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Behind the Book | Raise Your Hand by Marta Kissi

last updated 16 July 2019


This month we are going behind the scenes of New York Times bestselling picture book Raise Your Hand (Penguin Workshop) illustrated by our talented artist Marta Kissi and written by 11-year-old Alice Tapper.

When Alice realised the girls in her class were participating less than the boys, she worked with her parents and Girl Scout group to create a badge that girls could earn if they pledged to be more confident in school. The result was this inspiring story, encouraging others to be brave and to refuse to accept the status quo.

We spoke to Marta about how she created the beautiful artwork for this unique book, her process for bringing characters to life, and what it is she loves most about her job.

What’s your creative process when working on a book like Raise Your Hand?

When working on a book, I always start by simply reading the manuscript. It’s a very pleasant part of the job and also one of the most important ones, as I believe there is no better way to get the full feel for the characters and their journeys, other than reading it. Then I begin to design the characters. It’s not always easy but I really enjoy seeing them taking shape and somehow revealing themselves to me.


Once I know my characters, I either focus on working on the front cover or on the insides of the book. I tend to play around with the spreads and placements of the text but at the same time I also do my best to follow and respect the art direction given to me by the publisher. That said, I never shy away from suggesting some alternative solutions if I have them. Then, once I get the feedback on the roughs, I start working on the finals by finessing details and fine-tuning everything else, so it is all nice and ready to go to print.


How did you go about creating the characters?

Raise Your Hand is based on a true story of a 11-year-old Alice Paul Tapper, who wrote this book. When I was designing her as a character, I had to make sure that she was closely linked to how Alice actually looks in real life. Luckily, I was sent a selection of reference photos and videos from the publisher, which really helped me with the task. When I’m not working on a real-life character, I simply start to draw and see when it takes me.


Where do you do your best creative work?

I think my best work happens simply at my desk, where I always work. Also, as mornings are not really my cup of tea, I tend to work best when the sun goes down.


What aspect of your job do you most enjoy?

My favourite part of the being an illustrator is simply designing the characters. I think there’s something quite magical in seeing them taking shape as a result of the author’s words and a sprinkling of my imagination. Interestingly, villains have always been my favourite ones to design. Also, as I work digitally, the cherry on top of the whole process of making the book is being able to actually hold it my hands.


Why is being part of an agency important to you?

Being part of an agency is important to me because it helps me get involved in better and more prestigious projects, which otherwise might have been unavailable to me. Also, Bright always makes sure that all my contracts are on point and my fees are negotiated to my benefit. As a result, my career is moving into the right direction and I feel it is largely due to the very good working relationship I have with my agents.

title A selection of titles illustrated by Marta

What are you currently working on? Can you tell us what to expect next?

The project I’m most excited about at the moment is a picture book I’m working on with my husband James Lancett who is also an artist. The funny thing is that although we worked next to each other for years, this is going to be our first project together and I’m really looking forward to it.


To view Marta’s portfolio, please click here.

To work with Marta, please contact Arabella Stein.

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