Today, we were fortunate enough to catch up with a CF favourite, Russian artist Varya Kolesnikova. She was kind enough to grant us an interview about her fantastic children’s illustrations and paintings. Take a look below to learn more about her history, artwork, and process. You’ll even learn a thing or two about the artists that inspire her!
First, tell us a little about yourself. Where you’re from, where (and what) you studied, and what you do for a living.
I was born in a small suburb in Russia. Then my parents moved to the city. I lived there until I go to St. Petersburg. I am a philologist by education, and for a long time I dreamed of becoming a writer. The great writer. The really great writer. But suddenly instead of writer I began to notice in myself an Illustrator. Well, I said – why not Illustrator!
When did you realize you wanted to become an illustrator? Was it something you always knew you wanted to do?
It happened when I got my first permanent job. I did come to work at 9 am every day, day by day. My work was not interesting to me, as for many people, unfortunately. And I thought – Oh, I don’t want to spend all my life this way! I’ve always loved to draw, and one day I decided that it would be my profession. I only had to work on myself. A lot 🙂
Where do you get inspiration from?
Oh, if I could know where to get inspiration for sure! But I actually inspired by a lot of things – movies, music, literature and paintings of course. The last one is the most important. Nothing has affected me so much as viewing many works of different illustrators.
What draws you to illustration for children’s stories? Do you have kids or young siblings of your own?
No, I have no children. But inside I’m a real child. I feel that people only pretend to be adults. Nobody interested in business meeting when you can just eat ice cream!
You’re from Saint Petersburg, Russia correct? How does that influence your work? Are there any Russian artists or influences that affect your art?
Yes, I live in Russia. But as for me, art has no nationality. And the first inspiration I got when I saw the work of Aubrey Beardsley. I eagerly looked at every his touch – for me it seems fantastic! Modern Russian illustrators I like are Fil Dunsky, Polina Yakovleva, Galya Zinko and many other.
Can you take us through your entire process when you create an illustration, from the idea, to the initial sketch, to the finished product?
First I imagine the picture. I imagine it entirely, from structure to emotions that I wanted to invest. And then begins the exciting and sometimes very long process to get this idea out of my head. It often sits in my head all day and does not want to go outside. When the sketch is finally ready, the rest is simplest part: to draw it all! I always draw characters fist, then furnishings and the end – sky, trees, wall and other. Before characters are done I just don’t know how to draw everything else)
Are there any other forms of art that you enjoy doing? Do you take pictures? Draw things besides children’s illustrations?
I am very interested in many forms of art. But in order to become a good photographer or a sculptor, you need a lot of working. So now I’m focusing only on children’s illustrations, but this does not mean that I am not interested in anything else. I love look for the people who making art not close to mine and I really enjoying what they do.
Do you have any secret/useful tips for artists who aspire to produce digital art on your level? A good set of brushes or resources perhaps?
Here is difficult to advise something. When I started using the program, in particular Corel Painter, I tried to use a many tools. I drew the sketch on paper, brought it into the computer, tried to draw every single detail with another brush. Now I do everything digitally. And I use a total of three brushes. One for the sketch, one for the face of people and the background, and one for everything else. So my advice is to study a tool you choose. Just feeling free you can do something interesting.
What programs or medium do you use to create your images?
Corel Painter & Photoshop
Finally – do you have any favorite contemporary artists that make you go “Wow!”?
Of course! Rebecca Dautremer, Nicoletta Cecolli, Shaun Tan, Benjamin Lacombe, Andy Kehoe