Vanda Čizmek

As a kid, I wanted to be an actress. But, as it happens in the stories, an evil witch appeared and ate some letters, so only ‘art’ remained and I stayed in the field of art. Along the way a piece of paper appeared, a pen and a computer … not to mention a dog!


_2021. IBBY Honour List 2022. category Illustrator with the book Catch the Blue Bear for Me by Silvija Šesto, Ibis grafika

_2021. Grigor Vitez Commendation Award 2020, for illustrations in the picture book The Alphabet of the Unloved Ones by Silvija Šesto, Semafora

_2021. Image of the book – XIV International Illustration and Book Design Competition, Diploma in category The Best Illustration for Kids and Youngsters for the book The Alphabet of the Unloved Ones by Silvija Šesto, Moscow, Russia

_2019. picture book P. ASKS About the sky… by Silvija Šesto (Ibis grafika) chosen title at Croatian Beautiful Book contest 2019 / the most beautifully designed book, for international competition Best Book Design from all over the World 2019, Leipzig and for the exhibition Book Art International, Frankfurt

_2019. A Sheep in the Box – shortlisted for the award of the children’s jury for the best Croatian picture book in 2018/19, Silvija Šesto: Catch the Blue Bear for Me, Ibis grafika

_2019. Image of the book – XII International Illustration and Book Design Competition, Diploma in category The Best Illustration for Kids and Youngsters for the book Tonka Will Do It Tomorrow by Jelena Pervan, Moscow, Russia

_2019. Ilustrofest19 – Festival of Illustration, best illustration award in categroy: Book illustration; Tonka Will Do It Tomorrow by Jelena Pervan and Catch the Blue Bear for Me by Silvija Šesto, Belgrade, Serbia

_2019. Grigor Vitez Award 2018, for illustration in the book Catch the Blue Bear for Me by Silvija Šesto, Ibis grafika

_2018. picture book Catch the Blue Bear for Me by Silvija Šesto (Ibis grafika) chosen title for the Beautiful Croatian Book contest in 2018 / the most beautifully designed book, for international competition Best Book Design from all over the World 2018, Leipzig and for the exhibition Book Art International, Frankfurt

_2018. A Sheep in the Box – shortlisted for the award of the experts’ jury for the best Croatian picture book in 2017/18, Jelena Pervan: Tonka Will Do It Tomorrow, Semafora

_2018, Grigor Vitez Commendation Award 2017 for overall artistic work in the field of illustration in 2017

_2017. A Sheep in the Box – shortlisted for the award of the experts’ jury for the best Croatian picture book in 2016/17, Robert Mlinarec: Kumar’s Dream, HDKDM

_2017. Grigor Vitez Commendation Award 2016 for illustrations in the picture books Trifling Cough Syrup by Silvija Šesto, Semafora and Kumar’s Dream by Robert Mlinarec, HDKDM

_2016. A Sheep in the Box – the children’s jury for the best Croatian picture book in 2015/16, Silvija Šesto: Trifling Cough Syrup, Semafora

_2016. Special Certificate at the Sixth Croatian Biennale of Illustration

If you want to know more…


Rijeka Public Library, March 2017

Let’s meet Croatian illustrators of picture books and books for children so we can love them more! If it is possible at all. 🙂

Today Vanda Čižmek has filled up her own lexicon page of the special illustrated corner of the magazine. Do you recognize that feeling, when somebody fills a white paper with the magic of beauty in exactly the right measure? If you until now had no chnance to recognize that feeling, now you will surely do. Dear people – Vanda.

_Read more



… and even more!


Literature and Child Magazine, DHK, May 2017

Written by Snježana Babić Višnjić

My imaginary characters sometimes remind me of some real faces

When she was invited several times last year to take the award for her work, Vanda Čižmek’s it was like her childhood dreams came partialy true. Not so much because of the recognition and reward that cheered her up and confirmed her skill even to those who don’t know her so well, but because as a child she dreamed of stage lights wanting to be an actress. She cheerfully makes a language joke about thes, adding that the wish does not suit her character and work, because she still can’t imagine herself on stage, being watched by hundreds of eyes. That is why she has found her place and meaning seemingly in the lee, and in fact where the most beautiful stories are created.


– The love for drawing has existed since childhood. I loved drawing and expressing myself with pictures just like any child. Even today, it is much easier for me than to express myself in words. Already in elementary school, I showed that I prefer drawing to other subjects, so later I enrolled in the school where I could draw the most – School for Applied Art. There I finished interior design, which I did for some time after graduating from the Faculty of Graphic Arts – she remembers the days when she was trying to find herself and found herself with crayons in her hands.


The first illustrator job, she recalled, she got during her studies thanks to an acquaintance. There was a need for an English language textbook for preschoolers at a private residential language school where her friend and her mom worked and remembered her as someone who draws beautifully. Then a friend took her to a publishing house. English textbook 1 was followed by textbook 2, then a bit for a children’s magazine, then a picture book…


– Then that friend of my friend became my friend and also a life partner, he opened his own design studio and made me interested in what he does. So I devoted myself to graphic design and illustrations, and they pushed out interior design. Although they are equally creative and I like both these fields. Maybe more illustration though, to which I’ve been more devoted lately. Although in my work these two things are intermingled people often tell me that my illustrations are design, stylistically simple, clean, with reduced colors. When I first started illustrating, I really wanted them to burst with colors and look more like paintings, more muddy, smudged, like if some child would play. I couldn’t do it at all because they my hand, and for my eye were influenced by that school… together with my dad, the architect. Besides,they say less is more.


Vanda has managed to create a recognizable line, something that many painters and illustrators have been searching for most of their lives. Perhaps this is due to her ritual by which she prepares every day to “translate” words into a picture.


– First coffee, juice and speed reading because I can’t wait to see what it’s about and what awaits me. If it’s a novel, I read the whole to get an overall picture and see which parts would be most interesting to illustrate. Then I read again and scribble on the paper, making sketches. With the picture book, this process is more complex, I like them the most because I can weave more of myself into them – says Vanda and adds that the beginning is always her favorite because it is the most complex part of her job. And after reading the story, sometimes several times, the creative process begins: thinking of characters, their elaboration in different poses, how stylish the illustrations will look, which colors they will use, followed by elaboration of shots, compositions, sketching indefinitely. When she thinks of all this, she explains, she sends a couple of examples for the author / writer to present his vision of their story.


“Then if they don’t say anything, they must be silent forever.” It’s already half the job and moving to the finish line. Since I do digital illustrations, I first scan the drawings and then draw them from scratch and finish them on a computer. Sometimes I spend two days looking for the best composition solution. And if it were possible, I would like, in that final phase of illustration, to engage a little man who would do this technical part according to my instructions to the end – laughs Vanda, who generally has no problem with inspiration because she starts creating images while reading. They usually come from the imagination, and only after the characters have been created they sometimes do remind her of some real faces.


– That’s what happened to the character of Anja from the picture book Anja and the Black Sheep. When I drew Anja in various poses, I realized that it was actually Una, the girl of our friends that we hang out with every summer. She has not seen the picture book yet, I will have to give the task to our dear librarian Davorka to show her when she comes to her library, to see if she will be recognized – Vanda notes.

Although she has already practiced translating stories from word to picture, sometimes she faces a challenge that force her to rethink well. Kumar’s Dream was last such task, illustrations for her  cousin Robert Mlinarec’s book.


– I read and read, then read again, retold the story and tortured everyone around me, even the dog, with questions: so what is it to him, how am I going to do that, to the banal ones: what does a mango tree look like? A really difficult task, to illustrate such an unusual, surreal, layered story – Vanda points out and adds that she is currently most proud of that job, although she notes that she is always most proud of the last job done, until she does a new one. Probably because she only had good experiences with writers.


– In fact, I had complete freedom. Fortunately, so far I have illustrated most of the books to writers I know so that communication is clearer and they know what to expect, because they know my drawing style. These were guidelines like: hey, I already see that black cat on a white background, and I just imagined everything in brown tones because I was in that phase after finishing the last one or: the way you do black and white only with color details, and I drew everything green and red – she laughs.


This good collaboration with the authors and free creativity have resulted in a beauty that is recognized by the expert juries, which evaluate the illustrations on our publishing horizon with a very strict measuring tape. Last year, along with four other authors (Matija Pisačić, Davor Pavelić, Irena Jukić Pranjić and Sanja Pribić), she received a special award at the 6th Croatian Biennial of Illustration for illustrations for Silvija Šesto’s picture books Trifling Cough Syrup, which were not exhibited, but were only introduced in the catalog, and Ana Đokić’s Anja and the black sheep. From three illustrations from the book by Ana Đokić, she also made a gif animation that was shown at the biennial. As a particularly dear moment, she singles out the one in which she was awarded “Sheep in a Box”, the award of the children’s jury for the best Croatian picture book in 2015/2016, together with the writer Silvija Šesto for the picture book Trifling Cough Syrup.


She also remembers these two picture books after the anecdotes that usually happen when creating such a work.


– The picture book Trifling Cough Syrup trifling thing at all. I first imagined and drew everything in brown tones, black cat black, of course. I emailed Silvia one illustration and she politely reminded me how she thought it would be black on white. Oh yeah, I remembered and redid everything, figured out what it would look like, a new girl, black on white and two more colors. I send happy again and she is happy, great, black on white, agreed. Then something else stepped in to illustrate and the cat is postponed for two months. I start working again and I don’t like the one from before anymore, I change those two colors to the other two, I send it to Silvia, and she agreed this is great. Another job came in again. I’m going back to the cat, it’s not good again, the little one in the picture book has wrong name. I can’t draw Mirta in any way. What now, what now, I draw Danica, I send, I ask if the little one can still be called Danica? And I change those two more colors, again. Another anecdote is with the picture book Anja and the Black Sheep. There the girl’s name was good, the sheep black, all right. But… colors again. Ana and I agree, all in black and white with color details. No problem, one learns from mistakes, a black cat done on white, everything is clear. I am sending Ana, happy and proud, illustration by email. In the foreground, a black sheep and a black-and-white Anja are sitting on a red seesaw, and around them an entire park (and grass, and flowers, and trees, and butterflies, and a poor dog) something in red and something in green. Ana also reminds me politely of the notion of color blindness – Vanda recalled working on the awarded picture books, but also immediately added:


– Of all the awards, I like the most the praise given to me by fellow illustrators, artists. And Dad. He is hard to win, he is always the sharpest critic (so what is this to you, what are your pastry colors… let me not list more) he always expects even better and better and better and better… – notes Vanda and adds that her job has also less interesting sides, and that is “cooking lunch and wiping ashes from the desk and keyboard, but this must be done when working at home, so you have to eat something, and you like a tidy table because the mess around you causes a mess in you.”