Tasa Nugraza Barley
One of the good things about living in a city the size of Jakarta is that, no matter how obscure your talent or hobby, chances are you can find a group of like-minded people who share your interests and passions.
A good example of this is a new group called Kelir Buku Anak (Community of Children’s Book Illustrators). The group was formed in September as a means of improving the standards and professionalism of Indonesian artists specializing in the illustration of children’s books. The word kelir is slang in Indonesian for “to color.”
“We formed this organization so we would be better able to help struggling illustrators navigate the children’s book industry in Indonesia,” said 30-year-old Evelyn Gozalli, one of the group’s co-founders.
Today, the group has around 116 active members who regularly meet to share information about the illustration business in Indonesia and trade helpful hints drawn from past experiences as well as providing networking for job opportunities.
“I joined the group to have the chance to meet people who work in the same field as me and to get new information while building my network at the same time,” said 29-year-old group member Nikki Ayumurti Hartomo, a full-time illustrator.
Nikki, who is earning her master’s degree at the Savannah College of Art and Design in the US, has already published two children’s books titled “What Shall We Wear” and “Lula The Cannonball Girl.” She said she chose illustration as a profession because she liked both visual art and children.
“My father is a painter, so art has always been close to my life,” Nikki said.
An avid reader as a child, she admits to being raised on a steady diet of fantasy books. “It was so exciting to read those kinds of books because I could always go wild with my imagination.”
Nikki describes her drawings as an illustrator as “decorative, cute, humorous and playful.” She said she prefers to work with traditional techniques involving watercolors and colored pencils to draw her trademark subjects, a combination of cute monsters and animals. “I always imagine that God must have been laughing when he was creating all the animals in this world.”
Meanwhile, Evelyn describes her specific genre as “cartoons of romanticism.” She loves to draw her children characters with big eyes because, “that way I can show children’s innocence and curiosity.”
Nikki said there was no specific message that she wanted to spread through her drawings. “I just want to ask people just to have fun by looking at my drawings.”
“I love it when people can smile or be entertained from looking at my illustrations. When that happens, it means that I have accomplished my goal,” she said.
That’s why, she added, “I always have fun when doing my job.”
Evelyn said that, overall, illustrators of children’s books in Indonesia continue to make vast improvements. “Some of our illustrators are working on the same quality level as illustrators overseas,” she said.
Nikki agreed. According to her, young Indonesian illustrators who specialize in children’s books are getting better each day. “Their ability to tell a story through drawing is becoming more solid and varied.”
But Evelyn believes one main hurdle must be overcome before the growing talent level of Indonesian illustrators can be fully appreciated. She points to the persistent lack of reading habits among too many Indonesians, especially when it comes to children’s books.
The community is attempting to combat the problem by meeting it head on. They regularly conduct workshops, exhibitions and seminars, all of which are open to the public. In May, the organization’s members were involved in a World Book Day event held in Kuningan, South Jakarta. The event was a big success in reaching out to would be illustrators as well as the public.
Nikki said she hoped the illustration group will continue to help Indonesia improve its ranks of aspiring young illustrators while encouraging them to dedicate their talents to the development of children’s books in this country. “I hope illustrators of children’s books in Indonesia can continue to improve their work until it can consistently compete at the international level.”
The Community of Children’s Book Illustrators says it will continue to push for this improvement while helping readers to enjoy seeing the world through the eyes of a child.