Original art is once again part of this year’s Library of Congress National Book Festival as the design for the 2018 festival poster is being unveiled this week. The illustration was created by Gaby D’Alessandro, 31, a Dominican illustrator based in New York City. The poster includes a whimsical hot air balloon carrying a young reader into space.
D’Alessandro studied fine art and illustration at Altos de Chavón and moved to New York City in 2008 after receiving a scholarship to Parsons School of Design. She graduated from Parsons in 2010, with a BFA in Illustration. D’Alessandro shares some thoughts on this year’s design and her love of reading ahead of the National Book Festival, which is scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 1 at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center.
Tell us about your background. What drew you to want to become an artist and illustrator?
I’m very introspective, and I’ve always enjoyed telling stories as a way to express myself and connect with others. When I was in high school, my main creative outlet was theatre, and a few years before going to college I discovered I also liked drawing and I learned that I could tell my stories through illustration, so I eventually decided to pursue that as a career.
Your design for this year’s National Book Festival poster includes a colorful hot air balloon flying into space. What was your inspiration? Tell us about your creative process.
The creative brief for this assignment was very open, and I had the freedom to experiment and come up with an image that felt personal and exciting to me. I was asked to convey the joy of reading and show how books promote the discovery of new ideas and exploration of new worlds. I kept this in mind and tried to find the right visual symbols to communicate how I feel when I’m reading something inspiring. I wanted my image to evoke the thrill and sense of discovery that books bring into my life.
Why were you interested in being part of this year’s National Book Festival?
I felt honored to be given the opportunity to collaborate with the National Book Festival and to have a platform to reach so many people with a positive message. I strongly believe in the importance of reading, so I was very happy to work on a piece that would be used to promote that.
Tell us about what you enjoy reading or a book that made an impact on you.
I enjoy reading magical realism by authors like Gabriel García Márquez, Julio Cortázar and Jorge Luis Borges. I also like books that explore human relationships and emotions, like “The Neapolitan Novels” by Elena Ferrante. And I’m interested in non-fiction books about human behavior and the role we play in the world, like “Sapiens” by Yuval Noah Harari. I think each of these themes influence my work as an artist.
Your clients as an illustrator include magazines, newspapers, museums and other organizations. What kinds of pieces do you create most often? Is most of your work in editorial illustration and helping to tell a story? How do you approach your various projects?
Yes, most of the assignments I receive are for editorial illustration, but my process is similar for other types of projects as well: After reading the article or brief I’ve been assigned, and taking notes, I try to research the topic further and begin collecting reference images. I later brainstorm and write down preliminary ideas and work on quick thumbnail roughs, from which I choose around three favorites to develop into more detailed sketches that I send to the client. Once a sketch is approved, I work on the final in Photoshop, using a Wacom tablet. I sometimes work traditionally for personal and gallery pieces, but I choose to draw digitally for illustration assignments because it streamlines the process and allows me to make quick changes.
What kinds of challenges would you like to take on as an artist – perhaps something you haven’t tried before?
I would love to work on children’s books and perhaps write and illustrate my own story someday.