How and why did you decide to pursue illustration as your career?
I always loved to draw when I was little and even went to an art school, but I never imagined it might become my career. After school, I studied advertising at university and worked in a branding agency for a few years. It was interesting but it so stressful! So I decided to quit my ad career and change to something that I love doing that brings me joy. Honestly, a decade later I still can't believe that illustration is my career now and I'm very happy about it!
Where do you currently live and where did you grow up?
Currently I live in Saint-Petersburg with my husband and our cat. I moved here after I finished university in my hometown - Novosibirsk. I grew up in Siberia and Moscow, because my father was a military man and we moved a lot. I still kind of miss cold winter days when it's so sunny that it almost hurts to look at the snow and when you walk, snow makes this funny cracking noise.
Who or what have been some of your major artistic influences?
Oh there are so many wonderful artists that influence me and my work. I remember when I found Richard Scarry's book in a tiny second hand shop in Kotka (a very cute small town in Finland) and that book just got me! It was the first time I saw Richard Scarry's illustrations (still can't believe that I didn't have any of his wonderful books in my childhood). All his characters are so funny, so charismatic and lively I'm in love with them! There are so many artists that inspire me and influence me like Carson Ellis, Marta Altes, Olga Demidova, Lisk Feng, Richard Jones and I can continue!
Which books from your own childhood really stand out?
Definitely Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren! I loved that book and Pippi was my hero. Maybe it's because I was a bit shy and calm kid and her bright sparkling personality just captivated me. Once I dressed like Pippi for a New Year party at kindergarten and this is one of my happiest memories. Thanks to my mom and sister who helped me to perfect Pippi's hairdo and freckles.
What piece of software or hardware could you not live without and why?
For the last couple of years, iPad and apple pencil have become my can't-live-without devices. In 2019, my husband and I travelled a lot and unfortunately it wasn't possible to have all my work stuff with me, so I started to work more in Procreate and even sketching in it, I thought that I would never be able to sketch digitally, but these days all my sketches are 50/50 analogue
and digital. I have to admit that it's very convenient, I love to work in libraries or cafes so the iPad helps me to have everything I need all in one place.
Do you keep a sketch book?
Yes, but I am still working on developing a habit of practising sketching everyday. I have some paper sketchbooks, often I sketch on ordinary paper, for some reason it’s sometimes easier to draw on a regular piece of paper, rather than on a sketchbook. I keep these papers in a cupboard under my desk. And I also have a digital sketchbook in my iPad.
Talk us through the process of creating one of your latest illustrations or books.
Usually I think of an idea and try it out in tiny squares, sometimes I need some references (I use google and Pinterest for that). Then I choose one or two and make it bigger and more detailed - very often at this stage I change the initial sketch a bit, maybe some of the proportions or poses. After that, I draw a final sketch. Over the years, I've discovered that having a finished sketch
helps me to work faster on final art. Recently I started practising a few simple tiny color variations of my future illustration to find colors that best fit my idea. I start with the color base and then little by little add a few details and textures. Sometimes I like to make hand made textures using ink and paper, then I scan or make a photo of this texture, tidy it up in Photoshop and add it to my illustration.
Outline your dream project.
My dream project is to write and illustrate my own story. I have an idea that I'm developing and I really hope that it will work out.
What are some of your favourite subjects to draw?
In general, I love drawing cute creatures, but if you look at my portfolio there is a lot of food and also dogs. In 2018 I illustrated a book - Yoga for Kids and Their Grown-Ups by Katherine Ghannam. It was a challenging project for me, because before that I had never drawn so many people, but now I really enjoy drawing kids.
Animals feature heavily in children’s books – do you have a pet?
Yes, I have a grey cat, named Jack, though I have lots of cute funny nicknames for him. He is my mentor and companion in all daily tasks. He is very curious and likes to be around people. If you have ever seen a grey cat in my illustrations, that's Jack.