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Read an interview with Piet Grobler, illustrator of Paris Cat!

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Piet Grobler with Paris Cat in sunny Portugal!

We were lucky enough to get an interview with the superb Piet Grobler, illustrator of our book Paris Cat! Here’s what he had to say about the fascinating illustration process for this wonderful book, and what it’s like working with wonderful author Dianne Hofmeyr.

What does the story Paris Cat mean to you?

It is a story of enterprise, innovation and self-belief and above all, strength of female characters with great talents and kind hearts. I think the story has particular contemporary relevance. Cat, or Kitty, is from the street, but her talent and courage lets her succeed. The two iconic female characters in the story, also did not have it easy. Josephine Baker, as a black woman, encountered several stumbling blocks as a singer in the USA and moved to Paris where she was accepted and celebrated. Edith Piaf is almost the human equivalent to Kitty: a child from the street who lived her dream. But, having said all of this – and even though everything in life is really ‘political’ or has political implications or relevance – it is also just a lovely story of a brave and talented little cat who followed her dreams.

Can you tell us about the process of illustrating Paris Cat? What techniques do you use in your work?

I used mixed media with collage. I combined ink and charcoal drawing with gouache painting and collage. The coloured paper surfaces, cut out and then collaged, had been created by monotype print. I hoped that the use of a print technique, in addition to a limited colour palette, would be reminiscent of Paris in the twenties and thirties and would be a nod towards Art Deco posters, even though the illustrations are essentially caricatures.

Which character was your favourite to create?

Definitely Cat/Kitty. It took me a while to create a cat that is at the same time cheeky, confident and sassy ….and hopefully likeable!

What was it like illustrating twentieth-century Paris? What artistic styles did you draw on for illustrating this book?

Like I mentioned above, there is a nod to Art Deco traditions and customs, but with my own take on caricature as the main ‘vehicle’ of communication in order to retain a contemporary feel and not to create merely a retro-copy. I did use a lot of reference such as old photographs of Paris at the time when Edith Piaf and Josephine Baker frequented the cafes and theatres so that I get the costume and architecture in period and correct. Their performance posters were used as reference, also for creating a font that is suitable to the period and reminiscent of Art Deco advertising.

What makes your collaborations with Dianne Hofmeyr so successful?

We have previously made two other books together – both retellings of African folk tales. We were both born and bred in South Africa and we also have this in common that we both live abroad in addition to living in South Africa… and we share a love of Africa and a sense of humour, I believe. But the important thing, I think, is the respect that we have for each other’s work, experience and expertise. Di also studied art which means that she can appreciate my part of the creation. She is never demanding and always supporting, yet can express her viewpoint clearly, logically, eloquently and politely. She is a very clever story teller and a dream to work with!

What do you think Cat is up to now?

I think Cat left the city and is now leading a troupe of performing circus cats ….travelling to Provence and beyond, entertaining country cats….

  • Read: The Sunday Times says Paris Cat is one to watch out for!
  • Watch: Check out the trailer for Paris Cat!
  • Read: Paris Cat is vivacious with plenty to enjoy! – Herts for Learning
  • Watch: Author Dianne Hofmeyr shows you how to make your own dancing Paris Cat!

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