It’s the first day in August and we’re back to Bristol, this time to meet with Spanish-born illustrator Dàlia Adillon, who recently moved to the city and found a studio space at the vibrant Hamilton House, where she creates rich and intricate visual narratives inspired by the Catalan Romanesque art of the XI-XII century and the work of Matisse and Olle Eksell.
Dàlia talked to us about her journey into illustration and how her Catalan heritage influenced her style, about her passion for children’s books and her ongoing collaboration with The Artworks Illustration Agency. After we left her studio, we stopped for coffee and cake at the bohemian Arts House, then journeyed to Dàlia’s home, where she showed us some of her original artworks and treated us with a delicious homemade Catalan chocolate cookies.
For those who do not know you, who is Dàlia Adillon?
I am an illustrator from Barcelona currently living in Bristol. My passion for illustration, which has also become my profession, has been the perfect excuse to travel and live in other countries, to meet new people and new ways of working. Illustration gave me the opportunity to grow professionally and also personally.
What is your most vivid childhood memory?
Two things come to my mind: the hot summer nights, playing and cycling with my hometown friends, and the calm and cold winter evenings, staying inside and reading stories or drawing and painting with my coloured pencils.
Who or what sparked your interest in illustration?
There wasn’t something or someone in particular. After my studies in Fine Arts at the University of Barcelona, out of curiosity, I attended a workshop of children storytelling. This sparked my interest in children’s illustration so I started an illustration course. I really loved it, so I decided to complete my studies and specialise in illustration at the Escola Massana in Barcelona.
Are there any artists that had a particular influence on your style?
I love the work of Henri Matisse, Amedeo Modigliani, Olle Eksell, Saul Bass, Charles Baudelaire, Alexander Calder, Woody Allen, etc.
You are passionate about children’s illustrations and storytelling. Why is that? And what inspires you to create them?
My interest in illustration began with illustrated albums. I think they are true jewels, small works of art accessible to everyone and children, as well as adults, can learn and enjoy. When I have time I love to visit bookstores and children's books are my weakness!
How has your Catalan heritage influenced your style and what is your relationship with tradition?
I believe that the Catalan Romanesque art of the XI-XII century has greatly influenced my work. I love this style, its vision and representation of the world. It is present in all my projects.
Tell us about your experience as a Fine Art student at the University of Barcelona. What did you enjoy the most and what would you change (if anything) about the way that illustration is taught?
I studied Fine Arts at the University of Barcelona, where I learned about different disciplines such as drawing, painting, engraving, photography, etc. But I didn't specialise until I studied illustration at Escola Massana in Barcelona. From the first day, I knew that illustration was my language, my means of expression and communication. There, I trained as an illustrator and learned what this profession meant. The approach of the studies was fantastic: through own experience, trial and error, in which the teacher simply accompanies the student's learning process…
You moved from Spain to Italy to continue your training in illustration at the ISIA Urbino school. Is there an image or memory that encapsulates your Italian experience?
My stage at ISIA Urbino was fantastic. I had the opportunity to live in Urbino, an incredible medieval walled city, as well as studying at a fascinating art school. I will always remember the journey from home to school through those beautiful cobblestones streets, stone houses and walls... It has been a gift to be able to walk through that fairytale city. I remember it with great fondness!
You have recently moved to Bristol. What was your first impression of the city? What did you learn or observe that surprised you the most?
The truth is that when I moved to Bristol, I thought it was a nice city. But when I started to walk around the streets, to meet people, I realised that it was much more than just a pretty place: Bristol is an example of the multicultural city and also a green city with lots of art in all its corners. Bristol is energy, it's full of colour and different smells. I'm in love with this city!
Tell us about your studio at Hamilton House. What made you choose this location and what do you like about this creative space and community?
Hamilton House is awesome, and I'm sure it's very difficult to find another place as fantastic as this one. The centre, besides having co-working spaces, welcomes more than 400 people related to different disciplines. Rooms for all types of activities, workshops, meetings and conferences. It's a fantastic place to grow the community. Currently, Hamilton House is going through a difficult time, but I'm sure that the city of Bristol will not allow to lose one of the most important cultural spots, not only to the Strokes Croft, but to the entire city.
Tell us about your recent illustration for the project “Mixity Europeannes”. What was the creative process behind it and what did you enjoy the most about this project?
When I was offered the project I didn't think twice. I believe in the future of Europe, even if these last years have been hard. As part of the “Mixity Europeannes” project, Urbana Asbl proposed to 60 artists to create a work of art about European identity. These images will be displayed in the public space of Brussels. My illustration reflects the European multicultural identity of each country, always present. Like a group of synchronised swimmers, the relationship between the countries should be respectful and with great companionship, always working towards common goals.
You are represented by The Artworks Illustration Agency, London. How did this collaboration come about?
It all started when I came to live in the UK and I realised how important and necessary it was to have representation in this country. So I started gathering information, first in a book I found in the library called Children’s Writers and Artists, and I also talked to some of my colleagues. Finally, I decided to apply to The Artworks Illustration Agency, because it felt like it was my kind of agency, and they accepted me. This was very exciting, and I'm very happy with them!
What would be your dream project?
The truth is that I don't have a specific project in mind. I love working on new and different projects because it allows me to learn from each one of them. But I like working with professionals who know what they want and have an open mind, in order to have freedom of creation and to be able to complement and enrich their ideas.
Are there any global or local issues you are currently interested in?
I'm concerned about climate change and the rapid disappearance of species. I find this very sad, and we are not aware that we live on a finite planet, and that we have forgotten that we live with other living beings with whom we share the planet. That's why whenever I have the opportunity I work on these issues in my projects.
Do you travel often? What are some of the most inspiring places that you have ever visited?
I like travelling, especially with my partner. We have been in some very nice places, but we still have so many places to visit! I can't name only one place. I'm in love with the beaches of Menorca, the canals of Venice, the architecture of Rome and Florence, the streets of Paris, the multiculturalism of London, the energy of New York, the markets of Marrakesh, etc.
What do you do or where do you go for inspiration?
I don't believe in inspiration, I believe in daily work, perseverance, and perseverance. As Picasso said: “Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.”
If you could live anywhere in the world, where would that be and why?
The truth is that I have no idea where I want to live. But I’m certain that I want to live in a place that I can enjoy and have close family and friends.
What are some of your favourite places to hang out in Bristol?
It's only been half a year since I moved to Bristol, so chances are I'll still have to discover the most fantastic and incredible places. But I currently love to visit bookstores, galleries, and exhibitions in the artistic district of Strokes Croft, stroll through St Nicholas Market, read in the College Green library, have a cider in some pub on King Street, or simply walk through the green and magnificent parks of the city.
What was the best piece of advice you have ever received?
Each and every word of my mother is the best advice for me. It's thanks to her that I am what I am.
What is your favourite dish?
I don't have a favourite dish. But I can tell you that I'm a chocolate nut, it's my weakness, I love it! In my house, you will always find chocolate...
What book can we find on your bedside table?
My literary tastes varied a lot over the years, but I can tell you a children's book that every time I read it, something happens inside me: Man and Death by Wolf Erlbruch.
What are you currently working on?
I am currently working on a children's book about Amelia Earhart's biography for Laurence King Publisher. I am very happy with the work done so far, and also I'm very excited because it will be my first book published in the UK!
What are your dreams and ambitions for the future?
I'm a person who needs very little to be happy, so I hope to have health, to continue working as an illustrator to feel fulfilled, and surround myself with beautiful people like my partner, friends or family.
Can you recommend us:
A book: Duck, Death and the Tulip, by Wolf Erlbruch.
A song: “La gent normal”, by Manel (cover of Pulp’s “Common People”).
A film: Manhattan Murder Mystery, by Woody Allen.