Latest Release – The Adventures Of Abdi
“We are fortunate to have found in Russian artists Andrej Dugin and Olga Dugina an astonishing duo of boundless imagination and brilliant technique. Their paintings have a subtlety, beauty and power that stand tall next to the masters of any age“.
This is how publisher and CEO of Callaway Arts & Entertainment, Nicholas Callaway describes the work of the illustrators of the brand new Madonna’s children’s book, “The Adventures of Abdi“.
Written for readers aged six and up, “The Adventures of Abdi” is a 32-page jacketed hardcover volume, the fourth in Madonna’s children’s book series. It is the story of a little boy who has been given a very big task: to deliver the most precious necklace in the world to the Queen. Alongthe way he is robbed in the desert, thrown in a dungeon, and has a surprising encounter with a snake. But no matter what obstacles he faces, Abdi never gives hope up, guided by the words of his teacher, Eli: “Everything that happens is for the best“.
“The Adventues of Abdi” is also Madonna‘s most exotic tale yet. She imaginatively and humorously coveys an age-old message about the importance of optimism, even against all odds – an especially important message for the younger generation.
The book’s lavish and elaborated images were painted by husband-and-wife team Andrej Dugin and Olga Dugina, who also worked on the film “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban“. Here is a preview of some the amazing illustrations that you will find in the book that is released on November 8th in the US.
As the previous three titles, “The Adventures of Abdi” features premium paper and state-of-the-art digital prepress and preinting, and will be launched with a major international media campaign, including live television appearances and special events.
Madonna’s fifth chidren’s book, “Lotsa de Casha” will be released worldwide in June 2005.
Let’s meet Andrej Dugin and Olga Dugina, the illustrators of Madonna’s “The Adventues of Abdi”.
Andrej and Olga are both originally from Moscow. After studying at the Surikov Art Institute, Andrej worked as an illustrator for several Russian magazines and publishers. Olga attended the Moscow Arts College and worked as a graphic designer and illustrator for Kuntsero cinema
and similar publications as Energija magazine.
The two met at the Krasnopenskaya Secondary Arts School, where she was his student, and
were married in 1984. Currently living in Germany, together they have illustrated four picture books, including “The Fine Round Cake”, “The Dragon Feathers”, and “The Brave Little Tailor”, which won a Gold Medal from the Society of Illustrators. Their most recent project was conceptual illustration for the film “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban“.
Your illustrations feature an amazing amount of detail. How long does it take you to
complete a piece? What is your process like?
It takes us anywhere from one-and-a-half to four months per image. First we decide what the most interesting passages are and make a conception of the whole book. I mostly compose and draw and Olga is the painter. Then as we have a concept for the book we start gathering research materials from libraries and museums. Next we start working from the first picture to the last, going with the text. Normally we do the cover in the end.
It is extremely rare for two artists to work together so closely. What are the roles you each play? Do you prefer working together or apart?
We prefer to work separately but working together is necessary when the project is big. I am
[Andrej] notoriously slow, and Olga speeds the process. I also have a bad back and had stopped
illustrating before this project. The only name that could get me out of my cell was Madonna.
How is The Adventures of Abdi different from other books you’ve illustrated?
Before we always did classical stories where the author was no longer alive. This book was also
different because the author is so popular. We never expected that Madonna was a writer. Abdi presented us with several artistic possibilities – to show a desert, a palace, a small house where
an old man was making jewelry.
Which is the message you hope children will take away from The Adventures of Abdi?
The message which the author repeats throughout -that whatever happens in life is for the best.
What is your favorite part of The Adventures of Abdi?
It?s difficult to say. The story as it is is very attractive. When I [Andrej] see a beautiful woman
like my wife I cannot say that either her nose or her eyes are more attractive-beauty cannot
What is your favorite illustration in the book?
The one in which the queen is trying on the necklace, because the situation is such that we
could show a lot of strange characters. We could tell the story that was not told, and hint at
something much broader than the text itself.
What was your opinion of Madonna before and after reading The Adventures of Abdi?
Before we thought that she was a great artist, who was forming the world in a sense. She created
images of herself for the world, and the world followed. Her new image as a writer confirms that.
And we realized that she was changing not only the world, but also herself, which was
particularly attractive to us.
What inspired you to want to illustrate children?s books?
It was the situation in the Soviet Union, where we lived at the time. Either we could illustrate
children?s books and be more or less free, artistically. Or we could paint propagandistic pictures of Lenin, etc.
How has your life in Germany changed your work?
It has been easier to work in Germany. The libraries are better here, and life as well. In Russia
everything was forbidden. It was a different time, a time for propaganda. It was not easy to find
the right way in art.The only option was socialistic realism.When you feel that you are not in the
right place you don?t want to work.
Which artists and illustrators have most influenced you and your work?
European artists of the Renaissance from Italy, the Netherlands, and Germany.
What is the most valuable piece of advice you can pass on to young artists?
Be curious, like Madonna. To keep changing themselves and to be ready for change.
Who are the illustrators you most admire?
Andrej: I find Gennady Spirin very inspiring. I saw his work and met him. I was shocked by the
beauty of his pictures, especially because of the conditions they were created in-he lived in a
small space and didn?t even have a table to himself.
Olga: Gustav Dore and Aubrey Beardsley.
Where does your inspiration come from?
Andrej: I think it comes from the sublimation of the basic instincts. I think Freud was right when he was talking about that.
Olga: It comes from the pictures that we admire-pictures from the history of art.
If you could illustrate any children’s story, what would it be?
Olga: I would really like to illustrate, Three Oranges, an Italian fairy tale.
Andrej: I don’t really have any one story I’d like to do more than others.
Do you still visit Russia?
Yes, we still have family there and we go as often as our financial and work situations allow
Have you ever illustrated books for grown-ups? If so, which ones?
Not together. Andrej once did a propagandistic science fiction book for youth in Russia, and I
[Olga] made covers for novels there.
What was it like illustrating concepts for Harry Potter? Do you prefer working on movie or
It was very different. First of all, we were not working in the same linear way as we do on books
(starting at the beginning). Also, working for a movie we were not allowed to be so slow as we
are on books. It seemed like our heads were working more than our hands. But this was better
for us because when the brain doesn’t work it grows smaller and smaller. Your brain is a muscle
and when you force it to work everyday, it could become as big as Arnold Schwarzenegger!
Special thanks to Callaway Arts & Entertainment