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Marta Kissi

As a child

I grew up in Warsaw, Poland, and as a child I was never bored. I could always make my own fun, especially when it was most needed (e.g. in a long queue at the doctors). I often used to pretend that my hands were ponies or brontosauruses walking and pasturing happily over any surface. Their “legs” were my thumb, index finger, ring finger and little finger while their “neck” and “head” were my middle finger. I guess I was always pretty imaginative! I was also quite a strange kid and when asked to dress up for our school carnival party, unlike other girls who dressed as princesses and other pretty things, I chose to dress up as Baba Yaga, a witch who lives in a creepy old house atop of a giant chicken leg. I then went on to beat it the following year dressing up as Death… My favourite hairstyle as a child was “Palma” (the palm tree). If you’d like to re-create this look, here’s a step-by-step guide: 1) gather together all of your hair bands (the more colourful the better), 2) Put your head upside down and collect all your hair in one hand, 3) Lift your head, while still holding onto your hair, which should now look like a ponytail at the very top of your head, 4) Tie your hair with a hair band and continue to add more hair bands until it stands upright on its own and is long enough to resemble the trunk of the palm. The loose ends of your ponytail will then create the “leaves”. Now you can wear your Palma with pride!

As an adult

I initially came to London to visit my friend. Back then I had just completed my first year of graphic design at university in Poland but since I really didn’t enjoy the course I was studying, my intention for this trip was to simply have a great summer adventure away from home… And before I knew it, I was in love with the city, I went on to do an Art Foundation, I bagged myself a Degree in Illustration and Animation at Kingston University and mastered my Masters at the Royal College of Art! I had many weird and wonderful part-time jobs, I lived in many different parts of London (in many strange flats) but above all, I fell in love with a wonderful Welsh man who I met in Rome. I now live with that wonderful Welsh man in South East London, where we both work “desk in desk” from our tiny home studio! Funny thing is that I could have never planned any of this, which is probably the best part about my “great summer adventure away from home”.

As an illustrator

Although art and drawing were always my main interests, the idea of being an illustrator only popped into my head when I was doing my Art Foundation at London Metropolitan University. In fact, back then I had my sights set on fine art and only at the last minute something inside told me it was not going to be right for me and against all of the tutors’ advice (!) I quickly updated my portfolio to suit the illustration course and I never regretted it. Now that I’m a professional illustrator, my favourite part of the job is designing the characters. I think there’s something quite magical in seeing them taking shape as a result of the author’s words and a sprinkle of my imagination. In fact, villains have always been my favourite to design, which might explain my macabre costume choices as a child… As I work completely digitally, the cherry on top of the whole process of making the book is being able actually hold it my hands.

Ten things you didn’t know about Marta Kissi

  1. My favourite colour is ruby red but I also really like yellow.
  2. For an adult I have freakishly small ears.
  3. When I think, I subconsciously twist my hair into strange, little pretzel shapes, which I often forget about and leave the house with them still intact.
  4. I like making up my own descriptive words. For example, “Frools” are all sorts of little bits of stuff that end up on your clothes (subsequently a “De-frooler” is a lint roller). “Snooplets” are the little gold fancy bits on the roofs of old buildings.
  5. I have a very strong sense of smell, which is almost my super power and can be very handy, except for travelling on a London tube in a summer…
  6. I really don’t like moths, especially the big ones! Sadly they seem to really like me…
  7. I practised Capoeira (Brazilian martial art) for almost a year once, which is quite an achievement for someone who really doesn’t deal well with pain.
  8. I love foggy weather and how it makes everything seem so mysterious…
  9. Whenever I receive some exciting news I really like to do a celebratory “spaghetti” dance.
  10. As much as I love food, unlike most people, I’m not too keen on pizza.

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