Catherine Zarip

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illustrator, book designer



+372 516 3769

Catherine Zarip (1966) is an illustrator and graphic designer. She graduated from the Estonian Academy of Arts in ceramics 1995, after which she worked at the publisher Avita as a book designer and art director. She is currently a freelance artist. Zarip has illustrated dozens of textbooks, more than 30 children’s books, and has designed about 200 works in total. She is a member of the Estonian Graphic Designers Association and the Estonian Section of IBBY. Zarip has been awarded twice at the Tallinn Illustrations Triennial and ten times in the 5 Best-Designed Estonian Children’s Books competition. Her works are held in the collections of the Estonian National Library and the Estonian Children’s Literature Centre. Her art is fresh and elegant – simultaneously animated and restrained, detail-rich and simplified.

As a child I had two dreams – to become a cosmonaut or a book illustrator. Somewhere along the way my dreams fell by the wayside because I went to study ceramics at the art academy. But life took charge and in my final year I was asked to illustrate a textbook. I worked for that publisher for 19 years as a book designer. During that time I have also illustrated books.
Creating the world of pictures is a wonderful job. Each time I need to think up something new and improve my knowledge of the world and the way things work. Everyone’s work should be like this – doing something that you like and being able to bring joy to other people.

Tomusk, Ilmar. Vapper siil (The Brave Hedgehog), Tammerraamat 2020
Sein, Liis. Saskia otsib värve (Saskia Looks for Colours), Tammerraamat 2019
Tomusk, Ilmar. Väike Vunts (Little Whiskers), Tammerraamat 2019
Veigel, Piret. Piparkoogilugu, Postimees Kirjastus 2019
Niit, Ellen. Jutt jänesepojast, kes ei tahtnud magama jääda (The Little Bunny Who Didn’t Want to Go to Sleep), Tammerraamat 2018
Tomusk, Ilmar. Hundi sõbrad (Wolf’s Friends), Tammerraamat 2018
Kuidas loomad endale sabad said (How the Animals Got their Tails), Tammerraamat 2017
Saar, Olivia. Kippu ega kõppu (Not a Peep), Pegasus 2017
Pervik, Aino. Sinivant joonistab (Bluephant Draws), Tammerraamat 2017
Ilves, Evelin. Linnu lood (A Bird’s Stories), FD Distribution 2016
Pervik, Aino. Sinivant kuulab unejuttu (Bluephant Hears a Bedtime Story), Tammerraamat 2016
Pisike puu (Little Tree), Eesti Lastekirjanduse Keskus 2015
Tungal, Leelo. Jänesepoeg otsib sõpra (Joseph the Bunny Looks for a Friend), Tammerraamat 2015
Williams, Margery. Sametjänes (The Velveteen Rabbit), Koolibri 2015
Hinrikus, Kadri. Konnade mäss (The Frogs’ Revolt), Tammerraamat 2014
Pervik, Aino. Sinivant läheb lasteaeda (Bluephant Goes to Kindergarten), Tammerraamat 2014
Rand, Hilli. Lumivalge ja süsimust (Snowy White and Pitch Black), Päike ja Pilv 2014
Niit, Ellen. Mänguvesi (Play Water), Tammerraamat 2013
Hellerma, Kärt. Taevarändurid ja teisi jutte (Pilgrims of the Sky and Other Stories), Ajakirjade Kirjastus 2012
Maran, Iko. Aga palju kasse (But So Many Cats), TEA Kirjastus 2012
Pervik, Aino. Rändav kassiemme (The Wandering Cat), Tammerraamat 2012
Mänd, Heljo. Laululadu (Song Store), TEA Kirjastus 2011
Герасимова, Дарья. Волшебная зима (Magic Winter), Moskva: Лабиринт 2011
Oll, Sulev. Vana sõna vallatused (Rascally Proverbs), TEA Kirjastus 2010
Mänd, Heljo. Tähekoorem (A Load of Letters), TEA Kirjastus 2009
Rannap, Jaan. Lips-laps lehelind (Flitter-flutter Leaf Warbler), TEA Kirjastus 2008
Kummaline kuju (The Weird One), TEA Kirjastus 2007
Leies, Uno. Miisu sünnipäev (Pussy Cat’s Birthday), TEA Kirjastus 2007
Patat, Bence. Kas sa räägid loomade keelt? (Can you Speak to Animals?), Puhja: Väike Vanker 2005
Pervik, Aino. Mammutilaps ajab tuult taga (The Little Mammoth Catches the Wind), Avita 2002

With other illustrators:
Sünnipäevalood (Birthday Stories), Eesti Lastekirjanduse Keskus 2013
Aabits (ABC book), Avita 2011
Petrone, Epp. Muinasjutud armastusest (Fairy Tales about Love), Petrone Print 2011
Uued eesti muinasjutud (New Estonian Fairy Tales), Pilgrim 2009
Eesti muinasjuttude kuldraamat (The Golden Book of Estonian Fairy Tales), TEA Kirjastus 2009
Elas kord… (Once Upon a Time…), Avita 2008
Suur valmiraamat (Big Book of Fables), Avita 2006

One of Estonia’s most renowned book illustrators had two dreams as a child: to become a cosmonaut or an illustrator. Two completely different desires: one that physically takes you to such distances, and another that can so much as be seen and touched! Catherine Zarip enrolled in the Estonian Academy of Arts (EKA) to study something very tactile – ceramics. She graduated in the field in 1995, but was given the chance to illustrate a workbook already during her last semester at the university, and indeed switched from ceramics to book design. In reality, there was nothing surprising about this. According to Zarip, she learned to read at a very young age and discovered the world of illustration at the same time, also. Libraries and bookshops soon became her favourite places. Even her first allowance was spent precisely on books, so that she could design her very own little library! Immediately after graduating from EKA, Zarip took a job as a book designer with the publisher Avita, where she worked until 2014 as the head artist for the majority of the time. Outside of her publishing work, Catherine Zarip arrived at illustrating children’s books more than a decade ago. In addition, she has frequently done work for the children’s magazine Täheke and been featured at exhibitions. It certainly is not the same as conquering the cosmos, but it allows her to roam through her fantasies ideally.

Catherine Zarip’s works are most correctly viewed through the prism of paradox. A book designer’s job is not easy. Given today’s publishing conditions, a head artist has to act quickly – contract deadlines are constantly breathing down his or her neck, there are perpetually cover designs to be done, illustrators have to be found, and – when necessary – the artist has to illustrate the books themselves, too. And so, Catherine Zarip has done the designs and cover art for several textbooks published by Avita, and has contributed a voluminous number of illustrations. However, there also has to remain time for one’s own original works alongside quick reaction-time. Zarip’s illustrations are very well-considered and the outcome of deep concentration. The artist finds that illustration must speak to the reader and not only depict the text in a visual manner, but enrich it as well. Illustration should help the reader peek behind the text for a moment, too.

Catherine Zarip’s illustrations always leave a fresh and elegant impression. Yet, what hides behind these abstract descriptive categories? In terms of composition, she frequently nudges the centre of gravity towards the fringes, which is in no way derived from the need to position text in a certain place. This state of “offset” results in a film-like feeling at times – you never know what else might surface somewhere! Zarip often implements completely unexpected perspectives when observing an object. Her pictures contain a great deal of air; of unoccupied surface. In spite of the absence of figurative filler, the space is not empty or simply left blank to achieve greater contrast. Instead, it is lightly filled with a tone or pattern, and is made into an inseparable part of the illustration.

In regards to illustration techniques, the artist often uses acrylic paints. This gives her the opportunity to make backgrounds glow as they do with watercolours, and allows her to apply colours more freely, resulting in fascinating factures and layering. Zarip’s colour solutions are manifold, ranging from pastels (although very colourful shades) through works done almost in the grisaille technique, where only a few lone brighter splotches of colour have settled. When using pastel tones, there is often the danger of the picture becoming too sweet; however, in Zarip’s works, some kind of balance is always found for every “sweeter” colour combination. Even when using milder tones, her works never turn foggy or diffused. The picture’s surfaces can indeed be processed to a very detailed point in places, but Zarip is able to avoid general dullness. Her figures possess clear boundaries for the most part, but are not drawn emphatically. Zarip’s signature can be recognised precisely by way of her animal characters, which are always very endearing and expressive. There is nothing insistently childish about them, nor are they excessively stylised or cute. Rather, one can sense human characteristics behind their expressions – outright personalities. At the same time, they are all characterised by a certain sort of contemplativeness.

Returning to the aforementioned paradox, one may say that this is exactly where the elegancy of Catherine Zarip’s works lies – her illustrations are simultaneously living and restrained; both detailed and generalising.

Catherine Zarip has written the following about her work: “Creating a drawn world is incredible work. You must come up with something new every time, and enhance your knowledge about the world and things. That probably is the kind of job every person should have – doing what you like and being able to create joy for others as well.”

It seems that Catherine Zarip’s childhood dream was fulfilled regardless. You do not need to be a cosmonaut to view the world from a certain distance and always in a new way – being a book illustrator suffices.

Text by Eva Laantee Reintamm


2020 IBBY Honour List (Ilmar Tomusk. Wolf’s Friends)
2020 Nukits competition, 3rd place (Ilmar Tomusk. Little Whiskers)
2019 5 Best Designed Estonian Children’s Books, 2 Certificates of Merit (Liis Sein. Saskia Looks for Colours; Ilmar Tomusk. Little Whiskers)
2019 Good Children’s Book (Liis Sein. Saskia Looks for Colours)
2019 Edgar Valter illustration prize nominee
2018 5 Best Designed Estonian Children’s Books, Certificate of Merit (Ilmar Tomusk. Wolf’s Friends)
2018 Good Children’s Book (Ilmar Tomusk. Wolf’s Friends)
2018 Annual International Contest ‘Image of the Book’, Moscow, diploma (How the Animals Got their Tails)
2017 Tallinn Illustrations Triennial (TIT), Estonian Children’s Literature Centre diploma
2017 5 Best Designed Estonian Children’s Books, Certificate of Merit (How the Animals Got their Tails, illustrations and design)
2015 5 Best Designed Estonian Children’s Books, Certificate of Merit (Leelo Tungal. Joseph the Bunny Looks for a Friend)
2014, 2015 Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award candidate
2014 5 Best Designed Estonian Children’s Books, Certificate of Merit (Kadri Hinrikus. The Frogs’ Revolt)
2014 Good Children’s Book (Aino Pervik. Bluephant Goes to Kindergarten)
2013 5 Best Designed Estonian Children’s Books, 2 Certificates of Merit (Birthday Stories; Ellen Niit. Play Water)
2012 5 Best Designed Estonian Children’s Books, Certificate of Merit (Aino Pervik. The Wandering Cat)
2012 25 Best Designed Estonian Books, Certificate of Merit (Aino Pervik. The Wandering Cat)
2012 “Kuldmuna” (Golden Egg) Advertising Awards, Silver Egg and Bronze Egg, Tallinn
2010 5 Best Designed Estonian Children’s Books, Certificate of Merit (Sulev Oll. Rascally Proverbs)
2009 5 Best Designed Estonian Children’s Books, Certificate of Merit (The Golden Book of Estonian Fairy Tales)
2008 5 Best Designed Estonian Children’s Books, Certificate of Merit (Jaan Rannap. Flitter-flutter Leaf Warbler), Special prize of Estonian Graphic Designers’ Union (illustrations and design – Once Upon a Time…)
2008 Raisin of the Year Award (Once Upon a Time…)
2007 5 Best Designed Estonian Children’s Books, Special Prize ‘Golden Book’ of the National Library of Estonia (Uno Leies. Pussy Cat’s Birthday)
2006 25 Best Designed Estonian Books, Certificate of Merit (illustrations and design – Big Book of Fables)
2006 Tallinn Illustrations Triennial (TIT), Diploma
2003 5 Best Designed Estonian Children’s Books, Certificate of Merit (design – Leelo Tungal. Anna and Adam’s Tales)

Her work has been in many group shows in Estonia, Argentina, Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Iran, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Russia, Sweden, the United Kingdom, the USA and Yugoslavia.

2020 Tallinn Illustrations Triennial (TIT), Estonia
2019 Exhibition of Estonian illustrators “From the Mountains to the Sea”, Kraków, Rabka-Zdrój, Elbląg, Poland
2018 Exhibition of Estonian illustrators “Running with Wolves”, Estonian Children’s Literature Centre
2018 Exhibition of Estonian illustrators „Masters of Estonian children’s books“/“Power of Pictures“ in Russia: Krasnoarmeysk, Moscow
2017 Catherine Zarip’s and Anne Linnamägi’s jubilee exhibiton “The Century”, Tapa City Library
2017 Tallinn Illustrations Triennial (TIT), Estonia
2017 Spring exhibition of Estonian illustrators, Estonian Children’s Literature Centre
2017 Exhibition of Estonian illustrators “A Window into the Fairy Tale World”, Haapsalu Cultural Centre, Haapsalu Children’s Library
2016 Catherine Zarip’s and Anne Linnamägi’s jubilee exhibiton “The Century”, Estonian Children’s Literature Centre
2016 Spring exhibition of Estonian illustrators, Estonian Children’s Literature Centre
2016 Exhibition of Estonian illustrators “Fairy Tales Come to Visit”, New York Estonian House, USA
2016 Exhibiton of Estonian illustrators “Neighbours Who Love to Read”, Pskov City Library, Russia
2015–2020 International illustration exhibition, “It’s Always Tea-Time”, Estonian Children’s Literature Centre, Tallinn; Riga, Latvia; Uusikaupunki, Finland; Gdansk, Wrocław, Toruń, Elbląg, Poland; Berlin, Germany; Szczecin, Płock, Poland; Budapest, Hungary; Oxford, the United Kingdom; Moscow, Vyborg, St. Petesburg, Russia
2015–2019 Exhibition of Estonian Illustrators, “Once Upon a Time…” (Grimm’s Fairy Tales), Aosta, Anagni, Lagonegro, Bernalda-Metaponto, Corato, Matera, Roma, Lacco Ameno, Irsina, Siracusa, Sassari, Roma, Bologna, Italy; Estonian Children’s Literature Centre, Tallinn; Minsk, Belarus; Kraków, Łomża, Białystok, Szczecin, Płock, Warszaw, Elbląg, Gdańsk, Opole, Poland
2014 European Professional Doll Art Festival, Riga, Latvia
2014–2017 Travelling exhibition “Tallinn Illustration Triennial 2013. Estonian Illustrators”, Estonia, Poland
2013 Il Posto delle Favole, an international group exhibition, province of Rieti, Italy
2013 Solo exhibition, Estonian State Puppet Theatre, Tallinn
2013 Tallinn Illustrations Triennial (TIT), Estonia
2013–2015 Exhibition by Estonian and Hungarian Illustrators, “Crisscross Stories”, Estonia, Hungary, the United Kingdom
2013 Travelling exhibition of Estonian illustration, “Etelästä tuulee – Lõunatuul puhub” (The South Wind Blows), Finland
2013–2014 Group exhibition, “The Visions of Mother Goose. Tribute to Charles Perrault”, Tallinn, Estonia
2012–2013 Exhibition by Estonian illustrators, “Old Fairy Tales” (Brothers Grimm), Estonia, Russia
2012 Solo exhibition, Ilon’s Wonderland, Haapsalu, Estonia
2011–2018 Exhibition of artists from the Baltic Sea countries, “Sea Fairy Tales”, Estonia, Finland, Russia, Poland, Germany, Denmark, Estonia
2010–2011 Travelling Exhibition of Estonian Book Illustration, Russia, Finland
2009–2010 2nd “Blue Book Group”, an international illustration exhibition, Iran, Japan, Spain, Argentina
2009 Tallinn Illustrations Triennial (TIT), Estonia
2009 Biennial of Illustrations Bratislava (BIB), Slovakia
2008 Illustration exhibition “Once Upon a Time…”, Estonian Children’s Literature Centre, Tallinn, Estonia
2007 Exhibition of Estonia’s leading book illustrators, “Suur valmiraamat” (Big Book of Fables), Haus Gallery, Tallinn, Estonia
2006 Tallinn Illustrations Triennial (TIT), Estonia
2005 Biennial of Illustrations Bratislava (BIB), Slovakia
2003 Tallinn Illustrations Triennial (TIT), Estonia

Snowy White and Pitch Black by Hilli Rand
Danish: Amadeus og Ludvig, Gørløse: Arkimedes 2020
Latvian: Sniegbaltais un ogļmelnais, liels un mazs 2018
Polish: Biały jak śnieg i czarny jak węgiel, Ezop 2018
Slovenian: Beli in črni muc, Sodobnost International 2018

The Wandering Cat by Aino Pervik
Italian: La gatta vagabonda, Sinnos 2014