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  • Writer's pictureLucy Rand

Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka - Q&A with the illustrator

Updated: Sep 1, 2023

An interview with illustrator Julie Ann Monks about illustrating the guided audiobook of Metamorphosis for Audrey

painting of the outline of a face with a large insect overlaid
By Julie Ann Monks for Audrey

1. What would you say to someone who wasn't sure about reading Metamorphosis?

Julie Ann: Even though this book was written over a hundred years ago, I feel that Metamorphosis resonates so much today and with the way we live now. What I like so much about the book is that it can be interpreted in lots of different ways, and we are drawn in and recognise the feelings of alienation which are so eloquently expressed. Kafka brings a strangeness to the everyday and familiar in a way which is unsettling to the reader. This book is a classic and once read, will stay with you for a long time.

painting in blue and yellow hues of a black silhouette of a man climbing a spiral staircase
By Julie Ann Monks for Audrey

2. Why did you want to illustrate Metamorphosis for Audrey?

Julie Ann: When the opportunity came up to illustrate for Audrey I jumped at the chance as I have long been a fan of audiobooks and the Audrey platform presented titles in a way that felt fresh and contemporary. It seemed to be a good opportunity to illustrate some of the best literary works. There is a diverse range of illustration used on the platform which made it stand out from others as I believe illustration can be a powerful method of communication.

Blue and yellow tones painting of a silhouetted girl playing violin inside a window
By Julie Ann Monks for Audrey

3. Can you tell us a bit about your process?

Julie Ann: Metamorphosis is a book which made a strong impression on me when I first read it some years ago. I had been lucky enough to visit Prague (Kafka’s birthplace) as an art student and recalled the sombre beauty of the city. I revisited images and in particular the colour palettes of the place, which prompted ideas about how I might approach the illustrations.

The book is set very much in the interior space, so I spent some time researching details of interior spaces from the era. Of course, there was the question of whether to illustrate Gregor literally... I spent some time looking at insects, their shapes and colours. From there I began pencil sketching and making rough compositions.

It was important to select the right media for the illustrations, I thought through a few options before choosing to experiment with inks as they seemed to fit with the atmosphere I wanted to create. I began creating a range of different textures with different brushes, making marks that I would then scan in and layer digitally, combining them with some of the ink drawings I had already made. I then began to experiment and enhance the colours digitally, before arriving at the atmosphere I wanted to achieve, something that was a little haunting and unsettling to the viewer.

Kafka's Metamorphosis is available as an audiobook with a comprehensive guide by Simon Haisell on Audrey.

Black and white photo of a woman with short dark hair and a fringe

Julie Ann Monks has worked as an illustrator since graduating from Kingston University in 1996 with a BA in Illustration. Her practice focuses on narrative illustration, and she has written and illustrated several children's books.

In 2005 she received a gold award for her children's book 'Winter Magic' at the Best of British Illustration awards.

More recently she completed a Masters in Illustration Authorial Practice at Falmouth University where she continued her interest in narrative, producing an illustrated short story for adults.

She now teaches on the renowned BA Illustration course at Falmouth University.



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