Welcome back to YourArtPath.com bi-weekly Artist Interview series that I conduct every second Sunday!
Today we have a talented Illustrator and Storyteller based in London – Anja Sušanj.
You can check out more of her works on Anja’s website: anjasusanj.com
Welcome Anja, tell our readers a little bit about yourself 🙂
Anja: Hi – thank you so much for having me! 🙂
I’m an illustrator originally from Croatia and I’m currently based in London – the city of chaos, red double-deckers, parks and surprisingly little rain (seriously!)
When it comes to my work, my main focus is on editorial, conceptual and narrative illustration. In a way, I’m an illustrator by trade, but a bookworm at heart.
What’s your favorite medium for creating art?
A: That would be a big-old- regular pencil. It’s my go-to medium when I draw for myself or when I sketch.
Despite using a lot of different mediums and combining them often in a digital form, I just love the simplicity of drawing with a pencil. The layering and nuancing are things I find relaxing, which is why I turn to it whenever I can.
Have you gone to an art school? How important do you think they are?
A: I have indeed gone to Art School – The University of The Arts London – where I studied illustration.
Personally, I believe they are not strictly necessary, but very useful as they’re a good way of networking, trying different things with professional guidance and getting an overall good theoretical and practical input when it comes to your practice and Art in general.
In that sense, I would recommend going to one if possible as the environment itself really challenges the way you think about the whole industry and I’m personally very glad I had gone to one and have had the pleasure of meeting the people I met and learned from.
How do you come up with a subject for your artwork?
A: It really depends on the brief, but I mostly brainstorm for a couple of minutes by writing out words that I associate with the subject and then I start sketching little thumbnails to figure out the best composition for it while also “thinking” visually until I get it “right”.
Have you ever had an artistic block? If so, how do you deal with it?
A: Oh yes – many times. I have heard someone saying that to create great art an artist needs to feel emotional pain, but I believe it’s the exact opposite! We are at our most creative when we are at ease, less stressed and have a routine; at least that’s the case for me.
My “blocks” had mostly come during extremely stressful times in my life and I have just naturally let them pass as I knew what they
were connected to. I think that sometimes it’s necessary (and healthy) to let yourself “not create “or to be gentle on yourself if something you do create ends up being below your usual standard, due to a specific life event or mood.
Working hard is one thing, but giving yourself a mental break to wind-down is also very important. In these cases, I often switch my focus from a brief to live sketching or sketching from memory. I try to ignite my mind by using mediums I haven’t used in a while and to try to get into a state of mind where I feel as relaxed as I can. Going for a run usually does it for me, but different people have different ways of dealing with stress. 🙂
What do you think is the most challenging VS the most rewarding part of being an Illustrator nowadays?
A: Hm, a very good question.
I think the most challenging thing is the fact that the market is packed with illustrators so we often apply for jobs that essentially do not exist yet, in case someone of our caliber might be needed in the future. In that sense, at the beginning of your career, there is a lot of uncertainty about how to get “that next job” and where to start in your search. Things do speed up eventually but unless you’re employed as an in-house illustrator somewhere (which is rare). it takes a while to go fully freelance.
The self-promotion is also quite challenging as it takes time (and time is money as they say), but – and I’ll be honest with you here – for me, it’s all worth it. I love to do this, it’s truly my passion. Despite sometimes disliking some aspects of the job (and hey, who doesn’t go through these phases, right?) I love the sheer feeling of creating an illustration that I’m satisfied with and that was the result of a very challenging brief.
I love illustration because it combines drawing with conceptual thinking and I relish in that aspect of it. I would say that one of my favorite parts of the whole process is finding the solution to the problem posed by the brief at hand. So yes, there are many things that make it difficult, but also many things that make those difficult moments absolutely worthwhile. I think this is the case with any profession if it’s your passion and you’re really invested in it, wouldn’t you say?
Do you like experimenting? If yes, what are you experimenting with at the moment?
A: Oh yes – I don’t even think it’s a matter of liking or disliking it (even though I do, in fact, like to do it) but more of it being necessary to evolve and grow as an illustrator.
I often change small bits to my style by trying out different mediums, mixing them together or simply trying to approach something in a different manner. It’s important to have a developed style, yes, but that doesn’t mean one will be drawing a face the same way until the end of their career.
I’m currently trying out gouache – I was always more of a texture base drawer, rather than a painter, so gouache is something I quite enjoy doing but cannot do in large amounts as I become impatient.
Also, I have been doing some ceramics painting and I have to say that it’s been amazing so far. I’m quite happy with the results (I’ll soon have some sneak peaks on Instagram), but more importantly – I’m having a blast, it’s so much fun. A big shout out to my fellow illustrator and ceramicist Hannah Redpath for helping me!
Any cool art books you can recommend?
A: I love Isabelle Arsenault’s books as well as Carson Ellis’s children’s books. I buy picture books and well-designed fiction if I have the chance as I love collecting well-illustrated books of all kind.
Where do you see your art career 10 years from now?
A: Well, I would like to be spending my time teaching at an Art School and doing interesting freelance work on the side – I believe that lifestyle would suit me best.
Thanks for sharing your art path with us! Any last tips you can give to beginner artists?
A: It was my pleasure!
Regarding tips – well, the obvious one would be “work as hard as you can and never stop developing your practice”, but it’s so much bigger than that. Self-promotion is crucial so don’t be afraid to put your work out there. Also, be realistic in regards to what you can and cannot
do and focus on what you’re good at and work on that.
Developing a skill is hard work and takes time, so don’t be impatient – if you work hard, you will have that breakthrough and your style will start to feel like your own!
Lastly, don’t give up, but do take a break if you feel you desperately need one! A sound mind will create better work so when you feel overwhelmed, go for a run, or bake a cake (whatever works – I obsessively make bread sometimes) and then get back into it with a “fresh
Hope this helps! I’m still figuring all of this myself so I’m only speaking from the experience I’ve gathered throughout the years. There are so many nuances to this and it takes time to figure them all out.
Good luck to everyone and thank you for the lovely interview. Take care!
Did you guys enjoy the interview? Comment down below what’s your favorite art piece by Anja Sušanj!
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