She tells us more about her varied creative career and how being chosen for our 100 Days. 100 Commissions initiative has influenced her growth as an illustrator.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
My name is Tanya. I am a UX/UI Designer, and more recently, an illustrator. I am from the small town of Makiivka, Ukraine, and last year I moved to Lithuania to the beautiful city of Vilnius.
As a child, I loved painting, and in high school, I discovered technical drawing, so I switched to it to be as close to my passion. Coming from an industrial city, I had no idea about such professions as a web designer, an illustrator, or a graphic designer. So when I was choosing a subject for a university degree, I took on something to do with technical drawing and mathematics. I got my engineer degree in machinery five years later, having spent my time drawing a lot of “interesting” and “exciting” things like bushings, covers, shafts, etc.
After graduation, I was chosen to work as an engineer in a factory, but I moved to Kyiv and became settled in the city. I got acquainted with online marketing and worked as a sales manager for several years, but it was not my passion. The only thing I liked about my job was creating beautiful presentations, so I decided to switch to design. I worked as a web designer, then moved to building and designing products, and I have been doing UX design for over five years.
What made you want to start a career in illustration?
In the past, I used to perceive the acquisition of new skills differently. I thought that in order to do web design, I had to complete courses (done), UX-design courses (done), animation courses (I took one but then quit), illustration courses etc., and besides all that, you had to read a million books, and listen to the same number of lectures, interviews and podcasts. It was only then that I felt I had acquired a new skill.
It was very difficult with illustration because the only way I thought I could start was by learning academic drawing (oh god!). I started with simple video lessons: building a portrait, drawing in watercolour and acrylic, but all I got from it, in the end, was that I love to draw :). The only thing you have to do is to start drawing!
A huge motivation to continue my progress as an illustrator has been the Affinity 100 Days. 100 Commissions project. It is very important for me to get support and feedback, as I tend to underestimate myself. And despite the fact I thought that my work was never good—and barely good enough when an illustration I created was chosen among one hundred artists—you then have to accept the fact that you’re probably cool.
After I got the message that Affinity had picked my illustration, I realised that I could grow in this way. I started to draw more, trying different things, applying new techniques. I can’t describe how grateful I am to your team and the project for this opportunity.
How did you develop your style?
Trying to find your unique style is another pitfall permeating the field of illustration. I continued this “search” for about a year. Once again, I listened to a million lectures and iterations on the subject, but there were no answers. The result came only with practice: I prefer simple, hermetic forms, very bright colours, perspective distortion and texture. I can’t say that I’ve stopped there, as in each new illustration, I try to add something new or change things I’ve tried before.
“Trying to find your unique style is another pitfall permeating the field of illustration. I continued this “search” for about a year. Once again, I listened to a million lectures and iterations on the subject, but there were no answers. The result came only with practice.”
Talk us through your creative process. How do you turn ideas into finished illustrations?
Everything starts with an idea. First, I think through the concept of the illustration, think about the meaning it should carry and go through several ideas to ensure they are not trivial. Sometimes, if it’s a personal illustration, I can be inspired by ordinary things from life—things that hooked me and made me feel some emotion. Then I sketch the illustration itself on the iPad, think over the character forms and the overall composition (for a client, I usually draw several sketches with different ideas). After that, I move on to vector. For all my illustrations, I use only standard shapes and straight lines, and at the same time, I choose a colour palette: usually very bright colours. And at the very end, I go through my favourite things: adding details and texture. I think that brings dynamics and expressiveness to the illustration.
How did you come across Affinity Designer, and what were your first impressions of it?
I think it was the app of the year for the iPad back when I was searching for a proper tool, but for some reason, it didn’t click for me on the iPad. So I decided to try the Mac version, and it was so simple, convenient and easy that I had no doubts that this app should be tested. Since then, I’ve been creating all of my illustrations only in Affinity Designer.
“I combine crisp vector and dynamic raster in my work, so it’s important for me to be able to do that in one app.”
Which are your favourite features, and how do you use them in your work?
I combine crisp vector and dynamic raster in my work, so it’s important for me to be able to do that in one app. I like to use bitmap and vector brushes, add noise to my work, work with masks and styles, sometimes with gradient.
We noticed that you like to part in creative challenges. How do you feel this benefits your work?
When I started with illustration, it was just a hobby of mine. And I decided that I would start an Instagram account to share my work with others, which turned out to be a good idea. I started out with simple challenges, which gave me an incentive to draw more often, to think through the creative processes, and it was a good booster for my account growth, which later led to potential clients.
How do you see your work evolving over the next few years?
I rarely think about it. Me yesterday, today and tomorrow are totally different people. My thoughts, desires and goals from a few years ago are completely different from my views of the world today. So I just want to do what I love. Not see work as a chore or an obligation, but just enjoy the process.
“I just want to do what I love. Not see work as a chore or an obligation, but just enjoy the process.”
What do you think is the biggest challenge you’ve face as an artist?
Gaining self-confidence. Very often in the creative field the term “imposter syndrome” slips through, being just an underestimation of yourself and your powers. I’ve always tried to find a reason for why a client wrote to me, why my work was selected for an exhibition or why I made the shortlist. It’s very hard to admit that it’s all on your own merit, that I worked hard for it, and it was not just by chance or the way planets aligned.
Are there any dream projects you would like to work on in the future?
Of course, I would like to work with companies that inspire me, those who make cool projects, products or services: Affinity, Nike, Apple, Spotify, Discord, Netflix, Formula1, Disney, etc. But beyond that, I think about something to help other aspiring illustrators get off the ground.
I sometimes get messages from people who would like to try their hand at illustration, or people who draw but don’t understand what to do with it, and usually these are very trivial questions like “how do I start sketching?”, “where do I start?”, “how can I develop a style?”, “can you do illustration if you can’t draw?” It’s a thing that’s been clawing at me since I’ve been going through the same thing quite recently. So far, I don’t know exactly what it could be or what form it could take, but let’s see.
To see more of Tanya’s work, check out @tanya.illustration on Instagram.