๐Ÿ“– โ˜•๏ธ

I finished reading ๐Ÿ“– Just Kids by Patti Smith. What a beautiful read ๐Ÿ’– As I was reading it, the book reminded me of my uni years and final year, working on final project. My friend Sarune @00instant00noodles00 loved Patti Smith. We worked in her flat on finishing touches of our projects, running on 4h sleep, tons of ๐Ÿšฌ, coffee and  sometimes ๐Ÿป as we were drawing and sleeping in turns in between we were blasting Patti Smith Because The Night (belongs to looovers, because the night belongs to lust ๐ŸŽถ because the niiiiight belongs to lovers because the night belongs to us). And as I was finishing the book, thinking about drawing, process, reflection, connection with people, friends, life, whatโ€™s important, where inspiration comes from, how things are so unpredictable and intertwined, this song just became so right and perfect for my life in this moment :) ๐ŸŽต ๐Ÿ“š โœ๏ธ Just Kids.

patti smith and sarune by andsmilestudio viktorija semjonova

Friday Market Trips

Some of the Fridays on my way to work I go through Portobello Market. Before moving to my new studio space at Kindred Studios last September I saw the market as something which used to be fantastic for antique and second hand bargains and now was replaced by mass produced souveniers and overpriced vintage shirts and vinyls. But it turns out that if you just stick with it and keep going up up up.. you'll find true treasure. And if you turn right from Portobello to Golborne Rd you will come across beautiful furnutire, mixed boxes of random stuff filled with someones trash ready to become your treasure. 

 
photo portobello market london
 

I tend to hunt for old ceramic cups and plates (I use plates as palettes for painting and started to include them as part of my workshops, they perform much better than plastic palettes and are enviromentaly friendly and of course much more beautiful).

In recent weeks though I came across a few lovely photos. I love drawing people and I think it's because I am so intrigued by people, I find us/you/them fascinating, I love connecting with people around me and getting to know stories, experiences and perspectives. And old photos are such riddles, mix of names, years, memories. Or nothing and we can be guessing who these people are and what they did. At first I bought photos to use as references for future workshops but then I found myself using them to just paint and play around. I found the process inspiring, just one photo and lots of questions about the person. Did Sheila (it does say Sheila on the back of this photo below) pondered about creativity and creative block? Was she happy? Was she in love? What was her favourite food? Was she a career woman? What were her dreams and her fears? I think green was her colour and that jacket with a strong power shoulder gave her confidence. 

Maybe next time you are at a second hand market, pick up some photos and have a stash so when you feel like drawing or painting you can go through them and find inspiration! :) โœ๏ธ 

 
gouache portrait painting
 

Gouache Portrait Painting Workshop

 

I love painting portraits and I love using gouache. So to combine the two and share my love for both the subject and the medium in a workshop is pure joy. I am a believer that everyone is creative, we just need a little bit of time and a little bit of space. And some inspiration and likeminded people around us to encourage :)

I taught a lovely group of 5 the other weekend. We painted women, talked life, had cake and they learned how to go from some reference photos to a full gouache portrait. 

andsmilestudio portrait painting workshop

Here are some of the paintings from the day.

Thank you so much for coming!

More workshops can be found here

 

Networks and connections

The other day  I went to a panel talk themed Networks. It made me very curious how other creatives and especially freelancers who work on their own find communities to be part of or if they have a support system in place. I did a poll on my instagram and 68% of people didn't have a community or support group. The ones who had support systems in place it was friends 75% and 25% were part of organisations. It was interesting to see that exactly 50% had support systems in place online and the other half offline. 

When I started my career I was pretty much on my own. I didn't know any illustrators (all my uni friends had change of heart or were workin in house) or makers who were making money from this and couldn't ask for advice.  I started selling on etsy and I used teams and forums section a lot. And went for meet ups organised by Etsy where I met several people who became my close friends but our relationship started as sharing experience of being creatives/makers. I also started selling at Crafty Fox Market (pop up Markets) where I met a lot of like minded people (some of whom I knew from Etsy). They also organised some social meet ups where people could come in and mingle, which was super fun! As my career developed and I took it more into real life I made some connections but also I kept in touch with lots of people who I found through instagram. In the beginning all the support network was more unorganised and sporradic. 

But couple of years into my freelance career and after attending numerous business talks I became part of business club (we named it that way ;) with a photographer and pattern designer. We met once in two months in person, talk business plans, vent fears, dream big and give each other advice or just listen. It was the most important thing. All of us were approximately on the same level in development of our careers, we were making money in different ways and our fields were slightly different. Which meant we could give each other a different view on things but still understand every aspect of the business and creative side of things. We have stopped meeting now as our lives and careers became busier.

At the moment I'm part of several groups. First is my friends who I met through Etsy and Crafty Fox, we are good real life friends but can always rely on each other for advice, support or just venting. 

I'm part of a small online group of illustrators (we are based in different places and some of us have never met in real life). Some of us are based in the same cities and we can meet up and talk business or recommend each other for jobs or just overload on coffee and falafels. But we talk all things creative and business, burn outs, contracts, money, negotiation, health. From which chairs to get and what kind of excercises to do for wrist or back pain to how much to charge for jobs and what to look out for in contracts. The most important part of this group is the community and support system. We are ready to lift each other up and celebrate each other achievements and milestones. We are there as friends and colleagues and not as competition. 

I work from a shared studio Kindred Studios, I'm in the room with 6 other people who different things but Kindred Studios is  a community where you can talk to people, make friends and connections. For me it's such a joy to be working alongside other creative people on daily basis.

I'm also part of The Assosiation of Illustrators  (any illustrator can join, you don't have  to be UK based). I don't have an agent and they provide a lot of incredible useful resourses including portfolio reviews, help with pricing and contracts. I strongly recommend considering joining them.

Here are some tips to keep in mind if at the moment you feel a bit isolated in your work, they all are based on my experience and are extremely subjective and in general some thoughts on the subject.

๐Ÿ“บ Both internet based and real life based communities are equally valid.

If you live in a remote place with no like minded people around you or don't have the opportunity to join your local network because of accessibility or meeting times don't feel that the only way to build support system is to meet people face to face. Choose whatever works for you and your situation, don't feel like you have to do one or another

๐Ÿ™‹๐ŸผOne person and you is already a network/team :) 

๐Ÿ‘ฏReach out to people who are in the same place as you in their careers. 

If you know of (online or offline) people who are in the same place as you in their careers or are interested in the same things as you, they might feel as isolated as you and want to have that connection both personal and business. Growing together, supporting each other and lifting each other up is an incredible feeling and also incredibly helpful, you can share your experiences and find out shortcuts. It's a great adventure and it's easier and more fun when you have people you can rely on and people you can support.

Be active locally and online

Find local etsy/market anything group. Go to talks, meet ups, join online chats and live streams, FB groups and connect with people on instagram.

Consider getting a studio space

If you feel lonely and isolated consider becoming part of a collective, finding a studio space or a co working space. Some of us work better on our own and some of us need people around us but you will never know without trying and you may make some friends along the way.

Join professional network

Does your profession has an association or maybe a huge FB group? Maybe joining them will benefit you.

Talk to people

Be it online or in real life. We are all people and we all make connections and friends somehow. If you want to say something - say it, if you know someone who might light someone else's work - share the love. I personally believe it takes time to find likeminded people (it certainly took a while for me) but even the most fleeting of connections can be so meaningful. There could be people with who you just chat on instagram about Queer Eye occassionally and there can be people with who you are chatting on daily basis. Both are important.

Don't look for validation from outside

Build it from within. Please do seek constructive cryticism and reviews but do not let anything from outside to affect your personal and professional self worth. I am a strong believer that if you love doing something no one can tell you that you shouldn't draw/crochet/dress making. And sometimes our work doesn't reflect our taste and that's where your support system will help you grow but they can never replace your inner voice which will push you further in your career. 

Last but most important..

Be kind to yourself and people around you. There is space for everyone, we are not competition we are peers. โœŠ๐ŸปโœŠ๐ŸผโœŠ๐ŸฝโœŠ๐ŸพโœŠ๐Ÿฟ

Some resources (a lot of them were recommended by lovely people on instagram, THANK YOU!):

Local Etsy Teams (if you are selling on etsy)

London Local Etsy Team (they are a fabulous bunch)

In Colourful Company

One Girl Band

The Association of Illustrators

Ladies Wine Design

Creative Mornings

Women of Illustration

Freelancing Females

Freelance Circle

SheSays

Instachat

And many MANY more amazing places. Please comment below more networks. And what is your story?

Andsmile x PeopleTree

I love painting girls in cute outfits. If I had a choice I would do it all the time. And I love wearing cute outfits. So when peopletree approached me to create couple of illustrations for them inspired by their new collection I was so excited!

They make beautiful clothes and what they stand for is amazing (sustainable and fair trade clothing).

I love buying second hand clothes (they are more fun!) and going for ethical clothing where I can. I own several peopletree outfits and I chatted to them about my work. 

You can read full interview here ๐ŸŒธ

people tree equality photo and flowers.jpg

Inspiration: Art Documentaries

I love watching Art Documentaries (as well as trashy tv shows ;). I love art of different periods (and I think what kind of art I like will be reflected in my favourite documentaries) and always enjoy a good documentary which will show me things I've never seen before and teach me things from the comfort of my sofa. Here are some of my favourite ones, they mainly art and BBC but some are art related (in a very loose sense of course :).

BBC produced the most incredible documentaries. My favourite are by Alastair Sooke and Andrew Graham-Dixon.

Modern Masters by Alastair Sooke

The World's Most Expensive Stolen Paintings by Alastair Sooke (one of my favourite documentaries of all times)

The World's Most Expensive Paintings by Alastair Sooke 

Please don't be put off by the word expensive, these two documentaries are giving an insight into art world as well as an insight into our society and the worlds of the super rich. 

How the Devil Got His Horns: A Diabolical Tale by Alastair Sooke

Constable: A Country Rebel by Alastair Sooke

Pop Go the Women: The Other Story of Pop Art

Andrew Graham-Dixon done a series of documentaries (usually a set of three) dedication to different countries and regions. They are so so beautifully done, they are so honest and open minded and give an incredible insight into the countries, people, culture, mentality and art.

Art of Scandinavia by Andrew Graham-Dixon (absolutely love it!)

Art of Russia by Andrew Graham-Dixon (being russian but born in Latvia, my upbringing was literature and music heavy and not that much around visual culture, this documentary made me want to go and visit Russia and explore all the art and way of living and reconnect with something I can not describe).

Art of China by Andrew Graham-Dixon

Art of Spain by Andrew Graham-Dixon

The Art of Gothic: Britain's Midnight Hour by Andrew Graham-Dixon

The High Art of the Low Countries by Andrew Graham-Dixon is one of my all time favourite documentaries. 

And some more BBC documentaries:

Moominland Tales: The Life of Tove Jansson I've watched it so many times. One of my favourites. I love Tove Jansson and this documentary is special too.

Sappho: Love & Life on Lesbos with Margaret Mountford

The Art of Japanese Life

Barbara Hepworth

I love Grayson Perry's art as much as I love his documentaries. They are moving, open minded and open hearted, often asking questions a lot of people avoid out of fear or being uncomfortable but they are all the question we ask ourselves but he comes from such place of kindness and love.. oh, they are something special.

Grayson Perry: Who Are You? 

All in the Best Possible Taste with Grayson Perry

Grayson Perry's Dream House

The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness a documentary about Hayao Miyazaki, it's an insight into work and life of Studio Ghibli โค๏ธ 

Jiro Dreams of Sushi this is not necessarily art documentary in a traditional sense but it is. It's a beautiful film about Jiro Ono sushi master. His attitude towards life and work is so special and full of respect and gratitude. This film inspired me so much. If you are not sure which documentary to watch from this list, maybe start with Jiro Dreams of Sushi โค๏ธ 

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Source: http://eepurl.com/dlmd8f

Inspiration: New Materials

What inspires you? It's such a hard question! And sometimes I am justifying buying new art supplies and art materials by saying that they will inspire me to create something new and different. And it is true! Trying new materials (or starting a new sketchbook) is fun and makes you think differently and be more playful with the process.

I love using gouache in my work (I wrote a long post about it) and Holbein gouache is one of my favourites to use. They manufacture two types: traditional gouache and acryla gouache.  And before last week you could only buy the traditional one only at Jackson's Art. And acryla gouache was available from sellers in Japan and as of last week you can buy it in the UK! From Jackson's Art.  I was so so curious about acryla gouache for a long time and so happy it's finally available in the UK!

So what are the differences? The main difference is that traditional gouache can be reworked once wet, which means if you have gouache which dried on your palette, adding a little bit of water will re activate it. And that you can work with it on the actual painting, like blending colours together. When acryla gouache dries and can not be re activated. Which gives it a beautiful matt finish, opaque coverage and beautiful colours. Both qualities have pluses and minuses while working and it really depends how you prefer to work. But both are equally fun to use. Oh, and you can use them together of course!

I bought 5 colours (all very cool tones). I decided to go for very bright pastel colours which are hard to mix and some dark green and magenta.

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I played around a bit doodling and here are the things I loved and which are quite different from gouache. It dries pretty fast on paper, when just a bit of water is added it looks very matt and even once dry. As acrylic paint it can be applied in thick layers which adds more texture (gouache can be too but a little bit less) and a painterly feel to the painting. It is very opaque and light colours completely cover the dark colours. They mix well into beautiful shades and have so much pigment in them. Colours are very clear and bright, absolutely beautiful. Because colours dry very fast it means going over in 2-3 minutes is not  a problem (if you don't like smudging). They are very fun to use and come in super cute plastic tubes. 

gouache illustration by andsmilestudio viktorija

I will not swich from gouache to acryla gouache but so excited to encorporate acryla gouache to my paintings and illustrations. Especially for flat chalky backgrounds and vibrant details.

Have you tried gouache or acryla gouache? What are your thoughts?

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Screenprinting workshop at Underway Studio

Have you done screen printing? A lot of us have (uni or college or school?!). My last attempt was in Uni, when I printed some posters for a project. I always found it super fun but never had enough patience or opportunity to give it another go.  So when my neighbours at Kindredstudios, a collective of printmakers called Underway Studio started offering day long workshops for beginners I signed up straight away.

We had such a fantastic day! Underway Studio taught how to create visuals for screens, prepare files for acetates, print, expose screens, wash, tape, print, rip paper! It was a super fun day, it being a workshop meant that Underway women where there to guide us, give us advice and sometimes completely save the day. 

I worked on a two colour screenprint based on an inky drawing of a woman Looking for Spring. These grey and cold January days started getting to me. Feeling more tired and craving somes sunshine and colour. It was snowing on the day of the workshop, so absolutely perfect thing to work on in a warm studio over a cup of tea. I went for happy pink and red with some yellow undertones combination. Love all the textures of the screen print and how ink sits on paper, what a beautiful process!

If you never done screen printing I would recommend giving it a go and if you've done it before and forgot how fun it is, go to a workshop (where the stress of responsibility is taken away from you).

And Looking for Spring is available as a limited edition of 10 screenprints.

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Bye 2017 ๐Ÿ‘‹๐Ÿผ

I love this time between Christmas and New Year. Everything slows down, nothing is happening, it's a limbo land and perfect time and space to look at the year which is nearly ending and think about the new year.

2017 was one of the most complicated years of my life but at the same time one of the happiest. As it's coming to an end I'm grateful for all the things which came my way (both positive and some which were harder to accept). Some of you know me well and some of you know me through social media but my work is very personal and my business can't be separated from my personal life, so here is my life this year chronologically.

January: Started MATS course on children book illustration which I wanted to do for ages and absolutely loved! It taught me so much about my work and things I can do and can't. 

February: Celebrated my 2nd yoga anniversary. It brought so much calm to my life, made my body stronger and taught me to be kind to myself (also do an ace chaturanga and gain some arm and back muscles). Also taught me to love my body the way it is right now, with all the back rolls, the widest shoulders. Be proud and take more space.

March: Painted Girl Power Print for 8th of March, International Womens day as an Ode to some of the amazing women who came before me and paved and are paving the way for all of us. I'm a feminist and it's a very important part of my identity. Portion of the print sales goes to charity (charity rotates throughout the year). 

Turned 30! That's a big one. So so so exciting! I feel so much happier and calmer. It has nothing to do with age but I like the number and how I feel at this time of my life.

April: Visited my grandparents and extended family in Belarus. I'm from Latvia but my grandparents still live in Belarus and I don't get to see them oftem but I miss them so much. And think of them all the time and to spend some time with them was such a treat.

May: Taught a workshop at V&A! Victoria & Albert museum is one of my absolute favourite places in the whole wide world. I would come here when I'm happy and when I'm sad, it brings me calm and makes me happy. To be surrounded by all that beauty and all those stories within the objects, all the people who's life they were part of. When I visited it as a student (in Uni) I could have not dared to think that one day I could possibly teach something in there! When I was on the bus home I did a little happy cry. An immigrant, an illustrator without an agent trying to make her way in the world teaching at V&A! MADE ME SO HAPPY! โค๏ธ 

June: This one I kept quiet for a while. After being in a long relationship and then married for 5.5 years my marriage came to an end. It's a long and complicated story as all of them are.

Learning not to ask why (but to ask what and look into the future) and not to let my brain tell me I'm not good enough (and it bloody well did) was the hardest thing I had to learn this year. A lot of the things which happened after are a direct consequence of this event but as I said I'm thankful for all the things that happened and came into my life. And first time in many years I feel happy and myself. We all deserve to be loved (even if that love sometimes comes from ourselves ;).

This and turning 30 made me think about what I want from life and who am I, what do I enjoy a lot more.

July: Took Mildred the mint Brompton bike on our first trip to the continent! First we visited my sister in Ghent. Then spent the most wonderful week with my friend in Amsterdam. It was such an important step, I always wanted to take my bike on an adventure and it was a wonderful one! Cycling by the canals, drinking beer, eating yummy snacks and talking life. Sharing the most wonderful memories which keep me going even now. Sunshine on my face, wind in my hair, hands firmly planted in my bike handlebar from stress and joy and me pedaling :))  yesss, can't wait for new adventures!

August: Bicycle trip to  Cambridge with my creative pals. The best day of them all. Again.. bicycles, wonderful women and sunshine is a recipe for happiness!

September: Moving into a studio space! I never had a studio and always dreamt about one! The best thing that happened to me, what a perfect timing and what an absolutely amazing space. I'm now part of Kindred studios. I'm sharing the room with other creatives who are all super talented and lovely people. We also had to renovate the room. Paint the walls, take 4 layers of floor off, it was quite a long and labour intensive process but so proud of this new space and my kick ass crow bar skillz (and paint roll of course). Studio space is full of light and it makes a huge difference to my work and life balance. As well as productivity. I'm so so happy to come to work and of course leave too ;). I'm excited for the new year as I have workshops and fun things planned. 

October: Friendshipsโค๏ธ Investing time into my friends, making new ones, spending time with old ones. Realising how much I love being around people and have fun and dance and do silly things. Some friendships are close by, formed by time. Some are fleeting and meaningful connections and both are so special in different ways.

November: Got British Citizenship! What an amazing thing. I've been living here for 12 years and it is my home even though some people might see it in a different way.

December: Getting ready for Christmas and drawing hundreds of portraits at Live Events. Fleeting connections is one of the main reasons why I love drawing portraits. Getting content consultation and a talk with a studio curator, planning my workflow for the future and getting some strategy and goals into my work.

So this time between Christmas and New Year for me is even more important than any other year. As really I have an absolutely blank page in front of me. Which is both terrifying and exciting. This year was all about accepting what is even when it's shit and adjusting and finding it ok (even when I have to wear socks with sandals),  the divorce, anxiety attacks, stress, happiness from unexpected places, rediscovering love for small things and enjoying quiet moments in life. Kindness from my friends and people who I barely know but showed so much warmth and support it feels my heart with joy. I made and became closer to my friends, who are wonderful people and loves of my life, thank you, thank you, thank you! This year taught me to be more grounded and kinder to myself both in professional and in personal spheres. I did a lot of creative things which are outside of my comfort zone and made me worried but I'm so happy I did. I painted, I made, I designed products and taught workshops and created social media content for pretty awesome companies. This year I learned to take things one at a time. To accept the person I am, to ask what I want to do, where I want to go. Somehow I became more confident in myself (even though my brain told me that I should shatter into pieces), I am taking up more space as a human woman illustrator and not apologising for it. I'm voicing my opinion without doubting it. I'm learning to rewire a lot of things in my brain and thankful for feminism, creativity, community, change. 

Next year I want to continue to embrace things which are coming my way but ask more questions and have more direction. Make decisions. Learn to say no to things. Book holidays and time off in advance. Spend time with friends. Get a dog (haha, I WISH), Sign up to tinder or something (joking, I'm not quite sure I really mean it I've heard so many awful stories). Eat more veggies, go on more bike rides, do more yoga and be kind to myself and emm.. figure things out (haha yeah right :)) ;). I will be pushing myself out of my comfort zone into the wild. Otherwise how I'll ever be able to do an exhibition of my work, have my book published and go to Japan?! I still want my work to be making people smile and to be visually pleasing and semantically light. ;) 

Endings are sad but I LOVE NEW BEGINNINGS. 

Thank you so much for reading this massive post and I hope you don't mind me oversharing. I often find that I don't channel my sad feelings into my work as it's quite positive and like a little escape for me and I hope for you too. But it was important to share these things. In case if you are going through something similar or just in general feeling down, you are not alone and you are wonderful. And you can always reach out. I'm here.โค๏ธ And.. HAPPY NEW YEAR!

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photo by Ron

Live Drawing // 10 Minute Portraits

I love drawing portraits! And I LOVE drawing LIVE portraits! I paint them with gouache and watercolours in 10-15 minutes, while people are posing for me ;)

They tell me stories about their life and I always feel like we make such a special connection in these 10 minutes (fleeting connections on a deep and personal level are so magical and specia).

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Last time I was painting portraits at CraftyFox Market this September in Brixton, Spidergirl herself sat for a portrait! How amazing is it?! :)

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You can find me painting portraits 9th and 10th of December at Peckham with CraftyFox Market and 16th at Mercato Metropolitano with CraftyFox Market. And all other upcoming events can be found at my Events page.