In The Snow Comes Around, a picture book published by Beijing Dandelion Children’s Book House, a white moose appears out of the snow on the first page and walks through all 16 spreads. The moose represents the snow, says illustrator Igor Oleinikov, the 2018 Hans Christian Andersen Award winner. “I saw a video of an albino moose crossing a stream on the Internet once, and that image stayed with me. So when this project came, I decided that the white moose would symbolize the falling snow.”

The wintry landscape is something that Oleinikov understands well. “I am a northern man,” he notes. “I relate to northern landscapes better, and this is where the love of snow comes from. Besides, northern landscapes are very expressive and graphic—all black and white—and if there are any colors at all, they are usually very discreet. I love the minimalism in the image.”

Oleinikov says that he draws in whatever way he thinks is right for the story. “I do not try to appeal to any kind of audience with my illustrations. I also do not follow what is happening in the book market. I just illustrate. Without making illustrating all about money, I like to work. Illustrating to me is a job, a hobby, and a way to relax at the same time.”

To aspiring illustrators, Oleinikov points out that the most important thing is a willingness to learn. “If you do, you can always find teachers—and that’s what I did. And if you want something badly enough, you will get it.”

Oleinikov, who studied chemical engineering, did not have formal art training but loved technology and drawing. “I drew for six years while at the university and three years at a design institute,” he says. “Back then, there were no computers, and all drawings were done manually on a piece of Whatman paper with a ruler, a pencil, and some calipers. After that, I worked at an animation studio, and that was where I learned how to draw by observing the masters.”

Winning the Andersen award has not changed Oleinikov or his work, he says. “I continue to work as I have worked before. The only change is that I have stepped back from illustrating children’s books, and I am now focused on adult literature. Maybe I will return to children’s literature when the time comes.”

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