Meet the illustrator Marcus-Gunnar Pettersson, creator of the diploma for ALMA 2017.

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Tell us about yourself. Who is Marcus-Gunnar?
Marcus-Gunnar is a pretty uncomplicated guy who really likes to draw.

What was your reaction to being asked to do this year’s diploma?
When I got the question I was actually going through a crisis of confidence. Feeling like my work didn’t measure up, like “everything I do is ugly.” I imagined other people laughing at everything I did: “That guy, he can’t make books, he can’t draw.” I told myself that maybe I should just forget about making picture books at all. I guess a lot of people can relate to what I was feeling just then. Which turned right around when I got this assignment! It was such an honor. I was incredibly happy and thankful. It was like a confirmation that I might be on the right track after all.

What were the hardest and easiest parts?
The hardest part was finding an idea and deciding what path to take. But once I made that decision, all I had to do was draw and get lost in the visual world.

Describe your creative process!
I have a process that sometimes makes my work harder. It is largely based on “coincidence.” For example, spilling a cup of coffee and sketching up a subject from the outlines of the stain. I have an initial idea for the content, but I let the stain decide the composition and improvisation. I began by reading Wolf Erlbruch’s books and looking at his visual world. I regret to say that I didn’t know his work before the prize was announced. I’m glad to have learned about a new (to me) and fantastic illustrator and author. Pretty quickly, I noticed a common theme in his stories, having to do with the significance of animals. Poetic, humorous animals wearing clothes. I also thought his images were musical and had a quality of depth.

I had a lot of ideas early on, but none of them felt good. Then after a lot of wavering and a conversation with Maja K. Zetterberg, who did the typography, we realized that previous diplomas are based on a concept, not a body of work.

So I read the books again. I started focusing on the river in Duck, Death and the Tulip. I visualized a scene where different kinds of animals were sitting and playing on different instruments. The notes float off and connect to poetic and musical elements. Later I read an interview with Erlbruch in a Swedish paper, where he said that he tries to make his pictures musical. I worked up five subjects from a couple of coffee stains and picked the one that felt best. Or so I thought! It was, in fact, a picture of animals wearing clothes, playing instruments as their notes float away, and at the end Duck and Death sit listening. I finished it, but it didn’t feel right. So I did five more sketches. Then in the end I went for the first one after all. It became very detailed and I really wanted it all to feel thoroughly worked out. Then I took the original to Stockholm, Maja worked her magic on the paper, and voila!

What made you decide to be a professional illustrator?
It feels less like a decision and more like getting swept away in the rapids!

You’ve illustrated several books by other authors, most recently Vi letar skatt (We’re hunting treasure). When will we see your own story?
I will be actually working on some stories this summer and during the rest of this year! We’ve just had a baby
, so I have to snatch hours where I can find them. But having a child is also a big inspiration. It brings back so many childhood memories. I’m new to writing, but I have fantastic editors, and my publishers all want to help me make it happen. I’m psyched about it. The spirit is ready! I just have to find the time.

What are your current projects?
Being a new parent is the biggest one! Besides that, I’m finishing up a book by the author Stefan Casta, Det magiska stoftet (The magic dust), coming out this fall. Later I’ll be working on some books of my own for several different publishers. But there’s no deadline for half of them. I’m looking forward to the rest of the year. In a way I feel like this is the moment when my life really begins. Maybe because it’s summertime!

Wolf Erlbruch, Marcus-Gunnar Pettersson and Maja K. Zetterberg

In the front: Wolf Erlbruch and his diploma. Smiling behind him are Marcus-Gunnar Pettersson together with Maja K. Zetterberg who did the typography.

Discover the work of Marcus-Gunnar at marcusgunnar.se/

 

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