Amelia’s Magazine | Portfolio: an interview with illustrator Yelena Bryksenkova

Ada Zanditon A/W 2011 by Yelena Bryksenkova

Ada Zanditon A/W 2011 by Yelena Bryksenkova.

The wonderful New England based illustrator Yelena Bryksenkova has for many years been one of my favourite contributors to Amelia’s Magazine, during which time she has created so many wonderful delicate and highly detailed illustrations that are always perfectly adapted to whatever subject she is given. It’s no surprise that she has been wooing fans across the globe, so I am absolutely delighted to introduce her as a featured Portfolio Illustrator on the soon to be relaunched Amelia’s Magazine website. I caught up with Yelena to find out more about the way she works and much more.

Bio Photo Yelena Bryksenkova

I’ve been a long term admirer of your work, having featured you in my 2010 book, Amelia’s Compendium of Fashion Illustration: how did you discover my website and why did you start to contribute?
I discovered you even earlier, when I was working at a magazine shop in Baltimore that carried publications from all over the world. I was still a student then and whiled away the long hours at the shop reading magazines and copying down contact information from the mastheads. I was instantly drawn to Amelia’s Magazine – the exquisite covers, the way every page overflowed with photographs, drawings, interesting articles – it was clearly made with love and unparalleled creative energy. And it was from London. I worked very hard on an illustration which I entered into your competition themed Everything is Connected, and that, to my amazement, is how I made it into the final print issue of the magazine. It was the very first time my work had been printed anywhere, in fact. After the magazine went online, I continued to contribute when I could, and in the process became acquainted with the very friendly and talented community of illustrators in the UK.

Bernard Chandran S/S 2014 by Yelena Bryksenkova

Bernard Chandran S/S 2014 by Yelena Bryksenkova.

One of my favourite things about your illustrations is your amazing use of pattern. Where does this love of detail stem from?
Detail seems so personal and deliberate to me; it’s like a secret shared between the creator and the beholder who cares to look closely enough. I’ve always enjoyed looking at Indian miniature painting, or closely examining the lacy collars in Tudor court paintings. Nowadays drawing painstaking detail and patterning feels meditative to me, but I think it stemmed from my student days, when I discovered that a pattern can nicely mask some awkward drawing mistakes!

Ekaterina Kukhareva S/S 2014 by Yelena Bryksenkova

Ekaterina Kukhareva S/S 2014 by Yelena Bryksenkova.

I also adore your elegant females – which artist or type of art has had the biggest influence on the way you draw people?
I often look at the work of Serov, Sargent, Renoir, Vuillard, Matisse; I will never get tired of paintings of quiet repose, everyday moments. Women brushing their hair, reading, arranging flowers, drinking tea, lost in their private thoughts. Stylistically, the way I draw people was most likely shaped by looking at the works of J.W. Waterhouse and Edward Gorey, as well as fashion illustrations from the 1920s.

Studio Yelena Bryksenkova

Studio Yelena Bryksenkova

What time of day do you find it easiest to work and what are your must have requirements when you sit down to create some art?
Traditionally I am a night owl, although I am finding lately that I get a lot more done if I start working first thing in the morning. Before I sit down to work, my desk (and often the whole room) has to be tidied up – otherwise my mind feels cluttered, I get stressed out and impatient with my work – and I need to have a large mug of tea always on hand.

Pollyanna Band by Yelena Bryksenkova

Pollyanna Band by Yelena Bryksenkova.

How did your agent find you?
I’m not sure, I think they saw my work in the Communication Arts Annual and had been following it for a while before reaching out.

Lug von Siga S/S 2014 by Yelena Bryksenkova

Lug von Siga S/S 2014 by Yelena Bryksenkova.

Do you have a specific approach when you tackle a fashion illustration that is different, say, from an editorial illustration?
Aesthetic appeal is important in editorial illustration, but I must also consider its clarity of concept and succinctness; it must go hand in hand with text. Fashion illustration is all about creating a story and arousing an emotional response to clothes, so there’s more opportunity to be creative. I begin by thinking about the kind of woman the clothes evoke and what kind of dream world she lives in, styling her pose, accessories and even setting based on that.

Orla Kiely S/S 2014 by Yelena Bryksenkova

Orla Kiely S/S 2014 by Yelena Bryksenkova.

Where does your obsession with the image of a small elephant come from?
I think the first time I really took this image to heart was when I was about 17 and I read Haruki Murakami‘s short story The Elephant Vanishes. But upon further recollection, I found that the elephant has been in my life from the start: when I was very small, one of my favorite children’s books was Excuse Me, Elephant by the Polish author Ludwik Jerzy Kern. It was about a boy named Pini and his porcelain elephant Dominik, who comes to life. Now the elephant is a kind of talisman I’ve adopted; I think of it as a harbinger of good tidings.

Pam Hogg S/S 2014 by Yelena Bryksenkova

Pam Hogg S/S 2014 by Yelena Bryksenkova.

Why did you decide to leave New York for New Haven and what has been the best thing about making the move to a more rural setting?
For someone who is very romantic about cities and places in general, I never dreamed of New York and I knew from the start that it isn’t my kind of city. But I did dream of being a New Englander, so I took the first opportunity that presented itself and moved to Connecticut, with the intention of eventually continuing to move deeper into the Northeast. As the home of Yale University, New Haven is collegiate and cozy, small enough to get to know but in such a way that I could never get tired of wandering its charming streets. It’s also so conveniently located that I can take day trips – for work or leisure – by train to New York, Providence and Boston (a city I love and do dream of), as well as many other corners of this beautiful region.

Tata Naka S/S 2012 by Yelena Bryksenkova

Tata Naka S/S 2012 by Yelena Bryksenkova.

What is the best part about researching a new illustration? 
Often I get assignments on a subject I know nothing about. After the initial anxiety about the seemingly foreign and uninteresting, I begin to read, and before long come out something of an expert on the matter and having found some detail that resonates with my emotions or aesthetic sensibilities and that will help me make it mine. All it takes is that detail, and once I pull on the thread, a whole image begins to unravel. It’s very exciting, because it’s such a natural way to learn something new and I find that in life I have become more willing to look for that detail in places and people, rendering me incapable of boredom!

Cheapside Hoard by Yelena Bryksenkova

Cheapside Hoard by Yelena Bryksenkova.

What are the things that make you feel most emotional at present and how do you respond to them?
I recently read Anna Karenina in just a few long sittings and after crying for two days I started working on an imaginary book cover, which I have yet to finish because real book cover commissions took over my life. The autumn weather makes me emotional; the heat and humidity of summer is over and the bitter New England winter hasn’t begun, so I go on nighttime walks in perfectly cool, clear air and I just feel happy, warm and cozy and glad to be alive. This calmness is good for productivity and in turn the presence of meaningful work feeds back into that satisfied feeling.

Izzy Lane by Yelena Bryksenkova

Izzy Lane by Yelena Bryksenkova

Izzy Lane by Yelena Bryksenkova. (illustrations for Amelia’s Compendium of Fashion Illustration.)

We were very sad when you could not make it over to the launch party (for my fashion illustration book) due to adverse weather conditions: when did you last travel to the UK and what was the occasion?
My dad lived in Gloucester for a time, and my mom and I visited him; I must have been about 14. I was devastated when the snowstorm thwarted my hopes of visiting London again a whole decade later, but I’m determined to try again, and soon. I have developed so many friendships and professional relationships across the Atlantic and I pledge to meet all of you in person one day!

Sketchbook by Yelena Bryksenkova

Are you still creating beautiful sketch books and if so can we see a sneak peak of a recent one?
Unfortunately I’ve had little time lately to draw in my sketchbook. The last time I drew in it  was on a visit to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Eloise Jephson, CSM graduate by Yelena Bryksenkova

Eloise Jephson, CSM graduate by Yelena Bryksenkova.

What is your favourite way to relax and unwind?
My best friend lives about 1.5 hours away in Rhode Island, and I love to visit her after getting all of my work done, so that the time off feels truly deserved, and I can wind my spring for the next stretch. And I even enjoy the journey, because a long, comfortable train ride listening to music and looking out of the window is another great pleasure in life. I love to take long walks and sit in cafes with tea and a good book. This year I’ve been going up to see the Boston Ballet, which is a very relaxing and very magical experience. And of course, lots of good (and bad) TV.

I can’t wait to showcase more of Yelena Bryksenkova‘s beautiful work on my new website, coming soon x

Categories ,Amelia’s Compendium of Fashion Illustration, ,Anna Karenina, ,Communication Arts Annual, ,Connecticut, ,Edward Gorey, ,Everything is Connected, ,Excuse Me Elephant, ,Fashion Illustration, ,Haruki Murakami, ,illustration, ,interview, ,J.W. Waterhouse, ,Ludwik Jerzy Kern, ,matisse, ,New England, ,Portfolio Illustrator, ,Renoir, ,Sargent, ,Serov, ,The Elephant Vanishes, ,Vuillard, ,Yelena Bryksenkova

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Amelia’s Magazine | An Interview with Ukrainian Illustrator Daria Hlazatova

Daria Hlazatova - Oceania
Daria Hlazatova – Oceania.

Ukrainian illustrator Daria Hlazatova has been creating stunning illustrations for Amelia’s Magazine for several years now. I caught up with her to find out about her latest projects and how important social media has been to building her career. She’s an inspiration!

Daria Hlazatova - tom riddle
Tom Riddle.

Tell us about your home town near the Carpathian mountains in Ukraine. Where would you take a visitor from the UK?
I’d give them a tour of our town, Chernivtsi, which is, in fact quite nice and boasts a mix of European architectural styles, historically having been under the rule of different countries. A trip to the restaurant serving our national cuisine will be a good idea, too, as it is a somewhat unusual experience for tourists, but nevertheless delicious: everyone enjoys our pancakes with red caviar! We’d also take a trip to the mountains to pick up some berries and enjoy the views.

Canterville ghost
Canterville ghost.

What kind of art do your relatives make and how has it inspired your own creations?
There are artists both on my mother’s and my father’s side, so I think it was natural for me to become interested in drawing in my early years. My mother’s uncle Volodya used to be a rather well-known book illustrator in St Petersburg and I still have some of his signed books, one of which is called Dashenka, which is a diminutive of my name. And although the story wasn’t about me, I took it as a sign that I, too, must try myself at illustrating books. My father’s relatives are mostly landscape artists, living and working in Russia.

Daria Hlazatova - Dog Days are Over
Dog Days are Over.

You are an active part of the creative social media community – when did you discover the online world and how has it affected your art making over the years?
I think the same time as I was lucky enough to have discovered Amelia’s Magazine which was in the autumn of 2010. Being based so far away from all the exciting  art events and virtually having no connection with other creatives, I decided to use the Internet resources to mend this injustice. Since then I have found it extremely helpful, with online blogs and networks serving me as a magic portal into the art world.

Daria Hlazatova -Harold Pinter
Harold Pinter.

Why is your blog titled All Pencils of Mine are Sugarplums?
It has to do with my love for Lewis Carroll. The title is based on one of his syllogisms (which are logic arguments). I will say no more, because whenever I start talking about Carroll or syllogisms, I confuse everyone… rather like I do with the title of my blog!

Daria Hlazatova Ravel

What can people find on your blog?
Lots of drawings, random thoughts, news about shows and interesting projects. I sometimes share art and music that inspire me. I sincerely hope that upon visiting my blog, readers have a sudden urge to create something, read  a fairy-tale, dream,  bake cakes, or just dance,  in short do something fun and artistic.

Daria Hlazatova robert smith by daria h
Robert Smith.

You are a self taught artist – where have you picked up your style and techniques from?
I don’t know. I think my style has been developing of its own accord and I only mildly control it. I do have an obsession with some elements, like eyes, stars and moons that I include in almost every work of mine, but then again, I do that subconsciously most of the time. I can only guess why I intertwine eyes into the patterns and use them as central objects and it’s perhaps because the Russian word “eye” is the root of my surname.

What inspired you to create a zine and who do you hope will read it?
A long-awaited holiday! I have 2 part-time jobs (one of them is no longer part-time) besides being a full-time illustrator. I’ve been looking for this winter break since my last holiday in summer and wanted to make something special. Besides, I’ve often heard from people they’d like me to make a zine or a little book, so I thought I’d give it a try. It all happened unexpectedly quickly and in a blink the zine was ready. I had to look through the notebooks back from my university days, where I scribbled some nonsense poems and stories to pass the time during dull lectures and also had crazy ideas contributed by some lovely enthusiasts. I hope everybody who appreciates a little nonsense  now and then will enjoy Nosorog.

Pati Yang by Daria Hlazatova.
Pati Yang for Amelia’s Magazine.

What does Nosorog mean and what does the zine contain?
Nosorog from Russian means “rhinoceros”. There’s no point denying it: I chose the name for no reason at all. This was the first word that came to me. The zine contains several short-stories, some quotes, a horoscope, mock advertisements and an interview, accompanied by my old and new illustrations. The content has been inspired by the works of Mervyn Peake and Edward Gorey and by fairy-tales in general. I was very surprised but also happy to see that the first issues sold so quickly. I’m printing more and already working on the second one, which will have more stories, exclusively-created illustrations and will hopefully make you smile!

Where can people get hold of a copy?
I don’t have a proper shop elsewhere except for the one on my blog. And if anyone wants a freshly-printed Nosorog, the best thing to do is to email me.
Moth rah girl phoenix EP group Daria h
Daria Hlazatova -girl phoenix EP cover for Moth Rah
Girl phoenix EP cover for Moth Rah.

Can you tell us about your upcoming show in Kiev?
It will take place in a mysteriously beautiful place, which is the building of an old opera house. From the outside it looks like a gingerbread house, on the inside it’s a perfect setting for a Georges Melies film. I fell in love with this place at once. The space itself, called Kiev Loft,  is used for concerts, performances, and art events and run by a rather enthusiastic and professional young team who as far as I can see are eager to help the art life in our capital thrive and prosper, which is great. My drawings will be exhibited there along with the beautiful and very curious works by the Lithography studio “30” based in Kiev. It will be my first show in Ukraine, so wish me luck!  

Frankie Rose for Amelia’s Magazine.

You’ve been doing some personal work inspired by Johnny Flynn, how did you discover his music and what touches you about it?
I first heard of Johnny after seeing the play Jerusalem. I didn’t know he was also a songwriter and after hearing his music, something clicked. You know, there are some periods in life when a certain melody is needed to help you carry on and Johnny Flynn’s songs turned out exactly that thing. I felt the connection because his music is very poetic and not simply folk, it’s more than that. I can see the influence of theatre, nature, even Shakespeare, and all things I like in his songs and that’s why I thought I should explore a bit more both in the music and in myself by creating some illustrations to accompany his songs.

Daria Hlazatova tonight

Have you got anything else in the pipeline you can tell us about?
Lots! Mostly the plan is just to draw. And if that doesn’t work, plan B is to draw some more again.

What do you hope for your art in the coming years?
I’d love to have a show in Italy and before that I hope to work on larger scale drawings and do some music-related artwork. If you ask me, an art studio (preferably with a fitted kitchen, a helpful assistant and a husky dog)  is my pipe-dream.  Shall I use a quotation to appear exceptionally well-read? Shakespeare said and I completely agree with him, that expectation is the root of all heartache, that’s why I never expect,  but I’m ready for surprises. I’m very happy doing what I do at this very moment.

Find Daria Hlazatova online: read her blog, friend her on facebook and follow her on twitter.

Categories ,30, ,All Pencils of Mine are Sugarplums, ,Canterville ghost, ,Carpathian, ,Chernivtsi, ,Daria H, ,Daria Hlazatova, ,Dashenka, ,Dog Days are Over, ,Edward Gorey, ,Frankie Rose, ,Georges Melies, ,Harold Pinter, ,illustrator, ,interview, ,Jerusalem, ,Johnny Flynn, ,Kiev, ,Kiev Loft, ,Lewis Carroll, ,Mervyn Peake, ,Moth Rah, ,Nosorog, ,Oceania, ,Pati Yang, ,Ravel, ,Rhinoceros, ,Robert Smith, ,Shakespeare, ,St Petersburg, ,Syllogisms, ,Tom Riddle, ,Tonight, ,Ukraine, ,Ukrainian, ,Volodya

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Amelia’s Magazine | An interview with illustrator Julie Vermeille

Julie Vermeille Beautiful Coincidences
Beautiful Coincidences. All photography provided courtesy of Julie Vermeille

What were your surroundings like growing up?
I grew up in a small town outside Paris –Dad is a teacher and musician and Mum is also a teacher, and always interested in interiors. Our home was filled with textiles, and we were close to the country, so there were lots of trees around –all these aspects influence my work.

Julie Vermeille Beautiful Coincidences
Did you study illustration, or did you come across it intuitively?
I knew quite early on that I wanted to do art, and in the last two years of high school it was my specialty subject –I was always interested in using ink, thread and stitching. As a teenager I first thought of being a theatre designer because I liked the idea of creating a world or atmosphere, and I think this still what I am trying to do when I work on a series of images.

Julie Vermeille Beautiful Coincidences
So how did you come to be in London?
I arrived when I was 17 and did a foundation course at the London College of Communication in Art and Design. It was exciting to be somewhere with such an international mix of people, and it felt right. It was also great to be working across different mediums. I started illustrating because I don’t write, but I still wanted to tell stories. So I began creating characters of little people who look a bit like animals. My first series The Little World of Woodies was really a turning point.

Julie Vermeille Beautiful Coincidences
When we first met you mentioned your love of fairy tales, which ones in particular have proven influential?
Little Red Riding Hood is definitely my favourite, but I’m interested in fairy tales from around the world, for example Inuit tales. And you’ll notice trees are always present, which is a recurring setting in many fairy tales. My fascination with fairy tales stems from the fact that on the outside they look cute, but behind them is something darker. This is what I am looking for when making my work.

Julie Vermeille Beautiful Coincidences
Are there any types of art or illustrators that have inspired you?
I wouldn’t say that I am influenced by him, but I really like Edward Gorey because I’m interested in the way that he subtly conveys a really dark humour through lovely drawings. Also Annie Berbault, a French illustrator who again subtly deals with adult themes behind childlike collages.

Julie Vermeille worry dolls
Worry dolls

How does your creative process work?
Usually I will start with a story, or a commission for an exhibition, then choose my colours and fabrics in advance. I used to sketch but I don’t tend to do that much anymore, instead I will turn some music on, write down some words as inspiration, and get started. The fabric/pattern and colour of the paper and fabric I use are inspirational, for their shapes and patterns. Later, I might edit down my pictures or reorder them. I like to leave space in my pictures, and some people tell me that it resembles Japanese art in that way. The space is really important and having room between the words means the drawings are open to interpretation, people can make up their own stories.

Julie Vermeille Hair from Passing
‘Hair’ from Passing On

When did you start exhibiting, and what do you enjoy about it?
It was when I was first at college and we did a group show, and then later at Craft Central. I also went to Hong Kong to exhibit early on in my career, a TV crew came and it was crazy! And I have had exhibitions in France and Scotland. I love exhibiting and I like creating something for and working in the space I have been invited to.

And what are some of the challenges in your work?
The paperwork. Maybe some people are good at the admin side of things, but it’s not for me, I want to be illustrating. Collaborating can also be a bit difficult if you differ with others in your tastes, but I am growing to like this a lot more.

Julie Vermeille Seashanties
Weaving from Seashanties

How would you describe your work?
I make children’s books for adults, but also books to go with music. I’m interested in animation and puppet-making, I like to see what you can do with things in 3D. I would like to do more scenery and characters in 3D, like little sets from my illustrations.

What is it like to be working as a young artist in East London?
It can be tricky if you aren’t making a living out of it, though the idea of what an illustrator can do is much more expansive now. I love living here, and I like the extreme difference of derelict buildings and newer ones, and the fact that you find quirky little places. Twelve years ago Brick Lane used to be really underground, it’s more uniform now but I still like it and feel like a part of a community.

Julie Vermeille Woodland Creatures
Woodland Creatures

Do you have any projects planned for the New Year?
I want to travel! To Japan, and also maybe a road trip through America. I will be working on a new collaboration with a writer, though that’s still a bit of a secret…

Visit for more of Julie’s work. Read our Made in Clerkenwell – Winter Open Studios 2011 review featuring Julie, along with other Craft Central artists and designers.

Categories ,Annie Berbault, ,Brick Lane, ,Craft Central, ,Edward Gorey, ,Little Red Riding Hood, ,London College of Communication, ,paris

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