Let's talk about HUGO ...

Updated: Jun 17, 2019

Last Month Paper Bird Gallery in Fremantle, WA hosted a gorgeous exhibition. It was all about HUGO. If you missed it, no fret, here it is.

Illustrator Manuela Adreani and author Yohann Devezy talk about some of the most important pages in the book,

Grab a coffee, tea, or whatever you fancy - and read on.

{1} About this illustration

‘Look closely in HUGO’s mirror, what do you see? Ever felt that way?’’

Manuela Adreani:

‘In this illustration I wanted to represent Hugo’s parents close and caring about their young son.

I decided to show Hugo’s face through a mirror, because it is an important object, we commonly use it to relate to ourselves.

Yohann Devezy

‘From the outset, it was important that the reader understood that Hugo was bornwith a rainbow mark; there is a permanence to it.

Often people incorrectly assume difference is simply a matter of choice. Throughout my early years I knew I was different; I couldn’t explain it, but I knew.

Here Hugo’s family tries to comfort him by reassuring him that someday the curious mark will disappear.

Set beliefs and conformity leads to treating diversity as something to be stigmatised.

The approach taken by Hugo’s parents reveals that many parents feel ill-equipped, often by no fault of their own, to openly discuss sensitive topics with young people.

We absolutely do not want the mark to disappear!

We want Hugo and his parents to have an honest conversation about how he feels, how he should embrace who he is. Finding the courage to talk goes a long way when a child feels lost.’

{2} About this spread

A scary monster is not necessarily hiding under your bed. It can be right by your side, every day.

Manuela Adreani

‘This illustration is related to the last one, once I’ve imagined the big ‘jumper’, I wanted to represent Hugo’s subconscious (or anyone of us really).

Being alone can feel like an impossible situation in the face of a schoolmate’s adversity; institutions can be judging and scary.

I decided to unite them all under the same stripy jumper, like a prison; they appear like one big monster for little Hugo.’

Yohann Devezy

‘School should be a wonderful place where we make friends and create beautiful memories. It helps shape who we become later in life.

While I had friends, other children would often tease me as I was shy, introverted and sensitive. I was not a ‘typical boy’.

As I got older, I got better at pretending the teasing and mocking didn’t affect me. While on the outside it appeared that I didn’t care, it made me deeply sad and withdrawn.

But worse, I started to believe the insults.

This is the danger of bullying, it negatively impacts anyone’s sense of self-worth.

Children should feel safe at school.’

{3} About this illustration

What do you think is hiding in the boat?

Manuela Adreani

‘Water represents emotions.

Hugo is wishing to find someone like him and tries to send a metaphorical message to the world symbolized by a paper boat.’

Yohann Devezy

‘This silent illustration powerfully represents the time one can spend reflecting in solitude.

I like that Hugo is sending a paper boat on the water, similar to a message in a bottle.

I like to imagine that he wrote a note, secret wishes for his future.

Or comforting words to his younger self.’

{4} About this illustration

It’s easy to hide behind a mask at a carnival.

But you don’t need a mask to hide, do you?

Manuela Adreani

‘The carnival has been the funniest illustration I did for Hugo, but also the longest to do!

I was inspired by trampolieri– people on stilts – who are very elegant and fascinating to me.

Don’t you think they are mysterious? What do they hide?’

Yohann Devezy

‘This reminds me of a period in my life where I ran away to find who I was. I packed but a few clothes and left. At 21, I bought a one-way ticket to a Caribbean island and, for the first time, lived independently from my family. I didn’t have to hide anymore.

Reflecting on this time, I now understand it was a turning point in my life. Freedom and a sense of peace replaced fear and negativity.

I came back home a year later feeling strong and ready to embrace who I was.

The carnival is perfect to represent the colour and vibrancy of the West Indies where carnivals run for days on end filling the streets with a sense of freedom and fun!’

{5} About this illustration

You shouldn’t have to wear a band-aid on who you are.

Manuela Adreani

This illustration shows my love for cats, adding a cat in the story was a very personal choice.

I thought Hugo could do with a friend – just the way I needed a friend to keep me company when I work long hours as an illustrator.

I adopted Ulisse, my cat - and surely, his friendly company has made my work even more beautiful!

Yohann Devezy

Hugo just wished to fit in. So, when Hugo covered up his birthmark, it was an important part of the story. The band-aid is symbolic as it covers up hurt and pain.

{6} About this illustration

Our world is beautifully diverse! What’s your difference?

Manuela Adreani

‘This is the revealing illustration, here I wanted to express the infinite joy and surprise of Hugo who has finally found someone who has a rainbow like him!

I love Hugo’s face, I hope you like too!

I hope you have enjoyed discovering my work for HUGO.’

Yohann Devezy

‘This spread is reminiscent of the very moment I realised I was not alone - that in fact many people shared similar stories to mine.

The LGBTIQ+ community is really like a second family where you feel respected and supported.

{7} About this illustration

You should feel over the moon about who you are.

{Or … over the rainbow?}

Manuela Adreani

‘This drawing shows their happiness to have found each other. They are sitting talking and sharing what life has been like, until that moment. It feels unreal.’

Yohann Devezy

‘In many ways we are all on a unique journey to discover who we are, and we are never alone.

Ultimately these things shape up who we become and – sometimes - can lead us to happiness - even if it’s found 17000km away from home! ‘

{8} About this illustration

Because really, who doesn’t like a rainbow?

Manuela Adreani

‘I wanted to create a safe, cozy image. I imagined a collective hug, a huge rainbow jumper wrapping Hugo’s friends and family to represent love and acceptance.

The idea behind this concept is that once Hugo found someone like him, he felt free to express himself, but he also could be free to feel love coming from others - just being himself.’

Yohann Devzy

Whatever your difference is, acceptance is really key.

Your own, and that of others.

You can download our activities notes HERE


HUGO The boy with the curious mark

Illustration by Manuela Adreani Available in our online store.

Giclée prints on matt art paper

49 cm x 69 cm

$380 unframed

(smaller sizes available) Visit www.redpaperkite.com


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