March 2021

A Graduate of Moscow Poly about the Victory at the Bologna Fair

Among the 77 winners of the annual Bologna Children's Book Fair (Italy) was Valeria Elunina, a graduate of the Moscow Polytechnic University in 2020, with illustrations for Dovlatov's book "Nashi".

These illustrations are her diploma paper which Valeria wrote under the guidance of Associate Professor of the Department of" Illustration and Printmaking " Olga Monina. We decided to get to know Valeria better and tell her about her creative path.


This is my first participation in the Bologna Children's Book Fair. But I participated in other competitions. After graduation, a contest "Image of a Book" was held, where I became a winner in the category "New Names", and during my studies I participated in some competitions but I never really followed them, so this list is not so big.


The work on the illustrations for the diploma was very long, difficult, but not without pleasure. At first, I worked with one text, but in January I had to abandon it and move to a new one. It seemed like a lot of time was lost, because the work started since September, it was already half of the academic year, but I was never afraid of the prospect of starting over if I felt that it would be better, so I just started working faster. Then there were difficulties to collect all the pictures into a single whole, getting rid of the fragmentation in the book, because there were a lot of illustrations, and the pauses that are necessary in an illustrated book are not enough. In general, this is definitely not the kind of work that was created quickly and easily, but the process itself, working with textures, creating characters, fascinated me and drew me in. Perhaps this is the most important thing in the work of an illustrator.


The competition is held in two stages: during the first stage, the jury selects 300 finalists from all the contestants and publishes a shortlist, in the second stage, the winners (laureates) are selected from all the finalists. When I found out that I was a finalist, of course, I was happy and surprised, because I did not expect such a result at all. This day, to be honest, reminded me of a birthday, because at night my friends, sister, parents called me, we called Olga Evgenievna at about 1 AM, and everyone congratulated me and wrote some very warm messages. Of course, it was a great happiness.


I rarely follow the results of contests, because I forget about them. And the fact that I became the winner of the Bologna Fair, I was informed by a girl-illustrator Natasha, who also participated in the fair and studied a year older. I was very surprised by this news, because the pictures are not very suitable for a children's book, and they are not from a children's book, because Dovlatov is hardly a "children's writer". But I am glad, because it means that my illustrations have found some response, and all my efforts were not in vain. At 1 AM, Olga Monina and I again communicated in the language of exclamations and somehow mumbled admiringly into each other's phone. Of course, she was very happy! I congratulated her, said and wrote a lot of warm and beautiful things. This is always very pleasant and important.


Usually, the fair is held in person, and this year, as if there was information that everything would take place in person, but is it possible to guess and plan something with the pandemic and the latest events related to it? I really want to go there live, for me this is a big event, I want to be there, get to know everyone and communicate, see how it all goes, see pictures. In general, I really hope that everything will work out.


Since the Bologna Fair is a global event, it is likely that the winners will receive offers from publishers by email. I also received two emails, but I don't want to say anything about it yet. So far, for me, the main result of the fair is the fact that I was inspired and realized that I was in my place, that all this is very important to me and will always be with me, this difficult, but such a pleasant process of drawing, creativity, creation.


I wouldn't really want to participate in other competitions, but exhibitions are another matter. I really hope that we will be able to do something in the near future, perhaps not with graphics, but with painting, because I also love it very dearly, but now these are only dreams. Of course, I will not move away from working with books, I will continue to create illustrations. This is such a very magical, complex and joyful activity, which is also very important for me.



I would like to wish only one thing: to do everything with love!


The author of the interview - Nikita Zakrevskii

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