Whimsical and captivating, Israeli artist Gabriella Barouch’s illustrations combine surreal and realistic elements, grounding her audience in a familiar reality while inviting them to imagine something grander. Fantastical and down-to-earth subjects commingle on sparse backgrounds in playful scenes, emanating childhood nostalgia. Each piece is an invitation to the viewer to create their own narrative around the dream-like vision.
Wielding her digital tools in a home studio filled with the colorful toys she collects, Gabriella Barouch creates pieces that are at once innocent and thought-provoking. Her signature style, a combination of simple backgrounds, soft color schemes, and fanciful subjects appeals to a wide and diverse audience while retaining a deeply personal point-of-view. She’s worked with a host of big name clients including Hallmark, Le Monde, and the French Post Office.
The ultimate narrative is the one coming from the viewer’s inner world.
Her debut children’s book, Maybe, written by Kobi Yamada and published by Penguin Random House, has been translated into eight languages. In addition, Gabriella Barouch’s popular art prints bring sparks of her personal style of magic into homes across the world.
In this exclusive interview with Gabriella Barouch, we discover the playful nature of her creative process and find out how she’s embracing the cutting edge of digital artistic spaces.
There’s a sense of whimsical, almost childlike playfulness in many of your illustrations. Did you start creating early in life? Do you draw any inspiration from childhood memories or stories for your current work?
I started creating very early in life and it was very intuitive. I think my main inspiration isn’t memories as much as nostalgia. The missing part is where I’m working from. Do you know this moment when you remember some detail from your childhood and it fills your heart with a warm missing feeling? That’s what I’m trying to capture. I think that’s why my art speaks to both children and adults.
What are some of your favorite sources of inspiration?
First of all is music; I have playlists divided by mood and when I want to insert a feeling into my art I need to be in this feeling myself so music takes me there. Another inspiration source is literature – the words of poetry mainly, they open a gate in my head to a larger world of imagery and most importantly they evoke emotions. Last thing on my inspiration list is nature, everything with organic shapes can speak to my heart and my imagination.
A common theme in your recent work is people, often children, alongside animals in fanciful settings and poses; what inspires those specific pairings?
Magic. It’s just me searching for imagery that reflects the magic of childhood, the world through the eyes of a child is like a mystery waiting to be discovered, objects in their life get different meanings, animals and toys play a huge part of their everyday reality, that’s my main inspiration to create this art.
This moment when you see in your mind a concept for an illustration that you love, that you feel omg yes this is going to be pretty I want to create it! This is the most meaningful part of the creation process…
What is your favorite part of the creative process?
This moment when you see in your mind a concept for an illustration that you love, that you feel omg yes this is going to be pretty I want to create it! This is the most meaningful part of the creation process and my fav for sure. For me it’s all about the concept and if I’m excited and moved by it myself I just know people will connect to it as well.
One signature of your style of illustration is the muted color palettes which add to the dream-like quality of your work—how do you go about choosing color palettes for your pieces?
To be honest the colors just happened. Early on in art academy, me and my professors realized I have a strong attraction to yellow. If you analyze my colors the hue usually will go towards yellow rather than any other color. I still don’t know why it is, it’s just intuitive. In the past year I’ve been studying color theory because I feel I’ve reached a stage in my career where I want to explore new colors and try more colorful palettes.
What does your process look like from start to finish?
If it’s a client commission, I start with a brief. I collect as much information as I can on the subject, I read and create mood boards. Usually the more I study the subject, especially visually, a concept starts to form in my head. I can walk with this half concept in my head for days trying to solve it and then there’s this magical moment where I can see the full picture in my head and I sketch it. After everyone is happy with the sketch I illustrate it – I draw digitally on Procreate and Photoshop.
Your pieces have been described as narratively satisfying—what narratives do you hope viewers will find in your work?
The ultimate narrative is the one coming from the viewer’s inner world. I have no desire to form one specific narrative in my art, I create an image that carries an emotion and the viewer forms his own narrative based on his point of view in life. I love to keep my art a bit enigmatic, like a riddle to solve or like an invitation to experience a feeling for a few minutes.
It’s just me searching for imagery that reflects the magic of childhood, the world through the eyes of a child is like a mystery waiting to be discovered…
What can we look forward to seeing from you in the future?
More art, hopefully a new book in the year to come and lots more exploring of the virtual world.