UN SDG Book Club Interview Series: How to transform words into illustrations
14 June 2021
The graphic artist Harrington Kanyanta reveals his inspirations for illustrating 'Koko Grows Food' a book selected for the UN SDG 2 Zero Hunger reading list
Born in Zambia, Harrington Kanyanta is a graphic artist, ilustrator and ardent advocate of interpersonal skills art. The book 'Koko Grows Food' was selected for the inaugural reading list in English addressing UN SDG (Sustainable Development Goals) 2-Zero Hunger. His artistic work cut across cultural values, education, personification and caricature. Kanyanta believes that art transcends living on from one generation to another and therefore serves as a way of leaving scars on the fabric of time. At his art studio, 'Kanyanta Arts' he teaches students on the mastery of art.
The UN SDG Book Club African Chapter interviewed Kanyanta to discover the process of creating visual characters and scenes from words and the crucial role of art on that task.
How long have you been creating images for children’s books?
I started writing in 2016, immediately after college.
What inspired you to take up the SDG challenge?
I wanted an opportunity to showcase my works and to express my love for art.
The main focus of the SDG Book Club is to inform and educate children. Can you briefly describe how were you able to fusionate entertainment, education and information?
As an illustrator, I play around with vivid colors and manipulate facial expressions and movement so as to add value to the context of the book. Color, rhythm and movement make young ones feel the book.
How do you carry out Illustrations for your book?
I brainstorm to come up with the actual expressions of the characters and I also organize significant models to give me certain movements and expressions that I can creatively depict.
So far, what has it been like being an Illustrator?
Being an artist/ illustrator has given me a great sense of enhancing visual literacy, and the ability to see something beyond what is obvious.
What was your dream job when you were younger?
I wanted to be a visual artist.
What do you like to do when you are not drawing images?
I paint on canvas and teach young people who are interested in art.
What were the challenges that you faced when creating illustrations for the book?
Basically, the major challenge was to create the same character with different movements in different spaces.
Could you describe the process of illustrating the main character of the story?
I start by getting the overview context of the book by reading through and basically contextualizing content .This allows me to come up with conceptual ideas and figures to brainstorm on paper. The title of the book and its characters move me to a certain atmospheric space of imagination. Once there, I can create and recreate expressive and rhythmic movements touching the emotions of the characters. These approaches stimulate the mind of the child.
What feeds your imagination when you make illustrations for a book?
Basically freedom, beliefs, love and hope, move and motivate me when I create something new. I call it comfort of thoughts. Additionally, nature and the environment transfigure my imagination.
Do you feel connected to the characters as you come up with the pictorial ideas?
Definitely, because I incorporate passion and feelings. Over time the character becomes part of my DNA.
In some parts of Africa, the interest of youths in graphics and creative industries is declining. What advice would you give to aspiring artists across the continent?
I believe it will be an error to consider art as an end, because art is the journey that leads somewhere.That is why I say artists never really die: our work lives on and transcend to another level. Youths need to understand the beauty of art, as it shapes our minds, culture, generally the world at large. We create to inform, educate, entertain, and also to preserve the future and past through paintings and written records. Art is a profound skill and a survival skill. We keep forging ahead and we remember to be original and authentic. We exercise freedom so that our works can speak for you and help you remain optimistic about the world. I believe artists can change the world.