Illustrator Ksenia Shokorova: ‘every detail tells a story’

Drawing on her classical art education, freelance illustrator Ksenia Shokorova is a master at using the interplay between light and shadows to set the mood of a scene.

We chatted to her about her creative background, the importance of storytelling in illustration and her thoughts on working with Affinity Designer for iPad.

Tell us a bit about yourself and how you got started as an illustrator.

I got a classical art education. For about seven year’s I worked as a graphic designer but I was dreaming of doing digital illustration, where the skills of an artist and a graphic designer are mixed. After becoming a mother, I was able to take the time to focus on finding my illustration style. For about four year’s I’ve worked as a freelance illustrator.

Summer Walk
What inspires your illustrations?

Beauty and harmony. I’m inspired by the realistic silhouettes of people, nature, animals, etc. Vector graphics are perfect for my self-expression.

Would you say storytelling is an important element in your work?

Storytelling is at the core of an illustrator’s work. Unlike photography, there are no random elements in the illustration. Every detail that the illustrator includes in the composition tells a story.

“Storytelling is at the core of an illustrator’s work. Unlike photography, there are no random elements in the illustration. Every detail that the illustrator includes in the composition tells a story.”

Morning
Night of Ivan Kupala
The light in your work is beautiful and well-observed. How did you become so good at depicting light?

The play of light and shadow is a powerful scene-graphic tool in illustration. Art education gave me an understanding of how to work with it.

Talk us through your creative process; how do you turn ideas into finished artworks?

When I start working on an illustration, I highlight the main idea. What is the most important thing in this story? Then I select objects and the space that helps to strengthen this thing. When the sketch is ready, I create the vector shapes in monochrome. After the tonal aspects suit me, I go to the colour.

Ksenia’s illustration process
You’ve been using Affinity Designer for iPad as your main tool for about a year. How did you hear about the app, and what inspired you to start using it?

I am very glad that a colleague once recommended Affinity Designer. Thanks to this app, I started to draw my illustrations on the iPad. This has allowed me to become more mobile.

What are your thoughts on it? Do you have any favourite features?

I love this app! Affinity Designer combines vector and raster—this is the main aspect that is most important to me. I love drawing vector shapes as they are easy to edit, and the colour is always easy to change. Also, I often use a raster mask inside a vector container to show the volume of objects.

“I love this app! Affinity Designer combines vector and raster—this is the main aspect that is most important to me.”

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

I like to use a gradient map to find the best colour combination. It’s a very helpful tool.

Is there an illustration or project that you’re particularly proud of? Could you tell us about it?

It’s not easy for me to single out one illustration or project. Each illustration is dear to me in its own way. Personal projects give me the joy of self-expression, commission projects teach me to grow as a professional.

“Each illustration is dear to me in its own way. Personal projects give me the joy of self-expression, commission projects teach me to grow as a professional.”

Illustration for Mini Hotel
Illustration for Tally Score
Illustration for a wedding book
What do you like to do in your spare time when you’re not illustrating?

I love spending time with my family. It is also important for me to enjoy a good movie or book.

Are there any dream projects you would like to work on in the future?

My dream is to illustrate a fiction book. On the other hand, I would like to grow as a digital artist.

Lake
Catching the Sun

You can find more of Ksenia’s stunning illustrations on Instagram and dribbble and purchase her work on Society6 and Creative Market.