#FlorisDesign Illustrator Interview: Yuliya Somina
Today #FlorisDesign is talking to Yuliya Somina, illustrator of our new Young Kelpies series, Porridge the Tartan Cat, penned by Alan Dapre. Featuring the world’s only tartan cat, this fun series features Yuliya’s zany and engaging black and white illustrations of Porridge and the McFun family.
Hi Yuliya, thanks for talking to us today. Could you tell us about your studies and training?
I was basically born with a pencil in my hand. I’ve been drawing my whole life and always wanted to be an artist. I studyied in different art studios during my childhood and then graduated from Moscow State Art College with a degree in Fine Arts and Art Teaching.
We’d love to hear about your decision to become a children’s book illustrator.
Originally, my dream was to work in animation, so after graduating I joined the well-known Moscow central animation studio “Souzmultfilm” as an artist and started on a long, wonderful journey of learning my craft. Back then it was all done by hand! Some of our animators and artists also had occasional work illustrating children books – a fact which was not widely broadcast. I think in the times of the USSR it was frowned upon to have a second, freelance job. But after a few years I moved to London with my British animator hubby. It was the end of my career in animation; it was not the same over here. The next, logical step was to try to make it as an illustrator. I found an agent and the rest is history.
Do you work using traditional methods or digital methods or both?
Line work has always been my strong side so I try to use it as much as possible in my illustrations. I do it by hand by using ink and pen. For the colour illustrations I usually use watercolours, but recently I’ve started getting more and more in to mixed media using watercolour pencils, different inks and whatever I can get my hands on. Sometimes, if the job requires it, I do line work by hand and add colour digitally, which is great fun to do. But that almost never happens, publishers seem to prefer my styles worked by hand. Frankly, digital art looks a little bit dead to me.
Where did you draw inspiration for your Porridge illustrations?
I just love drawing and it all comes from my imagination. I love cats and I have one but he mostly eats or sleeps. Calling him my Muse is a big stretch!
Would you fancy owning a cat like Porridge?
Yes, that would be fun! My cat, Frankie, just sleeps, eats and сhews cardboard boxes!
What sorts of things do you most enjoy drawing?
Anything as long as it’s funny, unusual, mad or silly. I don’t like realism. I also like a challenge, something I haven’t done before, like a tartan cat, for example!
Do you have any tricks in your bag for when you get stuck on a brief?
Yes, it’s worth leaving it alone for a while and starting on something else. Your brain will continue thinking of ideas and I find that the harder the problem, the better the outcome. I also like working on my visuals while walking or swimming. Another thing is to try to look at the situation from a completely different angle. But the main thing is not to panic, it will come!
Is working as an illustrator what you expected?
I don’t know if I had any expectations but I am happy when I have work and slightly fall apart when I don’t. Sometimes it feels very lonely just sitting by yourself working at your table. Other times it feels fantastic when it’s raining outside and you don’t have to travel anywhere and you can just sit in your pyjamas with a cup of tea and draw pictures for a living! What could be better?! When new books are published, when you get awards, when books you’ve illustrated become bestsellers – those are the amazing highs for an illustrator. Luckily illustrators don’t have to be invisible people behind the pictures any more. You can exhibit your work on digital platforms; you can introduce yourself and talk to your readers. All modesty aside, recognition is a very important thing for creative people. There is another important side to my work. I’ve always wanted to work for Russian publishers as well as British. I love my country and want to be part of its culture so that’s been happening as well. Luckily in the digital age it’s not really important where you live.
Do you have any illustrators or designers that you consider to be your favourites?
A lot of my favourite illustrators are the Russian ones from my childhood and I still have a collection of their books. There are so many amazing artists out there and I am eclectic in my tastes, I find a new favourite every day. The only thing I would say is that I prefer illustrators who work traditionally by hand, I think there is more life to it.
To see more of Yuliya’s work you can visit her website.
For more information about the author of the Porridge the Tartan Cat series visit Alan Dapre’s website.
The first two books in the Porridge the Tartan Cat series are out 16th February 2017.
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