We managed to 'virtually' catch up with Yuval Zommer ahead of the publication of The Big Book of Blooms. He talked to us about the power of Nature and how to enjoy it in lockdown.
a&u: Your ‘Big Book of’ series celebrate the act of being curious, taking in the very essence of what it is to be on this planet. Do you think this enforced break from everyday life will make us appreciate nature more?
YZ: For the past few weeks, without the planes in the sky and so many cars on the road, the air certainly seems fresher, bird songs grown louder and spring’s blossoms seem brighter. It’s almost as if nature is getting a chance to heal itself and remind us that the planet really does belong to the wild.
a&u: You worked closely with Kew Gardens on this book, is it a place that you have always enjoyed visiting?
YZ: I have always loved visiting Kew botanical gardens, especially the tropical greenhouses which are the nearest we can get to experience being in the rain forest without traveling! For the book I was lucky enough to gain unlimited access to Kew’s behind the scenes conservation work, carried out by the expert gardeners who look after some of the world’s rarest plants in their nurseries.
a&u: This is the first time you have drawn flowers rather than creatures. Do you find them different to draw.
YZ: Flowers are living organisms filled with so much beauty! I was attracted to the amazing patterns and colours that Mother Nature bestowed them with, as well as their relationship with pollinators and their meanings for us humans.
a&u: Do you grow your own blooms?
YZ: I try, I live in central London but I have a large roof terrace, which due to me spending more time up there during this period, should become a wildlife haven for pollinators this summer!
a&u: You write both fiction and non-fiction, it must be a very different process. Do you prefer one discipline over the other?
YZ: I adore the large format of the non-fiction books where I get a bigger canvass to draw on. For non-fiction I always have to rely for research on natural history experts to make sure the books are factually robust. They check all my work so thoroughly, they have been known to count the number of legs the insects I’ve drawn have!
a&u: As an artist are there any tips that you can give children in lockdown as to how to capture nature on paper from out of their window or on a walk about town?
YZ: Yes, it’s all about the detail! Look really closely and you’ll see that even the plainest leaf or pebble will have amazing patterns, veins and textures. If you’re drawing animals, you need to capture the way that they move to really bring them to life.
a&u: Which illustrator / author has had most influence on your work?
YZ: Brian Wildsmith who was very prolific in the 60’s and 70’s, he was ahead of his time in children’s literature, his work is timeless and looks just as fresh today!
a&u: Have you been visiting any online exhibitions or galleries that you could recommend to children?
YZ: I love visiting museums and galleries but find the online tours unable to replicate the experience and wonder of being in these actual grand spaces. I think like a child and I seek engagement! However, if you visit the designmuseum.org and go to the ‘ Young Design Museum’ section, they have some fun activities to create and make at home.
a&u: Where would you most like to explore on earth after lockdown is lifted?
YZ: Iceland, apparently it’s like nowhere else and the nearest you can get to a lunar landscape.
a&u: What do you most miss about lockdown?
YZ: I really miss visiting schools and libraries, meeting and drawing with readers at book festivals, connecting with indie bookshops and their communities. I can’t wait for the day when we are able to all be together again, celebrating and sharing stories!