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Climate change can be a troubling topic for anyone, but it can be downright scary for kids. To explain the subject to young people, the New York Times Climate desk published a guide, "Bad Future, Better Future," showing ways they can help the environment.
To make the subject a bit more accessible, Yuliya Parshina-Kottas, a visual journalist at the graphics desk, created hand-painted illustrations using a type of watercolor called gouache. In an interview she discussed the inspiration and intention behind the images. Her lightly edited answers are below.
How did this story come about?
I've been working on it a heavily illustrated piece showing children returning to school wearing masks and all the ways the class would change. The visual style was different, and Hannah Fairfield, the editor of the Climate Desk, got in touch and said she was interested in something similar to explain climate change to children. We started kicking some ideas, trying to figure out what would work well in this format. We came up with this idea: what would the future look like if we did nothing and continued on the path we are now taking? And what would it look like if we made all these changes? In fact, we ended up with a children's book.
How have you tried to make art accessible to children?
We definitely wanted to keep the images warmer, friendlier and more playful, and make it a fantasy world, while still illustrating serious concepts.
As a news organization, we wanted to stay true to reality. Working with watercolors gave us the freedom to make fun illustrations. We teamed up with our wonderful reporter Julia Rosen, who made the language inviting to the age group we're targeting, which is somewhere between 8 and 14 years old. Claire O & # 39; Neill, the Climate Desk's visual editor, shaped the image and written content, and Aliza Aufrichtig, a digital designer, built a unique interactive scrolling framework that enabled this format.
Are you an illustrator as well as a designer?
I am actually more of a 3D animator and have been involved with many emerging technologies over the years. But in my spare time, I'm more of a traditional animator and illustrator – that's what I do for fun when the kids go to sleep. I haven't been able to do that for my work in the New York Times until now.
I understand that to create these illustrations, you painted every part of the body – head, arms, legs – then scanned them and pieced them all together.
While I like to illustrate, I am personally not the strongest illustrator. I actually find it challenging to draw a figure and imagine how they will all go together. I paint on watercolor paper with gouache. Then I scan it and build it in Photoshop. I cut out the head, I cut out the body and I put them together. These are actually little Frankenstein people.
Has this been something of a passion project for you?
Much of my personal work is in fairyland. I'm obsessed with folklore, so a lot of the things I draw have to do with folklore or women's issues. It's a bit of a different world. This is certainly a work of passion. The number of hours I put in is beyond anything I've worked on. This was a bit of a background build while working on more serious Covid related pieces. While climate change is scary, this is a visually happy place to be.