- Marit Törnqvist:A Direct Line from My Heart to My Hand
Marit Törnqvist is one of the most famous illustrators in the Netherlands. She has won several awards, has been nominated several times for the Hans Christian Andersen Award and made the shortlist in 2016, and has also been the Dutch IBBY-section nominee for the past few years for the famous Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award. Törnqvist illustrates books by other authors—mostly Astrid Lindgren; her mother, Rita Verschuur, is the translator of several books by Lindgren—but she also writes books herself with her own illustrations.
Since 1988, I have been working as an illustrator of children’s literature, writer, and decor designer. I also like to do projects with children next to these occupations, because I am—and always will be—very curious to look at their view on the world.
Marit Törnqvist was born in Sweden in 1964 but grew up in Holland and studied illustration at the Gerrit Rietveld Academie in Amsterdam. As the second child in a family with three children, Marit spent the majority of her earlier years in Uppsala, in the house where her father had lived together with her grandfather. The old-fashioned furniture in the dark but atmospheric rooms would later return in her illustrations in many different ways.
When she was five, the family moved to Holland. Marit’s mother, Rita Törnqvist, is Dutch and her father Swedish. Several times, she had to move with the family to a new village and also to a new school.
I was being bullied at school. I didn’t know any Dutch words, because my parents apparently had never considered the fact that we might have to move to the Netherlands at any moment in the near future. In class, my classmates used to pinch my skin with their nails under my table and did not stop until the wound started to bleed.
During Törnqvist’s first year at the academy, her parents decided to split. Since there was no home to return to, Marit decided to stay and rent a room in Amsterdam. To escape her miserable situation in Amsterdam, she fled to Sweden a couple of times: “At the farm of Karl-Erik and Lena I found consolation. Seeing these two people together, so close to nature, it made me feel a bit humble.”
At the academy, Törnqvist attended courses by, amongst others, Thé Tjong-Khing and Carl Hollander—both famous and very influential illustrators themselves. She stayed after graduation in Amsterdam, got married, and now has two daughters, Jasmin and Rosalie. She has a beautiful atelier at the attic of her canal-side house in Amsterdam. But every year, she goes back to Sweden to work on her books in a lovely cottage in the middle of nowhere but also to work with Swedish translators of her books or with Swedish authors who want her to illustrate their texts. During the past two years, Marit has been very active in projects concerning refugee children and adolescents.
One very special project she worked on in Sweden was Junibacken. She designed a three-dimensional journey through Astrid Lindgren’s work at the Junibacken children’s cultural center in [End Page 22] Stockholm (she has been the artistic adviser to the project since 1997).
My three-dimensional projects have always known some struggles. When I was designing the ‘stories-journey’ on Junibacken in Stockholm, I tried to work in the same intuitive way as during my smaller book projects. However, this time I was facing a project in which millions (of Swedish krona’s) had been invested and about seventy construction workers to whom I had to transfer my thoughts and feelings. Eventually, I succeeded in building something that was very close to my other work, namely a personal interpretation of the work of Astrid Lindgren.
The Red Bird
Following her final exams in 1987 at the Academy of Arts in Amsterdam, Törnqvist was asked by the Swedish publisher Rabén & Sjögren to work as an illustrator with the writer Astrid Lindgren. She has since then illustrated several of Astrid...