Alida Massari - my illustration process

Illustrating classic fairy tales is always a big challenge.

Famous characters are so stereotyped inside our minds that it is not easy to find new interpretations.

In order to realize the two volumes of Andersen’s fairy tales, I tried to stay close to tradition but also give a personal view of the stories.

It was the first time I could work on so many famous characters, in the past I have illustrated single stories, but never all together like in this collection.

So it was like being a film director that is working with famous actors. The audience will immediately identify who the characters are, but you have to show them with your style: you have to decide how to dress them, what light and what framing is better for them.                                     


Mainly I worked on three points that characterize my style:

colours, patterns and architecture.




Every story is distinguished by a different colour.

I like to give continuity and to have the same atmosphere inside the same story…so we have a freezing blue Sky for the “Snow Queen”, a fresh light green for “the ugly duckling” , a dramatic blue for “the little mermaid”, a warm scale of reds for the “princess on the pea”, and so on...




I really enjoy decorating my illustrations, so I created many patterns that I alternated in the numerous illustrations.

I invented floral and geometric patterns to paint sumptuous fabrics, princely robes, and elegant draperies typical of fairy tales.




Many of Andersen’s stories are set in little towns in northern Europe.

I have always loved the architectures of northern countries, the houses are absolutely fabulous and decorated, so I enjoyed reproducing those styles of architectures, taking inspiration from photos I took during my past travels.



To finish, I’d like to add that there is a story among Andersen’ s tales that I prefer, it is : “The Emperor’s new clothes” .

I like this story because it is educational and still relevant.

For several years I have been teaching in a School of illustration in Rome and I usually give this tale to my students to illustrate.

It was the first time I worked on this story so I felt like a young student, and I tried to do my best!


Make sure to follow Alida on Instagram, and visit her website