In February of 2016, I spotted the most extraordinary CV I had ever seen. Talented illustrator, Martu Germinario, was job hunting and I took the opportunity to snap up her amazing talents, to become the illustrative genius behind the CATHOOD series.
CATHOOD is about a Deaf girl who adopts a cat from the local animal shelter, and the story is told through the eyes of the cat, Muffin, who runs his own blog for animals worldwide.
I recently had the chance to sit down and interview Martu, so that the world can get to know what makes up the life of the newest human on the CATHOOD team!
Tell me about yourself. What makes you tick?
I was born and raised in sunny Argentina – I attended an English primary school and an Italian secondary school. Learning foreign languages while you are young is a great way to get submerged in a different culture and learn about it! What motivates me most is trying to understand social conventions, and why we behave the way we do, and then find space for improvement! We could all do with a bit more empathy and a bit more altruism.
How did you get started as an illustrator?
I like to say I never stopped drawing – remember that age, when you couldn’t resist a box of coloured pencils? How proud you felt of a drawing you made for someone you loved, hoping it’d get hang someone in your home? I still crave that feeling, and chase it. It helps that I have my very own fridge as a super exclusive gallery.
How did you find your style? Has it changed since you started?
Finding your own style is a long, tedious process. You can lean towards certain artists, you might even envy them, you can love their style, but that doesn’t mean your voice will be similar to theirs – I looked for advice on this matter, frustrated at how different all my work was. I was told to draw every day, as much as possible. Eventually it will find you, it took forever, but I did! There isn’t much you can achieve if you give it enough time and attention.
Describe your typical work week.
On Mondays I get to work from home – I get up around 7 and do yoga, to stretch my back to prepare myself for a day of drawing! I like looking at daily drawing challenges to warm up my hand and get the drawings flowing. After some time, I look at what’s on schedule and needs to get done, and I start rough sketching. When I find a result I’m happy with, I clean it and scan it, then retouch on Photoshop!
From Tuesdays to Fridays I work as a designer at The Behaviouralist – an awesome company that brings academic research into the “real” world, having a factual impact on the environment and people (for good!)
What types of illustrations do you enjoy creating the most?
Art is a beautiful discipline, it can make you weep like a baby, cringe in disgust or simply confuse you beyond your wildest dreams. Those can be quite extreme emotions, but what I love the most is drawing for children. Children have a much better imagination than me and are more likely to enjoy what I make. I miss playing, I long for the amazing chain of thoughts that can go through a kid’s head – I try recreate it, and that’s how I came up with my flying platypus, or a snail pet living in a mushroom!
Do you prefer working with pencil, pen or digitally?
A black pencil and a white piece of paper will always be my first love, at least in art. I like the coloured result that Photoshop brings – but I believe much of the expression and the gesture of the hand gets lost after being digitalised, which is a shame! I prefer simple, expressive, black and white pencil and paper.
What projects have you worked on in the past?
I’ve always pursued illustration in almost any opportunity I encountered. Back when I was in school, I’d make cartoon versions of paintings I had to study, to help myself remember the structure and storyline, character distribution and symbolisms. I later on made my own cartoon version of Dante’s Inferno, as a project for Uni in Culture History. I hope to tackle the entire Divine Comedy one day!
Another thing I love illustrating are greeting cards – I particularly enjoy the use that they bring, the fact someone will choose to give it to someone else is really motivating!
But what I’ve always wanted to is illustrate a children’s book – a dream that is finally coming true thanks to amazing author Rosie Malezer!
What interested you in the CATHOOD project?
I love the values represented in the story – teaching the right way to treat our furry friends, helping kids understand that there are people who cannot hear, and that’s okay – Being deaf might come across as something hard for a young audience to understand, (unless they’ve encountered it before with family or friends) and I believe this is a great way to demystify deafness and explain what alternatives we possess for communication!
Is it difficult to work with a Deaf writer?
Not at all – Rosie and I write to each other as often as we need or want to without a problem, thanks to the wonders of the Internet! I have felt no difference whatsoever, and I wouldn’t have been able to tell that Rosie was deaf if she hadn’t told me herself!
Is it hard to draw illustrations which include sign language?
I personally think hands are a difficult thing to draw – but there’s nothing like a challenge! You just have to keep at it until you feel satisfied with the results!
With the first book in the CATHOOD series almost ready for paperback release in its revamped and remodelled format, I can honestly say that no project has ever been as much fun, since Martu joined the team. She brings a wonderful personalisation to each book, making Muffin’s story about his Deaf human (Tarja), Tarja’s hearing parents (Papa Alf and Mama Jan) and their overly-friendly Cavalier King Charles Spaniel (Angel) to life.
Stay tuned for more updates! 🙂
– Rosie xx