Nazlı Eda Noyan: ‘‘The work does not end with just text or illustrations. Children’s books are a holistic design object”
When she was young, she mostly loved to stare at the sea, to read ¨Cimcime¨, to eat flower (cauliflower) and lettuce salad, to watch Danny Kaye at the Sunday concert series, to water geraniums and peach trees in her grandmother’s garden, to string beads, to play with paper dolls and her family. She still loves these. Also … she loves to write, draw, animate, her students in college and all types of design and art, her husband and daughters Nar Mina and Mavi Lena. She always misses the Aegean, where she was born and raised.
This week we talk with Prof. Dr. Nazli Eda Noyan on development of contemporary illustration / animation as a field in Turkey and establishing a solid future for the profession. Prof. Dr. Nazli Eda Noyan has numerous achievements, nationally and internationally, in the fields of illustration and animation. She has contributed significantly to these fields as an author of 13 children’s books, a designer, an artist and an academician.
What does “contemporary illustration” mean to you?
Although illustration has been a part of our lives for a very long time, it is a field that we have difficulty defining and drawing boundaries. Because new ways of utilizing and new channels are constantly being added; techniques, technology, consumer and the creator are changing. We were introduced to 3D many years ago. Now, with AI and VR, we can put our illustration into any space or we can draw in 3D by entering in that space. Applications that transform your photograph or your current drawing into illustrations in different styles are always at hand. Although historical references and traditional forms of production maintain their importance, areas such as fashion, graffiti, digital games, animation, webtoons, and social media have been added to the fields where illustration is nourished and nurtured.
Illustration is a discipline that stands between art and design, and is close to both. Being commercial and with a brief – that is, about a defined project or a text, or doing it as “work”, does that make it move away from art, and be closer to design? Yes and no. Indeed this is also a topic that is being debated for design. After all, it is difficult to say that art is not always commercial, sponsored, not based on a text. Design is not always made for “a customer”. This discussion goes on and on… I prefer to call it a hybrid discipline.
The visual language of illustrations, cartoons, comic strips which have been the crown jewel of the press since its birth, dropped to the second place with the rise of photography in newspapers and magazines. It is possible to observe this shift especially on magazine covers. However, info graphics, vignettes, scientific illustrations are still valid. In fact, with the pandemic, we have grasped the importance of illustration and it seems that we will continue to do so further.
Another formation/topic that we will grasp or maybe have already grasped the importance of is what the illustration represents and by how much, whose voice it is or it is not, and by whom it is produced: Especially with the developments in 2020, the equal and correct representation of race, ethnicity, minority and genders, it is finding its place in different parts of the culture gained importance. We are finally reaching the days where labor and laborers are also visible. In this context, I find feminist illustration movements like of www.womenwhodraw.com inspiring, I believe in the importance of Illustrators Platform working for the laborers working in this field in Turkey. In addition, I follow the Ben Bir İllüstratörüm (I am an Illustrator) movement and especially for young people, the portfolio evaluations of Koff animation on Youtube with great appreciation and hope.
Why do you think it is so important to create children’s books?
How children develop, how they are educated and their happiness affect our present as well as our future. We owe our communication with nature, with ourselves and with others to our experiences in those years. There is nothing more important than that. Also, things about my childhood and my children make me very happy. When I look at children’s books, I feel really happy. I feel incomplete when I leave a bookstore without visiting the children’s section.
In the last decade, we have experienced a great improvement from the printing of translations to the production and printing of original works. I used to see high quality book covers, children’s section, etc. in bookstores in France, this has now started to show up in our country. There is still a lot to do and a long way to go in this area. However, it will develop further only as education and labor get their worth. In this sense, it is necessary to enrich the soil. In publishing houses, decision makers and critics about the visual world of books should be more equipped on this subject. And of course, the vision of the buyers of these books must improve. At this point, fairs, exhibitions, magazines and catalogs, project supports, incentives and awards are important. There should be a move to diversification, new names should be included in the ecosystem.
Illustration is a subject not taught in schools in Turkey. How do you think your academic education affected your career in arts?
Schooling provides you with a certain competence, awareness, culture and network of people. You are getting to know your potential future teammates right from school. Not to mention the projects you create, inspiring teachers and activities you participate in . In addition, I was very inspired by and I have learned from the cities I was introduced to due to school and my travels. Books and magazines have also contributed a lot. In fact, the influence of the school is largely related to the student’s capability to absorb, determination and passion, that is, students themselves. You have to demand from school and life and do justice to what you demanded.
Although there is not a specific department, I came to know that there is a Medical Illustration Graduate Program at Ondokuz Mayıs University – Fine Arts Institute in Samsun. That is great news! I know the topic is also addressed at some conferences. I hope the numbers will increase. Such niche areas must now be created and cultivated. However, only with the academic infrastructure built by academic staff who are experts in this subject, the definition of the profession, its organization and sectoralization would gain momentum and would work in a healthy and efficient manner. It should also be underlined; The academy is not only a vocational school, but also a place where research and development is conducted. Research on illustration, history, archive studies, criticism, conferences and exhibitions should increase with the contribution of the academy. It should move hand in hand with other professional organizations.
You have worked as a freelance illustrator, designer and writer in different media. Which area affected you the most?
Unfortunately, I do not enjoy illustrating, designing or animating the texts of others. I create stories and texts with images in my mind. They almost go hand in hand. Typography and general page design, size, type of paper and material are very important in children’s books. A holistic design object. I also want to work on it as a whole. The work doesn’t just end with the text or illustration, it is very important how they are put together. For this reason, I also design the pages of my books. Or, I suggest everything including the typeface.
In my books that I did not illustrate, I gave the page layout as a draft to the illustrators or designed the characters in the book. As I was designing and sketching while writing. However, I also loved how different illustrators put their signatures and styles on that page and created the book with their skills and efforts. It is a great experience for another artist to interpret or contribute to your work. I enjoyed this very, very, very much! For example, one of my favorite stages during the production of my animations was the part when music was made.
As an expert in the field of animation how do you see its future in Turkey?
Even if the conditions are though, if there are visionaries, open-minded decision makers, those who produce constructive and supportive cultural policies, and viewers who demand quality – which I am sure there are and their numbers will increase – I am hopeful and I think it will be good. We are a solution-oriented, practical society. Our ability, muscle, to deal with the crisis is highly developed. However, we are used to focusing on the “right after” while overcoming various crises. It is not possible to think and plan long term. In this sense, we are shortsighted, we cannot see the distant future. As long as the preliminary work phase, which is indispensable for cinema and especially for animation is possible to have, as qualified human resources increase, as economic assurances are formed, as we become world citizens, as our awareness in every sense increases, and cultural policies are developed, this will also happen!
What are the things that motivate you to create new projects?
My belief in its necessity and how good it can be. If I need to define this necessity; it may be the desire for expression, the fascination of the story, and the visual pleasure etc. Also, the satisfaction I get from art and design inspires and motivates me a lot. For this reason, I love to visit museums and bookstores. And also to watch the sea …
What kind of movies do you like in general?
As I tell my daughters; “It is necessary to give a chance to innovations and taste, event a little bit, everything”. When it is about cinema, I get suggestions and comments. What I can not watch absolutely; movies with unhappy children and child deaths. Because I cannot escape its influence. I tried it and realized that I shouldn’t be watching. However, the genres I especially like; adult animations, musicals, animated documentaries, love and natural disaster movies 🙂 If I need to give an example to some of my favorite movies; Blue, West Side Story, Blade Runner, Waltz with Bashir, The Thin Red Line, Ghost in the Shell, Melancholia… There have definitely been some I loved and forgotten, and anyway this list goes on and on…
It was such a pleasure to chat with you, thank you.
Prof. Dr. Nazlı Eda Noyan (İzmir, 1974) received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in graphic design and her doctoral degrees in art history. She worked as a designer intern in UNICEF Ghana and is the founding president of Bahçeşehir University Cartoon and Animation Department. She is the author and designer of 13 children’s books (Nar’s Art Diary Series, Gülçin, The Threads That Weave Life). At the same time she is the author and director of award winning short animated movies, Children of Other Lands (2006 Best Short Animation, Istanbul Short Film Festival) and a Cup of Turkish Coffee (2013) included in Maureen Furniss’s ‘A New History of Animation’ (Thames & Hudson, 2016) with ARTE and CNC support, Best Short Film Antalya Altın Portakal Film Festival, Best Foreign Short Film Seminar Film Festival, Spain). She is currently working on a feature short film titled Sisters’ Tale and A Tender Dream, and a children’s animated series called Abidikler ve Gubidikler. She is the Animists Animation Festival’s director and founder of Girl Saw The Sea production archives which deals with women in the animation industry in Turkey, animasyonunkadinlari.org. She lives in Istanbul with her daughters Nar, Mavi and her director husband Dağhan. You can visit the artist’s website at girlsawthesea.net.