Victoria Stebleva

Victoria Stebleva

Represented by Good Illustration
Victoria Stebleva Interview

Victoria Stebleva

Children's Illustrator

Who or what made you want to become an illustrator?

It happened naturally. I've loved to draw for as long as I can remember and I dreamed about being an artist. At the same time, I loved books, especially with pictures. A teacher from my art school talked about the profession of an illustrator and I decided to try. My parents weren't sure if it was a good idea, they wanted me to have a normal, stable job. However, they supported my aspiration.

Did you attend art school or undertake any other formal artistic training?

I have studied at the Moscow State University of Printing Arts at the Faculty of Graphic Arts, illustration was my specialization. It was a great time, I remember it with love. The atmosphere of creativity and communication with teachers and other students gave me a lot. My family was far from art, my parents worked as engineers. The university opened a window to the world of illustration for me.

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Where do you currently live and where did you grow up?

I spent my childhood in Serpukhov. It is a town a hundred kilometers from Moscow, Russia. I have been living in Moscow since I was 17 when I moved here to study art.

Describe your working technique and how you came to perfect it.

My technique changes from project to project, but I hope my style is visible. In the beginning, I created illustrations with acrylic paints, after a while, I switched to digital painting. I worked  on the technique mostly empirically. I try to keep the handmade feeling in my illustration. It is important to have a constant practice of drawing in the traditional technique, even if you are a digital artist. 

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Do you keep a sketch book?

I prefer a folder with single sheets, I don’t like sketchbooks. My sketches on single sheets are more relaxed, I'm not afraid to ruin the picture, because I can easily throw it away.   

Tell us about the creation of your favourite character from one of your books.

I like to draw little monsters. It started with small sketches that I made when I was bored. I drew a lot of them, but I had no idea how to use them. Once I came up with a game for myself: I took a photo and added monsters through Photoshop to create a comic plot. I had a lot of fun during the creation of these pictures. Several months ago my publisher offered me to create an activity book for kids. Of course, I decided to use my characters, the topic seemed so wide, and I could invent an imaginary world where they live. I also gave names to them - it was so funny. So, now I have a whole world, where monster Boba and his friends live. I think this is just the beginning of their life, and I am going to create new stories about them.

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How many times do you tend to draw a character until you are happy with it?

I usually redraw my characters several times. Sometimes it is helpful to put a picture aside and return to it after a while. A fresh look helps to find a better solution. 

Talk us through the process of creating one of your latest illustrations or books.

I would like to tell you about my work on the book “How to Walk up to a Rainbow”. It was my first experience in the area of nonfiction books for children. The purpose of this book was to explain to kids the origin of the rainbow from a scientific point of view. From the very beginning, it was very interesting for me to become a member of this project. I like to understand the essence of things, and I also love humor.

It was well-coordinated teamwork of the author, editor, art director, and me. I redid the storyboard several times, we met with the editors, discussed, changed everything many times until the overall concept took on a finished form. Thanks to the support and help of the team, I was able to explain a complex phenomenon in an accessible and fun way.

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Have you ever thought about trying out a different technique or a different style?

For the last several years I have been drawing in digital technique. I was afraid that I would not return to traditional illustrations drawn on the paper. I was wrong! This summer I received the commission on a series of 16 illustrations for a Rock-Zin. I am a big fan of rock music, so it was a very interesting project. There was one condition - illustrations should be drawn in traditional technique. I found my dusty pencils and started. I spent a lot of time on this project, but it was a pleasure for me. This project showed me that I don’t have to be afraid of new experiences. And now I am working on a whole book with illustrations drawn with pencils.

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What do you do in your spare time?

My work is very static, so in my spare time, I prefer to do something dynamic. I like to ride my motorcycle, it’s a great reboot for the brain. My husband and I are moto-travelers, once we have ridden from Moscow to Venice and back by our bikes. I also like to spend time in the countryside. My family has a small summer house and I love to mow the grass next to it.

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Do you have a favourite soundtrack you listen to when you’re working?

Music is my passion, I am listening to it around the clock. I used to listen mostly to heavy music, but now I became more open to other styles. I have discovered Ray Charles, David Bowie, and other beautiful musicians. But I love to listen to bands such as Motorhead and Pantera from time to time - they give me energy and power for work.

What’s the best piece of advice anyone has ever given you?

My teacher at the university always told me 'No water flows under a lying stone’ it’s a Russian proverb, which means that nothing will happen in your life unless you try something. So, don't wait, move!

Animals feature heavily in children’s books – do you have a pet?

I have a cat named Pipa. We took her several years ago. She is not very communicative with strangers, but she gets along with me. She likes to lay on my lap   while I work. And of course, I use her image in my works.

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