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Meet the winners: Maribel Castells

IBC Awards 2024

For today’s ‘Meet the winners’, we've travelled to sunny Spain to chat with Maribel Castells, talented illustrator of the 2024 IBC Awards winning board book, Too Green!.

As well as revealing how she felt about her success at the first-ever IBC Awards, Maribel shares memories of her illustrator heroes, her artistic process and plans for the Bologna Book Fair!

When was the moment you knew you wanted to be an illustrator?

Since I was little, I spent a lot of time drawing and reading. They were my favourite activities. Somehow, I knew that I would end up having a profession related to visual arts or books.

The moments I remember thinking, ‘Wow, I want to do something like that!’ were when I was looking at illustrated works, like the wonderful cross-section of a ship in What Do People Do All Day? by Richard Scarry, or Annie, Bridget and Charlie illustrated by Jan Pienkowski as well as The Witch's Handbook by Malcolm Bird.

Tell us how you approached illustrating Too Green!.

I started with two coloured spreads, so our editor Lisa Rosinsky could see and approve the overall style and colour palette. They were the first two spreads, and they set the tone and colours for the whole book. Then, I moved to the sketches phase, and once they were approved, I went digital — as I usually do — to create the finals. The covers were done in the middle of this process.

Which parts of Too Green! were the most fun to illustrate?

I truly love to draw objects, such as kitchen utensils, and experiment with colours, so the two first spreads were my favourite to work on. Adding small details is always fun! Also, I loved adding the cat character in most of the scenes. I thought it could be a nice secondary character to add humour and relax a little bit of the tension, even though it (the cat) doesn't exist in the words.

My goal as an illustrator is to create books that children want to read over and over again, so this one is no different.

How does it feel to win the first-ever Inclusive Books for Children Awards?

It makes me feel very grateful and honoured, and also very happy that this book, apart from helping children to be more open with food, is valued so positively for its features, so families can see themselves reflected.

I was with my son when I received the happy news, and I couldn‘t believe it! My first thought was feeling super happy for all the team involved in making this book, and for this wonderful recognition.

What would you like readers to take away from reading Too Green!?

My goal as an illustrator is to create books that children want to read over and over again, so this one is no different. I hope they enjoy it, and find small details to look at every time they read it, and remember the book fondly once they grow up.

Is there anything unusual in the way you create your artwork?

I’ve since found that it's not as unusual as I thought, but I love integrating patterns and repetition into my art so that there are decorative graphic elements in the narrative. I also really like to play with the countershapes of objects, and work on backgrounds.

What’s one thing you love to do when you’re not working?

Spending time with my son and also reading, cooking, listening to music, writing and doing creative activities in general.

Tell us something surprising about you!

This is not surprising at all for those who know me... the colour red. Although I use it very often in my art, I find it difficult on me, so I do not have any red clothing or accessories.

And finally, are there any new books in the pipeline, or upcoming events...?

I’m working on personal projects right now and also doing school workshops. But next month, I’m travelling to the Bologna Book Fair. I hope to meet other creatives and professionals in the children’s publishing industry and enjoy the beautiful city.

Too Green! by Sumana Seeboruth, illustrated by Maribel Castells is out now and published by Barefoot Books.

You can read our IBC review of Too Green! here.

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