized. It is very, very rare that I can’t locate whatever it is I need for my immediate use like a phone number of a particular restaurant or a piece of paper with an idea for page 4 or a pebble with a yin yang symbol that my daughter found on a beach.
TV Screen: Nothing. I am very proud to say, I do not own a TV. But . . . um . . . I do watch the computer screen.
Nightstand: A flashlight—because of the evil scheme my cat has concocted to deprive me of sleep. Every morning at 4:57 am, he shows up and unbelievably manages to get me out of bed to let him out. But does he go out? No! That’s the evil part. As I train the flashlight on him, he crinkles up his vittles oh-so-slowly, nibbling piece after piece, until he finally saunters through the door, and I take the flashlight and crawl back into bed. Also on the nightstand? An alarm clock. That’s how I know he shows up at 4:57 am. Every. Single. Morning.
Stovetop: Something breaded with non-gluten wonder, just like they describe in fancy cooking magazines, created by Gregg—my husband. It deliciously melts in my mouth (so after all, I guess—technically—it’s not on the stovetop).
Playlist: Okay, I admit it—I am listening to myself (Tildon Krautz is recording its new record). But oh, I am so terribly sad that I cannot manage to make myself sound as pretty on the recording as I do in my head. If only I sounded like Aretha Franklin, or at least Amy Winehouse.
Refrigerator Door: Two notes from my daughter. The first, her shopping list and declaration of war against my husband–her stepdad–testing his parenting skills: M&M’s, chocolate bunnies, marzipan—2 (I think she means quantity), whipped cream—2, Kinder Egg Surprise (which I recently found out are banned in the US??!!), another Kinder . . . er . . . something or other, apples, Brussels sprouts, jar of Nutella—crossed out—she must have changed her mind . . . presumably upon reflection. But why? Too much of a declaration of war? (Oh, I’m dying to know).
As for the second note, I’m afraid it must remain secret.
Wish List: See shopping list.
Shopping List: In the bag I carry everywhere is a large piece of paper that is both my wish & shopping list, and I add or cross things out as time goes by. The non-crossed out items currently include: milk frother, 0003/2/1 size painting brushes, car, radiators, light bulbs (60 & 40 watt), Rapadura sugar, molasses, baking powder, eucalyptus bonbons (oooh, the German kind, of course), new camera that can do decent videos, walking shoes, eggs, butter, the very beautiful quilt I saw at the Valence-d’Agen market on Tuesday, butternut squash, Brussels sprouts (for my daughter—see above), a small & portable writing table so I can work in different spots in the house (it’s all about the light), and a beautiful big, glass cake cover. Oh, and I almost missed it—a wood stove made of soapstone.
Instagram: Absolutely nothing.
To see some of Gabi Swiatkowska’s beautiful work, take a look at Tildon Designs. To hear her singing her own Little White Cloud with Tildon Krautz, click here. And, if you haven’t had the chance to read Infinity and Me yet, don’t miss out. You can order by clicking below: Gabi Swiatkowska Gabi Swiatkowska Gabi Swiatkowska Gabi Swiatkowska
Last but not least, you can order Gabi’s most recent book–Queen on Wednesday–below:
Be sure to stop by again on November 20, when Kathi Appelt, a 2013 National Book Award finalist, will be joining us on What Was on Her . . .
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