CALL ME ADNAN Interview: Illustrator Hazem Asif

I’m excited to welcome and interview talented illustrator Hazem Asif who created beautiful art for CALL ME ADNAN. I’d always admired Hazem’s work from afar so was thrilled when we had him on board to illustrate! I was given the choice of eleven artists, who were all phenomenal, but Hazem’s work I immediately gravitated to.

I requested that Hazem illustrate this special book for me and was thrilled when he said YES to this project! He captures Adnan and Rizwan’s spirit perfectly and I can’t wait for readers to fall in love with our story.

Hazem nailed the cover and its one of my favorites. Fun fact: the concept 4 (see below!) cover I immediately loved, sometimes we have a round of edits for covers, but when I saw his cover, I knew it was the one.

CALL ME ADNAN releases on June 13th. You can order it here. Without further ado, welcome Hazem!

1. What do YOU hope people think or feel when they see the cover and interior for CALL ME ADNAN?

My aim with the cover design was to create a sense of nostalgia in readers, capturing the wonder, magic, and innocence of childhood and special bond shared between siblings.

2. How did you hear about this project? Does an email land directly in your inbox or go through an agent? 

As an illustrator I work independently. I heard about the project from Molly Fehr, a senior designer at HarperCollins. In our conversations, Molly provided me with intriguing details, such as potential cover ideas, character portrayals, and actual photographs that served as inspiration for the characters. Additionally, I had the privilege of reading the entire manuscript beforehand.

3. Do you read the whole book before signing on to illustrate/design the cover? What drew you to this project?

When considering a project, I typically request to review the full manuscript before beginning work on illustrating the cover. While it’s fascinating to hear the ideas put forth by authors and publishers, having the freedom to interpret and develop my own ideas after reading the text is more rewarding and thrilling.

I was already familiar with the work of the talented Reem Faruqi, and I had often come across her books in local bookstores in Lahore, Pakistan. What particularly intrigued me about this project was its authentic representation of a Pakistani immigrant family and the wonderful bond between siblings. Additionally, the character-driven plot and emotional tone of the story were appealing and left me excited to get started and dive deeper into creating a cover art that was powerful, though provoking and carried similar emotional weight as the text.

4.Would you share your design process and vision?

The artwork for Call Me Adnan had to go through a few exciting iterations. Reem was super kind to share reference photographs of her brother who inspired her to write the character of Adnan. Afterwards, it was a fun and smooth process translating her vision.

5. Would you be interested in sharing the alternate cover concepts and thoughts behind them? 

Concept 01

Right from the beginning, my focus was on capturing the key scenes and elements of the story. One of these memorable moments is a beach scene featuring Adnan, who is holding hands with his younger brother Rizwan and pointing up at a passing airplane.

Concept 02

The objective behind my second design concept was to make the cover emotionally impactful and intense by highlighting Adnan as the main character of the story. While some of the elements such as the boys gazing at a beautiful sunset is carried forward from the first version; a silhouette of Adnan materializes beyond the encircling clouds.

Concept 03

With the third cover art direction, I wanted to be a bit more experimental and playful. I wanted to highlight the various iconic artifacts and elements from the story. This includes Adnan’s table tennis racquets and medal, the Pakistani flag representing the cultural background of the family and Rizwan’s octopus toy and purple sea shell that he picks up on the beach.

Concept 04

The final cover design is the one that everyone loved. It perfectly captured the heartwarming tone of the book. In this version we have Adnan giving a piggyback ride to Rizwan in the background. Both brothers are laughing and smiling at each other.

 6. A tip for illustrators or designers? 

Starting an illustration career can be feel intimidating in my part of the world. In Pakistan, such career paths are scarce and frequently subject to criticism, underappreciation, and underpaid. Fortunately, the rise of social media has paved a path for emerging and established artists to showcase their diverse works and achieve recognition both domestically and internationally.  

In my opinion, consistency should be the key and foundation of success for every artist. Have faith in yourself and be your greatest supporter. Strive to develop a distinctive and dynamic style that is unique to you and helps push your creative boundaries. Let your consistency be the driving force behind your artistic journey.

7. Just for fun, where’s your favorite local place to go?
I enjoy visiting the local bookstores in Lahore, especially Readings and Liberty books. My personal favorite sections are Historic fiction and children’s books.

8. What’s your favorite snack?

Vanilla or Oreo Ice-cream for sure!

9. Any next projects you have coming up? Please share the links of how we can support and follow you!

Yes, I have my first official picture book with writer Zohra Nabi called Jam and the Giant coming out in April 2023.

Additionally, the sequel to Rosie Raja: Churchills Spy (2022) by Sufiya Ahmed, comes out in May 2023 and will be published by Bloomsbury.

Additionally, I am signed up for another exciting picture book on Eid coming later this year.

Thank you Hazem! Check out his illustrations below:

Instagram: @worldofhazem

Twitter here: @asifhazem

Friendly Reminder, if you haven’t ordered CALL ME ADNAN yet please do so here. Our book just got chosen for the Junior Library Guild Gold selection! If you enjoyed this illustrator interview, you may enjoy these:

Aaliya Jaleel here

Anoosha Syed here 

Mikela Prevost here

Soumbal Qureshi here

Fahmida Azim here

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