Featured Illustrator

Martina Paukova

December 2019

We love how Martina Paukova sums up her style as 'super colourful flattened domestic environments filled with awkward-looking characters'. We caught up with the Berlin-based Illustrator and chat about being mindful of Instagram 'inspiration'; the luxurious creative bubble that is Berlin, and how developing her style was a gradual, half mechanical half natural process.

What's the worst design job you’ve ever had and how did it make you a better designer?

I did bunch of dubious illustration assignments in my early career but I’d call none of them the worst. Each of them was just part of learning curve, crucial in defining of what I want to be doing and what is best left alone.

How did you name your practice and what does the name represent to you?

As a freelance illustrator I work under my own name, I think it makes more sense that way. I work both editorially and commercially, you can find my work in newspapers or magazines like The Guardian, The Economist, MIT Technology Review, New Yorker, etc, also I was super lucky to work for a bunch of brands, Apple, Google, ASOS or YouTube. I like to create flattened domestic environments, filled with awkward-looking characters, all super colourful. I play a lot with perspective, creating these modular worlds where objects are having various individual angles and viewpoints. And I guess that this combination (flattened perspective + lanky characters) has become my signature style. Recently I heard somebody describe my illustration as modular, which I guess is true! When I am doing busier scenes one can very easily extract individual mini-scenes and use them separately, things fit into each other, so yeah, I guess I am modular!

Talk us through a typical working day include for you right now.

I am a massive slave to my morning routine, I get up around 8 and basically while away till about 11. Loads can happen in that window - bathroom cleaning or stretching or German grammar or depilation. Basically that window of the day is totally devoted to me and I find this super important. Around 11 after breakfast, I dive into work (either at home or at the studio) and work till needed. Earlier parts of my working are usually for less favourite parts of being a freelancer - invoices, admin, post-office, social media. The rest of the afternoon is usually spent with headphones on and doing more mechanical stuff like vectorising. And in between come the best parts of the job - starting a new project with a clean sheet of paper, fishing for ideas, numerous coffee breaks, etc..

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A graduate has to be immensely curious, and have a valid overview of what is happening in the industry

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How does the local culture of where you live affect your design work and getting clients?

Here in Berlin, we are this, I dare say, a tightly knit community of illustrators and animators, rather a luxurious creative bubble! So yeah, having peers with the same passions and daily routines and daily struggles, it helps massively. We are part of the same club, we support each other.

Who are your top five design crushes globally right now?

The illustrators/designers that I either continuously salivate over or have just recently discovered:

@mollydogson

@mariamidttun

@wilfridwoodsculptor

@eumiel

@timlahan

What’s your take on internships? (do you take interns now?)

I am a big fan of internships! It’s one of the best ways to get a genuine insight into the working of the industry one wants to be part of. I don’t even mind the fact that interns are not so well paid, as long as they are learning on the job and all. I have nobody interning for me now, but I may be looking forward to hiring somebody in December or early next year, so whoever is interested out there, give me a shout!

What qualities and skills to you look for in a graduate?

A graduate has to be immensely curious, have a valid overview of what is happening in his industry, what is currently rocking the boats, what are the trends. He also needs to have language/personality of his own, or at least the potential to develop one.

What's the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

Knowing when to stop! There is no point in spending X amount of time on an almost finished image, pushing it and finetuning only to achieve a result that is maybe 3 percent better from where you started. Use that time on developing another idea instead!

How did you develop your style as an illustrator and what tips would you have for others?

Developing my style was a gradual, half mechanical half natural process. One should try out things but one should at some point decide, which visual direction to go. It is totally okay to be heavily inspired by the work of existing illustrators and even copy bits from their work here and there, and try to translate them into the world you are creating. In my case, I really used to like the work of Jean Julien and Andy Rementer when I was starting. So yeah, initially I was drawing these clusters of objects without any major meaning and only then I decided to move on the characters/people - I still have this sketchbook where I was deciding how to draw eyes, noses, hair, etc. With people come stories and stories needed more elements, so I eventually had to learn how to translate every object needed into my way of drawing. And as I was drawing constantly, grabbing literally any silly idea that came into my mind, my confidence and style of drawing grew! I still remember in one illustration I drew a table the same way the illustrator Cristobal Schmal drew, it was defying all the rules of the perspective, it was very flattened. And look what happened, this little detail became the guiding principle in my work for the years to come! So yeah, borrow wisely :o)

What advice would you give students graduating in 2019?

In this age of Instagram, it is impossible not to be inspired by the constantly updated work of thousands of talents out there. My advice is — and I have to repeat myself here — borrow wisely.

What do you think the design community could do more to give back?

All of us, including me, should be more often definitely lending our skills to non-profit and environmentally and socially focused campaigns. They often have very small budgets and can definitely benefit from our help. And so do we.

Website: martinapaukova.com

Instagram: @martinapaukova

Twitter: @martinapaukova

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