The Real Boat – Illustrated by Victoria Semykina

The Real Boat illustrated by Victoria Semykina is one of the five books on the shortlist for the 2018 Klaus Flugge Prize.

The Klaus Flugge Prize judges commented on the absolutely beautiful illustrations within the book, describing some of them as “exquisitely good”, and are excited to see what Victoria Semyinka will do next. They particularly admired the skilful change of scale that occurs throughout the little boat’s journey.

Here Victoria Semykina describes her favourite spread from The Real Boat, and the illustration process.

This is the one of my favourite spreads in The Real Boat and I made it in just a couple of hours. I was trying to capture my very first feeling when I saw the sea for the first time. I often draw very quickly and spontaneously as I need to express a certain emotion in the illustration. However, I sometimes redraw one image over and over in order to capture the freshness and to avoid cliches.The most difficult and exciting thing for me is to switch off my brain and follow my intuition while painting.

My first seaside vacation probably made the greatest impression on me. I was born in Moscow, a huge city with extremely long and cold winters. When my parents took me to the sea, I was pretty shocked - it was enormous! I remember the blazing sun, the golden sand, the seagulls and the buzzing ships in the distance. It was a real adventure, just like in the books my mum read to me. That journey was full of very vivid colours and overwhelming emotions that I still remember very well.

Since then, I’ve been obsessed with painting everything aquatic. Whenever I draw or make ships, it's like I go back to being a kid, which was why I was so happy to get a letter from the famous writer, Marina Aromshtam, about a toy boat. She was looking for an artist to illustrate her book; an artist who knows and loves ships. When I read the book, I was so excited; it seemed like it was written for me. I instantly started drawing! Well, I already had a paper shipyard in my studio, ready to go.

Working on the book, I decided to experiment a lot by mixing different techniques in order to show a variety of textures, smells and sounds of the ocean. My goal was to draw every boat or ship as a personality with its own spirit and character.

Another very important personage of the book is the water. From a puddle, it gradually grows wider and deeper, then finally becomes the boundless ocean. I was trying to paint it differently on every page, showing that it has its own mood and very strong character.

The Real Boat for me is a journey to my childhood. I wanted to recall that first feeling of pure happiness and to share it with my readers.

Victoria Semykina is a Russian illustrator from Italy. She won the Tapirulan illustration competition in 2017 and was shortlisted for the AOI Illustration Awards three years running (2015, 2016, 2017).

The Real Boat is written by Marina Aromshtam and published by Templar.


The Klaus Flugge Prize is funded personally by Klaus Flugge and run independently of Andersen Press.

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