Lejla Kurić: ‘I love to translate creative thinking into beautiful and compelling visuals’

Lejla Kurić is a graphic designer, illustrator and creative entrepreneur based in Manchester, UK. By day she works for an international design agency, and by night, she illustrates for her personal brand, Tigerlily Ink, using Affinity Designer for iPad.

We caught up with Lejla to learn more about her personal work and why she uses Affinity Designer for iPad to help her create it.

Lejla, tell us a bit about yourself and your creative background.

I am a graphic designer, illustrator and creative entrepreneur based in Manchester, UK. I come from Bosnia, but I studied and graduated in visual arts at the Academy of Fine Arts in Ljubljana, Slovenia. Right now, I am working for an award-winning design agency with offices worldwide. I have a passion for design, and I love to translate creative thinking into beautiful and compelling visuals.

Outside office hours, I develop my personal design and illustration brand, Tigerlily Ink. It is an opportunity for me to improve my art practice, sharpen entrepreneurial skills and have fun doing what I love to do. I am committed to my craft and constantly seek ways to up-level professionally.

What does a typical day look like for you? How many hours do you spend drawing?

As I mentioned earlier, I work full time for a design agency. My role is to work with clients and senior management to identify creative direction, as well as produce top-notch designs that respect the client’s marketing strategies and business goals.

I draw every day, but it is difficult to say for how long as it really depends on the project I am working on. Sometimes it could be some quick sketches and other times complex illustrations. I try to draw every day in my spare time, but this depends on what time I have left.

Do you think it’s important for artists to reserve time to work on personal/passion projects?

Absolutely! Commercial client projects rarely allow us to express ourselves fully. There are generally many limitations ranging from the legal requirements, market category conventions and brand guidelines to printing processes, imminent deadlines, and the client’s personal tastes. Working on passion projects is a great way to get out of the rut, recharge creatively, experiment and learn new skills. It will also enhance your productivity and the quality of work at your day job.

“Passion projects offer full creative freedom and an opportunity to feel the pure delight of making something new—it’s the kind of joy that made us fall in love with this profession in the first place.”

Passion projects offer full creative freedom and an opportunity to feel the pure delight of making something new—it’s the kind of joy that made us fall in love with this profession in the first place. Constantly striving to learn, develop and become a better artist while nurturing love and appreciation for creative work is really important in order to have a successful, and most importantly, a satisfying career.

What inspires your personal work?

My favourite book growing up was ‘History of Art’ by H.W.Janson. This book is always with me, and it is a great inspiration, along with other art history books that I have collected over time. I love visiting galleries and looking at the art of ancient masters of various eras and cultures. I also enjoy exploring the work of creative artists working in various disciplines, such as textiles, ceramics, architecture, interior design, etc.

Working on design projects, I have developed a love of lettering and typography, and I like to bring letter shapes into my illustrations in a fun way.

Another incredible source of inspiration for me is to observe the beauty of nature, plants and animals and their colours, patterns, textures, symmetry or asymmetry.

I think it’s important that an artist cultivates a variety of sources of inspiration. There is an abundance of inspiring work and many amazing illustrators on social media, but if that is your only source of inspiration, the danger is to become overly influenced by everyone else’s works and popular styles, which is not helpful when you are trying to find a voice of your own.

How did you hear about Affinity Designer, and what inspired you to start using it?

I desired to do more personal work, but the thought of spending even more time on my Mac was daunting. Last year I purchased an iPad Pro and Apple Pencil so I could illustrate away from my computer. Initially, I downloaded apps that were available with my Creative Cloud subscription, but I wasn’t too happy with them. I also tried Procreate, but quickly realised I would prefer the flexibility of working with vectors. After some online research and reading reviews about different drawing apps, I stumbled upon Affinity Designer for iPad, and I never looked back.

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

So far, I have only used the iPad version. Affinity Designer for iPad is an impressive, feature-rich drawing app available at a very competitive price. The app uses familiar iPad multi-touch gestures, and the UI is beautiful and easy to navigate. It works efficiently with hardly ever any lag. There is a solid range of import and export options. The CMYK and RGB colour spaces are supported, as well as the full Pantone library. It’s perfect for professional designers and illustrators.

For someone experienced in drawing software, it’s easy to learn Affinity Designer. I was able to understand most of it just by experimenting, and for everything that is not clear, there are video tutorials available from the application.

“My favourite feature is the ability to make and edit vectors and pixel layers within a single application and switch between vector and pixel persona with ease—an excellent time-saver for digital artists.”

My favourite feature is the ability to make and edit vectors and pixel layers within a single application and switch between vector and pixel persona with ease—an excellent time-saver for digital artists.

Does your creative approach differ much between client and personal work?

Yes, client work must be commercially successful and offer clear benefits to clients and their customers. Therefore, I will adopt any style that is the most appropriate for that specific client or project. But when working on personal projects, I am developing my own style and working towards a cohesive portfolio of work.

What is your usual process for creating a personal piece?

First, I scribble on paper to explore a variety of ideas. I might also create some mood boards. Next, I sketch out the idea that I especially like in a more precise way. If I work with something that is difficult to draw, like a human figure, I might sketch it several times until it seems correct. When I am satisfied with my sketch, I take a photo of it on my iPad and place it in a new document in Affinity Designer. Sometimes, I sketch in Affinity Designer for iPad using the Pixel Persona.

Before I start drawing I choose a fixed colour scheme. The next step consists of drawing with vectors using my sketch as a guide. Finally, I then switch to the Pixel Persona and add textures to my artwork.

Which of your projects would you say has been the most important in developing your style?

It is hard to say, but I think the ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’ piece, where I explored the idea: what if George Orwell wrote Nineteen Eighty-Four today, is when I started finding my own style using vector shapes and striking colour palettes.

‘1984’
Do you ever suffer from periods where you lack motivation? If so, how do you overcome this?

I work long hours, and getting motivated to work on my personal projects can be difficult at times. To stay motivated, I listen to podcasts with an emphasis on goal-setting strategies and developing a winning mindset. I have a list of what I want to accomplish in writing, and I often read it to stay on track.

Visiting an art gallery or revisiting my favourite artists can be very stimulating and gets me excited about my creative work. When starting a new piece, I try to focus on the process of drawing rather than agonising about the desired result—it’s a much more enjoyable experience that way, and I am more likely to stick with it.

Is there something you would like to do creatively that you haven’t done yet?

I would like to learn the basics of animation and have a go at painting murals.

Lastly, where do you see yourself in the next five years? What would you like to have achieved?

In five years, I hope to be a world-class artist with a strong body of work and to establish a successful illustration and design brand offering art prints, homewares, stationery and gifts.


Follow @tigerlily_ink on Instagram and visit Lejla’s Society6 Shop, to see more of her stunning work.