Tania Yakunova is award-winning illustrator, artist and educator from Ukraine currently based in London, UK. She has been working in creative industry for last 13 years creating impressive and diverse portfolio with projects from around the world from small niche brands to largest clients like Google, Apple, Coca-Cola, Upwork, Penguin Random House etc. Her field of work spreads from commercial, advertising and branding illustration to book, editorial and internationally exhibited personal artworks. She also gives classes online and online in contemporary illustration.
She finds her inspiration in avant-garde art and design of the 20 century and brings it’s perspective to modern illustration. Her works recognized by bold composition, rhythm and excellent work with forms and colors. She added ceramic sculpture to her art practice as new media lately.
Interview by Jon Messer
What is Illustration?
For me, Illustration is communication.
What drew you to become an illustrator in the first place?
I think it’s one of the best jobs you can have.
What illustrators influenced you most as a young artist? And today?
I’m highly influenced by mid-century art and design. As a young artist I was fascinated by the Bauhaus movement and approach from artists like Wassily Kandinsky and Oskar Schlemmer as well as Ukrainian avant guard art scene like Alexandra Exter and Anatol Petrytsky. On the illustration scene my very first big influences were Ricardo Guasco and artists behind London Transport Posters from the 20th century.
Now I’m constantly falling in love with someone new, so I can’t even tell.
Was there an important event or shift in your thinking that boosted your career as a professional?
There were several. First, I didn’t consider an illustration career until I was 25. I felt burnt out and not fulfilled with my previous role as creative copywriter in advertising and started to learn design. That was when I fall in love with illustration and never looked back.
Then, few years later I got another level of education specifically in illustration. There were good courses in a local design school that helped me a lot and put my practice on a new level.
And in 2022 not so happy events dramatically changed my works again. The Russian full scale invasion of Ukraine and beginning of the “big war”. I’m not sure it “busted” my career, but it definitely influenced my art a lot.
Do you only accept commissions that inspire you?
Yes, I’m lucky enough to be able to choose projects, and I at least try to do that (unless It’s for an old lovely client or a really-really good fee). I chose this approach for a reason, I already had a burnout as an illustrator caused from having too much random work, so I’m careful now.
What do you do to stay inspired?
I feel that inspiration is over estimated. It is much more important to keep yourself in good health and keep a regular routine that way you have enough time to be able to concentrate on work.
What goals are you currently working towards?
I’m personally going through quite a turbulent period. Because of the war, my family is scattered between different countries, the future is uncertain, and all my previous plans and dreams are corrupted. So now I’m trying to figure out the new path.
Which is more important; content or technique?
Oh, that’s a hard one. I would say that most important is to communicate your content (idea, story, feeling, etc.) most efficiently to the audience. For this you need to find the right technique and be able to execute it properly.
What do you see as the big challenges for illustrators in the future?
I expect the AI era will change the art-market a lot and will be the biggest challenge for the whole industry.
What kind of training or education should illustrators receive?
As someone who has no university level art or design degree (I’m a sociologist by education) I believe in self-education and independent art/illustration/design courses. And non-stop learning, so the more – the better.
Do you think art fundamentals are still relevant in the new age of AI?
Yes, maybe more than ever!
What advice do you wish you had gotten as a young illustrator?
Find a community that will support and help you.
Do you have anything you’d to say or share with other illustrators and students?
You as an artist is not your style or your ‘colors’ or your media, it’s your brain and your imagination, this is what important.
© no artwork displayed can be used without permission of the artist, Tetiana “Tania” Yakunov.