Kwabena Poku is an artist and illustrator, whose work includes the illustrations for the book Once Upon a Time in Ghana, a winner of the 2014 Children's Africana Book Award. He is a lecturer at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Kumasi, Ghana, and he lives in Ghana.
Q: How did you come to illustrate Once Upon a Time in Ghana?
I have built a working relationship with Afram Publications (Gh) limited, which happens to be the publishers for Once Upon a Time in Ghana. They would usually contact me when they need illustrations.
This was the same with Once a Upon a Time in Ghana by Anna Cottrell and Agbotadua Togbi Kumassah. They called to inform me they were publishing a book, and requested if I was interested in doing the illustrations. I requested for the story line and illustration briefs. I thought it was an interesting work so I agreed to illustrate the book. A contract was signed and work commenced.
Q: How did you create your illustrations for this book, and how closely did you work with the book’s authors?
A: Interesting, in situations where I work directly with the author of a book, all forms of discussions and enquiries are direct. First-hand information comes in handy.
However, things work smoother and much better to have the illustrator, author and publisher work together. With this particular book, I never got to meet the authors. My dealings with the authors were through the publisher. Well, I think the publisher has done a good job so far, liaising between the authors and the illustrator.
As aforementioned, the publisher sent the storyline and illustration briefs to me. I then took a look at the illustration briefs in relation to the storyline. The next stage was to work on characters mentioned in the brief, after which compositions for the illustrations. Some compositions were started and later transferred onto the digital platform for completion.
Drafts illustrations were sent to the publisher, they in turn forwarded them to the author(s). Fortunately, as it happens in most instances, the illustrations were considered as suitable for the work.
Q: When you are illustrating a book, how do you decide on the style you will use for that particular work?
A: In instances where I correspond directly with the author, I talk to the author to find out his/her opinion regarding style or if they have any inclination to a particular style of illustrations.
However, in most instances, the tone of story and the intended target reader group are the main factors that I consider in determining which style of illustration would be most appropriate.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: Regarding illustrations and artworks for publications, I am working on some cover design for Afram Publications. However, my interest as an artist has been exploring the human figure. Currently, I am researching on the body and its relationship to fractal simulations.
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: I am a lecturer at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, in Kumasi. I teach anatomical studies, experimental painting, digital painting and illustration.
I have been practicing karate for well over three decades. I have no doubt it has influenced me in several ways. I am therefore exploring “myself” as a “bridge or link” between two art forms (fine arts and martial arts).
--Interview with Deborah Kalb