Sara Morante's red and black illustrated books

By Sara Morante. November 28, 2013


The good thing about books and what makes them really special is that you only need your imagination to create characters and stories. There are no preconceived images: every reader imagines the adventures described in the same book in a different way. However, there are books that offer something more. We talk about illustrated books, little gems that guide the reader with images through the narrative. That's Sara Morante's business, an illustrator who has given life to the characters of great books like The Watsons by Jane Austen, The Dictionary of Literature for Snobs by Fabrice Gaignault and Hans Christian Andersen's The Red Shoes. With the use of red and black as her main colors, the Spanish illustrator manages to recreate stories through her beautiful images. Sara is fully involved in every project she mades and confesses that she finds inspiration in the people, the streets and the world around her. We chat with the illustrator about her work, her passions and her new projects.

We are lucky to offer three books illustrated by you in our bookstore, The Red Shoes and Dictionary of Literature for Snobs, published by Impedimenta, and The Watsons, published by Nórdica Libros. Tell us a little bit about how you worked with these titles.

Every book had a different process: The Dictionary of Literature for Snobs, written by Fabrice Gaignault, was the second book I made illustrations for and I found myself with a different format in which there wasn't a story. I had to make portraits of writers following my style but also working with the black humor and irony that were so well expressed in Gaignault's descriptions. I worked with the text and I searched for information about each of these writers in other sources. It was a very smooth and enjoyable process, I've to say, in part because of Gaignault's humour and in part because of the variety of the writers' lives.

The Red Shoes came soon after and it was a very personal process that lasted around five months, a period in which I tried to be immersed into the Denmark of Hans Christian Andersen from a social, religious and cultural perspective. In this case, it seemed very important to know the historical and social context in which the writer lived in order to fully understand the history of the girl Karen. The publisher offered me the opportunity to look to Andersen's tale with my own eyes and to narrate it with my drawings from the perspective of an adult reader, as I am, but we agreed to maintain the historical accuracy, and be as faithful as possible to the original place and time. That meant that I had to search for a lot of information about Denmark, the people, their homes and their habits. I learned a lot from this process.

The Watsons, by Jane Austen, brought an important change, as I faced the challenge of illustrating a nicer story, again with a great dose of irony, but without the macabre or gothic component that was present in the previous books I had illustrated before. I learnt to work with colors, away from the red and black aesthetics I had been following so far, partly requested by the story and the setting in the early nineteenth century England.

What are you working on right now?

I have just finished the illustrations for a book edited by the Brazilian publisher Pulo do Gato, a classic text that has made me go a little further in the style and color and in the creation of characters and scenarios. Also, this year I will work again with Nórdica Libros: I'm illustrating the text of a Finnish author, a long-term project I am very excited about because I'll have to go into the Lapland forest and be immersed into the Nordic imagery, with its mythology and its northern lights, and possibly return to the red and black colors. Meanwhile, I will try to work on some personal projects I haven't paid much attention to because of lack of time.

Someone who has influenced your practice as an illustrator.

I owe being an illustrator to two teachers that pointed me to this world. On the one hand, as a teenager, my Language teacher in high school, María Loreto Pomar, convinced me - and almost forced me! - to devote myself to the arts, and on the other, as an adult, my Lithography teacher, Don Herbert, suggested that illustration was "my thing". Two teachers who wanted to guide me and to whom I am very grateful.

Three things that inspire you.

My personal imagery: the things I see, the people I hear, the streets I walk. Reading, whether it's a text I illustrate or any other, and music. But mostly the itch to create, the desire to invent, to recreate, to get inside a story. For me it is the engine of my drawings, and inspiration comes from that will to recreate a story with my own imagination.

What do you see if you raise your eyes from the screen and what are you doing once you finish the interview?

Under the window I can see an oil heater, and through the window I see some mountains that divide or unite France and Spain. When I finish this interview and once I get warm, I will return to this personal project that has me so busy these days and that is not far from what I've been doing so far.

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