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Behind the Book: With Marta Kissi illustrator of Mo Farah’s picture book ‘Ready Steady Mo!’


Marta D?ugo??cka —  known as Marta Kissi to her art fans and followers has just illustrated a book which marks an incredible time in UK sporting history — released to coincide with the 2016 Rio Olympics, and with the main focus being about a gold medal winning athlete, who won gold in the 10,000 metre track race, despite taking a tumble…

I am of course referring to the incredibly talented (and fast) Mo Farah.


In this blog, Marta takes us through her creative process, working alongside author Kes Gray, and athlete, Mo Farah, to reach the wonderfully vibrant illustrations for what has already become a best-selling children’s picture book this year…

 The colours are stand out – the book leaps off the shelves. What made you decide on this particular colour palette?

For me, this book was all about capturing the energy and vibrancy of running, so bright, bold colours seemed like a very good fit for that. Also, while I really wanted to make sure that the book was super colourful, I also did my best to retain some colour palette as well, with yellows, oranges and pinks repeated throughout to make the whole book feel more coherent.

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A spread from Ready, Steady Mo! Written by Mo Faraha and Kes Gray, illustrated byMarta Kissi. Published by Hodder Children’s Books.

You capture a real sense of movement in the children and animals. Have you done much life study since art school, or is it something that you find comes naturally?

Capturing the movement was probably one of the most challenging parts of the project, as I had to show the same act of running in so many different and playful ways. To get the right feel for that, I started simply by trying to remember what it felt like to run around when I was a child myself! I also tried to observe other kids running in my local park and looked for some good references online. Ultimately, I tried not too worry about showing the “correct” way of running and focus on what makes it fun!


Little Mo at school!

 I really love your sense of composition – a few pages in particular: The run in the dark scene, the classroom and the double page spread with all the kites. Did you find it easy to illustrate the text?

In a book, that is all about running, it was extra important to ensure that the compositions were flowing nicely from one spread to another. While I really wanted to make sure that each spread had it’s own individual feel, I also wanted the movement of the characters to carry over when you turned the page. This hopefully helped give the feeling that the children were all on one big run throughout the book. Also Kes Gray, the author of the book, gave me some of his initial ideas for several spreads and we worked closely while developing the roughs.


 When did you realise illustration was going to be your career?

Since I remember I’ve always been into drawing and making things, so probably ever since primary school, one of my biggest goals was to be in the art industry — one way or another. Having said that, illustration as a career choice only became fully clear to me while I was doing my Art Foundation. In fact, back then my whole portfolio was actually being prepared for the fine art course and yet, at the very last minute something inside told me this wasn’t going to be the right choice for me and against all of the tutors advice, I quickly updated my portfolio to suit the illustration course and never regretted it since.

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Some pieces from Marta’s Bright portfolio. Click here for more.

 What made you decide to study art in the UK?

Before coming to the UK I was studying my 1st year of graphic design in Poland but I wasn’t too happy with the course. And so for my first super-long-academic-summer break, I chose London, where I later learned about foundation courses. I decided to give it a go (while also taking a gap year back at home) which later led me to studying my BA at Kingston University. Before I knew it I was doing my Masters at the RCA. It may sound a little crazy but those few risks I took back then led me to so many wonderful things I could never have actually planned or dreamed of otherwise.

 Did you have a particular artist who inspired you growing up?

I guess as a child I mostly loved classic polish book illustrators, with my favourite at the time, Jan Marcin Szancer. Having said that I was also totally into all my Disney books that were based on the films out at the time. I remember often sitting on my bed, surrounded by all those books, looking at all those pictures over and over again for hours!


An illustration by Jan Marcin Szancer, famous Polish illustrator of over 200 books.

Marta will be joining us this Sunday 21st August for storytime and a reading of this momentous book, Ready Steady Mo! So come and join us for a lovely family morning of reading, crafts and activities. Click here for more details and to buy your family ticket.

We look forward to seeing you!

You can read more about our storytime Sundays on The Bright Emporium website  here.And read about our last storytime with Fiona Woodcock, author of Hiding Heidi,published by Simon and Schuster here.

Marta Kissi - Agency Slider


Marta Kissi is represented by the Bright Group

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August 2016

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