Interview with Illustrator Elwira Pawlikowska

Interview with Illustrator Elwira Pawlikowska
Interview with Illustrator Elwira Pawlikowska

Elwira Pawlikowska is an Illustrator from Poland who has some of the most popular projects on Behance. She was surrounded by art since childhood. Her genuine interest in making illustrations began when she came contact with fantasy games and books in high school. Read on and get to know more about this inspiring illustrator. 

What inspired you to create the "Steampunk Characters" artwork?

It was a commission I made for a polish "steampunk" restaurant. Initial idea of the restaurant's owner was to have character designs - "brand heroes" which could be used in a promotional short comic stories. "Steampunk" style is very close to me as a combination of technique and rich, historical ornamentation. The Victorian Era can be a great source of inspiration.


Looking at your work is obviously that you have an unbelievable skills in digital art, how do you define your style?

Actually most of all I'm a traditional artist. I use digital technique for purely practical matters - it's easier to make changes or several versions of designs this way. Probably that's why my digital drawings look almost like pen/pencil sketches. Old school/vintage style with a touch of melancholy really attracts me and hopefully I also capture it in my works.


Do you see yourself more as an illustrator or as a painter? Why?

I'm more an illustrator because most of my works were made as illustrations for books, magazines, games etc. However I make also drawings/paintings sometimes. Being a painter means making artworks which will be exhibited in galleries and hanged on the walls in customer's houses for example. Illustrations are only a part of a final (often mass-produced) product. At least that's how I understand this issue.


Your Red River artwork is one of my favorites, what is the meaning behind of this artwork?

Thank you, I'm really happy that you like it! It's an illustration made for a short story about biblical plagues (though the action takes place in a near future). One of the plagues was turning river's water into blood. It's hard to aptly describe the fragment of the whole story illustrated here, but I'll try anyway. Scientists found out the way to purify the river, however the red color remained. To prove that the water is harmless they allowed scientist's daughter to play in it in front of photographers. They aimed to show something cheerful and carefree but in fact it's really hard to imagine something more grim than a sweet little girl playing in blood-like liquid. That's the aspect I tried to capture here.


What are the techniques/tools do you use in creating your work?

No matter if I make traditional or digital art I always begin with a paper and a mechanical pencil. In case of traditional illustrations (which means "the most often") I use watercolors, pen and/or pencil. After scanning I also use Photoshop, mostly to set the right contrasts and colors or add text. In case of digital projects I scan pencil sketches and then draw on a graphic tablet almost just like on a sheet of paper.


What is the biggest achievement that you have achieved so far?

Generally speaking the biggest achievement for me is a surprisingly large interest in my works. If I'd had to choose one specific project, I'd say that I'm quite proud of getting an invitation to participate in an exhibition about "Steampunk" (May 2013, Ackland Museum, North Carolina). My illustration was also chosen for a banner promoting the whole collective exhibition. I was even more pleased when almost all my works exhibited there were sold.


Do you have any creative rituals to help you come up with a concept?

I like to listen to dark, melodic music which puts me in the right (i.e. grim, gloomy, melancholic) mood. I start with "brainstorming": in a relatively short period of time I browse through plenty of photos and illustrations related somehow to my task. I's more about increasing creativity than searching for particular references though. Then I make about dozen of thumbnail sketches just for myself.


Which is your favorite piece so far? Why?

I have a special fondness for my watercolor cathedrals, because they reflect my style quite well. I almost don't remember the process of painting them. It was like a "glimmer of talent". I didn't need to make dozens of concept sketches (like I often do) or develop all the details. They're mostly results of a subconscious thinking.


Did you always wanted to become an artist?

When I was a child I wanted to be an archeologist or paleontologist as I'm fascinated by the past. In high school I've been more interested in visual arts and decided myself to study architecture. Since then I try to combine my interest in designing buildings with passion for illustrating.


Is there any particular experience that influences you on how you approach your craft? If so, what is it?

It's rather a result of several years of continuous contact with drawing. Studying architecture had the biggest influence on that.  During studies I had a broad spectrum of art classes (drawing, painting, sculpting, study of colors etc). Even more important were classes from design and history of architecture. This was a valuable base for practicing at home. It enabled me to paint detailed buildings and landscapes from imagination. Furthermore I got used to show my works to others and to draw benefits from critique.


More about Elwira Pawlikowska

Elwira has been working as a freelance illustrator for about 3 years since she graduated from Faculty of Architecture. New commissions keep her going for more and the continuous development of skills is one of her biggest advantages as illustrator. She believes that no one can say: "Now I can draw anything in any possible way. I've already learned everything in this field." You can find more of her works on her Behance profile.

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