Budde, Nadia

Word and illustration as a unity – Nadia Budde

The illustrator Nadia Budde sees word and illustration as a unity. No wonder her pictorial narratives for children and young people receive both comic and literature awards.

Her illustrations are a bit too gloomy for a typical children’s book. A lot of muddy tones, grey and blue, in Nadia Budde’s current book, Such dir was aus, aber beeil dich! Kindsein in zehn Kapiteln (i.e. pick something, but don’t take forever! Childhood in ten chapters). But perhaps this colour choice derives from her theme: Nadia Budde’s memories take place in the GDR of the 1980’s and 1990’s, amongst women workers in blue smocks, rural life with her grandparents and a newly-built prefabricated housing complex with a caretaker and political slogans.

Childhood in ten chapters – a children’s comic or a picture book?

However, Nadia Budde does not take the political system as her book’s central theme. The ten chapters arise from the private memories of this illustrative artist who was born in Berlin in 1967: combing Grandpa’s hair in front of the telly, pushing all the buttons in the lift, following the traces of a nosebleed like a detective. Budde develops short pictorial narratives, sometimes based on a concrete event, sometimes on a philosophical theme such as time. Tellingly, the illustrator of this book has been distinguished with both the Max and Moritz Award for the best children’s comic and the German Children’s Literature Award for 2010: Such dir was aus, aber beeil dich! functions both as a comic and as literature.

Bildergalerie Nadia Budde

Word and illustration as a unity

At first glance, the book has numerous elements of a classical comic; the schematic figures banned onto paper with black strokes, which Budde colours in by computer. They are similar to caricatures and often stand free against a single-colour background. Structured action sequences appear with panels, incisive sketches capture situations. But only rarely does Budde favour narrating the story over the pictures. Most of the time, the narrative follows the associative detours of the written language and is motivated by it.

Budde learned to think of word and illustration as a unity during her university studies at the Berlin-Weissensee Art Academy under Prof. Nanne Meyer. She published her first children’s book Eins zwei drei Tier (i.e. one, two three, animal), which was awarded numerous distinctions, in 2000. It presents comical animals standing next to each other, along the lines of “straight-haired, curly, frizzy – a mouse; with a hat and a mask, making a face – a cat.”

And in her following books as well, Trauriger Tiger toastet Tomaten (i.e. a sad tiger toasts tomatoes), Kurz nach Sechs kommt die Echs (i.e. the lizard is coming shortly after six) and Flosse, Fell und Federbett (i.e. fin, fur and feather-bed), words are the basis of what is seen: for example, a “purple tree frog with a lollipop, soda and light literature“ (“lila Laubfrosch mit Lollipop, Limonade und leichter Literatur“ ), or a “moody, bored iguana with patent-leather shoes and a purple leather wristwatch” (“launischer Leguan mit Langeweile, Lackschuhen und lila Lederarmbanduhr“). These books are indeed comical, above all because they make language visible in unaccustomed ways.

Nadia Budde developed her first episodically narrated story in 2007 at the invitation of the comic magazine Strapazin. An impulse for her to try her hand at more complex pictorial narratives – until the book Such dir was aus, aber beeil Dich! Kindsein in zehn Kapitel appeared. Such dir was aus, aber beeil dich! marks the current high point of Nadia Budde’s work as an illustrator of language. By providing both illustration and language more independent space respectively, she has inseparably woven them together in new, in some cases complex, narrative continuities.

Associative universe of memory

This narrative style shows, for instance, the author capturing an uneventful moment in an image - “smelling of wash cloths“ - at the kitchen table. Nadia is seen as a little girl at the table before a monochrome white surface. She is cutting out paper figures with a pair of scissors. Flies are circling around a lamp. Accompanying this the sentence “Time is a swarm of houseflies.“ A short, complex narrative about the child’s perception of time as remembered by the adult unfolds from this moment that has been preserved as if in a snapshot. On the pages that follow, written language literally becomes an image, winding its way like the time described in this manner through the trees of a mushroom forest, flying past the edge of a highway and in other places also filling out an entire spread as a text block. Then, the moment at the kitchen table is repeated, a blow with a fly swatter ends this episode – and Budde writes: “Then it’s evening, then the week is over, then the summer is over – and all childhood summers are like one summer.”

With this technique, Budde creates an associative universe of memory in ten chapters; connects concrete episodes, child-like fantasy and adult reflectiveness into a multilayered reading and visual experience. This excursion into the essence of childhood is sometimes amusing, sometimes melancholy, often poetic – and always a world away from the candy-coloured clichés of childhood as we know them from advertising.

Nadia Budde says that her stories also grew unconsciously along with her son. She drew Eins zwei drei Tier for him while he was still a small child. Today, he is 15. And Budde can well imagine telling more stories for young people and adults in the future.
Lu Yen Roloff
is a free-lance journalist working in three media as a print, radio and television author. She lives and works in Hamburg.

Copyright: Goethe-Institut
Mail Symbolonline-redaktion@goethe.de
March 2011
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