Illustrator Justina Leisyte: ‘the message is just as important as style’

It takes true skill to turn a few bold and perfectly crafted vector shapes into beautiful illustrations with a clear message. We spoke to Justina to find out more about the complex artistry behind her deceptively clean and simple style of artwork.
Have you always had a passion for drawing?

Drawing and expressing my self visually has always been a part of my life. When I was a kid, I was sleeping surrounded by crayons and paper, and as a teenager, I spent many sleepless nights painting in my parents living room!

When did you realise that you wanted to be an illustrator? What set you on your chosen career path?

It was when we explored various design activities during my graphic design studies at Vilnius Academy of Arts, that I started noticing my interest in illustration work. However, I think the biggest turning point where my career path shifted towards illustration was my first work experience in an illustration studio around six years ago.

We love your use of colour. How do you approach colour palettes in your illustrations?

I carefully consider the kind of feeling or emotion I want to communicate with my illustrations and I select the colours accordingly. I love to play with different colour shades and contrasts. Sometimes I have to work within the client’s brand colours, which can be quite a timesaver since finding the right colours can be quite laborious.

“I carefully consider the kind of feeling or emotion I want to communicate with my illustrations”

How did your style emerge and what advice would you give to budding illustrators trying to develop their own style?

I encourage budding illustrators to experiment, mix different techniques and trust their gut feeling. Developing a style comes with trial and error and a lot of practice. Style to me is an ever-evolving process, which will vary a lot at the start of the career. Over time, you will notice some recurring patterns in your work, which might evolve into your unique voice. Another thing worth pointing out is that the content and the message is just as important as style. The style is a tool to communicate what you want to tell visually.

Tell us more about the illustration you submitted to 100 Days. 100 Commissions. What inspired this piece?

I was inspired to create the illustration ‘Plant Medicine’ during my three months of travelling in Central America. I found the jungles, nature and animals very inspiring and I was tempted to create a personal piece to reflect that.

‘Plant Medicine’ the piece created by Justina for 100 Days 100 Commissions.
How important is it for artists to reserve time to work on self-initiated/ passion projects?

If you can take some time to work on your passion projects I highly encourage that! When there are no deadlines and pressure from the clients, you can take your time to explore and be playful. What is more, personal projects are a great way to show what you can do and attract new work possibilities.

“personal projects are a great way to show what you can do and attract new work possibilities”

How did you discover Affinity Designer and what are your thoughts about the app as a tool for your illustration work?

I LOVE it! I discovered Affinity designer around six years ago. Since then, Affinity is my number one graphic program of choice. I have found that Affinity Designer works very well in my workflow. It’s intuitive, fast, and I feel very productive using it!

‘Women Power 1’
‘Women Power 2’
Talk us through your workflow; how do you develop your initial ideas into final illustrations?

Once I get a new brief for a project, I usually find out as much information as possible about the subject and the company. After the research phase, I come up with various ideas that I think could solve a particular problem and deliver the right message. The following step is sketching, where I explore possible illustration compositions. It’s crucial to align with the client and discuss the drafts early on in the process. After that, I start creating illustrations in vector and refine them until I get the final approval from the client.

You’ve worked for a wide variety of international clients including Cosmopolitan magazine. What have been some of your favourite projects so far?

I’m most motivated when I get to work on new and exciting projects that can push my skills and style to another level. I love visual challenges I have to solve along the way and discovering how to interpret different topics. I’m not sure if I could exclude some particular projects I have worked on so far, but I think personal projects give me the most pleasure!

Beauty Icons.
Still Life.
Do you ever suffer from periods where you lack motivation? How do you overcome this?

I feel creatively flat when I spend too much time at the desk and not experiencing the outside world. Stillness and staying in your comfort zone can quickly result in a creative block. Taking too many projects can trigger burnout also. The simplest way to overcome it, is to take some downtime and switch off from whatever you had been doing. It’s essential to allow yourself to feel some freedom and sometimes it’s ok not to be productive.

What do you like to do in your spare time when you’re not illustrating?

During my spare time, I try to step away from the screen, spend some time with my friends, move my body by doing yoga, running, or taking long walks. I also love travelling, as it is a great way to put yourself out of your comfort zone and experience something new!

What are your hopes and ambitions for your future creative career?

At this period in my life, I feel I need a change and I’m ready to take on new challenges. For some time, I have been thinking to try working in a team/studio environment. I miss being surrounded by people and working together on the same project or vision. I want to challenge myself and develop new skills working in art direction, branding, or product design-related projects.


You can see more of Justina’s work on her website, Instagram, Dribbble and Behance.


Artist relations
Charlotte is an illustrator and arts lecturer who is passionate about the creative industries and is now part of our artist relations team. Her interests include mid 20th century inspired design, comic books, board games, movie memorabilia, baking cakes, feminism and yoga. She shares her 1960’s home with her graphic designer husband and her toddler son who likes to hide her iPad. Get in touch with Charlotte if you have work you have made in Affinity apps to share with us, or tag your work with #madeinaffinity in the usual places.
Credits & Footnotes

Images are © copyright of Justina Leisyte and used with permission.