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Viktorija Grachkova: ‘my goal is to integrate my art into the world’

In this article, Latvian designer and illustrator Viktorija Grachkova tells us more about her joyful geometric character designs and how she developed her distinctive style in Affinity Designer.
Tell us a bit about yourself.

My name is Viktorija, and I’m an illustrator, graphic designer and occasional 2D animator based in Latvia, Riga. I first started to draw during childhood, and at the time, my favourite subject was animals. I finished art school and art college in Riga, then graduated with a bachelor’s and master’s degree in graphic design and visual communications in Moscow.

For a while, I worked mainly as a graphic designer whilst dabbling as a 2D animator too. I worked on various projects; storyboards, 2D animations for commercial videos, digital illustrations, poster design, web design and social media design, to name just a few. But more recently, I’ve decided not to design everything in the world; but instead focus on one particular creative sphere: illustration.

How would you define or describe your artwork?

I’d describe it as geometric, vector illustration with textured shadows to create volume on flat shapes—something like that, but the topics of my illustrations are really simple and comforting. They’re about things that everybody comes across in their day-to-day lives, and that’s because I really love the household genre, but maybe in the future, my topics might be different.

Are there any particular artists that have inspired you over the years?

Yes, of course, and some of them are not illustrators at all. Different musicians, film directors and dancers—their art in particular—really influences me. But in this case, I’ll highlight the three illustrators that continue to inspire me today: the wonderful Victoria Semykina, Sergey Orekhov and the artist Lucjan. All of them are very different, but I am really influenced by their art, specifically.

How would you say your style/technique has evolved over the past few years?

I have tried a lot of different techniques and styles—just because I want to try everything. In some commercial projects, the style is dependent on the client’s preferences, but I still try to do something unusual in any case. I’ve tried different styles and techniques in my personal projects too—I’ve drawn super realistic things, abstract dynamic compositions and black and white graphic illustrations, etc., but I felt so uncomfortable because those styles just didn’t suit me, and I didn’t feel that I could draw them right. Anyhow, now, I think I’ve finally found my own style. When drawing in it, I really feel I know how to work with it better than anybody else.

Your use of shape and angles adds great energy and perspective to your work. How do you plan the composition of a piece?

At first, I draw sketches on paper with a pen or pencil. I find this really useful because it doesn’t let me draw straight lines, and at the same time, helps me to create cool dynamic shapes/silhouettes. When I’m happy with my shape, I re-draw the sketch on my iPad and add some more concentric details and characteristics (if I draw a character). The third step is to re-draw the sketch in vector, which to me, is the most interesting part. Working with vector shapes, I try to repeat my hand-drawn sketch in geometry. Surprisingly, the correct straight shapes with parallel lines and sharp angles give a really strong dynamic. Textural shadows highlight this even more and give my work more volume.

“Shadows are a really useful tool in my illustrations. They help me make my work look more dynamic, give volume to flat vector shapes and add necessary accents.”

Talk us through your creative process.

My creative process starts from an idea, situation or some kind of problem that I’ve personally had in real life. It could be absolutely anything, and an idea can come to me really fast, or it can force me to think for a few days, and in the end, make a conclusion. Before I start to draw a sketch, I think about it and imagine the full story in my head. Only after that, can I start working on the sketches. The most technical part of the process is vectorising the illustration, and after that, when I’m happy with the shapes and colours I’ve chosen, the final step is adding shadows. This is where the magic happens. Shadows are a really useful tool in my illustrations. They help me make my work look more dynamic, give volume to flat vector shapes and add necessary accents. At this stage, it is important to stop at the right point.

Do you have a favourite piece out of all your creations to date? What makes you so fond of this particular piece?

Yes, I have. It’s the illustration “Brave Sailor.” I really like it, not because of the theme or how it was made, but because of how I felt whilst drawing it. This illustration was drawn so easily and fast, and I was so confident that it looked exactly how it should. I also had a feeling that a lot of people would love it. At that moment, I had just started to get used to my style. I made sure that I was doing everything right and it was whilst creating this piece that I really fell in love with my style.

Do you find your personal projects differ much in style or character to your paid commissions?

At this moment, I really try to work on projects where a client wants my exact style. Sometimes I take projects where I need to draw storyboards or illustrations in a style that a client has already chosen, especially if the illustrations are needed for 2D animations. It helps me not get tired of my style, but I hope in the future that I’ll grow my style and I’ll work in it all the time.

What’s your main ambition or goal for your work? Is there a particular place you dream of seeing your art?

Of course, I would like to be a highly recommended illustrator, but I know that I’m just at the start of my path. I know I would like to participate in different illustration competitions—it’s really exciting to take part in different events. But for me, the most important thing is to see my drawings on other people’s walls or web pages, for example, because they can make somebody happy or be a part of the interior of someone’s business. Maybe more specifically, my goal is to integrate my art into the world. It doesn’t matter whether it’s in a museum or gallery or even in someone’s living room. I think if your art is integrated into human life, then that’s really cool.

“…my goal is to integrate my art into the world. It doesn’t matter whether it’s in a museum or gallery or even in someone’s living room. I think if your art is integrated into human life, then that’s really cool.”

Do you have any other hobbies or interests outside of designing?

I really love to travel. Travelling is my hobby. I usually get inspiration for my illustrations from other countries, cultures, architecture, nature, colours and people. Unfortunately, with the current pandemic travelling is not such a good idea, so I think my hobby will have to wait a bit. Anyway, I have the kind of regular hobbies that a lot of people have right now, like cooking tasty things, a bit of gardening, home improvement, walking and things like that.

Finally, do you have any particular mottos or affirmations that you live by?

Yes. Be honest with yourself and be brave. Oh, and never let anybody demotivate you.

You can see more of Viktorija’s creations on her social media accounts: Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, and on Dribbble.