Added on by suana verelst.

 A few months ago we had a little get together with some members of the writing and illustration group. It was there that DAY'S LEE approached me about whether I would be interested in doing a Q and A about the Razia book. Below you'll find the full interview. Thanks Day's!

Montreal has a terrific writing community and there is no doubt that its members have helped me grow as a writer. I met Suana Verelst, an award winning illustrator, several years ago at a get-together for writers and illustrators of children’s and young adult books.  (She also makes great home-made soup which I tasted at our last Christmas pot luck.) Her latest, Razia’s Ray of Hope, is an award winning book based on the true story of a girl in Afghanistan who desperately wants an education and sets about to convince the men in her family to let her attend the new school for girls.  The book will soon be published in the United Kingdom. [Below you can see the new front- and back cover and a collage of the US and Canadian version of the Razia book]


Written by ELIZABETH SUNEBY  and illustrated by SUANA VERELST

DL: What inspired you to work on this book “Razia’s Ray of Hope” and do you have any connection to Afghanistan?

SV: I was inspired by Razia Jan’s courage and vision to start a school under such adverse conditions and also by the human rights aspect of  the topic. I was attracted to the beauty of the barren landscape and the architecture. I wanted to learn about the customs and the mystery that seem to be hidden behind the walls of the houses. When I started researching the project I knew very little about Afghanistan. All I knew was the violent past of the country.

I did have some idea of the Afghan people’s craftsmanship, their jewellery and their carpets. I learnt about the country by looking at hundreds of images and several videos. My objective for this book was to create a dance alongside the story. I wanted the illustrations to speak for themselves hinting at the country’s past and its present tension.

DL: Why did you choose to illustrate the book using a combination of realistic and non-realistic images?  Is there any special significance to the illustrations, or did you just choose to do them that way because it is your style?

SV: I combined photographic and drawn elements to create a contrast or an emphasis to interpret the text. The photo-collages of the buildings that appear throughout the book allude to little Razia’s dream of an education and the eventual building of the school. The dove symbolizes the yearning for peace. The hinges pointing at the burka-clad women illustrate the tension and violence towards women. The pink blossoms speak of renewal and hope. In contrast to the very real feeling of the photographic elements the pencil drawings are softer in nature, the bright colours and textures speak of traditions, customs and hope. Finally, the paper elements and collages that appear as backgrounds refer to Razia’s secret reading and writing efforts.

DL: When did you realize that you wanted to be an illustrator?

SV: A professor in one of my graphic design courses in college introduced me to the art director of a publishing house for children’s books. Eventually I was offered the position of assistant production manager. I became familiar with the making of a book and what it takes to create a book. During this period I did not create or do anything specifically “creative”. This came only later when the senior editor came back from Italy with a fantastic catalogue of the illustrators that had exhibited at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair. I was very much inspired by the creativity and the possibilities these illustrators had put into their work! It was then that I made the decision to become an illustrator for children’s books. The magic and the beauty I had discovered as a 6-year old had finally caught up with me…  again!

DL: What advice do you have for someone who wants to become an illustrator?

SV: Being an illustrator is a wonderful career but one also has to be aware  of the ups and downs. Acquaint yourself well with what is involved in being an illustrator before you jump.

Routinely analyze your situation and career, and be ready to reinvent yourself periodically. Keep creating new work, keep improving, continuous effort and persistence, have a passion for the work, stick to deadlines and  be open to advise and criticism. Talk to illustrators. Study the  market. Read books about illustration. Be flexible.

To learn about the real Razia Jan and the Zabuli Education Center go to RAZIA’S RAY OF HOPE FOUNDATION


Added on by suana verelst.

a few days ago I received a package of some long-awaited translated copies... i am very happy to show you one of the beautiful copies of la saison des pluies in korean. below you can see some of the interiors and the cover... :))

il y a quelques jours, je recevais mon paquet de copies traduites long-attendues... je suis très contente de vous montrer l'une des belles copies de la saison des pluies en coréen. ci-dessous vous pouvez voir la couverture et une partie de l' intérieur... :))



Added on by suana verelst.

despite my apparent quiet on the blog [and the still-dormant winter and -cold],  many things are simmering in the background. some of these simmerings will be posted in the coming time. but for the moment, here's a visit to some older sketchbook pages :

malgré le calme apparent ici sur le blog [et le froid de l'hiver, encore en sommeil], beaucoup de choses mijotent dans le fond. certains de ces choses seront affichés plus tard. voici une visite à certaines pages d'un vieux carnet de croquis :

you have brains in your head. 

you have feet in your shoes. 

you can steer yourself in any direction you choose. 

you're on your own, and you know what you know. 

and you are the guy/girl who'll decide where to go. 

 – dr. seuss 

[revisiting my old sketchbook pages]


WINTER 2015...HIVER 2015

Added on by suana verelst.

happy new year!

a new year begins. a new year where i like to stop and think before i do, where i like to find wisdom in things, in my surroundings, in books, learn from and listen to actions and reactions and cultivate this within myself. here are some sketchbook pages i did over the holdays. a winter landscape, a winter chicken and chicken wisdom:

In Potts "Chicken", she quotes that people in previous centuries delighted in the devotion of roosters and hens to their families and the ability of chickens to bond with other species. The Renaissance ornithologist, Ulisse Aldrovandi, wrote of a hen he raised “who would not go to sleep at night anywhere except near me and my books.” The eighteenth-century natural historian Gilbert White wrote of the affection he observed between a hen and a horse whose mutual loneliness brought themtogether. The hen would approach the horse “with notes of complacency, rubbing herself gently against his legs, while the horse would look down with satisfaction, and move with the greatest caution and circumspection, lest he should trample onhis diminutive companion.”

bonne année!

une nouvelle année commence. unenouvelleannéeoùj'aimearrêter et réflêchir avantque jefasse, où j'aime trouver la sagesse dans les choses, dans mon entourage, dans les livres, apprendre et écouter des actions et réactions et cela cultiver en moi-même. Voici quelques pages de carnet de croquis que j'ai fait pendant les fêtes. un paysage d'hiver, un poulet de l'hiver et la sagesse de poulet.



Added on by suana verelst.

3000 "likes" on FB// 3000 FB "aime"!! AND... AS A SPECIAL THANK YOU I will hold a draw ET... D'UN MERCI SPECIAL, je tiendrai un tirage the winner will receive an ABC card game which consists of 52 cards illustrated by me [published in March 2014]

le/la gagnant/e recevra un jeu de cartes ABC qui se compose de 52 cartes illustrées par moi [publié en mars 2014]

To participate, you just have to leave me a comment and share this draw on your wall.THANK YOU and GOOD LUCK!

[the draw will end at 12 midnight, the 8th of December 2014]

Pour participer, il vous suffit de me laisser un commentaire et partager ce tirage sur votre page. MERCI et BONNE CHANCE!

[le tirage sera terminer à minuit, le 8 décembre, 2014]


Added on by suana verelst.

just got back. as i am typing this blog post, i am already missing the ocean. the surging wash of the surf, the loud crashes of waves on rocks, the sound of the rythmic sea breath, the cries and squawking of seagulls, the sun. A loud quiet that relaxes. for two weeks we spent time on an island off the coast of nova scotia. without electricity or running water. going to bed shortly after sunset and waking up with the first cawing of crows. i felt at one with nature and hope to preserve this inner peace for a while longer by maintaining the daily sketch challenge combined with memories of the sea...

seulement deux jours de retour à montréal et déjà, je manque l'océan. le lavage flambée du surf, les vagues sur les rochers, le souffle rythmique de la mer, les cris et les piaillements de mouettes, le soleil. un calme fort qui détend. pendant deux semaines, nous avons passé les vacances sur une île au large de la côte de la nouvelle-écosse. sans électricité ni eau courante. d'aller au lit juste après le coucher du soleil et se réveiller avec la première croassement des corbeaux. je me sentais en harmonie avec la nature et j'éspère de préserver cette paix intérieure pour un peu plus longtemps, tout en étant de retour à Montréal en maintenant le défi croquis quotidien combinée avec des souvenirs de la mer ...



Added on by suana verelst.

i am looking back at sketchbooks from previous years and the challenge i set myself to do, seems daunting. 30 minutes, one sketch, one page. with some trepidation, i take out my watercolors, brushes, water, pencils and a new sketchbook, i set my timer... 30 minutes ... as i am concentrating and afraid of the ticking clock, i am suprised at the slow progress of time and the speed of my actions: head, hand, page, head, hand, page ...i don't know where this will lead to, but i intend to make this a daily date with myself ... see you with my progress at the end of august and wishing you a happy summer! xS.  

je suis en train de regarder dans mes carnets des années précédentes et le défi que j'ai fait avec moi-même, semble énorme. 30 Minutes, un croquis, une seule page. avec une certaine appréhension, je sors mes aquarelles, brosses, de l'eau, des crayons et un nouveau croquis, j'ai réglé ma minuterie ... 30 Minutes ... comme je me concentre et ai de peur du temps en plus, je suis surpris par la lenteur des progrès de temps et la vitesse de mes actions: la tête, de la main, page, tête, main, page ... je ne sais pas où cela me mènerai, mais j'ai l'intention d'avoir un rendez-vous quotidien avec moi-même  ...  à la fin du mois d'août avec mon progrès et je vous souhaite un très bel été! xS.



Added on by suana verelst.

perhaps today is the first day where i felt that spring made a grand entrance in montreal. warmer temperatures. color.  the buds are popping open. the purples, pinks and whites of hyacinths and crocuses, the little yellow suns of colts foot flowers and forsythia are brightening up the neighbourhood!

this saison gives me inspiration, a different energy [which was somewhat dormant during the previous white on.]

it is also a time where i like to share some very exiting new developments around my two latest books: la première minute de mathieuwhich is part of the preliminary list of the prix jeunesse des libraires du québec of 2014 and razia's ray of hope which has received the 2014 united states board on books for young people (USBBY) outstanding international book honor list, it has been included in the 2014 edition of best books of the year for children and young adults, selected by bank street college's children's book committee, the book was also included on the "CCBC choices 2014," the annual best-of-the-year list of the cooperative children's book center (CCBC), it was selected for the social justice literature award, and very recently razia's ray of hope has been named an honor book by the 2014 jane addams children’s book award in the books for younger readers category. 


and here are a several images of art classes for children i did, losely inspired by picasso and the cut-outs of matisse: happy mother's day!


Added on by suana verelst.

i am very happy to announce that yesterday, the official launch of the event "A L'AFFICHE! DES MOTS, DES EMOTIONS ET DES LETTRES " took place [at the frontenac library].  this event was designed to facilitate the learning of French and to promote literacy. it was a tremendous experience for me to work with such an inquisitive, enthousiastic and studious group of students of african- and south american origin, with their teachers and with the two passionate guiding forces, assistant-librarian catherine gagné and youth-animator fabienne gagnon who initiated this literacy project. the project had many facets, many faces, and as i try to sum up all the effort that went into this initiative, i feel that showing a few illustrations or sketches would not suffice.  apart from showing the official poster here, i am working on a  virtual exhibition space... this collection of work will grow steadily over the next month where i will be adding new work [image, illustration, sketch, photo...] very regularly. hope you'll come and visit!

je suis très heureux d'annoncer que, hier, le lancement officiel de l'événement "A L'AFFICHE! EMOTIONS DES MOTS DES ET DES LETTRES" a eu lieu [à la bibliothèque de frontenac]. cet événement a été conçu pour faciliter l'apprentissage du français et de promouvoir l'alphabétisation. c'etait une expérience formidable pour moi de travailler avec un groupe d'etudiants si curieux, enthousiaste et studieux, avec leurs enseignants et avec les deux forces directrices passionnés, assistante-bibliothécaire Catherine Gagné et animatrice-jeunesse Fabienne Gagnon qui étaient l'initiative de ce projet d'alphabétisation. ce projet a de nombreuses facettes, de nombreux visages, et  j'essaie de résumer tout l'effort artistique qui est entré dans cette initiative. je pense qu'en montrant quelques illustrations ou esquisses ne suffirait pas.  je travaille sur un espace d'exposition virtuel. cette collection de travail devrait croître régulièrement au cours d'un mois où je vais ajouter le travail [image, illustration, croquis, photo ...] très régulièrement. j'espère que vous venez visiter!



Added on by suana verelst.

i can finally show some snapshots of a project that i have been nursing and feeding for some time now. i will be posting more information and detailed images of this project soon... but for now, i wish you all a quiet and peaceful weekend !

finallement, je peux vous montrer quelques photos d'un projet qui a été soigné et nourri pendant un certain temps maintenant. je mettrai plus d'information et des images détaillées de ce projet bientôt ... mais pour le moment, je vous souhaite [à toutes et tous] une fin de semaine calme et paisible !



Added on by suana verelst.

an endless cover after cover of white fluff... and as beautiful and serene as this season can appear [for a reasonable time], i wonder where spring is hiding - that seems to be reflected in the eyes of this doe... [to be continued]

une couverture sans fin de blanc ... et aussi belle et sereine que cette saison peut apparaître [pendant un délai raisonnable], je me demande où le printemps se cache - qui semble se refléter dans les yeux de cette biche ...[à suivre]



Added on by suana verelst.

an early sunday morning walk

pale, hazy yellow light

a white, blanketed landscape. 


linework in varying greys

i am searching

for color in this monochromatic landscape ...


une promenade du dimanche matin

la lumière est d'un jaune pâle,


le paysage, je le compare 

d’une couverture blanche 

dessin au trait à divers gris

je suis à la recherche de la couleur 

dans ce paysage monochrome ...



Added on by suana verelst.

of a cold month. a busy month. a month packed with finishing projects. which, for the moment can only been glimpsed at from a distance [or a close-up]:

d'un mois froid. un mois chargé. un mois rempli de finition des projets. qu'ils peuvent, pour le moment, être vu d'une distance [ou d'un close-up]: 



Added on by suana verelst.

je suis très heureux de vous annoncer que le calendrier annuel de 2014 est maintenant disponible à la librairie monet. je suis honoré d'avoir été invité cette année à illustrer et à concevoir l'affiche / calendrier qui est disponible à la librairie gratuitement :)

i am very happy to announce that the yearly calendar of 2014  is now available at the monet bookstore. i am honoured that i was invited this year to illustrate and design the poster/calender which is available at the store for free :) 



Added on by suana verelst.

il y a quelque chose dans l'air ... est-ce ce vent doux? ou c'est les oies agités qui préparent pour leur voyage vers le sud ? ou c'est simplement le changement de saisons et de la prise de conscience que le temps passe ? "...aaaaah, septembre ...!"

there is something in the air ...  is it the cool breeze ? or the geese that are restless and preparing for the trip down south ? or is it just the change of seasons and the realization that  time  goes on ? "... aaaaah, september ... !"

er hangt iets in de lucht ... is 't de koele wind ? de ganzen die onrustig worden en zich voorbereiden op de tocht naar het zuiden ? of is 't gewoon een verandering van seizoenen en het besef dat de tijd gewoon zijn stille gangetje verder zet ? "... aaaaah, september...!"