It Must Be Nice is a new picture book from freelance illustrator Ričards Znutiņš-Znutāns. Delving into the world of human emotions, this beautifully illustrated tome examines the 27 feelings people encounter throughout their lives.

Partly inspired by Ričards’ interest in psychology, It Must Be Nice evolved from his Erasmus+ studies. While studying in Portugal, he collaborated with the publishing house Stolen Books to put together an illustrated book that details the 27 emotions scientists have identified in human beings.

To bring these feelings to life, Ričards interviewed 27 people from all over the planet and created accompanying illustrations. Whether it’s Dave from Italy sharing a memory about empathy, or Hebe from Nicaragua describing her satisfaction while playing her bass guitar, each personal account is loaded with sincerity and honesty.

As well as hearing from other people, It Must Be Nice was also a way for Ričards to understand himself, explore his own emotional depths, and try on a new persona. “Sometimes I just think about things too much,” he tells Creative Boom. “Lately, it’s been much better because my life is more at peace now. And because the last two years of my life were like a roller coaster.”

Bursting with bold illustrations, the book also allowed Ričards to indulge in his favourite activity: illustration. His style is instantly recognisable thanks to its use of simple shapes, bright colours, and the use of cubes which has stuck with him ever since taking drawing classes at art school. “It impacted my work because, in art school, you always start with a basic cube,” he says. “That’s where I started, and I guess it stayed with me. Since then, I’ve been using it as a tool for storytelling.”

When interviewing people from dozens of different cultures and backgrounds, Ričards says that living in Lisbon proved to be a massive benefit. “Everyone meets in Lisbon,” he reveals. “For me, it was like the centre of the world. And I managed to find people in different ways. Some of them I already knew, like the people I met at the university where I was studying. Some I met through the owners of the studio.”

And the good thing about studio owners is that they know many people seeing as they have been living in Lisbon their whole lives. Meanwhile, Ričards met some interviewees on the street or in random places like at the beach or in a bar. “It was a challenge, though, because not everyone is willing to share their personal life!”

Delving into the private lives of dozens of people is bound to unearth some strange stories, but Ričards was surprised to learn about their rough experiences. In particular, he felt a “profound feeling” after realising that everyone, including strangers passing him on the street, has a complex life story that they are constantly living despite a lack of awareness about it.

“In those few months, when I was listening to all of those stories and memories, it felt surreal to hear what someone had been through, in good and bad ways,” he says. “People are having some deep and thoughtful questions and looking for answers, just like I am, and it made me feel more understood. It even changed the way I look at life now, and I’m glad about the way I see it.

“Because of those humans, their stories and questions, we are all one. Be kind, be respectful, do it with love, no matter what you do.”

It Must Be Nice is available to order from Stolen Press.

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