Curiosity: The Story of a Mars Rover – Illustrated by Markus Motum

Curiosity: The Story of a Mars Rover illustrated by Markus Motum is one of the five books on the shortlist for the 2018 Klaus Flugge Prize.

The Klaus Flugge Prize judges feel that Motum is definitely an illustrator to watch. Though this is an information book, they feel there is a story being told, with pace and animation. His work reminded the judges of iconic Czech illustrator M Sasek.

Here Markus Motum chooses his favourite spread from Curiosity: The Story of a Mars Rover:

My choice spread from Curiosity is the 'I made it' spread.

The spread depicts the rover having just landed on the surface of Mars, a journey years in the making. Due to the nature of the book, there are a number of pages depicting scenes at huge scales, featuring planets, stars, and the vastness of space. In contrast, every page featuring the rover could be potentially quite personal.

The rovers landing on Mars was shown live around the world, on TV channels and internet streams. I remember waking up at 5am to watch the live NASA broadcast featuring a very nervous landing team anxiously waiting to hear if the rover had landed safely. The landing was all autonomous. The rover launched from Earth 8 months prior, so if the worst did happen, it meant a mistake in the programming had been made all those months ago. My heart was racing a mile a minute as it was announced the rover had landed perfectly, and the relief and exuberance in the NASA control room was palpable. After taking readers on a similar journey with the book, I wanted this relief to show in the illustration and Curiosity herself. After all this is her story - she is pretty relieved to have landed safely too!

I wanted to convey emotion in the rover, but I didn't want to add actual eyes, or eyebrows, or anything 'fake', so I spent a long time making sure the lenses of her cameras, and the reflections in them, could act as recognisable facial features to draw readers towards this robot.

The idea for the spread and how to lay it out came about pretty early on - it changed very little from my initial thumbnail sketches. That meant I finished the page and could move on to others which required a bit more tinkering. Or so I thought! To ensure the book remained as factual and accurate as possible, Walker brought Mars expert Stuart Atkinson on aboard. His insight proved invaluable. It turned out the colours I had chosen for the page would not have been the correct colours for Mars at the time of day the rover landed. I had chosen a dark blue, but the sky should have been a lovely salmon pink. Changing the sky and its colours had a knock on effect with the rest of the spread, but after it was finished I was really happy the new look, and am extremely grateful the book could hold up to all levels of scientific scrutiny!

Markus Motum is half-English, half-Norwegian. He studied Illustration at the University for the Creative Arts, graduating in 2012. His work uses a mix of traditional and digital media to create a range of projects. He is currently based in Brighton.

Curiosity: The Story of a Mars Rover is published by Walker Studio.

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

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