Anna Rastorgueva - Artist, illustrator, sketcher.
Interview with an artist
Anna, tell us how have you started your art career?
Probably like most drawing people, my journey began in childhood. Drawing often took my time on a boring lesson, on the road, in the doctor’s waiting room or a quiet hour in the camp, I was pleased to pass the waiting with the album and pencils. But I did not consider the drawing as a prospect for the future, profession or career. At school I had planned to be a biologist, and was going to enter the biology department. I was inspired by movies like «Star Wars» and «Indiana Jones.» All the time I dreamed of adventure, and this perfectly intertwined with biology, the study of animals and related travels.
I went to a specialized school with in-depth study of chemistry and biology, and one of the subjects was biological illustration. This is an important profile subject, which is even later taught at the university. That is, every biologist should be able to draw. Before entering the university it got to me (and I’m very glad that it came in time), I did not much like to dissect frogs and explore their blood system, I much more prefered to draw animals. And in the 11th grade, I decided not to enter MSU. There was a question: «Where, then, to go?». Because I really did not know how to draw, and there was no art school on my record.
Slightly off-topic… To deviate from the course of the story ... I was enlisted once in an art school. I remember when parents bought me a box of «Leningrad watercolors» - a terrible shortage at that time - and I went to the fi rst class ... And in this hour, all painted in gouache on glossy cardboard! I drew on cardboard with watercolors, and it, of course, slid. I had the worst drawing in art school, I did not go back (laughs)!
And since then, until entering the university, I literally just drew in the margins, and that was all.
And when did you start drawing again?
In the 11th grade, I started to go on training courses, engaged in academic drawing. Parents were puzzled: a scientist, of course, was also a questionable career, but it was still something more meaningful than an artist (laughs). In the end we agreed that I would be a graphic designer: still a more applied profession - it was decided. So my specialty is a graphic artist.
They couldn’t teach me how to draw in a year, so I entered with satisfactory marks, all kept on parole, and «infernal» motivation. And, despite the fact that the institute I graduated with honors, at the beginning it was very diffi cult to catch up with those who had already come up with a good «base» in the background. And that’s when the realization came to me that a lot was not based on laws and regulations, but on practice. It’s as easy as ABC «quantity turns into quality.»
I graduated from the Moscow Art and Industry Institute. Five years later I was working in an oil company as a graphic designer. Once a year, there came the long-awaited for each designer moment when it was necessary to do an illustrated corporate calendar, and it was possible to «show off» your skills (laughs). This was my favorite time!
Then I got markers and it turned out, you can draw not only once a year on the job, but every day - for yourself!
What did you draw at first?
I drew what inspired me: travel, food, animals, and botany. These themes have remained.
Tell about your style
I think it has not changed much - the basis are exactly the same as five years ago. Only the level and quality of work has increased.
Did you start immediately to draw with markers?
In six years at the university we tried all classical techniques and materials, but nothing touched my soul. So after graduation, I took everything and with a clear conscience put all in a chest of drawers and took up computer graphics.
At work, we had a very friendly staff, and it was a tradition to give each other something like your boxes Doodle & Sketch Box: a box with all kinds of art materials to try something new! We gave each other stained glass paints, kits for painting batik and things like that.
Then one day I was given a box of markers. These markers are still with me - it has been already seven years. They were Copic markers. And it all started.
What to do with these markers, I did not know - at that time there were a few lessons on the subject on YouTube. First I used them as conventional markers. Then I accidentally discovered that they blend with each other, and it was an epiphany and a break (laughs)! Gradually changing the paper on which I drew, but I fell in love with the big markers, pure love.
How did you promote your art and how just in 1.5 years were you able to monetize it?
I think that a major role here has played Instagram. We grew up with this social network together (sighs and lets an ironic tear, laughs). Around the same year, when I was presented with the markers appeared Instagram. We together with colleagues registered and started uploading photos of our breakfasts (laughs). Then I began to draw my breakfasts and also upload them. It turned out that this format «Drawing Diary» was much enjoyed, because it is close to the format of Instagram, which is also essentially a diary, only in pictures. It is like peeking through a keyhole or something. In general, I had a fairly quick increase in the number of subscribers.
I began to receive orders, and there were many from abroad. In Russia at that time sketches and illustrations were not valued - there was a greater passion for realism or to the digital-Art. Then my illustrations were shared by the Instagram team account - and to my account was added a very large number of subscribers.
Tell us, what art supplies do you use?
I draw with Copic markers. With them it all began. Then I tried a lot of other brands and firms, but on the color palette, the quality of the markers, on the fact that they can be filled with ink, for convenience ... these markers, in my opinion, are the best. But now, I’m happy to try other brands, as I teach, and I need to be aware of other brands as well. I need to show students all the options, from the most democratic markers to Copic. Because they are, of course, expensive (laughs)!
For sketchbooks I previously used Moleskine, I have filled them a lot - a whole shelf in my house is lined with them. I tried all the varieties! Then at some point I was contacted by Leuchtturm1917 and offered to send a few test samples of their notebooks. And at first I was very disappointed, to be honest. Paper in these notebooks seemed loose, all colors flowed ... In general, I tried to draw in them and I understood that it was - a nightmare! And I put them aside and lurked ... (laughs), back to business as usual. Time passed, and Leuchtturm1917 wrote to me: «Well, how are our notebooks?».
And with a creaking heart, I sit down to draw an illustartion for them to show how bad their sketchbooks were for markers. And I understood that ... they worked! Yes, there were difficult moments, but they were not insurmountable, and really cool illustration turned out! That day was a turning point. I wrote a rave review for their notebooks, and from that day I started to draw in notebooks Leuchtturm1917. These notebooks certainly have their disadvantages: markers go beyond the drawing, markers are leaking through the pages, large ink consumption. But all this can be accustomed to.
When Canson paper The Wall appeared, which allows you to draw on both sides, then it became clear - of course, it is necessary to draw on it! But it has its own problems. For example, as it does not give the ink to leak through, you have an opportunity to put no more than 2-3 layers on the paper. That is, you cannot torment your sketch for a long time. This paper takes courage and a solid vision of the end result.
Where do you find inspiration and ideas?
Already not looking for (laughs). I always have a list of 20 items that I want to draw. And when I have free time from commercial projects, and I do not burn with this-second idea, then I open the list, and for each field (botany, food, animals, etc.), there are a lot of ideas! This list I always carry with me, to be able to quickly record a new idea in it.
What this-second ideas can inspire you so much?
As a rule, it is something «well-forgotten old». In ordinary life, we can not get them out of the subconscious, and all of a sudden you walk and see the beautiful Christmas carousel, and you realize that you’re on a ride as a child! That’s the inspiration gushed, I want to draw it today, but with those feelings as a child. Of course, nature and traveling are for me indispensable sources of inspiration.
Once a year, I will take a creative holiday, when there is only I, sketchbooks, markers, and we’re going somewhere with them. This restart is very important: to stay alone with myself and my creativity. The change of scenery is important. You can travel to Russia, or to go to Europe. My big passion is Asia. Most importantly, this time is only for me and my work.
Have you ever spoilt your work? What do you do with them?
I think here at fi rst you need to narrow down the concept of what a «spoilt work» is. The sketch format includes certain «draftiness», inaccuracy and easiness. Excessive precision is useless. This becomes an illustration, not a sketch. A sketch has freedom and liveliness. It can be either in the loop or in color. Liberty in color is often found in watercolor sketches when the contour is smooth and the color is applied more casually, with a stop beyond its contour.
I draw directly without pencil and encourage my students to do the same. At this point, we are the most focused and composed. And the drawing ends up much more far-reaching than when we spent hours with a pencil. You say, isn’t it scary? Yes, it is terrible. And I’m scared every time (laughs)!
But it can be said, a certain form of adrenaline, which increases the joy of when it turns out. So, even if the contour or color went slightly wrong, it is not considered a failed operation. It very rarely happens that something goes wrong so that I furiously tear a sheet from a notebook, and throw it. On the other hand, discrepancies show the train of the author’s thought, and the liveliness of the sketch. This keeps the emotions.
What are your goals and objectives in your work?
Drawing! I think it’s such a framework, which overlaps everything else: exhibitions, books, teaching, travel and so on. If you take away this foundation, then teaching, Instagram, and everything else will lose all meaning.
And I’m writing a book. And it is very diffi cult! Drawing is much easier than writing. Therefore, the book will be with a lot of pictures. (Laughs) This is a tutorial on sketches.
Do you think, that everybody can draw?
Absolutely everybody (laughs)! As my experience at the university shows, my hands do not exactly grow from the right place, and it took me 10 years to learn to draw passable. But learned the same (laughs)!
There are more gifted people, there are less. First learn faster. But in any case, the road will be conquered by the walking one. I do not consider myself gifted, I just draw every day.
Does it happen that you do not want to draw?
Not yet. I have a pretty busy schedule and drawing takes an average of 4 hours a day, perhaps precisely because of this restriction, the desire is always there.
Tell us, how did you start teaching?
I was invited to Veronica Kalacheva’s school. We worked with her on a charity project, and after a while she got in touch with me. It was initially unclear how general it was possible to teach the format of «Creative diary», and what to tell people, if all my illustrations are fi lled with pure emotions inside. But in the end it worked!
First there was one course offl ine. Then immediately recorded online course. It will be held for the 9 th time ! Many of my students are now successful sketchers. For example, in the first batch I had Lisa Krasnova. Talking about it now, and it’s so touching (smiles)!
Do you never do sketches in pencil?
Never. It seems to me a pencil sketch «dries out the work.» I like the phrase, «When an artist is accurate - it is boring».
What are the pros and cons of the artsist profession?
Pros - a free schedule. Choice among the projects and customers. You can only work with nice people and only on interesting tasks.
Cons - it is a necessity to have a high degree of self-motivation and self-organization, to being home, to sit down to do something, or (what happens to me more often) tear yourself away from the notebook and go cook dinner. I can «fall» into the work for the day, so I use a timer and my drawing mode is 45/15, where 45 minutes is sketching, and a 15-minute break for domestic affairs. This system I read in a book by Yana Frank, and since then I try to adhere to the specifi ed tempo. Moreover, apart from the sketch it can be very useful in order to then look at it with fresh eyes.
Someone lacks communication in freelance, but I’m an introvert, and the less I am disturbed during drawing, the better (laughs). And in my life there is teaching, meetings and festivals - that’s really a pleasure, where I’m happy to chat. In general, I do not have the communication shortage!
What is the best rest for you?
I’m a workaholic, for me the best rest - is drawing! If suddenly I have a day off, I comfortably find myself with a sketchbook and markers in a quiet and well-lite corner, and plunge into the world of lines, volumes and textures. It is something like a conscious dreaming, with the ability to hold the result in your hands.
Describe your perfect day
Hmm, a point-blank question And how do decent people usually respond(laughs)? My perfect day is in Iceland. There is a «visual silence» in which I want to create, in a small warm house by a very cold sea. I wake up at dawn, drink hot tea and slowly start drawing.
A few hours later the house wakes up, filled with noise and fuss. We have breakfast, and I’m going back to work. Then, of course, lunch, talk and discussion of morning performances. And after a walk and a mandatory campaign for the «treasures» - inspiration, which I will draw the following day. In the evening, when all the dust settles, I again go back to the drawing - this is the best start and a better end of a perfect day...
Do you exercise?
Yes, I do yoga.
What kind of films do you watch and what books do you read?
I do not even know how you are going to apprehend my answer. I am a fan of cheap horror films! With the blood from ketchup and funny ridiculous zombies (laughs). It does not find a response in my work, but I love them. I like them for not having the gloss and luster of epicfilms, such as «Avatar». There’s no bombast, they are alive and honest.
And, of course, I just love movies and books about artists! I have a good collection of biographies. It is infinitely interesting to find out how great creators lived and worked, were defeated and succeeded. Some authors are like refl ections of their canvases, others appear in an unexpected light. Although perhaps they just got a poor biographer (laughs).
Imagine, you are 60 years old surrounded by grandchildren asking for an advice...
I will advise them to find their own way, and follow it. Find his/her life’s work. Something you will agree to sleep to 4 hours a day for and be happy with the understanding that you are in the right place.
What three wishes would you make to a goldfish?
«Go back in the blue sea by yourself, walk there in the open ....» and now it’s important not to spill the beans to the old woman (laughs)!
Does the artist’s popularity on Instagram match the one in his/her real life?
That is, whether the recognition of the public guarantees that the artist has worthy pictures? No, it does not. It is actually a very diffi cult question, because art is very subjective. What is beautiful to one person may be ugly to another. Many great artists were not recognized in their lifetime.
Popularity depends on how your art has got into the trend. If hit, the artist is fed. If he does something informal, and people will understand it only 200 years later, he will starve, but that does not detract from the value of his works in the face of eternity.
In general, for me the success of the artist is divided into personal and social success. Personal success - this is when the artist is happy to embody his/her plans and is in continuous growth. And the social - this is the number of fans of the artist, the number of orders and things like that.
Name 5 things about yourself that fi rst come to mind
1. I drink herbal teas
2. Most of all I like to draw at dawn
3. I hate to edit or redraw the fi nished work. And I do not do it
4. I wear woollen socks on bare feet
5. I like to be silent, but for some reason I speak all the time.
What does your family and friends think of your profession?
It seems that the main part of my work remains unnoticed. I prefer to draw in solitude and rarely boast the results. However, we often discuss interesting topics for sketching, go to exhibitions or go travelling for inspiration. And yet it happens when I take into my head to draw some proteus, all at top speed are looking for the fl ower in shops. I am happy to be surrounded by close people, ready any minute to help and share my, sometimes eccentric, outbursts.
Describe your workplace
This is a huge white table, which stands next to the window. I live in Moscow, and the light of the sun here is not enough. Therefore, I try all the tricks of Scandinavian design in the apartment to make sure that I have as much of light as possible. And next to the central heating - for cold times (laughs). As the saying goes: keep the feet warm, the head in the cold, the stomach in hunger. Something like that. On the table is a large suitcase with markers, and my notebook. The same table I use as photo background. In fairness, we can say that at the table I draw only 50% of the time. I often draw on the road, in cafes with friends in the kitchen, and so on. I do not have this «if I do not sit down at my favorite table, do not pour myself a cup of my favourite tea, the drawing is not to be!» (Laughs). My experience has shown that «you either draw or not.» And comfortable environment here is not important.
What is the best learning: to attend painting courses or to draw every day and learn all by yourself?
Well, a lot of drawing is necessary in any case. You can not just go on courses, listen to a couple of lectures and learn how to draw. Actually, I feel a great respect to the self-taught - they are highly motivated people who have understood themselves with the material and doing as much as it takes.
They, in fact, invented the wheel, experimented, and this may result in something more interesting than if you go to some school or university and you will be taught for six years at a blueprint to paint David’s eyes (laughs).
If you come to the teacher, then yes, you are using someone else’s ready-made solutions, but until you with your own hands try all, it is worth nothing.
How would you spend 3 million rubles?
On markers (laughs), with the current exchange rate, it should be just enough for the whole palette.
What superpower would you like to have?
Go without sleep!
If someone decided to write a book about you and your work, what would it be called?
«Three shelves of notebooks».
What advice can you give to starting artists?
Draw as much as possible. Just draw. As often as you can!
Imagine that in the next life you will be reborn into a picture. What picture would you like to be?
Black Square! However,no, it was too controversial. I can be for one life. But if forever, I can be any Pollock’s canvas with sprayed paint stains. Something abstract, spontaneous and leaving no one indifferent.
The abstraction, one sees only as far as the level of his/her knowledge and outlook goes. It is not bound to a subject. It can be hanging in any roadside diner, and the Louvre, and in a family estate. This is something universal and self-suffi cient. It is a thing in itself.