Who or what made you want to become an illustrator?
I think I should thank my older sister for that. She was studying fine arts at the academy of arts. I was modelling for her for hours enjoying the oeuvre. I could clearly see the whole process, from the start when she had a blank paper or a canvas in front of her, to the final result of creative work full of colours, energy, life. It amused, enchanted and sparked the interest in me too. I wanted to be able doing the same — create and bring life to pictures from my imagination.
We even had a game with each other — one of us read a story and the other had to make an illustration while listening to it. Astrid Lindgren, Ray Bradbury, Hans Christian Andersen…It was so much fun! That’s when I fell in love with literature and drawing.
Did you attend art school or undertake any other formal artistic training?
I graduated from the Estonian Academy of Arts and am so proud! I loved and enjoyed every single day of studying and I truly believe that EKA fulfilled my potential — I developed so many abilities and acquired new skills I hadn’t even thought of before. I discovered myself through the education process, realised what I am capable of and, undoubtedly, have become more confident and motivated as a result.
Which books from your own childhood really stand out?
I surely cannot fail to mention Ivan Bilibin, a famous Russian illustrator. I think we might have had some of the books with his illustrations. I love Slavic folklore a lot and I think that partly that is because all those stories I listened to or read were accompanied by those spectacular illustrations. They still fascinate me and I truly believe they’re masterpieces, not only from the technical point of view but all that atmosphere is captured beautifully.
What was your first commission as a professional illustrator?
I remember the day I got my first illustration commission very clearly — I was in the office at the design studio, where I worked at that time, having been occupied with some design related stuff when I received an email from a Dutch guy. The task was to make three illustrations for their new website. Amazing. I think it was then that I made up my mind about my future career.
Do you keep a sketch book?
When I was a kid, a teenager, a young adult I remember myself always doodling on some random sheets of paper while talking on the phone or watching a movie, at the lectures or in the park. But I never thought of having a special sketch book for that. And only a few years ago I got a couple of them. Strangely enough I think my quick doodles on random surfaces are way better anyway :) Maybe that’s because there is no stress and pressure.
Talk us through the process of creating one of your latest illustrations or books.
The last book I illustrated was the adaptation of Jane Eyre (by Brooke Jorden, published by Familius). It is the fourth book of the Lit for Little Hands series. The most challenging thing for me about the books is to always keep in mind technical aspects because we have to think about various moving elements and how to combine them with illustrations successfully. So we got through a few stages: sketches of the main characters, draft manuscript when we think of basic moving elements for every spread, full manuscript and sketches, corrections and adjustments, colouring, preparing files for printing.
Which 4 words would you use to describe your illustration portfolio?
Whimsical, thorough, fantasy, sharp.
What’s one thing that most people don’t know about you?
I am extremely terrified of butterflies (and well, most insects too) yet love to draw them. Maybe it is just the way to overcome fears though :)
How important is it for you to be part of a creative community of people?
When I was studying at EKA (Estonian Academy of Arts) I was attending croquis classes and I loved the concept of people gathering in the evenings after the main classes to just enjoy the process of life drawing. At the same time, I discovered Drink & Draw, a local Estonian project run by a Dutch illustrator. The concept is easy — there is a model and anyone can come and draw. But the more events you attend, the more people you get to know, so I can certainly say that there is a special creative community which I adore and try to never miss! And now when I am travelling the first thing I try to find in a new city is a life drawing event.
What do you hope children take away from your drawings?
I hope they will be discovering whole new worlds, cultivate imagination, burst with own ideas, learn new things which will inspire and lead forward, feel the life and listen to their hearts.