Illustrator Interview 18: Zosia Olenska
Illustrator Interview 18: Zosia Olenska
1. How long have you been an illustrator/artist?
Not very long at all really, I’d say that everything has come together in the last year or so. I have always loved drawing and I specialised in sculpture when I was at school, but both my parents were artists who had to shift their career paths due to the instability of income.
When I said I wanted to go to art school they teamed up with my art teacher to convince me that the only way to be an artist without poverty was to marry rich, which didn’t seem very appealing either! So yes, five years later I have a Masters in Medieval History (which for some insane reason seemed like it would have better job prospects), and I’m scribbling away again. However I am poor, so there’s no denying that they were right in some respects.
2. What inspires your work?
Anything and everything! I tend to gravitate towards using animal elements and things that have the air of a Victorian freakshow. I spend a lot of time trawling through images on the internet, finding odd things that fuse in my head over time.
Often it will be something from a dream, or I’ll see something that will make me think ‘wouldn’t that be great if that was reversed’. Generally, I don’t have enough time as I would like to draw and I have a mental store-room of images I’m wanting to sit down and get onto paper. I need to do it soon or they’ll fester away in there and do something awful like give me constant hiccups.
3. What media/software do you work in and why?
Pen and ink comes the most naturally to me, so I work freehand and then scan everything in to polish it up and colour it in in Photoshop. It means I can change my mind more about colours, make alterations, and I don’t have to re-draw whenever one of my rabbits decides to eat some of my work.
I want to do some more pencil work with softer edges and try out something that isn’t so line-heavy… there are some amazing liquid inks in the loft that I’ve been eyeing up for some different textures: hopefully, things like that will stop my work from becoming too predictable.
4. How would you describe your style of artwork?
My style? Erm… I really don’t know! Surreal?
5. Do you do any initial sketching or planning before starting a new piece?
The whole process tends to go something like this: find lots of images that have elements of what I had in mind; scribble some rough shapes down, generally for an idea about layout or a specific element I’m definite about; pencil the outline with very little detail, then just scratch away for days drawing hair on a yeti, or feathers, or whatever it is I’m working on. About a day into it I end up wishing I didn’t start out so detailed!
6. Which illustrator/designer/artist most inspires you?
Shaun Gordon who you have previously interviewed is an artist whose work I really admire, and Julia Pott’s work is incredible. I love the graffitti and animations of street artist Blu, and the images of the Bicicleta Sem Freio Collective. Elzo Durt is another artist whose work i enviously dribble over. They are all so talented it hurts!
7. How do you deal with the business inside of being an illustrator?
Honestly, I find it very daunting. I’m just starting out and most of the work I have done has been in order to build up a portfolio, or projects that I have ended up working on through friends.
I’ve gotten hugely over-excited when companies have asked me to come up with ideas for them and after weeks of work I can’t even hunt them down to say ‘sorry, we’ve gone in another direction’. I’m struggling with how to promote myself, ideally I’d love to find an agent who would take me on. It takes a lot of perseverence!
8. What words of advice would you give to any aspiring artists out there?
Hmm… If anything, if it’s what you love then give it a shot! Don’t give up. To revert to thoroughly stomped on territory: ‘you only live once’, the prospect of doing something you adore is definitely worth the down sides.
I’m currently working on a private commission that I’m completely transfixed by. Hopefully the patron won’t mind me using the finished image as part of my portfolio.
You can see more of Zosia’s work over at her website: zosiao.blogspot.com