Children’s literature has become one of the greatest visual exponents to display the talent and hard work of countless illustrators around the world. It is also work that is being increasingly recognised with competitions and contests which reward this labour. In Spain, important names have been linked to some of these leading illustration prizes, and have become leading figures for future generations. Something similar, on a smaller scale, is happening in Portugal, a country that is beginning to recognise this field.

One of these outstanding students is Madalena Matoso. She studied Communication Design at Lisbon College of Fine Arts, and has a post-graduate degree in Editorial Graphic Design from the Faculty of Fine Arts in Barcelona. She then fell, almost by accident, into the field of children’s book illustration. “I ended up doing this type of work almost by chance, though I feel it’s a field which fits me very well. When three of my friends and colleagues and I decided to set up Planeta Tangerina, it was because we received a commission in this field. Then one thing led to another, and in the end we focused our work in this area. Later we began publishing books, with the intention of creating more free and long lasting works,” explains the author.

With certain traits that identify her drawings with the Polish school of illustration, Madalena wants to make it clear that, though her work is aimed at younger ones, her designs are made for everyone. “Even though my drawings are aimed at young children, which is a very rich territory, my work is for everyone. It’s a way of facilitating other parallel, more open readings of the same drawing,” she says

“I love free geometric designs, characteristic of the Polish school, as well as Russian constructivists, where geometric, graphic and abstract shapes and primary colours interact with organic forms,” says Madalena. With simple images and strong colours, the Portuguese designer doesn’t approach her work from one specific technique, but rather uses one or the other depending on what the work requires.

Winner of the National Prize in Illustration in 2008, Madalena is a privileged figure in a country that has no great tradition in this field. However, it is a country with plenty of untapped talent, in spite of the scarce support from institutions. “I think the most interesting part of this field is working on independent projects with few resources. And I think all this happens because big companies are lacking good art directors, people with a critical spirit and an open mind who will take a few more risks,” she says. In any case, Madalena hopes that things will soon change, and that the future will be a bright one.

Photos: Planetatangerina/Madalena Matoso.

This article is also available in Español