Artist Ivan Blažetić Šumski: ‘l’m in love with imagination’

Ivan Blažetić Šumski is here to talk to us about his fantastic, imaginative work and his everlasting passion for storytelling.

Ivan is an artist originally from Rijeka, Croatia but now resides in Berlin, Germany after falling in love with the spirit of the city. Ivan’s very unique and imaginative work can be found on street walls, picture books, art publications, music covers and in animation movies.

Tell us more about yourself and your artistic journey.

Life is a miracle, I’m inspired and grateful to witness this magnificent, strange reality which we call nature. Passion for exploring the imagination started in my childhood, friends of the family had a factory full of picture books and pages of those books were soon filled with layers of drawings I made all over them—maybe this is where it all started… Later on, I noticed that there was something strange with the world of adults, in many ways it didn’t seem to make sense. I continued to draw, the world I created was imaginary, but it felt less fake than the world of adults.

I began my studies in Rijeka, Croatia where I finished a master’s in art education in 2011. After my studies I worked in the city as a puppeteer at the local puppet theatre. During this time, I focused on expressing myself through digital media and street art in order to communicate my everlasting passion for storytelling. Soon after creating a private series of digital works I was commissioned to work with some very big clients, music labels, musicians, music festivals and street art.

You’re originally from Rijeka, Croatia. What made you move to Berlin, Germany?

In 2015 I moved to Berlin where I was invited to paint a mural on a ceiling of a bar in the district of Kreuzberg. The unique spirit of the city inspired me in so many ways, so it was easy to decide that this was the place I wanted to stay.

Have you travelled much throughout your career?

I have a feeling that my travel has just began to unfold. So far, I have travelled Europe, but I would like to be more engaged on other continents in the future as well.

You have previously worked as a puppeteer. Has this influenced your work in any way?

Yes, this influenced my work for sure. Sculpting puppets and objects had a great influence on how I perceive building three-dimensional space, and even two-dimensional illusions. Working in a puppet theatre taught me a lot about how to build a character.

You recently designed a whale puppet for an upcoming music video for Crystal Fighters. How long does something like this take to complete?

I was working on the whale puppet for a month in total. This particular puppet needed to be very detailed for the close-up filming.

Whale puppet designed and created by Ivan Blažetić Šumski for the upcoming music video of Crystal Fighters.
Each of your works have their very own story. Have you always had a passion for storytelling?

Yes, I feel like there’s a story behind everything that’s been made with love and passion—it is necessary for bringing an artwork to life.

When you started working professionally how did you develop your distinctive style that we see in your work today?

I was interested in many things, somehow all of those interests can be found in the visual language and the narrative I have developed—there are many ingredients to it. I’m inspired by what is happening in today’s underground music scene, by a half century of old school animations, pop-surrealism, ethnic art, new techniques, myths of the world and philosophy, always experimenting with new features to give it a contemporary twist. In the last decade, illustration has really got its place on the market and it’s now accepted in all its unique forms.

Port of Diversity created by Ivan Blažetić Šumski
What artwork do you see yourself creating next?

I’m working on several pieces at the moment; artworks for skateboards, magazine covers, working on a short documentary and also making sketches for the next murals for the upcoming street art festivals this summer. At the same time, I feel motivated to step into animation and to try out new technologies which will challenge my creativity.

We were blown away by the work you created for our Affinity Designer for iPad beta campaign, and the tremendous amount of detail you included. What was the inspiration behind this piece?

This was on my mind for a while as I was creating a whale puppet for the Crystal Fighters music video. A combination of softness and strength, fluidity and solidness drowned into the atmosphere of some of universe filled with empathy. This is what arrested my attention.

‘Space Whale’ created by Ivan Blažetić Šumski in Affinity Designer for iPad beta.
What did you enjoy most about Affinity Designer for iPad?

I really enjoyed the softness that can be achieved with Affinity Designer for iPad, an illusion of liquid like surfaces.

‘Gentle Planet’ created by Ivan Blažetić Šumski in Affinity Designer for iPad beta.
Would you say you’re easily inspired?

Probably yes, I’m in love with imagination.

You’ve worked for a lot of big brands. How did you first kickstart your career?

In the beginning I was creating a lot of personal works because of the pure fun and love for what I was doing. Soon after I was commissioned to work with clients like Nike and different music labels which certainly encouraged me to keep going.

Would you say there is a difference between working with big clients and smaller ones?

There is a difference when it comes to production quality if we are talking about commissions which require materials and technology, but this is not a rule. When it comes to digital art, big clients often demand for the artwork to be delivered in a very short time which can sometimes affect the quality of the work.

What type of design work do you enjoy the most; traditional or digital? How do you find transitioning between the two?

I enjoy both but it’s a completely different relation between the two. Painting is a process that for me lasts much longer and it has some kind of meditative qualities. Digital art on the other hand is much more flexible for experimenting. Making street art you are engaging the spectators to participate the process. All of those experiences somehow affect each other.

Do you usually start off by sketching a few designs before choosing one?

Sketching is essential for a good start. Usually I develop several rough sketches then I select one and develop it further. The sketch and concept often change during the process as I like to stay flexible for new ideas.

The mural you did on an apartment block in Croatia is incredible! How long did this take to complete from start to finish? Was it a challenge working on something this big?

Painting this mural lasted for around 23 days in total. It was a big challenge to put a small sketch onto such a big wall. Also, looking down from 17 metres high was not always comfortable.

‘It’s good to have dreams’ work in progress by Ivan Blažetić Šumski
‘It’s good to have dreams’ completed mural by Ivan Blažetić Šumski
You do a variety of things like murals, illustrations for books, crafts etc. What would you say is your most enjoyable project to work on?

I like diversity and to work on all these things allows me to not stick to a routine.

You can find more of Ivan’s work here.