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HS_Gela_2In SCBWI-L.A.’s latest Twitter Banner Contest (a bi-annual event), illustrators were asked to submit their most creative response to our prompt: EXPLORE. The winning contestant’s artwork is featured on the Los Angeles Region SCBWI Twitter Profile until the next contest with a feature article published here on Kite Tales. Illustrator Gela Kalaitzidis won! Read on to learn more about Gela, her tips and tools, and her own illustration prompt for anyone looking for some inspiration.

Gela Kalaitzidis is from Sweden where she illustrated and designed for CD-ROM productions. For the last 18 years, Gela has worked as a digital artist for Hollywood blockbuster movies. After exploding just about everything on screen, Gela is now writing and illustrating for children’s books and waiting for her own adventure stories to find a home. Gela lives in Venice Beach, CA.

FARRHA KHAN: How did you come up with your winning design for the contest?


GELA KALAITZIDIS: I usually make over a dozen quick sketches. I try to see the prompt in different locations. How would your image look in a vast space? Or microscopic? Under water? Etc. Etc.

Gela-TwitterBannerContestSketchesIn this case it was fun to imagine what would happen to the kite if it “crashed”. In one of my early sketches I drew a squirrel finding the kite broken in a tree, but you included the prompt “explore” and there is nothing that evokes the feeling of exploration to me as much as water. So, there it was — our SCBWI kite logo floating in the water.

FK: You create a lot of your illustrations using watercolor pencils. Do you have any tips or tricks on trying watercolor pencils for those who haven’t used them before or are looking to improve their skills?

GK: First, don’t let your kids practice their electric pencil sharpener skills with your expensive pencils (Caran d’ache is my favorite brand). Give them age appropriate material and get inspired by their creativity.

Second, draw, draw, and draw. I find the result is very different depending on what paper you use. Experiment.

Finally, if it doesn’t turn out the way you want, there is always Photoshop.


FK: You also feature a lot of whimsical animals and dangerous-looking creatures interacting and creating magical worlds for the children in your illustrations. Where do you draw your ideas from, or do you have a favorite resource for prompts?

GK: Most of my ideas come from my childhood in Sweden. Being brought up in a country so far north with endless forests and thousands of small lakes makes you truly believe in magical creatures. Sweden is also a monarchy, so if there is a king and a queen, a prince and a princess, there must be a dragon and a troll somewhere too?!

I usually participate in the SCBWI’s Draw-This prompts. The monthly schedule gives me a perfect break to boost my creativity while still focusing on my other projects.


FK: Can you give our readers their own illustration prompt? Readers, please share your images with us on Twitter and Instagram using #KTIllustrators!

GK: Since I’m a prompt-addict I like to challenge myself. Instead of only associating to one word, maybe include three. What about “friends, confused, vacation” in the spirit of summer?

And thanks for the interview, Gela! To learn more about Gela, follow her on Instagram and Twitter and check out her website: www.gelakalaitzidis.com.

If you want to learn more about the next Banner Contest, log into your SCBWI account to learn more here. Dates and prompt will be updated before the contest reopens. Stay tuned to SCBWI-L.A. Twitter and Facebook for its announcement!

For more fantastic content, community, events, and other professional development opportunities, become a member today! Not sure if there is a chapter in your area? Check here.

FarrhaKhan_headshotFarrha Khan is the Managing Editor of Kite Tales, a Los Angeles Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators board member, and a freelance journalist and writer. When she’s not advocating for better representation, diversity, and inclusion in the arts and entertainment, media, and tech industries or championing everyone to tell their own stories, she writes YA and short stories. Connect with her on Twitter: @farrhak


Images provided by Gela Kalaitzidis