Illustrator Martina Paukova: "Creativity is Like a Muscle" – How to Craft a Unique Visual Identity
In today's fast-paced world, illustration plays a vital role in communication, storytelling, and marketing. With social media and digital platforms, illustrations capture attention, convey messages, and evoke emotions, transcending language barriers for diverse audiences. In a world inundated with stock imagery, original illustrations have the power to set brands apart, establishing a unique identity. As its applications grow across industries like technology and fashion, illustration remains an indispensable topic for education.
Illustrator Martina Paukova, a highly experienced professional with 10 years of expertise in the field, brings her unique style infused with humor to an engaging course on ELVTR. With a remarkable career highlighted by collaborations with global brands like Apple, Google, and YouTube, Martina's artistic prowess shines through her impactful contributions to the illustration industry. This course aims to inspire students to push their creative boundaries and equips them with essential tools for a career in the industry. Don't miss this opportunity to tap into Martina's vast knowledge. Sign up here for her course starting on August 17th.
Can you tell us about your journey as an illustrator and how you developed your unique style?
My journey as an illustrator has been anything but conventional. As a typical student studying politics without a clear path ahead, I found myself at a crossroads when I moved to London at the age of 25, uncertain of what the future held. Little did I know that destiny had a different route in store for me. Serendipity struck when I chanced upon a graphic design course that would alter the course of my professional life. Eventually, I pursued both Bachelors and later Masters in Illustrations at the University of the Arts in London. During my time at university, I found myself drawn to a particular illustration project that involved creating characters and telling stories. I began sharing these characters on social media, and to my surprise, the feedback from animators and others was overwhelmingly positive. It was at that moment that I realized how much I truly enjoyed illustration – drawing for the sake of drawing, infused with humorous aspects that brought smiles to people's faces.
Your journey certainly took a captivating turn. What inspires you and influences your artistic work? Are there any specific artists or art movements that have had a significant impact on your illustrations?
I find inspiration in a wide array of sources, but interestingly enough, I don't have a single favorite artist or art movement that heavily influences my work. Over the years, I've come to admire many people and their unique styles, making it difficult to choose just one. My inspirations vary, and I cherish the diversity in art that I encounter.
Now, let's delve into your creative process. How do you approach a new project or client's brief?
I believe creativity is like a muscle that gets stronger with use. These days, coming up with ideas feels natural to me after all those years of honing idea generation skills. When approaching a new project or client's brief, I first focus on understanding the format and requirements, such as whether it's a straight forward scene or piece with inbuilt metaphor. In the world of illustration, briefs can sometimes take on a conceptual twist which sometimes needs a real chunk of time to tackle.
Can you walk us through your process?
Just off the top of my head, I recall a project where the focus was on non-alcoholic wine, an intriguing challenge that sparked my creative curiosity. How to depict a non alcoholic wine in an image, so it’s straightaway clear to the reader? So I immersed myself in a Google search frenzy, trying to look at both alcoholic and non alcoholic wine from every direction, waiting for that spark of inspiration, that little heureka moment. Eventually this process worked out and I found a solution that the client was happy with. So yeah, with some commissions the ideas jump into my head as I am reading the brief, and with some other commissions I need to dive headfirst into research, scouring the internet for related images, looking at existing illustrations and trying to come up with something original while cracking the creative brief. Here unique metaphors and visual puns often prove to be very helpful tools to deliver the message that the client wants to convey.
Can you share a challenging project you've worked on and how you overcame any obstacles during the creative process? Also, what role do you think illustration plays in storytelling and visual communications?
One recent challenging project I took on was for Google Play's technology category. I was tasked with creating ten images, and the catch was that none of them could include people. Instead, I had to come up with clever metaphors and visual representations, something I hadn't done extensively before. To overcome this obstacle, I treated the process almost like sculpting. I iterated through various ideas, trying to find that perfect balance of readability and freshness. Here, again, illustration played a crucial role in visually communicating quite demanding and abstract topics and in a very immediate manner. Words alone would definitely struggle to achieve this.
Now, let's talk about your preferred tools and techniques. What mediums and tools do you primarily use in your illustrations? Are there any specific techniques you enjoy experimenting with?
My creative toolset in a most classic way includes pencil and a trusty sketchbook, so I can capture initial concepts. Only then I move on to the digital. For digital illustrations, I use Procreate, which offers flexibility with layers and the way each sketch can be immediately editable. Then I move onto Adobe Illustrator, that is my main tool of choice and my favorite tool in general for my vector work. I really enjoy using vector lines for organic shapes, which is something they are not typically associated with. In the last 2-3 years, the (back then newly released) iPad Pro with Apple Pencil has been a game-changer, allowing me to achieve more intuitive and quicker results.
How do you strike a balance between maintaining your artistic voice and meeting the expectations or requirements of a client?
Maintaining my artistic voice is crucial for attracting clients who seek me out precisely for my visual style. I believe they come to me wanting my strong colors, humor, and overall visual vocabulary. However, I have also learned to be more open to incorporating certain client requirements, such as specific colorschemes or themes, without compromising my overall style. Collaboration and communication are essential, even though I mostly work independently. When collaborating with clients, I find that the restrictions their assignment poses actually allow for more freedom on my side and adds an unexpected touch to my usual work, especially when working with fashion and lifestyle brands.
What sets your illustrations apart from others in the industry. How do you strive to create original and engaging visuals?
I believe my use of color combinations combined with rather awkward yet humane characters sets my illustrations apart. Although I might not always consider them extraordinary, these combinations seem to resonate with my audience. I tend to create characters that are natural and slightly cartoony, making them relatable to various brands and audiences in their everyday activities. Additionally, my personal work takes a slightly darker and quirkier direction, allowing me to explore themes beyond the typical cheerful characters. This balance between commercial work and personal projects keeps my style fresh and evolving I’d like to believe.
How do you stay updated with current trends and developments in illustration? Do you actively seek out inspiration and education in your field?
Instagram has become my go-to platform for staying updated with current trends and exploring the works of younger artists. The platform offers such an array of fresh perspectives and styles that I might not have encountered otherwise. As I continue to grow and explore in my artistic journey, I've found that formal education doesn't hinder my ability to embrace the constant input from the world around me. Instead, I allow this input to shape and naturally evolve my work, ensuring a continuous sense of flow and creativity.
What industries or areas are you particularly interested in or passionate about working with as an illustrator?
My usual work load used to be all sorts of tech companies, magazines, brands, but I am more and more realizing that I also enjoy creating illustrations that can be translated into physical forms like wall art, products, and packaging. I would love to keep exploring opportunities in the fashion and lifestyle industry, where the visuals can just be so full of life and optimism.
What advice would you give to aspiring illustrators who are looking to establish themselves in the industry and develop their own unique style?
My advice would be to draw, draw, draw! The key to honing your craft lies in constant practice and exploration. While young artists may have their eyes set on success, it's essential to focus on the journey and the invaluable lessons it offers. I once read an interview with an Italian illustrator Olimpia Zagnoli, that is a true presence in illustration today, who although emphasizing the importance of copying and experimenting to find your own style, she also pushed to explore one's own story and that individual piece of puzzle that belongs only to you. It's like putting together different ingredients to create something uniquely yours. Through testing and continuous effort, you'll develop a muscle memory for your art, and that's when your true creative voice will emerge.
Before we wrap up, could you tell us a bit more about the course you're offering on ELVTR? What will it entail, and what topic are you most excited about?
The course will be a creative journey into the world of illustration, and I'm particularly excited about how it will challenge and inspire students to push the boundaries of their imagination. The primary focus of the course will be on how to poke the minds of students, encouraging them to explore new perspectives and ideas within their illustrations. I'll be sharing a range of techniques that will help them break free from creative blocks and develop their own unique artistic voice. Throughout the course, students will have the opportunity to dip their toes into different aspects of the industry, including various illustration styles and tools. I want to equip them with the necessary skills and knowledge to navigate the market confidently. We'll explore different software and digital tools, providing a solid starting point for their journey as illustrators. I believe this course will serve as a stepping stone for aspiring illustrators, empowering them to find their footing in the industry. By the end of the course, I hope students will be brimming with creative ideas and the ability to express their vision through engaging visuals.