What’s your artistic background and how did you develop your creative style? How would you describe your niche?
My career as a professional illustrator started only 6 years ago. I am currently 38 😊 I would like to make a short chronology of my professional path hoping that I can inspire people who are just starting to do what they love to do.
I draw since I was a kid, I graduated from an art school and later from the university where I also studied art in my hometown Shumen, Bulgaria. So far so good, everything says I’ll be doing this my whole life, right? Yes… but no! The ability to paint is not enough to do it professionally. The lack of friends with similar interests, contacts and places to be seen (it was the pre-Internet era in 2000!) was a huge barrier. I started working as a tennis court maintenance attendant, night watchman, waiter, bartender and had my mandatory military service… It was only in 2006 that I started working as a graphic designer in a garage studio. I’ve been through 3D texturing, web and UI design, and only since 2014, I’m a freelance illustrator! That’s why my portfolio is so diverse.
Thanks to the internet and portfolio networks, I gained publicity, made friends, and found clients. The style I built is based on my perceptions and experiments. I didn’t learn from lessons to draw this way.
When someone commissions a project from you, what does the creative process look like?
I always present my clients with clear guidelines and processes explained step by step in written form. It is good for both sides to have transparency and understanding. In this way, there will be created peace of mind, which is necessary for the creative process. I continue with research where I observe, study, and get inspired. Most of the time I sketch on hand first, get client feedback based on the initial hand-drawn sketches, and only then I dive deep in digital for the coloring and the fine details.
What/where/who are you inspired by?
I am inspired by everyday events and people in real life. I like to create stories from them and have fun with these little things.
How and where are your clients typically using illustrations?
My client often applies the character design in presenting a service or product in an approachable and why not even fun way. Avatars are used by customers on their websites, as a profile picture for their social networks, in project systems such as Slack, Teams, Jira, etc. I have cases where my clients use them for their CVs as well, which I find very creative on their end! This type of illustration is one of my favorites.
Which brands do you think to have it right in terms of illustration?
Dropbox, Mailchimp, Waze.
In a sea of talented illustrators online, what’s your advice for creating unique work that stands out from the crowd?
Two simple things — develop your own unique style without copying someone else’s and be patient.
What’s the biggest learning you’ve had from becoming an illustrator? Advice on what not to do?
I’ve learned to be consistent and pursue your dreams. Do not give up, do not envy is what I would advise definitely not to do 😊
What are your go-to digital tools, programs, or techniques for creating your work? And what do you avoid?
Almost always I start drawing with a pencil or pen, after which I digitally finish my works in color. I use Photoshop, Illustrator, Wacom tablet, regular drawing paper, pen, and pencil. My top proven tool is to avoid forgetting that I have to have fun while painting. We have to accept our work as fun, otherwise, we will lose what we love to do.
What do you think makes a great portfolio? Any tips or tricks?
Customers like to have transparency. Accept that your portfolio is the biggest project! It will bring you customers, fans, and inspiration to yourself because seeing what you are capable of will make you believe more and more in yourself and will improve your future work! And one more extra — keep your portfolio alive, always improve it, even your old projects.
What trends do you think are having the biggest impact on illustration in 2020?
Illustrations on social topics and inclusion. From now on, what we have lost in terms of the uniqueness of the illustration will become relevant. Therefore, I believe that soon, hand-drawn illustrations will become increasingly valuable and wanted.
Why do you think illustration has become so dominant online?
Because most of them can be created very quickly. In the common scenario, the imposed on the market trends are followed, and through a few online tutorials, everyone starts to draw alike and make money. As I wrote above, this will change and analog illustrations will become more and more relevant to online businesses. This in my opinion. We live in interesting times 😊
How do you see the future of illustration in the digital era?
The illustration will always be there, but it will change its appearance. A new style between analog and digital will appear. This will level-up the whole illustration community and illustrators will become much more creative. And then the trend will not be the leading force, but the imagination of the artist.