Windows into illustration: Thiago de Moraes

After working for twenty years as an award-winning advertising art  The Zoomers’ Handbook (written with his wife Ana), was published in 2015. He went on to create Myth Atlas for Alison Green Books in 2018, a 96 page tour de force, packed with painstakingly detailed illustrations. A follow-up History Atlas has just been published as well as a myth- rich, fully illustrated adventure story, A Mummy Ate My Homework. Thiago talks us through his approach and illustration technique here, 

One way and another, I spent most of last year living in the past. Considering the way things have been, it was probably more fun than living in the present. I worked on two books at once, which involved many hours of sitting in my shed, writing stories and drawing lots and lots (and lots) of little people.

Although they’re very different, both books are based on events, places and people that really existed. This meant that I had to do a lot of research before I could draw or paint anything. I studied all the physical stuff I could find: geography, architecture, fashion, art – and, of course, people. As vital as all this was, the most important thing for me was trying to grasp each civilisation’s personality, otherwise the books would be little more than collections of facts.

The maps on History Atlas started as lots of very tiny rough thumbnails on paper, which my editor, art director and I used to discuss composition and shape. They need to look and feel different from each other and be built around visual ideas that express the character of each culture. The Inca world is constructed around the peaks of the Andes, the Mongol map revolves around a huge column of horse riders, and so on.

Both books are based on history, but they couldn’t be more different. A Mummy Ate My Homework is a fiction book, set in ancient Egypt. It’s the story of Henry, an 11-year-old boy from the 21st century, who gets sent back in time after a terrible maths-related incident. History Atlas is a non-fiction book, which takes readers through five thousand years of human history, and shows how fifteen extraordinary civilisations saw themselves.

10 Books for Keeps No.245 November 2020

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