Meet the illustrator – Katarina Jelić

„I believe the illustrations have the biggest impact on kids…”

When we first started the project we knew that we needed a very good illustrator to join our team.

So we’ve started to send emails and check graphic designers’s portfolios searching for that one clue that could say “I’m the one!”

We wanted our Hippo’s to have cute friendly faces even if their facial expressions change in relation to their emotions. We want the children to love each character even if he is Angry or Jealous at some point, because in the end they all learn something valuable together.

When Kaya answered our email and sent us a sketch of Anxious Hippo we realized then that of all of the graphic designers, she managed to capture in the most authentic way the essence of the character and his deep beliefs and feelings.

The first Hippo she created is in my opinion the most complex character of them all and Kaya brought out into the light how anxiety is felt by the body.

The shoulders that are lowered, the mouth that is clenched, the body that trembles, the knees that are oriented inwards…even the smallest details like the little Anxious Hippo’s tail and the hairs on his head.

I asked her permission to take her interview and let people know how talented she is and how much value and joy she brings to the project with each new character.

She is a 29 years old, Belgrade-based freelance visual artist and this is a small part of her story.

  1. What do you enjoy most about your career?
    A career as a freelance visual artist can take you many places! I greatly enjoy the creative projects that are meant to make you think and move you in some way- other than buy, buy, buy that is. 🙂 Sounds corny but making even a tiny difference really is a privilege in today’s fast-paced, indifferent world.
  2. What was your first impression of the job?
    I always jump at the opportunity to work on projects for children. I believe the illustrations have the biggest impact on kids. My enthusiasm only grew when I found out I stumbled upon invested and capable people. I believe those are to be cherished in every industry.
  3. What inspired you to create the Hippo as it is?
    When I was a kid I greatly enjoyed and found especially funny Charles Schulz’s comics. When I got to know the Hippos with all their virtues and flaws, they slightly reminded me of the old Peanuts gang. The illustrations are greatly influenced by Shulz’s characters.
  4. What music do you listen to when you work?
    Narrowing down to a few favorite styles and genres in any art form was a problem for me since I can remember. In music as well. Even consulting my playlist didn’t help! I listen to all kinds of music. It depends on the day, mood and project itself, I think.
  5. What’s the best thing about working for PumpEQ books?
    Working with PumpEQ turned out to be really fulfilling. I also find our straightforward, clear, and sensible communication really pleasant!
  6. Do you have a favorite character from the books?
    My favorites are always the underdogs/hippos. Strife is always a part of a fun journey, and, I believe, much more rewarding for character development. I see bits of myself in all of them. I hope others do too!
  7. What was the biggest challenge you were facing when designing the books?
    One story mentions a zoo in this hippo world of ours… The knowledge almost broke me! I’ve spent many hours contemplating the idea. In the end, I restrained myself from drawing humans there 😀
  8. What are you currently reading or watching?
    I’ve just finished „Ship of Fools” by Katherine Anne Porter. I’m currently reading some of Plato’s Socratic dialogues.
    Binging the second season of the Castlevania animated series at the moment.
  9. What do you think other people should know about the books?
    Books let you live many lives in a single one. It is the same with Pumpeq books. One single body can experience so many emotions even from an early age.
  10. Is there an achievement or contribution that you are most proud of?
    I’ve been recently helping kids prepare for art college admission exams. Helping them get in and pursuing their passion is exhilarating.
  11. Would you recommend the books to other persons?
    I certainly would! Parents should learn more about PumpEQ books and the way children can benefit from reading them and having them as an example in their development process.
  12. Is there anything else you would like to share with us?
    I really hope you’ll enjoy Hippo books as much as I enjoyed illustrating them.


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