Originally from Ukraine and currently based in Israel, Sveta is workingin the areas of narrative art and illustration. A deep fascination for myth and fairytales, among other things, finds its way into her detailed works.
She evolved as an artist by self-training and has primarily worked on book illustrations and art for magazines and brands. Her first author-illustrator book, “The Nenuphar Book”, was published in Russia in 2015, and was nominated for the national bestseller award. It was translated into Romanian, Japanese, Chinese and English and is on its way to other markets in 2019. Her second book “How to Handle a Child” was published in the fall of 2016 in Russia and is following the same path. All of her books are personal art projects.
Sveta has three shortlist awards for the World Best Illustrations (AOI), her works are published in the world’s leading compendiums of modern illustration, and in summer 2018 she enjoyed being selected for the prestigious three-month artist residency in Art Peace Swatch Hotel, Shanghai.
Sveta creates hand drawn art on paper. She merges a lot of mythical and traditional motifs from various cultures with her own contemporary ideas. In a lot of her work past is often juxtaposed with the present. She takes inspiration in history of arts, local mix of cultures and the contradictions of human nature.
I grew up in an industrial city Zaporozhye in Ukraine (at that time – part of the USSR). I was born into a family that was rather far from artistic life. We did have one art book of antique sculpture at home. I discovered it in the debris of the cupboard, when I was about four, and brooded over it for hours. I was in love with Apollo. I was sure that he was the most beautiful creature I would ever see in a lifetime (he wasn't).
I had a very happy childhood and spent a lot of time outdoors in a yard full of kids. The vicinities were a small forest, a city mortuary, and the Red River, complete with red fish. The river was actually red from factory waste, and as a kid I used to think that all small rivers were red. It fell into a large river in beautiful red stripes at the spot of the local nudist beach, with brilliantly red nudists. One has to admit, I grew up in a fairy tale – it's that bizarre.
As a child, I had very weak health and spent many hours in bed, covered with mustard leaves or cupping-glasses, while dad read fairy tales to me. As an immediate result, I was the best storyteller in the yard and kindergarten. Nannies loved me. They would put me in front of other kids to retell fairy tales and attended to their own business for a couple of hours.
We had unabridged editions of fairy tales for researchers, so luckily, those were not robbed of their initial richness ‘to spare the kids’. I was enthralled by the murky, fickle world... Everything turned into everything else. Beasts talked and threw off their skins to turn into humans. Mysterious 'dead water' revived the dead. Forest witch lived in a house on chicken legs and had a flipping bed that tossed incautious travelers into the underworld. People returned from a one-day trip to the underwater king to discover hundreds of years had passed in their homeland. Poisoned pins turned princesses into birds, wrong moves - into stone… There was even an ancient version of "Donkey Skin", where the evil stepmother was a witch and turned the girl into an entangled cow’s stomach. She predicted that “the enchantment will be broken only if the King kisses you, ha-ha-ha”! Being a rather imaginative child, I learned an important lesson: if there’s a happy ending to that story, nothing in life can really upset you that much…
At that time, I didn't perceive any of this as weird or unreal. These were just part of a gripping story. And that’s the difference between a kid's and an adult person’s perception of fairy tales. Children do not divide things into real and improbable – all is just a part of a fascinating plot. They just take everything for granted. The mushroom turned into a little man. The cow stomach turned into a beautiful girl. Quite natural. To a child, rain-turning-to-sunshine and frog-turning-to-a-prince is the same type of natural metamorphosis that makes the world tick and such an interesting place to observe. Nothing is ‘terrible’ or ‘wonderful’ – just infinite variety and wonder. I am glad I’ve smuggled a tiny measure of that perception into adulthood, and I feel that is where most of my drawings come from.
THE LONG AND WINDING ROAD TO ILLUSTRATION
I adored drawing when a child, but then school kept me very busy for several years. My next drawing spree was in at the University, where I studied languages and literature. The studies were excruciatingly boring, and I started to draw at lectures and at home late into the night. I copied artists that I liked, doodled and illustrated a diary.
When I started to work, I continued to draw in the evenings, but did not dare to treat it as anything but a ‘pleasant hobby’. I worked as an interpreter, journalist, copywriter, designer, art director, and, lastly, as acreative director of a network ad agency. By that time, I was married and had a son. Before that, work and hobby co-existed in my life cozily together. After that, I had work, family and hobby, and there just wasn’t enough space for all. One had to go, and it was drawing, because “it’s not serious”.
After four years of not drawing, I felt so utterly wrong about everything I did, despite an impeccably successful front and exemplary career ascension, that I quit at the top of my career ‘into nowhere’. I knew I wanted to draw, but couldn’t make up my mind, how to go about this whole new endeavor. While I couldn’t make up my mind, life made it up for me, and I was pregnant with our second child. With that many crucial changes in life, another twist did not matter. We moved to Israel – it is always easier to start something new in a completely new environment.
I started out with writing and illustrating my own book, called "The Land of Stone Flowers", aka "The Nenuphar Book" in the original (Russian). What with small kids, it took me three years to finish the book. Publishers are usually suspicious of books, whose genre and audience is difficult to pin down, and it took another three years to get the book published. However, it turned out a huge success with the readers, sold out the first two runs in only six months, and got nominated for the national bestseller award in Russia in 2015. The book got translated into several languages and is being released into more and more markets.
Being chock full of illustrations in various styles, mediums and manners (each chapter in "The Land of Stone Flowers" is presumably written and drawn by a different fairy creature), the book provided for an excellent 'starting portfolio' and helped me with the first commissions to start working as an illustrator. I have been working in the areas of narrative illustration and art for books, magazines, and brands since.
My work in advertising proved to be a great experience in terms of developing a skill for generating ideas. Very handy for illustration. I still keep the same routine that I used as a creative director: first I write down all the ideas for an illustration, just like I did for a commercial or a print ad. I love this practice, because writing is ruthless: I can always tell whether I fully envisage the idea, or it’s just some beautiful fog, which I am clueless what to do with.
The concept is always a painful thing – can take forever and is completely out of control. The only reason I don’t give up at this torturous stage, is that I know: I have been completely clueless at the start of each project, and that doesn't mean a thing. That is the only part of my work that I do consider a miracle – somehow nothing always turns into something.
I also usually do a lot of research for each project – from period and subject matter to every object I am planning to draw. When I decide on the concept, I choose the technique and medium. All of my work is hand-drawn on paper, so I spend some time finding the right combination of paper, nibs, inks, colors and brushes.
Then I sketch for composition and tonal scheme. And the rest of it is fast and easy, because it’s the fun and rewarding part of the job – drawing actually.
CURRENT OBSESSIONS BEHIND THE ART
Fascination with myth and fairy tale is my deepest 'archeological' foundation of art. However, it has been layered with many other fantastic influences ever since: medieval and alchemical emblemata, bestiaries, weird and kooky sciences, eccentric personalities, and – continuously – the history of arts.
From time to time, I delve into something absolutely improbable, yet real – like hairstyles of the 18th century, history of sideshow circus or fighting manuals of the 16th century. I collect weird illustrated books like Edward Gorey’s “The Recently Deflowered Girl”. Ever so often, I take a round on books, the sole merit of which is the fact that they were actually published: “An Incomplete History of the Art of Funerary Violin”, “Tattooed Mountain Women and Spoon Boxes of Dagestan”, “How People Who Don’t Know They Are Dead Attach Themselves to Unsuspecting Bystanders and What To Do About It”, and suchlike. Most of them are not much of a read, but just knowing they exist, delights me.
Most importantly, I am deeply influenced by how incredible the world actually is. I am convinced, that actual life is way more imaginative that anything I could ever conceive. Even when I draw quick sketches in the streets, it strikes me how helpless imagination is compared to reality. In personal artwork, I recognize the worth of quite ordinary, yet elusive moments, and collect them as visible timepieces that tick off the time I live in.
My favorite artistic method is juxtaposition, because I believe, contradiction is the core of human nature. It nurtures life's harmony. I went a long way from fairy tales and my current conviction is – life is so rich, versatile and moody, that rendering it is way more challenging than making anything up.