Can you recall the first time you realized you were going to be an illustrator? What were your earliest impressions?
When I was eleven years old, I asked my parents if I could join an art club for children in our town. I hadn’t done much drawing prior to that, though always wanted to. Very shortly after joining the club, I put my heart and soul into drawing and excelled quickly. I am not sure at which point I realized I was going to study art, but I knew how much I wanted to be an illustrator. It was a dream at the time. I worked hard to realize it.
Who or what influenced your art when you were young?
For as long as I can remember, I had an interest in children’s picture books. It was the illustrations that fascinated me, not the stories. When I started training at the art club, I also went to the town’s gallery. We were very fortunate to have a fantastic gallery with artwork by several great Bulgarian illustrators: both traditional and contemporary. I used to spend hours studying their work. I’d rush home inspired and begin new drawings using new techniques. It was a magical time.
Do you remember what your first artwork looked like? Do you still have it?
I don’t know nor can I remember what my first artwork looked like. I remember being scolded by my father for scribbling inside a picture book. When I was a young adult, I returned home for a visit and decided to take the picture book with me. I keep it as a record of my earliest drawing.
Why did you choose illustration as your life’s work instead of, for example, filmmaking, law, or even medicine?
It was a childhood dream to illustrate books. I followed this dream until it became real. When I saw my published children’s book for the first time, in the bookshops in London, it was an incredible feeling.
Did you study art in school?
Yes, I did. When I was 14 yearsold, I won a place at a prestigious art grammar school in Sofia, Bulgaria, where I was classically trained in drawing, painting and sculpture. The course lasted five years and I graduated with top marks.
I then earned a bachelor’s degree in illustration at Kingston University, UK, where I received honors and was first in my class.
Later, I earned a master’s degree in visual communication at the Royal College of London, UK.
I am still studying and learning every day.
Where does your inspiration come from; your impulse to make art? Do you have a source for your ideas?
I am interested in people and their emotions. Songs, theater, movies, and the performing arts, deal with feelings and emotion. These have always has been a great source of inspiration for me. Another major source of inspiration is color, in particular, bright colors; how they relate to one another. I enjoy how expressive color can be.
How would you describe the process of creating art?
For me, the process is about discovering and is ever-changing.
Do you have a favorite illustrator? What is it about that illustrator’s work you like?
I admire and enjoy looking at the work of many illustrators and illustrators. What I’ve noticed over the years, is that at different stages of my life and artistic development, I have particular favorites.
Then, there are those timeless illustrators; the ones I can return to again and again without feeling that I’ll ever see enough. There is one particular illustrator that has always been at the top of my list: Pablo Picasso.
I have been fortunate enough to see a lot of his original work in galleries and museums throughout Europe. I find it breathtaking. I’m moved by the emotion, imagination, and tremendous power, present in his work. Also, the sheer versatility of his long and prolific art career impresses me.
If you could do something else, other than creating art, what would it be?
I would do something where I can help people in some way; whether saving lives or supporting people, emotionally. Something where I can make a positive difference in others’ lives in places where my art cannot reach.
Do you remember your first set of paints, pens, or markers?
I remember my first Black Boal Pen (BIG). It had literally just appeared in shops and I had never seen a black pen before. We had only blue ink pens prior to this. Living in a communist country, art supplies were extremely limited and scarce. Having a black pen to draw with at the age of twelve, was such an incredibly amazing thing. I still get butterflies remembering this.
Do you have a favorite illustrator supply, a favorite method, or favorite location, where you like to create artwork?
I do not have a favorite illustrator supply, but I love going to art supply stores. I could spend hours in a big store, looking at all the different materials. I feel like a kid in a sweets shop.
I have always favored mixed media as a method. I think it allows me to be more experimental. These days, I enjoy mixing drawing with photography and digital imagery. My favorite place for creating work is in my studio. When I’m in the studio, I can be myself completely.
If you could give a viewer clues to understanding your art, what would you say?
Do you think illustration has the eye of the public or could public awareness of this field be improved upon?
From my experience, the public doesn’t have much awareness about illustration. Many people look puzzled when I tell them what I do for a living. I find myself having the explain what my job is all about. I guess it’s a bit of an invisible occupation.
Why does art matter to you? Why might it matter to the world?
I think life would be dull, clinical, less colorful, and less soulful without art. I think art matters greatly to the world. It matters to me a great deal because it touches my heart, whether I’m creating it or enjoying someone’s else’s work. Through art, I feel I can be myself.
If you could look back or forward a hundred years, do you think the life of an illustrator was or will be better than today?
It depends on what you mean by better. I think the life of an illustrator has always been, and perhaps always will be, challenging. But there are much more creative possibilities and opportunities now with technological advances. The sky, is truly the limit. A hundred years from now; that will be interesting.