Artist interview: Kristyna Baczynski

Kristyna Baczynski (Leeds, UK) is an illustrator and creator of small-press sequential art projects; drawing, screenprinting and animating creatures, cartoons and comics. I’m lucky enough to live in the same city as her and have been able to see first-hand a lot of her crazy-talented work.

Kristyna Baczynski

Kristyna is a firm believer in her tried-and-tested technique of listening to Chromeo and/or Kiss on headphones and taping pens to her hands in order to banish creative blocks – thank goodness, as she’s got a lot of talent to let loose from those hands!

She’s is currently exhibiting work at the group show, Over Them Hills at Common (Manchester, UK) until May 12th 2011.

Blog: kriskicorp.blogspot.com
Etsy: www.etsy.com/shop/kriski

Hey Kristyna, how are you? Are you currently working on anything you could tell Pikaland readers about? I get the feeling you have lots on your plate and up your sleeve at any one time?
Yes, currently working on a jumble of projects (your hunch was right). I’ve been painting the walls at Common in Manchester (UK) this week for an exhibition called Over Them Hills which runs until May 12th. It’s a really talented group of Leeds (UK) artists involved; Matt Saunders/Rabbit Portal, Fon/The Pern and Lord Whitney. I am also contributing to a few more comics collections/anthologies and will have a comic strip out globally on Free Comic Book Day – but can’t really say any more than that. I also just opened my Etsy store this month, too.

Kristyna Baczynski

What was your favourite project that you worked on last year? (You seemed so busy, productive and prolific in 2010)
The whole year just ramped up in activity as it went on, a little art shuttle rocketing off into the unknown. So much came my way; incredible people and projects.

I’ll have to make this selection more than one, though. Indecision is a terrible affliction. My favourites would certainly be contributing to Issues 2 and 3 of Solipsistic Pop and my debut solo show From Pictures To Houses. Being asked to speak on the Self Publishing Masterclass panel at Thought Bubble was just magical, too.

What is your artistic history? How did you get started, and how long have you been creating art, embracing your creativity, and working towards developing your current style and output?
From building toys and scribbling in colouring books as a little girl, to reading comics and painting terribly as a teenager, drawing and making have always been things that I loved to do. It may have all started with the Crayola carrycase my mum got me when I was 7. But, continuing to make habitually through to adulthood means I’ve kept exploring pictures and found my own process.

I started taking illustration more seriously after I decided not to follow my original plans for a further education in BioChemistry (The UCAS form was filled, clutched awkwardly in my ink-stained, sweaty palms) and jumped ship to set sail for creative shores.
Through University I worked hard and developed my addiction to productivity, then after graduating I’ve worked harder and harder to keep improving.

Why do you create? What is it about being creative that makes it something important for you to do?
Creating is an absolute necessity. It makes me happier and more satisfied than anything else. It’s an addictive cycle of learning and achieving, criticising and improving. Being creative may well be a learning process, but you should never stop learning. There is an infinity of knowledge and information to discover about the world.

I’m often overwhelmed by how much I will never see, but by equal measure remain perpetually fascinated. Being creative can translate this wonder into something very personal and unique to you and means you can be continually engaged with the world by interpreting it into something completely new.

Kristyna Baczynski

How easily did learning to draw well come to you? I recently read a theory that says no one is born able to draw well but that some people just pick it up quicker than others, and run with it.
I’m sure this theory is absolutely true. Most people use pens to communicate through writing every day. Drawing is an extension of that communication. A pen nib migrating to the page margins for a quick doodle – This is just the start!

A lot of people discourage themselves by being too judgmental of what they think ‘drawn well’ looks like. Just change the standards by which you measure this. You don’t have to be able to draw a photo-realistic still life to make beautiful pictures. Someone like Jeffrey Brown, who has a loose, immediate drawing style, still makes compelling images that tell funny, moving stories. His style isn’t technically challenging – simply black pen on paper – but he achieves perfectly wonderful pages of drawn comics.

Don’t be put off by expectations and keep drawing every day.

I’d like to ask about the sorts of stuff you like; what images keep you company in your studio / place(s) of work, for inspiration?
I am a book junkie and hardened collector, so my studio is bulging with visual stimuli. It is also rapidly reducing in size as the walls are continually layered with more shelves, prints, books and oddities.

Lets do a 360 swivel and pick out a selection…
So, at 12 o’clock we have: a memo board with giant Cilla Black and speech bubble uttering inspirational reminders. At 2 o’clock is a collection of Metropolis film posters and 1920’s postcards. At 3 o’clock hangs a Japanese embroidery of birds and cherry blossom, with a James Downing (COUK) illustration perched underneath. At 6 o’clock we have the Vinyl Will Kill card set and a myriad of Ukrainian wooden toys. 8 o’clock might be my favourite – comics bookshelf topped with a 1996 Charles Burns calendar found at Lambiek (mega-cool Amsterdam comics emporium). Onto 10 o’clock which is a collection of framed owl pictures, a bakelite tray and harlequin wall hanging. Back to the centre… woo, a little dizzy here.

Kristyna Baczynski

How would you describe your artistic techniques and materials; what processes does your work go through to reach a ‘finished product‘?
What role does computer technology play in your art work?
Have you always worked in this way?
My technique is quite traditional. I start with a sketch, draw a few more until I’m happy. Then draw bigger, to an appropriate size/composition depending on where it will end up. Then I outline and ink the sketch onto paper using a home-made lightbox that gets pretty warm and cosy. Inked drawing is finished and scanned, then digitally colour it in Photoshop.

My computer is a secondary tool and comes after drawing to colour and finalise. It is essential though, as almost all of my work is sent around and compiled digitally (for papers, books and zines).
I haven’t always worked this way – I used to be very faithful to painting and drawing, using analogue ways of reproduction (photocopies, printmaking). I used to think that computer aided/generated art had an aesthetic of it’s own and feared it would influence my own drawing style. But as my body of work and confidence grew I wanted to move on and broaden my skill set, so began to venture into the digital playground. Keeping my right hand in the ink well, I dipped my toe into electronic waters.

Processes migrate and expand as you keep working – I’ve started using Illustrator and am learning After Effects, both computer based programs, but equally I want to continue learning traditional printing techniques. There is a place for both, you have to try them to see what works.

You hold a first class arts degree. Does your art education play a key role in the artworks that you create today?
How crucial do you think arts education is to creativity, and yours in particular?
My degree really set me off on my way to being an illustrator. It affords you 3 years to saturate yourself in art and learning, and I loved how much I developed during that time.

However, I have progressed more since graduating, working even harder and being more focused. I’ve built on the things I tried out at University, but my portfolio now is 95% new work.
University is a great start, but it is what happens after that is crucial. When you’re on your own, making your own decisions and being your own critic – that’s when I really blossomed. I was also very poor and sad a lot of the time, but you’ve got to work past that!

Kristyna Baczynski

How important are narratives to your artwork? I ask this as I find that your work is very often involved in story-telling, or introducing fantastic characters.
I love stories and history, especially how this relates to characters.
In illustrations I enjoy adding detail to build the feeling and personality of a character; visual clues and hints that suggest a narrative.

This is probably why I like comics so much, as they can push the storytelling part of illustration even further. Through both these media the most important thing is that anything is possible. You can create any kind of creature, that has a history of its own and can go on to act out its illustrated fate, whatever that might be.

I first came across your art work via your small-press sequential art projects (comics and zines). Where did your skills and interest in illustration and comics come from – did you grow up enjoying comics and cartoons?
How and when did you first start making your own comics?
Cartoons were the spark, definitely. Ren & Stimpy, Penny Crayon… actually, just mix those two up and it’s pretty close! I’ve always had an affinity for animation, it is just magic. Completely created worlds and characters, gripping stories to boot. Comics are very similar; drawn stories that happen through time. I got into indie comics a little later on, when I started working in Leeds in my teens, then got hooked.

I made a few comics at University, alongside animation, but only started self-publishing once I had graduated. When you’re at University you have an outlet to show your work, other students are your arena. At first, after leaving Uni it’s just you in your bedroom, that platform disappears and you have to find a new one. I braved Thought Bubble and made some comics and zines, which confirmed it was a damn fine thing to keep doing.

Kristyna Baczynski

Do you think comics/zines are a good way to share art, to display art, and to reach (new?) audiences or artistic communities?
Absolutely! They are small, sweet mini-books that are taken away by their audience. If you were sharing your art by hanging on walls, behind glass you immediately remove your audience, limit where and how they see your work. With zines and comics your audience gets to keep your art, spend time with it, stash it in their satchels and physically hold it.

By selling my own work as well as exhibiting and publishing I get to meet the people who want to see it and also other artists that do the same. This has been a way to meet so many amazing artists and cool comics buffs, which is more than good.

Have you employed skills learned via self-publishing/ DIY publishing (skills perhaps of networking; working independently – utilising the skills and talents you have; creating/printing things yourself, from scratch; working in a handmade way; honing your skills, interests and ways of working outside of mainstream constraints; approaching interested and interesting parties yourself; exhibiting in communal ways, on collaborative projects and exhibitions, etc) in your everyday artistic practice?
Do you find the worlds of art and DIY self-publishing intersect in such ways?
They totally feed off each other, yes. I’ve met artists through self-publishing, that I’ve then gone on to exhibit with.

By making things for yourself you learn how other practitioners work, too. When you’ve prepped and paginated your own work for a mini-comic you know what to do if you’re submitting to something bigger, like an anthology or paper.

It’s a great way to improve, because you make all the mistakes beforehand on your own stuff, then waltz out a seasoned professional!

Kristyna Baczynski

You’re become quite a regular stall holder at Leeds (UK) comics, small press, and craft fairs, have exhibited in independent spaces within the town, and done various pieces of local design work.
Alongside your presence in Leeds, you’ve also collaborated with, and have designed for/contributed to many UK publications and events.
How important to you (both artistically, and personally) is such a local/national artistic community?
I feel incredibly fortunate to be known within Leeds and am delighted that I’ve been published nationally/internationally. It really is a snowballing effect – you reach more and more people by making more and more work. Locality can mean your street, or the people you follow on Twitter.

The artistic community is really welcoming, but is essentially a group of talented people who all sit alone in a room, making their respective pictures. It is this, mixed with the magic of the internet that makes a community possible. It is also encouraging, because if you are an illustrator or self-publisher and feel ‘unknown’ you are even closer to meeting more like-minded artists than ever before. I was pretty much unknown before Thought Bubble 2010, where I met some lovely people and scraped together my first snowball and set it rolling.

How (if at all) did an established DIY art/small-press/craft/comics/illustration community/scene in the UK help in the early days of your art making?
Did/do you feel accommodated by it?
I was intimidated at first and spent my time making work and not showcasing it. I had to have a lot of work behind me before I felt confident enough to sign up and start making friends, so very early on I was working alone.

Once I felt I had enough good work I made the intrepid journey to Thought Bubble in 2010 and set up my first stall. I still feel very much in my early days, only having attended 4 fairs to date, but it was through this event and others like it that I got encouragement and interest, and also sales and published work.

Kristyna Baczynski

When and where did you first learn to screenprint, and how do such printing techniques enable you to independently produce and sell your work at events such as the aforementioned fairs?
I tried screenprinting at college and then again at University, but I was keen to be self-sufficient in preparation for the lone, post-grad trek and didn’t really use the facilities all that much. I’ve taken it up more seriously in the 2 years as a beautiful alternative to digital prints/posters.

Screenprinting makes a print much more unique and desirable. It has a tactile quality and I love how you can pick ‘n’ mix colour in a hands-on way. I use it in addition to digital printing, as it can be time-consuming and is much more costly, but adds a lot by being hand-made and limited edition.

I read that you’re a self-taught animator.
What forms of animation do you most regularly produce, and where did those skills come from?
Animation was a way to combine illustration and drawing with storytelling. It was something I spent time on at Uni, but since then I have animated less. I have collaborated on a music video for Being 747 with Eclectic Schlock and also won a Northern Design award for my animated short Java Jive, which allowed me to work as a freelance storyboard artist for 2 years after I graduated.

Making comics now is very similar to animation, sketching panel compositions is like framing a shot and each page is like a scene.
I’m certain it is something I’ll be returning to in the future… but there won’t be a Baczyixar Studios getting set up just yet.

Kristyna Baczynski

Which contemporary artists and illustrators are you currently loving?
Oh boy – Lots and lots!
I’m pretty enamoured with Ray Fenwick at the moment. I love how he can straddle typography, design and illustration while dipping into comics too. Lilli Carre is super-cool, her comics are mystical and wondrous and I admire her for flexing into illustration, animation and design.
Charley Harper is not-so-contemporary, but utterly timeless – I’m just in awe of his drawing logic.

What are your top tips for others who wish to be creative but feel stuck, don’t know where to start, or feel like they aren’t ‘good enough’ to do so?
The first hurdle is your own expectations. When you’re starting to draw and make, you constantly measure yourself against other people’s work, which can be demoralising (not that this changes… I do it all the time). Focus instead on your own skills, passion and flair. Build on these and when a project doesn’t work, learn from it, improve and most importantly, keep going. Draw every day and follow your nose, it will take you down the rabbit hole!

Kristyna Baczynski

What are your thoughts on the nature and exclusivity/inclusiveness of ‘art’ — Do you believe everyone can be creative in their own life?
I think everyone SHOULD be creative in their own life. It’s not exclusive at all; it’s a universal occupation that is gratifying and valid for everyone.

From stitching patches on your denim jacket, to knitting a tea cosy – this is creativity. If you enjoy making, keep doing it and go off on tangents. It only becomes ‘art’ when someone else decides to call it such. The essential part is the making and creating. The rest comes after.

What is your favorite part of artistic creativity? Why do you keep on going and doing what you do?
Making pictures is the most enjoyable thing I do, it is integral to my everyday life. Knowing that my pen marks and personality have crafted an image that has never been seen before is totally magical!
It is hard work; you have to be open to criticism and never rely on 8 hours sleep a night. But, ultimately it is more fulfilling and rewarding because of the challenge. What could be more wonderful than paving your own way, drawing your own footprints?

Devon Smith

Devon Smith, hailing from Wellington, New Zealand is a fine artist and illustrator, who draws and paints the most delicately beautiful and enchanting work I’ve seen in a while. It was a real pleasure to be in touch with her to learn more about her and her work.

Devon Smith

Website: www.devonsmith.co.nz
Blog: deerface.blogspot.com
Etsy: www.etsy.com/shop/deerface
Flickr | Facebook

Hi Devon, how are you? Could you tell us a little about yourself?
I am a little cold right now, it started raining on my way home so my socks got a little damp. I am a girl (despite my name) and I am 24 years old. I live in the capital city of New Zealand and paint and draw a lot.

What are you currently working on?
At the moment I’m working on a series of paintings about hypochondria. So far I’ve painted spider veins, rabies, gingivitis, and various fungal infections. Basically things I worry about getting. It’s all a bit gross, but surprisingly cathartic.

Devon Smith

Has art always had a place in your life?
Always always. I was lucky enough growing up to have parents that pretty much let me make as much mess in the pursuit of creativity as I wanted. Before I started school nearly every day I would pack a backpack full of drawing supplies and go on little expeditions to draw in the trees and on the beach by my house.

How did you first get started in art, is it something that you’ve always been interested in and excelled at?
I’ve always been interested, but certainly never excelled. Art was actually my worst subject throughout high school, and at best I was a mediocre student at Art School. I think most importantly I’ve always enjoyed drawing, and this beat out against discouraging low marks in school.

devon Smith

How long have you been creating art, embracing your creativity, and working towards developing your current style and output?
Again, always. I think I started developing my current style towards the end of my teen years. I kept pushing myself to draw in an original style, but it took relaxing about it somewhat for anything to actually come out. It certainly changed a lot throughout my time at Art School, and I like to think it is always changing at least a little bit.

Your work regularly focuses on girls, and I once read you describe your work as: ‘I create imaginary worlds full of dreamy girls and their animal familiars.’
What is it about these female subjects that leads you to illustrate them over and over again?
It is hard to say exactly why I paint and draw what I do. I never sit down with plans in mind, I very rarely use reference images (and if so, it’s usually after I’ve roughed out a drawing), I just start drawing and see what comes out. I think because I am female I place a little bit of myself in all the characters I illustrate. That’s not to say they look anything like me, but I guess they are the sort of girls I aspire to be. They are always strong ladies leading interesting lives, and are a bit of an escape if I am feeling low about something or obsessing over my own character flaws.

Devon Smith

What stages, from start-to-finish does a piece of your work go through, and over what time frame?
It usually starts with a little scribble or sketch. I keep a little notebook tucked in my back pocket at work and draw in this throughout the day. It might start with a face I like, or be a thumbnail of a whole painting, but it’s where things begin. This then travels to my studio where I’ll start drawing it out with an HB pencil on nice watercolour paper. Sometimes I’ll rough things out on scrap paper first, to save my good paper from the inevitable over-erasing that goes on. Then I outline figures and important things with an H pencil, then spray that with workable fixative so it doesn’t smudge when I get it wet. Then a layer of red mechanical pencil details, then blue. Next is paint, and I just build that up, usually over a few days until I’m happy with it.
It’s hard to say exactly how long things take, as I’ll generally get the bulk of a painting done in one day, but will keep returning to it for the next few weeks to refine things.

I hear that you’ve recently moved into a new studio – what’s most important to you when deciding on a space in which you can be creative?
I’m lucky enough to be able to work pretty much anywhere, In this case the space just turned up and I jumped at the chance to take it. It has lots of huge windows, so the natural light is great, it’s really central so good for coffee breaks and art supply runs. Light and coffee are very important in a studio space.

Devon Smith

Aesthetically, what sort of things have you filled your studio with in order for it to be as inspiring/homely/workable/engaging as possible?
I think books were the first thing I moved in. On top of being full of art or references or entertaining comics, I love the look of stacks of books. I’ve covered most of the available wall space with other people’s lovely artwork, and photos of pretty birds and kitschy landscapes.
I’m also sharing with two very nice girls who are very inspiring and keep the space fun.

What has your personal experience of Art exhibitions, Commissions/Collaborations, and Art & craft fairs been like? Do you regularly contribute to all? Do you see your work fitting into all?
I exhibit relatively regularly, and most of my work is produced with galleries in mind. I do sometimes do commissions, usually more illustration related than fine art, but I’ve been lucky enough not to have been asked to do anything too restricting so far. Craft fairs are a bit of a funny one.. I’ve done a couple in the past, and although they were pretty fun, and a good way to show work to a different audience, I don’t think it’s a great fit for me. I suppose I am more artist than crafter. It would be nice to have a good crafting skill, like knitting or sewing, but I think I’ll just stick with drawing for now.

Devon Smith

I once read you state that, “I think it is good to draw for no other reason than just enjoying it”. Do you regularly feel external pressures that require you to draw for other reasons than enjoyment alone – do you find that this alters and affects how you draw?
Sometimes when I’m drawing I get in to the mindset that I have to do things a certain way, in order for things to appeal to certain people or whatever, but I really hate when this happens and try to avoid it. I never want to just draw things that will sell, even if it’s a bit self-indulgent, if I’m not making things for myself they don’t ever come out well. They will always lack something.. the ‘soul’ I guess. You can tell if I’ve forced myself to draw something, it will look uncomfortable.

How do you manage your time in order to devote as much time as you’d like to your art?
I wish I spent more time on my art.. I currently have a job as well, to pay the rent and that sort of boring stuff, and this fills up a lot of my week. I think this makes me appreciate the time I do have, so I am always really motivated to get to the studio and work on art. Having a studio away from home also helps focus my time on art better, there are few distractions so once I’m there I can work hard..

Devon Smith

What’s your relationship to confidence, with regards to making and sharing your art?
I suffer long bouts of low self confidence about my art. A lot of work ends up in the rubbish and is never seen by anyone.

What is the art (and craft?) scene like in your native New Zealand? Are there any New Zealand artists, events, galleries, projects, magazines (etc) that particularly excite you right now?
The craft scene is still pretty new (comparatively) , but it’s really taken off and there are lots of wonderful people involved with it. The contemporary art scene is also pretty big, there are plenty of great galleries in all the major cities here. My favourite right now is the Robert Heald gallery in Wellington. It just a great plain space in the centre of town that always has really new and exciting work up. I would love to show there one day soon. There are too many great artists to list.. I recently bought a painting by Becky Dreistadt, just before she left NewZealand, and also have some great cushions by Evie Kemp who is a really cool textile designer/illustrator.

I’m presuming that (like most artists) you make art because you like doing it, and you’re good at it – what do you do on the days when the art doesn’t come easily to you – how do you fight off creative blocks, and/or are there any rituals or routines that get you into work mode?
Enjoying quiet times, reading nice books and trying new things help me restart if I’m having a rough patch. I’m lucky to have never had a serious creative block, even if I hate everything I’m doing I will still be producing work. I never like returning to a blank page, so if I’m on a good drawing roll I will always leave something half finished to come back to. I got this idea from Roald Dahl, who says to always stop writing when you are going well (I think he was quoting Hemingway about this), and I think it works just as well for drawing as writing.

I once read you give advice to your younger self, saying: ‘Don’t waste your time at art school doing stuff you already do’
How important to you is trying out new things, experimenting, and learning more about the art that you make?
Experimenting keeps things fresh, stops me from becoming repetitive and getting bored. I’m always trying to learn new techniques, even if they have nothing to do with my specific art practice. I just started working on some little clay models, which has been a great break from a particularly bad stretch of low art confidence.

Devon Smith

You work, primarily, in gouache, pencil and water colour, (with some evidence of Gocco too). What is it about these techniques and mediums that most suits you? Do you love the process of working in these mediums?
I find gouache and watercolour to be the best way to colour my drawings.. I really am more of a draw-er than a painter, so this way I can be drawing and painting at the same time. I also prefer the slow build up you get with layers of watercolour washes and gouache.. it’s better for me to be forced to slow down and take time over little details.

There’s something about/in your work that I think speaks volumes about your subjects’ emotional connections to the dark complexities of the world around them (and thus our own). This is sometimes communicated through imagery such as bats, arrows, skulls, ghosts, and the summoning of fears and imagined terrors.
Do you see your work, and the fragmented memories and nostalgias it contains, as coming from a ‘dark’ place, or for you is there dreamy, childlike, ethereal hope and optimism in the work?
I think it is a bit of both – even if a work is depicting something dark the act of painting it is usally about getting something out of my system. This is how I best deal with negative memories and feelings so these works are probably the more hopeful and optimistic ones.

Devon Smith

What’s your favorite art project that you’ve worked on so far?
I am working on a little comic zine at the moment and am really enjoying it. It’s really different from anything else i’ve ever done, and i’m excited to have a little handmade book at the end of it.

What gives you the incentive/confidence/push to continue making your art?
I have no clue! It’s purely internal, I don’t know how I would function if I had to stop drawing. I would probably stop being me. Of course people buying my art helps, because then I can buy more paper and nice pens.

Artist interview: Lilly Piri

Lilly Piri is a 25-year-old Australian illustrator/artist, who currently lives in Germany. Her art has a divine softness to it that draws me into her beautiful worlds again and again.

Lilli Piri

Website: www.littlegalaxie.com
Blog: lillypiri.blogspot.com
Web store: www.littlegalaxie.com/store.html
Etsy: www.etsy.com/shop/lillypiri
Facebook: The Lilly Piri Facebook Page

Could you tell us a little about what you are working on at the moment?
At the moment, I’m working on some pieces for upcoming group shows, things for my etsy shop, and personal work involving acrylics and oils.

How did you first get started in art, is it something that you’ve always been interested in and excelled at?
How long have you been creating art, embracing your creativity, and working towards developing your current style and output (a style that, I must say, is unmistakably yours)?
Well, drawing was something that I especially enjoyed doing. One early memory is, we were on holiday, and I was sitting with my watercolours and painting a seagull from life. I also drew countless horses from horse magazines growing up, I think this served as part of a solid drawing foundation. So, I know everybody says this, but I’ve been drawing for as long as I can remember. Everybody draws in school, some people just keep drawing once school is over. Life drawing in art school also really opened my eyes. There’s drawing, and then once you learn life drawing, it’s like you can see things on the page in 3 dimensions. Life drawing really changed my way of seeing.

Lilli Piri

How did you gain the confidence to make art your career?
I wouldn’t say I gained the confidence to do it, I just did it. I tried to promote and put my work out there, and it just fell into place after that. The Internet has made it really easy for creative people to show their work, and it played a huge role in getting me started.

Why do you create? What is it about being creative that makes it something important for you to do?
It sounds weird, but it helps me stay sane. I feel very restless if I haven’t had time to make something. It’s like most people have something they do as an outlet, or to relax, or just something that makes them happy. Sometimes, I get an idea for a drawing, and I just have to make it.

Where did your interest in soft, delicate, subtle imagery come from, and how has your art developed over the years to incorporate it?
This started because, colour pencils are just so time consuming. If you want a smooth colour, you have to really work at it with many, many layers. On the earlier ones, I would be making the fourth layer of colour and think ‘you know, this looks cool just like that’. It’s like how sometimes an artist prefers the sketch to the finished piece. It’s also sort of like a whisper this way.

Lilli Piri

A lot of your work is incredibly, beautifully detailed. A lot of this attentive detail occurs in small-scale images. Do you have a love for small, intricate things?
Yes, I absolutely love small things and have a nice little collection. I also love small boxes. It just goes back to childhood: my parents had a collection of super small toys and collector items that I wasn’t supposed to play with, but I did, anyway. Now, I’m grown up, and can have my own. Hurrah!

The careful, intricate detail in much of your work would suggest an eye for detail, and possible perfectionism.
What is your view of perfectionism in art, and more specifically in your own art work?
Well, I think everything has its place in the scheme of things, but perfectionism can become a real block. Personally, I have to be careful so that I don’t let the perfectionist take over, because then I would never, ever finish anything.

Lilli Piri

You work a lot with coloured pencils. What is it about this medium that you enjoy?
Well, what I enjoy about coloured pencils and what I hate about them is that it’s incredibly slow. Sometimes it’s nice to do 10 layers and sometimes it isn’t. When it’s nice, it’s just very relaxing, and you can’t really make mistakes with it. Once I have my lines in, it’s like colouring in.

How long would a typical pencil illustration take you to complete? I myself don’t think I’d have the patience!
Ahh, now that really depends on the size, if it’s full colour, or what colours are being used. Dark colours take the longest to do. My brown pencils break all the time, my teacher once told me this is because the browns are softer, so you have to use a very sharp sharpener. In the beginning, I used to time myself, I think the more intricate work can take 20+ hours for an A4 piece. I’m a lot faster than I used to be, though.

Lilli Piri

When you were based in Australia, a lot of native creatures and wildlife cropped up in your work; is the environment in which you create your work important to your subject matter and the way that pieces turn out?
I still regularly include Aussie animals, but now there is a German influence, too. I really miss Australia and the wildlife there, but then there’s also being delighted at things here in Germany. Sometimes, for titles, I like the German word better because it is more precise. They have words for stuff I would need a sentence to describe in English, like Schadenfreude and Zeitgeist.

Your art has been described as ‘dreamy interpretations of a wide variety of narratives’… How important to your work is the idea of narratives, and storytelling?
I really love having a story to work with. I like getting immersed in books, and not being able to put it down. I love this about Grimm’s fairytales. I have an old book of these with gorgeous illustrations from the 10’s or 20’s. Music with stories in it are also great for inspiring a certain mood that I would like to translate into a drawing.

Lilli Piri

I read you say of your art, and in particular the reason for the reoccurring theme of the ocean is that, ‘the sea always reminds me there is lots to explore, and it’s nice to look out and think about what’s over the horizon’. I love that quote as I really think it mirrors your work itself; exploratory, magical work that seems hopeful. Is this a fair reflection?
I suppose you could say that. Some people have interpreted my work as sad, I don’t really see it that way. It sounds corny, but I love the ocean just because you realise how tiny and unimportant everything is, and how much is out there to see. If you stand at Point Danger, near my hometown, you can see the curve of the world, and it’s just inspiring.

You live with your husband who is also an artist – how important to you and your arty motivation is living and working alongside somebody else who shares your interest and passion?
Does working in an environment alongside such peers provide any specific benefits to you as an artist – beyond motivation?
Well, I really can’t imagine it any other way, because it’s such a big passion for both of us. It’s just so nice to have someone that I have so much in common with, that’s not easy to find, I think. We don’t work in the same room, but if I get stuck, or he gets stuck, we can bounce an idea off of each other, or say ‘what do you think of this composition?’

Heiko is also much more technical than I am, and he’s helped me with perspective/file problems in the past. In a lot of ways he’s like the complete opposite of me, because he’s so prolific. But then he’s also a huge perfectionist, sometimes he makes like 3 or 4 final drawings before he’s happy, which I doubt I could ever do! I prefer erasing the page a million times!

Lilli Piri

, what daily things give you the incentive/confidence/push to continue making art and keep coming up with new ideas?
I really like nature, the ocean or the forest, insects, animals. It inspires me. Seeing the work of other artists, especially ones who have a completely different style to mine, makes me really excited to make new work. I also keep a lot of sketchbooks with ideas; sometimes I just wait and see if I can use one.

What challenges and struggles do you face (or have you faced) as a young artist and illustrator wishing to get their work seen and known – and how do you rise above these challenges?
I don’t think it’s very easy to get illustration jobs that suits my work, so I’m planning to try simplifying my style. But I also want to push my gallery work in a more paint-erly, detailed direction, because I really love painting. Playing and experimenting is very important for both of these problems. I guess I don’t believe that you have to stick to one thing. Growing is important, too. I’m sort of at a point where I want to change things up a lot, so I guess you probably have to ask me again in a year or two!

Lilli Piri

Which contemporary artists and illustrators are you currently loving?
At the moment:
Gemma Correll’s work, especially her daily diaries, which are hilarious.
Beci Orpin, she does so much cool stuff.
Lauren Nassef, who posts a drawing every day, very inspiring!
Bec Winnel, for her amazing fashion colour pencil work.
Lindsey Carr, her paintings are beautiful and intricate. If you’re a Natural Museum fan, you would probably fall in love with her work.
Ana Bagayan, she’s a wonderful artist and she and her friend Mere also run The Lunch Bunch, which feeds the homeless in LA.
Elly Yap, she makes the most amazing patterns!

I also keep a big link list on my blog with the blogs of other artists and illustrators, and they are people I recommend checking out.

Lilli Piri

What is your favourite thing about making art?
That feeling like you’re making something special out of a blank piece of paper. It’s like planting a seed and watching what it grows into. It’s fun not knowing how a piece will turn out, it’s fun to solve problems and learn.

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