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Ulla Saar

Biography

Ulla Saar (1975) is an illustrator and graphic artist. She graduated from the Estonian Academy of Arts in product design. Her first illustrated book Lift achieved immediate widespread recognition and was listed in the 2014 White Ravens catalogue. Since then, every one of her books has received international attention. Saar practices a contemporary, design-like approach to book illustration: her spirited and playful art is often more a part of the work’s overall design than free-standing pictures.

I started illustrating books from about the age of three, when many of my children’s books at home acquired new designs, mostly in a rather abstract form. A short break happened in the meantime, during which I dreamed about becoming a geologist, instead. Back then, one of my favorite books was Anatoly Chlenov’s Geology in Pictures – inspired by it, I started putting together my own personal rock collection. Over time, it became clear that field didn’t suit me, and I turned back to art.

I try to proceed more from context in my works – whether it is some fragment of text that has been haunting me, a text I am presently illustrating, or else something that eludes me at first and demands more concentration from the viewer, hopefully resulting in questions and motivating me to seek answers.

Pencils and I have a long history together that may contain blood, sweat, and tears, but we’ve come a long way and we know each other through and through. By now, we get along swimmingly. When I work on a book, I try to proceed from the text and catch the tone of it in my drawings; to support and elevate it rather than compete with it. That’s why all the books I’ve illustrated look different – to me, a technique is just a tool that I execute to create a good book.

Profile photo: Piia Ruber

Vainola, Kätlin. LIFT, Pegasus, 2013, ink, digital treatmentGrigori Oster. Mischievous Mathematics, Varrak, 2015, coloured pencil, acrylicKairi Look. Piia Biscuit Moves In, Tänapäev, 2015, watercolour, collageKadri Hinrikus. Sandra’s 12 Months, Tammerraamat, 2016, acrylic, lead pencilIndrek Koff. Nice, Härra Tee ja Proua Kohvi, 2016, lead pencil, digital colouringKätlin Vainola. The Boy Who Drew Maps, Pegasus, 2017, lead pencil, digital treatmentHelvi Jürisson. What Letters Say, Menu, 2018, digital drawingHelvi Jürisson. What Letters Say, Menu, 2018, digital drawingNorton Juster. The Phantom Tollbooth, Draakon & Kuu, 2018, digital drawingNorton Juster. The Phantom Tollbooth, Draakon & Kuu, 2018, digital drawingKristi Piiper. The Lovesick Basement Monster, the Vegan Blood Sausage, and Other Stories, Tänapäev, 2019, digital drawingKairi Look. Piia Biscuit and the Bandits, Tänapäev, 2019, digital drawingKairi Look. Piia Biscuit and the Bandits, Tänapäev, 2019, digital drawingHeikki Niska. Fussy Hörvelös, Enostone, 2020, digital drawingUrmas Reinmaa. Where Did You Find It From?, Päike ja Pilv, 2020, digital drawingUrmas Reinmaa. Where Did You Find It From?, Päike ja Pilv, 2020, digital drawing

Sweets Sciences

Grigori Oster

Translator: Ilona Martson
Varrak
2020, 95 pp
ISBN: 9789985349663
fiction, storybook

What Letters Say

Helvi Jürisson

Menu Meedia
2018, 184 pp
ISBN: 9789949549801
fiction, storybook, poetry

Nice

Härra Tee & proua Kohvi
2016, 54 pp
ISBN: 9789949388592
fiction, picturebook

Mischievous Mathematics

Grigori Oster

Translator: Ilona Martson
Varrak
2015, 107 pp
ISBN: 9789985335611
non-fiction, storybook

2021

Annual International Contest ‘Image of the Book/Obraz knigi’, Moscow, laureate (Urmas Reinmaa. Where Did You Find it?)

2020

5 Best Designed Estonian Children’s Books, Certificate of Merit (Urmas Reinmaa. Where Did You Find it?)

2019

25 Best Designed Estonian Books, Certificate of Merit (Kristi Piiper. The Lovesick Basement Monster, the Vegan Blood Sausage, and Other Stories)
5 Best Designed Estonian Children’s Books, Certificate of Merit, Special Prize of the Estonian Graphic Designers’ Association (Kristi Piiper. The Lovesick Basement Monster, the Vegan Blood Sausage, and Other Stories)
Edgar Valter illustration prize nominee

2018, 2019 Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award candidate

2018

25 Best Designed Estonian Books, Certificate of Merit (Helvi Jürisson. What Letters Say)

2017

25 Best Designed Estonian Books, Certificate of Merit (Kätlin Vainola. The Boy Who Drew Maps)

2016

25 Best Designed Estonian Books, Certificate of Merit (Indrek Koff. I Am Doing Well)
5 Best Designed Estonian Children’s Books, Certificate of Merit, Special Prize of the Estonian Graphic Designers’ Association (Indrek Koff. Nice)
Good Children’s Book (Indrek Koff. Nice)

2015

25 Best Designed Estonian Books, Certificate of Merit (Grigori Oster. Mischievous Mathematics)
5 Best Designed Estonian Children’s Books, Certificate of Merit, Tallinn (Kätlin Vainola. Sonya and the Cat)
Good Children’s Books (Contra. Everyone’s the Smartest; Kairi Look. Piia Biscuit Moves In; Grigori Oster. Mischievous Mathematics; Anti Saar. Urmas the Maintenance Man)

2014

The White Ravens (Kätlin Vainola. Lift)
Karl Eduard Sööt Children’s Poetry Award (Contra. Everyone’s the Smartest)
25 Best Designed Estonian Books, Certificate of Merit (Contra. Everyone’s the Smartest)

2013

5 Best Designed Estonian Children’s Books, Certificate of Merit, Special Prize of the Estonian Children’s Literature Centre, Estonian Graphic Designers’ Associations’ Special Prize for a young artist (Kätlin Vainola. Lift)
Good Children’s Book (Kätlin Vainola. Lift)
2021
Sharjah Children’s Book Illustrations Exhibition, the United Arab Emirates
Exhibition of Estonian illustrators “Alluring Fox”, Estonian Children’s Literature Centre, Tallinn, St.Petersburg

2020
Tallinn Illustrations Triennial (TIT), Estonia


2019

Spring exhibition of Estonian illustrators, Estonian Children’s Literature Centre, Tallinn
Group exhibition of Estonian illustrators “Leafing Through Estonian Children’s Books II”, Moscow, Kolomna, Russia

2018–2020
Exhibition of Baltic illustrators “Running with Wolves”, London, the United Kingdom; Estonian Children’s Literature Centre, Tallinn (”Wolf Run“); Gdańsk, Wrocław, Białystok, Warsaw, Płock, Szczecin, Poland; Pordenone, Italy; Vilnius, Lithuania

2018

Exhibition of Estonian illustrators “Running with Wolves”, Estonian Children’s Literature Centre, Tallinn
Group exhibition of Estonian illustrators „Tra ghiaccio e fuoco“, Rome, Pesco Sannita, Italy

2017

Biennial of Illustrations Bratislava (BIB), Slovakia
Spring exhibition of Estonian illustrators, Estonian Children’s Literature Centre
Group exhibition of Estonian illustrators “Leafing Through Estonian Children’s Books I”, Moscow, Kolomna, Russia
Exhibition of Estonian illustrators “A Window into the Fairy Tale World”, Haapsalu Cultural Centre, Haapsalu Children’s Library

2016

Spring exhibition of Estonian illustrators, Estonian Children’s Literature Centre
Travelling exhibition of Estonian illustrators, “A Walk on the Path of Fairy Tale Together with Charles Perrault”, Moscow, Krasnoarmeysk, Mytishchi, Russia

2015–2020
International illustration exhibition, “It’s Always Tea-Time”, Estonian Children’s Literature Centre, Tallinn; Riga, Latvia; Uusikaupunki, Finland; Gdansk, Wrocław, Toruń, Elbląg, Poland; Berlin, Germany; Szczecin, Płock, Poland; Budapest, Hungary; Oxford, the United Kingdom; Moscow, Krasnoarmeysk, Mytishchi, Vyborg, St. Petesburg, Russia

2015–2019
Exhibition of Estonian Illustrators, “Once Upon a Time...” (Grimm’s Fairy Tales), Aosta, Anagni, Lagonegro, Bernalda-Metaponto, Corato, Matera, Roma, Lacco Ameno, Irsina, Siracusa, Sassari, Roma, Bologna, Italy; Estonian Children’s Literature Centre, Tallinn; Minsk, Belarus; Kraków, Łomża, Białystok, Szczecin, Płock, Warszaw, Elbląg, Gdańsk, Opole, Poland

2013–2014
Solo exhibition “Majahoidja” (Housekeeper), Tallinn, Mooste, Estonia

2002

Exhibition of drawings and photographs with Lauri Saar, Tallinn, Estonia

2001

Annual exhibition of artists’ group Ydi, Tallinn, Estonia
Exhibition of the Estonian Academy of Arts’ (EAA) Finno-Ugric expedition, “The Water-Bird People”, Belgium

1999–2001
Exhibitions of the EAA Finno-Ugric expeditions, Tallinn, Tartu, Estonia