Stefhany Lozano on the challenge of adapting her illustration style
We catch up with the illustrator and discover how drawing birds proved harder than she expected, and why wool is her new favourite tool of experimentation.
- Olivia Hingley
- 20 June 2022
Illustrating a children’s book probably appears to be one of the idyllic ways of applying your creativity. But for Berlin-based Stefhany Lozano, whilst certainly being “excited” about illustrating Marko Pogačar’s The No.1 Birdtailing Detective Agency, she also tells us that she was pretty “nervous” too. In sum, the book follows a cat, Millica, who opens a detective agency that focuses on helping big birds in distress. Featuring very specific kinds of birds – like albatrosses, cockatoos, flamingos and griffon vultures – Stefhany hadn’t even heard of some of the species she was expected to draw. “I didn’t know if I was able to illustrate them in my style without losing the characteristics of their kind,” shares Stefhany, “and besides, I had just a month to illustrate the book!”
And so, veering away from her typically anthropomorphic focus, Stefhany did a lot of research, spending many hours trying to work out how best to alter her style to fit an array of animals. Stefhany gave so much dedication to the task of character development that it soon became her favourite part of the process. “It’s a lot of fun creating the face and aspects of a character imagined by someone else,” the illustrator says, “There’s something really magical about it.” Viewing the final book with its distinctive birds and colourful cats, it’s striking to see how Stefhany has translated her style – defined by its abstract use of shapes – to such a different subject matter than she usually deals with. “It’s always such an amazing feeling when you see you are able to complete a challenge successfully,” Stefhany adds.
Stefhany was enlisted onto the project after being approached by Nina Bacum and Roberta Bratovic, two of the six women behind the Croatian design studio Oaza, who started a publishing house a number of years ago, one for adult literature and one for children’s. “When they asked me if I wanted to work with them I said yes immediately because I have seen the love and care they put into their books, which always turn out to be amazing.” Being an “avid reader”, working with books and doing her part to maintain print culture is very important to Stefhany. “I collect all kinds of books, so I understand very well the feeling of having a new book in your hands and seeing all the details only you can achieve by putting them on paper,” Stefhany says, “and the more love you see was put into it, the more precious it becomes.” She would be lying, she shares, if she said that she had never considered getting a Kindle for pure functionality, but “people that know me well know that I will always choose beauty over practicality”.
Since we last caught up with Stefhany in 2019 she’s also been trying her hand at some entirely new creative avenues. After doing embroidery when she was younger, Stephany bought a tufting gun last year, widely used in rug and tapestry making. “I wanted to work with textiles again, but the amount of time required was too much for me. Tufting is great in that sense. I can get very nice, big, fast results.” Creating two projects – Relieve of Discomfort focusing on compulsive habits and featuring her trademark people-like characters, and Arrangements which focuses more on objects like flowers and vases – Stefhany has found that working with wool was a nice way to experiment, not only with colours but with textures too. “I think a lot about those experiments now that I’m back into painting, and try to apply them somehow,” she adds.
Looking to the future, while Stefhany attests to a love of printed material, she’s also not scared to delve into more online territories. Next, she shares that she will be immersing herself into the digital world, working with augmented reality and creating a series of digital paintings entitled Bulevar. And while it may seem like Stefhany is extremely busy, she also impresses that she is always on the lookout for something different: “I am always open to collaborating with other people in all kinds of projects and looking forward to new challenges coming from minds that are not my own.”
GalleryOaza Books: The No.1 Birdtailing Detective Agency (Copyright© photos: Oaza books, Copyright © illustrations: Stefhany Yepes Lozano. 2021)
Oaza Books: The No.1 Birdtailing Detective Agency (Copyright© photos: Oaza books, Copyright© illustrations: Stefhany Yepes Lozano. 2021)
About the Author
Olivia (she/her) joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in November 2021 and soon became staff writer. A graduate of the University of Edinburgh with a degree in English literature and history, she’s particularly interested in photography, publications and type design.