Illustrators without books

The Country of Illustrators Without Books A significant portion of our children’s book illustrators either have or haven’t yet published a book. This means, for instance, they won’t be participating in exhibitions in Bratislava next year or in Barcelona the year after.

“The country of illustrators without books!” Sounds like the title of a fairy tale, doesn’t it? If I wanted to write and publish such a fairy tale, I could find so many illustrators. And no, I’m not just talking about those who are merely enthusiastic because it seems easy; yes, there are many of those. But because illustrating children’s books has an appealing charm. However, the number of our illustrators who distinguish themselves with unique approaches and competent lines, representing our country at international exhibitions and competitions, is rapidly increasing. In recent years, following the successes of our illustrators at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair Exhibition, this year, many of our illustrators participated in children’s book illustration competitions in Barcelona and Tokyo.

In Bologna, a city in northern Italy reminiscent of a large village, the International Children’s Book Fair is set up at the beginning of April each year with the aim of providing a venue for children’s book publishers, editors, writers, and illustrators to quickly conduct discussions about publishing rights, etc. (In this sense, it’s similar to the Frankfurt Book Fair, but exclusively focused on children’s books.) Besides the fair, there is also an exhibition. The pictures in this exhibition are selected by a jury made up of children’s publication editors from all over the world and sent by illustrators worldwide. The same pictures are also printed in the album of the year.

In 1985, pictures created together by two art teachers from Turkey, Oğuz and Seher Tülay Haktanır, were selected for this exhibition and included in the album. This year, pictures by two of our illustrators, Can Göknil and Feridun Oral, were accepted into the exhibition. The deadline for sending pictures for next year’s exhibition is January 12, 1987. To participate in the competition, which allows for the submission of five pictures that illustrate a single theme designed as a children’s book, it is necessary first to write a letter and request a form. (Address: ENTE FIERE MOSTRA DEGLI ILLUSTRATORI Piazza della Costituzione, 6, 40128 Bologna, Italy)

In Spain, Barcelona, the second illustration competition, first held in 1984, took place this October. Çağlayan Örge, Zerrin Cebeci, Huban Korman, Emre Zeytinoğlu, Şahin Erkoçak, İbrahim Niyazioğlu, Sahir Erdinç were celebrated in this competition, which asked illustrators to send pictures published as books in the last two years. The third competition, to be held in 1988, has not yet announced its 1986 results.

There is also a competition and exhibition in Bratislava, where our illustrators represented our country by being included in the exhibition and exhibition catalog despite not winning any awards. In this biennial competition and exhibition, pictures from Can Göknil’s “Children’s Rhymes,” Huban Korman’s “Hansel and Gretel” and “How Does the Rain Fall?” Serpil Ural’s “Once Upon a Time” and “The Balloon in the Forest,” and Banu Yalçın’s “Topkapı Palace” and “April 23” books were displayed in 1985. The Bratislava Children’s Publications organization displays and catalogs all the pictures sent for the competition. Unlike Bologna, the black and white catalogs disappoint the illustrators somewhat, but they should still be congratulated for managing a powerful organization.

The “Noma Concours” competition in Tokyo has been held biennially since 1978. This competition, initiated with a fund established by Shoichi Noma, former vice president of the UNESCO Asia Culture Center, after winning the “International Book Award” in 1974, has an interesting feature of specifically excluding illustrators from developed countries. Only illustrators from UNESCO member countries in Asia and the Pacific, Arab countries, Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean are accepted into the competition. This year, a significant number of illustrators from Turkey participated for the first time. Some of those I know are participating include Serpil Ural, Gamze Bultaş, Nural Birden, Behiç Ak, Feridun Oral, Nazan Tacer, Can Göknil, Bahadır İşler, Nilüfer Dericioğlu, Tahsin Özgür, Çağlayan Örge, Şahin Erkoçak, Celda Figen. The results of this competition, whose participation period is currently ending, will also be announced at the beginning of the new year.

All these competitions and exhibitions show that Turkey has a significant number of successful children’s book illustrators on the international stage, and these illustrators are making effective efforts to overcome the sterility in children’s publications in Turkey. It would not be wrong to say that children’s book illustrators in Turkey are taking the lead that children’s book publishers should assume in this regard. But there’s still an odd aspect: a large part of the illustrators mentioned above either have or haven’t yet published a book, did you know? This means, for example, they won’t be able to participate in exhibitions in Bratislava next year or in Barcelona the year after; they won’t be able to see their bright, fresh approaches in even the exhibition catalogues, let alone a book. Publishers must somehow notice these “Bookless Illustrators”; no one but a publisher can provide work for a children’s book illustrator. In my opinion, breaking the vicious cycle of children’s publications not selling well, but also not being well-made, depends on publishers noticing our illustrators.

Cumhuriyet Newspaper / November 27, 1986