“ There is joy in catching a wave… My work expresses the wonder of life and nature”
Psychologies|February 2020
Artist, author, award-winning children’s illustrator and keen surfer Maia Walczak is deeply inspired by the ocean and the bounty of nature
ELLEN TOUT

Maia Walczak’s childhood summers were spent in Poland in a cabin in the woods built by her grandad, CzesÅ‚aw. ‘I was born in London, but the memories and nostalgia that I have from my childhood are wrapped up in that cabin,’ says Maia. ‘That way of life stayed with me. We had an outdoor compost toilet and the running water for bathing was so cold! We would heat it over the fire to wash outside – pouring buckets of water over ourselves; if it was warm enough and we felt brave, we would bathe in the stream, and we would wash our clothes by hand. We bought produce directly from local farmers. It was supposedly a less comfortable way of life but it stuck with me and is still an inspiration. It was such a divide, like I was living two different lives – London city life and the cabin.’

Those memories have strongly influenced Maia’s work, most recently in her new children’s book, Wylder (selfpublished, £6.99), a ‘silent’, or wordless, book in which the story is told solely through illustration. Why a silent book? ‘The idea was born when I realised that silent films exist, so why not silent books? I didn’t know at the time that there were already a few silent books, so I started experimenting,’ she says. ‘It’s about the atmosphere, emotion and feeling. For example, when I hear a piece of music without lyrics, it can speak to me more deeply. With silent books… I had a sense that sometimes words can take away meaning or muddle it. As they say, a picture speaks a thousand words!’

My soul in pictures

The illustrations in Wylder are deeply personal. ‘I’ve always had an obsession with forests. The book was inspired by our cabin hidden in the pine trees but it is also about gentleness – showing compassion towards nature and one another. I knew I wanted it to reflect that and encompass the things that I love, such as foraging and growing food,’ she says. ‘It’s like I poured my heart out into the book and then released it. It’s so special to me.’

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