We caught up with her to learn more about her inspirations, creative process and favourite features in Affinity Designer.
Irina, please tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do.
I live in Buenos Aires, Argentina. I have a degree in Visual Communication Design and a postgraduate degree in Visual Arts. I taught as a design instructor at my university for three years and I currently work as a UX designer for a cyber security company.
I’ve always been interested in digital art. This year I had the chance to experiment with the NFT world and its communities, which I find fascinating.
How did you get into illustration? Have you always had a passion for drawing?
I’ve always made some kind of artwork. I started drawing when I was very little. I have lots of childhood memories of using crayons, pencils and clay. My Mom quickly sent me to art classes.
When I was 11 years old, I discovered vector software installed on my PC and started to play with it. I haven’t stopped since.
I’m very curious about technology and all kinds of visual arts, but I always end up making vector illustrations.
What things inspire your illustrations?
I tend to get inspired by the feminine world—90% of my artwork represents women.
At first, I was obsessed with hair and trees. I also did lots of portraits. Over the years, my subjects have tended to take a surreal twist. I love to work with concepts such as psychedelia, cyberpunk and surrealism.
“Over the years, my subjects have tended to take a surreal twist. I love to work with concepts such as psychedelia, cyberpunk and surrealism.”
Could you tell us more about your Metaphysical personal project?
This project started when I decided to stop creating individual pieces to focus on a body of work. I’ve always been fascinated with the occult world and magic. I wanted to reinterpret their symbologies and give them an open meaning. Metaphysics allowed me to explore deep subjects and also play with those symbols. It’s a very broad field with concepts such as existence, time, space and identity.
You’ve been using Affinity Designer for a while now. What attracted you to it, and why do you continue to use it as a tool for your illustration work?
I discovered Affinity Designer thanks to my obsession with vector art. Vectors have always given me huge control over shapes, and that precision gives me tons of satisfaction.
In 2018, I finally got an iPad, and when browsing through drawing software I found Affinity. It’s almost the only tool I use nowadays. The pressure control of the brushes and the possibility to edit the files on the iPad and my computer without any workarounds is fundamental and ideal for my workflow.
“The pressure control of the brushes and the possibility to edit the files on the iPad and my computer without any workarounds is fundamental and ideal for my workflow.”
Do you have any favourite features?
I love the Transparency Tool and the Fill Tool to make gradients. I use them all the time. I also love the brushes. I love switching between the Vector and Pixel Persona to mix vector and pixel painting and to try out different textures.
Can you describe the creative process behind your work? How do you develop your ideas into finished illustrations?
I usually make notes. I have several files with ideas on my phone. Sometimes, I make little drawings on paper. I always have lots of notebooks around me.
I spend lots of time browsing and collecting reference photos and images. I am also an image hoarder—I think I have files dated as far as 2005 on my computer. I like to take my time looking at those, sometimes over a week, and when an idea strikes, I start drawing.
I often use reference poses or quick collages to make a base drawing, and then I let myself flow. The final artwork often ends up being totally unexpected, which I really love. Colour is very important to me. I can spend days adjusting layers.
“I am also an image hoarder—I think I have files dated as far as 2005 on my computer. I like to take my time looking at those, sometimes over a week, and when an idea strikes, I start drawing.”
Do you have any particular techniques or references that you use when choosing colours?
I have a very intuitive approach to colour. I often save colour palettes and make my own by taking photos or analysing artworks, but I have discovered that sometimes it can end up limiting me too much. I start with defined palettes, but most of the time, it doesn’t work. So I try to establish a colour limit (5 or 6 main colours) to build shapes and an overall mood. Then once I finish with the base and start to add lights and shadows, I start to change everything over and over again until I feel it is ok. A very dear friend of mine pointed out recently how my colours are desaturated, and I didn’t even realise until he told me that!
Is there an illustration or project that you’re particularly proud of? Could you tell us about it?
My favourite is the first illustration I made with Affinity Designer, Alien. It was selected for the 100 Commissions initiative in 2020. That made me really happy during a very rough time, so I am very proud of that one. It kept me motivated!
Do you ever have a creative block? If so, how do you overcome it?
I always joke about living in a creative block. I think I’ve read like 15 books on that subject, just to understand how to cope with it.
I have two simple pieces of advice that have helped me: work on several artworks at the same time—this prevents me from getting obsessed with a problem, or try leaving the work and going for a walk and a coffee. Everyone has their own processes, and every method is valid.
I can recommend two books that I really like. They are not specifically aimed at creative blocks but talk about art and frustrations and give some friendly and inspiring advice: Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon and Art and Fear by Ted Orland and David Bayles.
What goals do you have for the future?
I would really love to create my own tarot cards and find a way to link that project with coding and animation. It’s something I always think about.
Finally, what do you enjoy most about your work?
My work always leads to self-knowledge. It’s always a weird and surprising activity for me, but seeing the final pieces after a while always makes me very happy. They are like my children.