Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Illustrators Arise: Julia Bereciartu

What's up, art enthusiasts? Are you good this lovely morning? No? Well, I hope this will cheer you up: it's time for this month's dose of Illustrators Arise. If you've never heard of it before, it is where I introduce my favourite illustrators from all over the world every month through an interview so you guys can read along and get to know them too. Are you psyched? Let's hope so! This month's special guest is a talented children's illustrator from Spain, a round of applause for Julia Bereciartu! As with most of the illustrators I've featured before, I found Julia first through tumblr and fell instantly in love with her incredibly neat, subtly colourful and jacked-up-on-ideas artworks. Julia - who defines herself as "an illustrator and crazy cat lady" - now lives in Madrid with her partner and her cat, Maggie.

Hi there, Julia! Why don’t we begin with how this all started? How did you delve into the world of illustrations and why?
I like thinking that instead of starting, I never stopped drawing. When I was a kid I would draw everywhere and anywhere, I was obsessed. All I wanted to be when I grew up was a painter, like the people who made my favorite children's books. Later, I grew into a super nerdy, awkward teen who read lots of comic books and manga. In that time, and spent the days trying to emulate my favorite characters, copying poses, hairstyles… trying to improve my abilities. However, it took me a lot of time to figure out I could make a living out of being an illustrator. After graduating from University I worked in advertising for a few years, doing small illustration gigs on the side, until I could establish as a full time freelance illustrator.

Did you go to an art school? If so, would you recommend it (art school in general) to anyone? If not, why didn’t you?
No, I never went to art school. Honestly, when I had to choose a career path, I didn't really know you could go and study illustration. Instead, I went to University to study a degree in Communications and Film, and afterwards I studied animation for a year. That's where something clicked in my mind and decided to pursue my childhood dream of being an illustrator. 
I took some painting lessons when I was a teenager, but aside from that, I'm completely self taught. I learnt using watercolors with a book, and basically by trial and error. It's fun to make mistakes and experiment!  But sometimes I wish I had attended illustration school, I'm sure it would've taken me less time to figure some things out.

What materials do you usually use?
I like experimenting with new materials all the time, but when I paint I generally stick to a mix of watercolors and gouache. My favorite brand is Winsor & Newton, but the gouache is hard to find here in Spain, so I use the brand Talens instead, which is available almost anywhere. I draw with a Pentel 0.5 mechanical pencil, and always use hot pressed watercolor paper, as I like a very smooth texture. On the computer, I paint in Photoshop with some custom brushes, and also love Kyle's amazing brushes.

I notice that you seem to create watercolour illustrations for personal purposes and digital ones for work. Is there a reason behind this?

Well, when you're doing client work, you usually have a tight deadline, so it's always more convenient to work on the computer, since you can undo things and make multiple changes in no time. Aside from that, most of my professional work is targeted to teens and tweens, and the client usually asks for a more digital look. I would love to do more watercolors for work, though.

You’ve made a lot of illustrations for American Girl Magazine. How did this collaboration start and what are your thoughts on it?
Yeah, I've been collaborating with American Girl Magazine for already five years now, and it's been a huge pleasure! I got really lucky on this… a wonderful art director that worked there saw my work online, liked it and decided to offer me a small project. She doesn't work at American Girl anymore, but I'll be forever grateful to her for giving me a chance when I was a newbie.

Your illustrations always seem to have a story to tell. Do you ever consider writing an illustrated book of your own one day?
I have illustrated three books already, but none of them was narrative, and it's a challenge I really look forward to. It would be a dream come true to illustrate a children's book, for example. When I'm doing illustrations for fun, in my sketchbook, I always tend to tell little stories inside them. I play with little details and exchanges between characters that let you make up your own story about what's happening. But somehow I've never considered myself a storyteller. I guess I should challenge myself to write my own book.

Okay, now you’re working as a freelance illustrator. How do you manage your work schedule/time? Was it ever overwhelming?
I work from home, so it can be a little complicated to separate work and life, specially when I'm working on a big job like a book. In those periods, it can be a little overwhelming, I must admit. But I try doing my best to unplug at the end of the work day, get out of the house for a while and spend time with friends. I need that to maintain a healthy mind. Sometimes I consider renting a separate studio in a shared space, which would help on managing a work schedule. But at the same time, I love working from home. The fact that I can work in my pyjamas if I feel like it is pretty cool!

Aside from illustrations, you seem to have an apt for knitting. Would you ever combine the two together?
Yeah, I love knitting a lot. My grandma taught me the basics when I was a kid, but I only became obsessed a few years ago. It's very different from illustration, but at the same time they're both really creative activities. I really enjoy designing my own sweaters or hats, and creating pieces of clothing out of nowhere, it's a lot of fun with the bonus of being useful. I haven't been able to knit much this summer, it's been awfully hot in Madrid and well, wool and heat don't mix well. But I have plans to mix my illustration and knitting very soon, I want to design a pair of mittens, probably with something cat related. 

How does the future look like for Julia Bereciartu?
The last few weeks have been exciting, as I recently published a new book with American Girl and a new toy with Djeco. And I'm currently negotiating two new possible projects that I really look forward to. Besides that, I hope the future brings new exciting work, lots of afternoons with my sketchbook, long bike rides (now that the weather is cooling down) and X-Files marathons. And hopefully another kitty to play with Maggie (but I still have to convince my partner on that, hehe).

What kind of advice would you give all the newbie illustrators out there, including me?
Work hard but don't forget to play.

A little note from me

Whether with watercolour or digital softwares, Julia's artwork seems to have a certain playful element to it. It invites us to look closer in a friendly tone and light heart. I love just how neat her colouring is, whatever material she uses. The colours she chooses always seem to be so soft and friendly to the eyes, not at all too challenging to look at, which adds up to the warm and friendly aesthetic her pieces seem to emanate. I also adore her ability to illustrate ladies in all shapes, sizes and colours looking effortlessly beautiful, like real women do. She has this amazing gift to make textures come alive without too many complicated and tedious details, which, I must say, isn't something everyone has. Although not shown here, she also has an apt for creating adorable patterns - as witnessed on her blog - as well as knitting patterns. A gal with many talents, that's what she is.

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