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Emotion, freedom and love. The importance of being authors according to Květa Pacovská

Květa Pacovská, illus. for Jak Se Hraje Na Dvere a Jine Muzikantske Pohadky by Ilja Hurnik (Czech, 1973)

An illustrated album is a book made of images, or images and words, it can also contain blank pages and silences, pages which are glued together or torn and so on. An illustrated album can be made in a thousand ways, it is a medium to tell a story through images.

Telling a story through images with an illustrated album, or picture book, to an audience, whether it is composed of children or adults, is a precious chance of training the eye. The illustrated album is a didactic instrument aiming at the building of the identity and the individual expression, it is a chance to immerse oneself in a sensory experience of life. During childhood, visual language is the first language which we use to communicate our emotions and our very first perception of reality. It is the experience which we carry with us until adulthood and which remains incorruptible, pure, at the heart of every form of emotional communication. Building up an illustrated story with a perfect balance of images and words is a task which requires specific skills, rules and solid but flexible structures.

Květa Pacovská, illus. for Jak se hraje na dvoře a jiné muzikantské pohádky by Ilja Hurník (Czech, 1973

Květa Pacovská, illus. for Jak se hraje na dvoře a jiné muzikantské pohádky by Ilja Hurník (Czech, 1973)

Květa Pacovská once said that a book is «an architecture. It’s a given, closed space» in which one puts together «blank, cut, written or painted pages». Therefore, an illustrated album is also an architecture.

Květa Pacosvká is a Czech author, born in 1928, who has dedicated all her life to illustration and the creation of conceptual art books. Since the 1960s she has been conducting a research on the conception of the illustrated album as a three-dimensional and tactile object. Her paintings and paper sculptures have been displayed in museums and art galleries worldwide. Her books have been translated in many languages. She taught at the Hochschule der Künste in Berlin, she was awarded an Honorary Doctorate in Design at the Kingston University and she designed important catalogues such as the Taipei International Exposition one. However, she has been carrying out an intense activity of training in image evaluation and the creation of illustrated albums since the beginning of her career.

Květa Pacovská, illus. for Jak se hraje na dvoře a jiné muzikantské pohádky by Ilja Hurník (Czech, 1973)

Květa Pacovská, illus. for Jak se hraje na dvoře a jiné muzikantské pohádky by Ilja Hurník (Czech, 1973)

Pacovská held the workshop “La invención del héroe y su historia. Elaboración de un album ilustrado.” at the Bilbao Arte Foundation in Bilbao last April. The workshop was organized by The House Of Arts, an Italian cultural association which promotes workshops on illustration, and Bonito editorial, an independent Spanish publishing company.

Nuria Benítez (aka redondo), a Spanish illustrator and member of the estudio nariz team, attended the workshop held by Květa Pacovská. Nuria Benítez is involved in children’s book illustration and graphic design, she studied at the Escuela de Arte Mateo Inurria in Córdoba, at the University of Seville, where she graduated in Advertising, and then at the EINA Centre Universitari de Disseny i Art in Barcelona, where she now lives and works. We asked her to describe the meeting with Pacovská and visionary notes on the rules and expedients which hold up a visual story are what came out of it. We also preview here some sketches of hers about the project developed during the workshop.


Everything that comes to my mind is pure emotion. I felt an immense happiness, it seems that everything went right so as to make me feel like this. And I think that this is the most decisive aspect, because Květa moves you as a person as much as her work does.
She made it clear: she is an artist, not a teacher. However, learning from her teachings was quite natural for me, even though they are not a vade mecum of “the rules of success”. Those who did not understand that, and who were exactly expecting that from the workshop, were disappointed.

Nuria Benítez, Caballo sin  herradura

Nuria Benítez, Caballo sin herradura

When someone made specific questions about her technique, she seemed to become annoyed to be forced to give a precise answer. In the end, everything that she taught us was personal professional competence and perseverance.
She designed the workshop in a very free way, she did not correct the students’ works. On the contrary, she let each one approach her if they needed help. And she was critical, though extremely kind, I think because she is aware of her influence, and because, as she herself remarked, it is important that the author work, and that he/she work without the pressure of a judgement that could hinder him/her in finding his/her career path as an author. She told us of her tenacity when she was young and of the time when a publisher told her that she drew badly and that her work would never get published.

Nuria Benítez, Caballo sin  herradura

Nuria Benítez, Caballo sin herradura

I have learned a lot from those days, and the majority of what I have learned cannot be listed, because it is mostly an emotional enrichment.
However, here are some ideas that I noted down in my notebook, in a chaotic way, even though they can seem a little sketchy written like that:

The colour and the shape. The shape holds the colour, and shows its beauty. The colour creates the atmosphere and the emotion. The colour creates the shape sometimes.
– In her language (Květa’s language) the shapes are pure. The point, the line, the circle. The square.
The colours are in love. This moved me particularly. There is a video about her work, in which some children visit one of Květa’s exhibitions. The children then take part in a workshop, and, while they are drawing, they can be heard saying, among laughs, “yellow and pink are in love”, “orange and red are in love”… Great!
The contrast: among the colours, between emptiness and fullness.
The necessity of being brave and free on the paper, of being free to tear it, to manipulate it.
The necessity that the works of art for children show the best in all their greatness, because of the huge power they have over them.
Love for letters and numbers, which we use every day and which are heroes. Each of them can be seen, touched, heard…
In the end, everything revolves around emotion, freedom and love.
And the importance of the work as an author.

Nuria Benítez