It’s Raining Elephants

Nina Wehrle and Evelyne Laube founded their illustration studio ‘It’s Raining Elephants’ in 2008. They create books, illustrations for diverse applications and their own ceramics line called HOI. Nina and Evelyne have won numerous awards including the Fundación SM International Award for Illustration at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair.

In this post, Nina and Evelyne talk about ‘Die Gross Flut’ (The Big Flood), and they share stunning illustrations and insights into their collaborative process. They also talk about their latest picturebook, ‘Martha & Me’, which was originally published in French by Éditions Notari, and is now published in English by Thames & Hudson.

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It’s Raining Elephants: Let’s talk about ‘Die Grosse Flut’ (The Big Flood), which was an important starting point for us and still comes back in gentle waves from time to time. The story of Noah’s Ark is one of many myths about floods in different religions and cultures. It’s a timeless story about a natural catastrophe, salvation and a new start for the world. The publisher came up with the idea of this book and we were absolutely fascinated by the richness and archaic force of the Bible text (Genesis 6-8).

‘Die Gross Flut / The Big Flood’ by It’s Raining Elephants – published by SJW Verlag, Germany

‘Die Gross Flut / The Big Flood’ by It’s Raining Elephants – published by SJW Verlag, Germany

‘Die Gross Flut / The Big Flood’ by It’s Raining Elephants – published by SJW Verlag, Germany

166mm × 257mm

Composed of three fold-outs with a big drawing on the back of each

Print: Offset, Pantone

Graphic design by MeierKolb

Pencil on paper

SJW Verlag, Germany, 2011

Artwork from ‘Die Gross Flut / The Big Flood’ by It’s Raining Elephants – published by SJW Verlag, Germany

Artwork from ‘Die Gross Flut / The Big Flood’ by It’s Raining Elephants – published by SJW Verlag, Germany

Artwork from ‘Die Gross Flut / The Big Flood’ by It’s Raining Elephants – published by SJW Verlag, Germany

Artwork from ‘Die Gross Flut / The Big Flood’ by It’s Raining Elephants – published by SJW Verlag, Germany

Artwork from ‘Die Gross Flut / The Big Flood’ by It’s Raining Elephants – published by SJW Verlag, Germany

INSPIRATION

One rainy summer and two rainbows in our garden

Three artists: Hieronymus Bosch, Athanasius Kircher and Pieter Bruegel

Fifteen bubble baths

Infinite inspiration on bibliodyssey.blogspot.ch

Photo by It’s Raining Elephants

PROCESS

1. Read the Bible text to each other, laugh a lot and draw every stupid thing that comes to mind

2. Read the text again and again

3. Forget the text and start to construct the visual layer (visual research, mood board)

4. Draw several storyboards the size of a matchbox

5. Draw the final storyboard actual size

6. Give the storyboard to the publisher

7. Draw the final images and try to keep the freshness of the first ones

8. Discuss the project with a close friend

9. Work out the essentials of the story, omit the unimportant

10. Redraw some images

11. Fine-tuning

Development work for ‘Die Gross Flut / The Big Flood’ by It’s Raining Elephants – published by SJW Verlag, Germany

Development work for ‘Die Gross Flut / The Big Flood’ by It’s Raining Elephants – published by SJW Verlag, Germany

Development work for ‘Die Gross Flut / The Big Flood’ by It’s Raining Elephants – published by SJW Verlag, Germany

Development work for ‘Die Gross Flut / The Big Flood’ by It’s Raining Elephants – published by SJW Verlag, Germany

COLLABORATION

This book was developed in very close collaboration and it’s impossible to say who did which part. We are just two people in service of the book, trying to make something good. The publisher, the graphic designers and others are important partners in this process.

Artwork from ‘Die Gross Flut / The Big Flood’ by It’s Raining Elephants – published by SJW Verlag, Germany

Artwork from ‘Die Gross Flut / The Big Flood’ by It’s Raining Elephants – published by SJW Verlag, Germany

PLAYING BY THE RULES

We like playing by the rules, and we define just a few things like technique, size, time limitations, etc, before we start drawing. In the case of this book, we decided that we would draw everything by hand at the original size, and we would use only two tools: pencil and rubber. Discussions are important, but it’s better that they’re not too long; we trust more in trying out things visually. Sometimes it takes many rounds until we’re both satisfied.

Work in progress for ‘Die Gross Flut / The Big Flood’ by It’s Raining Elephants – published by SJW Verlag, Germany

SO MANY DETAILS

This is a story of the superlative. All the animals and creatures of the planet meet in one ark; everything outside the ark is destroyed. Maybe because this is so impossible to imagine, our imagination went crazy. We enjoyed entertaining each other by drawing many silly, awful or beautiful things in the scenes. We decided that the details should be free and could talk about whatever they wanted to, as long as they didn’t disturb the main story.

Artwork crop from ‘Die Gross Flut / The Big Flood’ by It’s Raining Elephants – published by SJW Verlag, Germany

Artwork crop from ‘Die Gross Flut / The Big Flood’ by It’s Raining Elephants – published by SJW Verlag, Germany

It’s Raining Elephants (Nina Wehrle and Evelyne Laube)

AFTER THE FLOOD

This project was very encouraging for us and is somehow still present in many of our works. We stayed with the pencil for a while, because we love the different textures and expressions of it. It took time to explore this technique and to learn how to use it in our own way. At one point, we started to miss the colours and the clear shapes so we moved a bit in that direction.

Illustration by It’s Raining Elephants for the 2014 Bologna Children’s Book Fair Illustrators Exhibition annual cover

Illustration by It’s Raining Elephants (Nina Wehrle and Evelyne Laube)

MARTHA & ME

More and more, we are interested in storytelling and in doing both parts: text and illustrations. Our latest book ‘Martha & Me’ is a story about the power of imagination.

Front covers for ‘Marta & Moi / Martha & Me’ by It’s Raining Elephants – published by Éditions Notari, Switzerland / Thames & Hudson, United Kingdom

Martha draws a lion on a huge piece of paper, and the lion steps right out of the picture. Eventually, things get out of control – the lion is too wild and too hungry – and he disappears in the middle of their best adventure. Martha is inconsolable, but she takes another piece of paper and starts all over again. In the making of this book, we tried to use the magic of drawing like Martha does to tell a story that deeply touched us.

Artwork from ‘Martha & Me’ by It’s Raining Elephants – published by Éditions Notari, Switzerland

Artwork from ‘Martha & Me’ by It’s Raining Elephants – published by Éditions Notari, Switzerland

Artwork from ‘Martha & Me’ by It’s Raining Elephants – published by Éditions Notari, Switzerland

Artwork from ‘Martha & Me’ by It’s Raining Elephants – published by Éditions Notari, Switzerland

We are very happy that ‘Martha & Me’ is finding its way into the hands of kids. Recently, we have been invited to many readings and workshops with this book. The playful exchanges with the kids is very impressive and a good lesson in storytelling.

Nina Wehrle from It’s Raining Elephants

FUTURE

We just initiated an exchange group for young picturebook makers in Lucerne. During the year, we meet once or twice a month to discuss the progress of our books.

We hope to encourage ourselves and others to start drawing today and to challenge the process of creating a strong picturebook.

Bolo Klub – an exchange group for young picturebook makers in Lucerne

Illustrations © It’s Raining Elephants. Post edited by dPICTUS.

Front cover for ‘Die Gross Flut / The Big Flood’ by It’s Raining Elephants – published by SJW Verlag, GermanyBuy this picturebook

Die Grosse Flut / The Big Flood

It’s Raining Elephants
SJW Verlag, Germany, 2011

Mythical stories of floods appear in many cultures and religions. One such instance – the biblical account of the flood in the book of Genesis – is seen as the archetypal natural catastrophe.

‘The Big Flood’ is an illustrated account of destruction, rescue and a new start. It consists of three books which each unfold into a large illustrated poster.

  • German: SJW Verlag
  • Spanish: Barbara Fiore Editora
Front cover for ‘Martha & Me’ by It’s Raining Elephants – published by Éditions Notari, Switzerland / Thames & Hudson, United KingdomBuy the English Edition

Marta & Moi / Martha & Me

It’s Raining Elephants
Éditions Notari, Switzerland, 2017
Thames & Hudson, United Kingdom, 2017

Martha loves drawing and painting. When she draws a lion that steps right out of the picture, the two go on a wild adventure. Things soon get out of control, and the lion disappears in the midst of the excitement. Martha is inconsolable, but she takes out another piece of paper and starts all over again.

Join Martha and her new friend, and discover how a pencil or paintbrush can create a whole new world…

  • French: Éditions Notari
  • English: Thames & Hudson
  • German: Atlantis

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