Vladimir Filakovac Gallery, Narodno sveučilište Dubrava Zagreb
3 – 19 February 2020


… illustrations that celebrate life and that will delight the youngest readers for a long time to come, with its stylish, clean, wacky and refined interpretations, opening new, magical worlds for them as an inexhaustible source of incredible imagination and talent.

Vanda Čižmek’s Magical vector world

Few authors can boast with such rapid success as the illustrator Vanda Čižmek experienced. In a few years she rose to become a well known name on our illustrator scene. She was really in the right place at the right time, since she and her longtime partner Davor Šunk, at the invitation of the writer Silvija Šesto, took over the graphic design of the publications of the Croatian Society of Writers for Children and Youth.

Although Čižmek is a professional graphic designer, with her stylized but striking handwriting she created a retro style inspired by the famous Zagreb School of Animated Film and some of its most famous figures: Dušan Vukotić, Vlado Kristl, Borivoj Dovniković, Boris Kolar, Zlatko Bourek…

Using a computer mouse and the Adobe Illustrator software, in her work Vanda has built a powerful, imaginary vector world. Such a flat aesthetic of clear lines and colors is indirectly the product of the very nature of the development of computer technology that has swept the world in the last two decades. However, Čižmek proved with her creativity that her talent surpassed the imposed trends, avoiding all dangers and obstacles on the path of creative development, taking care that her works were not too mechanical and alienated from the topic itself.

All of Vanda’s charming, drawn characters, whether they are an adult, child, dog, cat, bird, monkey, zebra, elephant, whale…, are created with incredible ease in a few strokes with accentuated character and mood, testifying that the author convincingly handles proportions and anatomy. In the background, she often uses colored geometric surfaces such as squares, rectangles, circles or triangles, from which she creates architectural shapes or nature, contrasting them with the main characters.

Her color palette is gentle, unobtrusive. She often uses colors such as pink, light blue and washed, brown, yellow and green. To highlight the composition, she uses black contour lines on the faces of the main characters, while in the background everything else is subordinated to a flat, simplified way of expression.

In some works, in which she started introducing monochromy, she does not hesitate to use graphic textures that sometimes lean towards abstraction, and even informalism, giving the illustration a dramatic and expressive tone.

Precisely because of such an approach to design, critics recognized Vanda’s gift and awarded her numerous recognitions, such as: special recognition at the 6th Croatian Biennial of Illustration (2016), Sheep in the Box Award by children’s jury for the picture book Trifling Cough Syrup (Syrup Against Cat’s Cough) by Silvija Šesto (2016), The Grigor Vitez Award for the picture book Catch the Blue Bear for Me by Silvija Šesto (2019), and the Award for the best illustration in the book category at the Illustration Festival – Ilustrofest (2019), held in Belgrade, for the picture books Tonka Will Do It Tomorrow by Jelena Pervan and Catch the Blue Bear for Me by Silvija Šesto.

Unlike other illustrators who, with their recognizable style and handwriting, mostly submit to the given story within the classic format, Vanda, as a graphic designer, also thinks about designing the book itself. Her dynamic compositions are broken, acting as if they are fragments of a larger whole, which she balances with the desired image by inserting a graphic text.

Enthusiasm for picture books and the written word “can be somewhat blamed” on her cousin, the famous writer Robert Mlinarac, for whom she illustrated the picture book Kumar’s Dream, which she herself reported to the media as one of her favorite works. She has collaborated with other important authors such as: Silvija Šesto, Nada Mihelčić, Melita Rundek, Ana Đokić, Hrvoje Kovačević, Jelena Pervan, Davor Šunk…

Vanda Čižmek realized “on time” her life vocation and successfully combined her love of art and the written word into a work of art that should not be ignored, making illustrations that celebrate life and will delight the youngest readers for a long time with their stylish, clean, wacky and refined interpretations, opening for them new, magical worlds as an inexhaustible source of incredible imagination and talent.


Svebor Vidmar