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  • Writer's pictureLucy Rand

Paradise Lost by John Milton - Q&A with the illustrator

An interview with illustrator Dubravko Kastrapeli about illustrating the guided audiobook of Paradise Lost for Audrey.

A brightly coloured painting of Adam and Eve sitting under a tree in bright sunshine with a tiger crawling down the hidden side of the tree
Satan stalking Adam and Eve by Dubravko Kastrapeli for Audrey

1. What drew you to wanting to illustrate Paradise Lost?

Dubravko: I always loved classic literature – Homer, Boccaccio, Dante, Cervantes, Shakespeare, you name it. Not sure why, but it inspires me a lot. Probably language was the main reason. I like out-of-the-ordinary language, whether it some kind of old language, or some kind of dialect. Maybe it has to do with something about reading it slowly, relishing every word written. Whatever the reason, it inspires me, and imagining scenes form their work was easy for me.


First time I read Paradise Lost I was sixteen. I found a Croatian translation in one of my favourite bookstores which I used to visit regularly on my way home from high school. I was quite surprised when I saw it, because I didn't know it was translated. And it was on sale, also! Without any second thought I bought it, and started reading it the same afternoon.


It was a really exciting experience reading it again, after so many years (well, to be honest, after 36 years, yes, I am that old!), but from another point of view. I had to revive in my mind all the powerful images that go continuously page after page in this wonderful book. And that is the reason why I wanted to illustrate it – strong images described in so many details, weird and vivid and frightful scenes, but also scenes filled with compassion, tenderness and beauty. Wonderful characters, but also characters you think are born in a most frightening nightmare.

And the plot is so well described, story unravels bit by bit, it goes beautifully, really amazing.

A painting of three people walking down steps away from paradise
Leaving Paradise by Dubravko Kastrapeli for Audrey

2. Can you share anything about your process of creating the artwork?

Dubravko: The first time I read it my imagination was free to run wild fuelled with strong emotions. This time I had to do it little slower, sometimes to read lines several times, or to go back few pages over and over again in search of most powerful images to illustrate.

First I did approximately 40 very rough pencil sketches of scenes I thought of as key or crucial moments, or the most emotional and/or moving in some way. Afterwards I choose around ten (out of this 40), and did sketches in colour (pencil, watercolour, ink).

And the final step was doing them in acrylic.

A brightly coloured yellow, blue, purple and red painting of Satan falling through the sky with the sun shining brightly
Satan's Fall by Dubravko Kastrapeli for Audrey

3. What would you say to someone who wasn’t sure about reading this book?

Dubravko: First thing I would say – I am shocked that no one has ever tried to make a film of it. With unsurpassed and original imagination it would be great stuff for someone like Tim Burton or Guilermo Del Torro.

It has an original and very imaginative plot and storyline, the characters are so well written that you feel you know them deep in their souls, you sympathise with them, you understand their motives and actions whether they are "bad guys“ or "good guys“.

The world that surrounds the characters is described in so much detail it is really unbelievable, it looks like Milton himself visited the primordial world he is describing!

It's a remarkable work that should get more attention, no doubt about it!

Download the whole unabridged audiobook of Paradise Lost, read by Anton Lesser and with a guide by Alex Wylie and Dubravko's illustrations, exclusively on the Audrey app.

coloured photo of a man with grey hair, glasses, an earring and thick rope necklaces standing in front of a painting on a yellow wall.

Dubravko Kastrapeli graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb, Croatia in 1955. He has spent most of his working life as a graphic designer for the Croatian Red Cross, alongside illustrating books.

For the last fifteen years he has focused on illustrating the works of literature that are dearest to him, starting with Cervantes’ Don Quixote, then moving on to Croatian Renaissance dramatist Marin Držić, which, after ten years, culminated in a exhibition in Dubrovnik’s Art Gallery. He has now moved onto working on Drago Gervais’s poetry, a mid-twentieth century poet who wrote in one of Croatia’s many dialects.


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