Vasilisa Barsukova, a Graphic Design student at Lamar Dodd School of Art at University of Georgia in the USA interviews me for her Illustration class!It was a great interview and I thought I might share it here. See some of Vasilisa’s design work below too.
1) From what age did you know that drawing/illustrating was what you wanted to do?
I always loved drawing – as far back as I can remember! I loved telling stories to myself with my pictures, which is something I still do today, when I am creating a new illustration, even if it is for a job or a commercial output! I was always quite stubborn about going to Art School, despite many people telling me I should study something else, that Art school would be a waste of time. My parents were always very supportive though.
2) At a young age, what were some of the things you drew?
Always people! I still love drawing people. I did draw a lot of houses and gardens too, but this was just the backdrop for drawing people and then creating stories about them!
3) Where do you find inspiration for you art?
This is a good question because I find inspiration comes from many places and that it can change as you grow older and as your work develops. I go less and less to galleries (which sounds awful!)nowadays and instead find my inspiration from the everyday situation. I can sit on a bus journey and just watch what is going on outside the window, on the street, or listen to other passenger’s conversations and be inspired. Airports are heaven to me, as I can just sit and people watch and get lots of ideas from that! Having a garden has also really inspired me, as I love watching the birds that live in it and the local cats that pass through it!
4) What kind of medium do you prefer?
I do love working with pen and ink the most but blending that hand made work with digital processes – I like painting with Photoshop and a Wacom tablet very much indeed. Creating and building an image that is part traditional and part digital is an enormously satisfying and challenging process for me. I get a real thrill when I open a new file in PS and start to bring all the elements together.
5) Who is your favorite artist/artists?
This list changes all the time, as I am always discovering new people whose work I love and admire. I try not to look too much at other illustrators, as the pool of reference becomes a bit too murky then BUT, currently, my favourite illustrators are: Jon Klassen, Sara Ogilvie, Javier Mariscal, Andre Francois, Charles Keeping, John Burningham and Noma Barr. I love the paintings of Velazquez, Howard Hodgkin, Joan Eardley and Picasso and am partial to outdoor works by Andy Goldsworthy. Marian Bantjes is another favourite – her work absolutely blows me away.
I really like interiors and architecture and am always reading related magazines – Zaha Hadid is an inspirational and inspired architect and I would relish living in one of her buildings.
6) What companies would you absolutely love to illustrate for?
Oh, I am lucky enough to have already worked for some of them – such as the British Museum, The New Yorker, Siemens, Target etc. I really like the challenge of producing work for big companies as I like to see how much you can push them into accepting something that is more edgy than they would normally go for.
Saying that, I would LOVE to work for a big petfood brand – especially for dogs or cats, I’d like to work for one of the big New York department stores too, such as Bergdorff Goodman or Barneys.
7) Do you tend to use certain colors more often?
I admit I am very fond of bright pink and chartreuse green 🙂 I do think very carefully about my colour palette for each job though and am trying to experiment with new combinations and juxtapositions. Being told to work with a certain set of colours can be challenging but also enormously exciting as it can break me out of a colour rut! I’d like to be able to work in a very pale palette, but that is tough.
8) Do you have any advice for a young artist seeking a career in the fashion/graphic design world?
Be true to yourself and to your ideas, keep drawing and looking for new things to draw, keep showing your work to people and grow a thick skin as there will be a lot of rejection and knock-backs (allow this to make you stronger and more determined to succeed though!) Don’t be afraid to knock on doors and physically go and see people with your work – don’t rely soley on having an online presence or social media – use all methods to get ahead!
9) How did you get your foot in the door?
It’s not just about being talented when you are trying to succeed and get work – you need to have drive and persistance and to want to work with people. You need to have good manners, communicate well, have a “can do” attitude and meet deadlines. People need to see that you can be reliable and that you get the job done. Keep creating great artwork, have a well designed website and an easy to remember email that works too! Volunteering helps, but don’t get taken advantage of either.
10) Which one of your illustrations is your all-time favorite?
Tough question! I do love “Tulips” as it opened so many doors and opportunities for me (it was a non commercial piece but ended up being used to promote Images 32 in the UK, which in turn led to all sorts of interesting commissions)
I also like “Forest Deer’, as it is the start of a new stylistic route for me, and has proved to be really popular with galleries and clients alike.
My sketchbook drawings are very precious to me though and I keep ALL my sketchbooks.
11) What do you enjoy doing most when you are not drawing?
I like being outside with my dogs, in the garden or out in the wilds or on the beach (I live in Scotland, so we have a lot of wild scenery). I love to read and am currently thoroughly enjoying Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackery. I also like to cook and create great meals for friend and family. I try to travel as much as possible too – new places means new inspiration and a fresh perspective on life.
12) Has your family been supportive in your career?
Very much so. As mentioned before, my parents were very good about me going to Art School. They both died a while ago but I have 2 lovely sisters, who have lots of my paintings and prints and who promote me left, right and centre to their friends and business colleagues! My husband is my right hand man, and although not involved in the arts (he is a laser physicist), is very good at hanging an exhibition and giving me sound career advice!
13) Would you say your drawing style has changed over time?
I think it has, but the underlying core aesthetic has always been there – even from childhood. I think when you are at a more impressionable stage, such as at art college (when you are learning so much and seeing so many things for the first time), your style can change dramatically – mine did! But when you filter out all the unwanted and untrue influences, you come back to your core way of drawing, which I believe is very like your handwriting, or your fingerprint even – unique.
14) What did you study in college?
After leaving school at 17, I did a general art and design year to start off with, where I studied jewellery, textile design and theatre design, alongside drawing and painting. From there I decided to apply to a Graphics course at Edinburgh College of Art, where I studied everything from Photography and Film to Graphic design, eventually specialising in Illustration and Animation.
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