My Tablet & Me: Kristyna Baczynski
Kristyna Baczynski is an illustrator, designer and comic book artist, who lives and works in Leeds.
Creating work for a wide range of clients and publishers, her illustrations have been used for advertising, packaging, book publishing and apparel.
Alongside her client work, she embarks upon experimental and exploratory personal projects, which take the form of zines, comics, prints and one-off pieces.
As part of our new My Tablet and Me collaboration with Argos, our second installment explores Kristyna’s illustration practice and how utilising a range of drawing and creative apps on the Apple iPad has revolutionised her approach to image-making.
Tell us a bit more about your illustration practice?
My practice tends to fluctuate between working to a brief and working for myself; the balance between those is always changing. The past twelve months have been my busiest and most exciting, working for amazing clients such as Anorak, Chipotle and The Royal Shakespeare Company. More recently my personal, self-published work has also received recognition, with my comic ‘Nine Lives’ being published by Fantagraphics in their Treasury of Mini Comics Vol 2. I’m thrilled about that.
What steps did you take to become an illustrator and make it into a full time career?
I graduated in 2008 with a First Class degree in Graphic Arts & Design, and won a Northern Design award for animation – which attracted my first clients, allowing me to immediately set up as a business. Back then I worked lots of other full time and part time jobs and took all kinds of freelance posts including story-boarding and design work; anything that came my way. I was a full-time greetings card designer for two years, spending most evenings and weekends moonlighting on client or personal projects. In early 2012 I quit my day job, tearing away the safely net of salary in favour of a full-time illustration roller-coaster! I felt like I took my time, being quite cautious about leaving employment for freelancing, but have never regretted the decision. It’s been a very exciting few years so far, and I’m happier than ever with my work.
How do you manage your life outside of the studio to make the most of your time in the studio?
I spend way too much time in my studio, so time away is sometimes an enforced necessity to keep my brain cells alive. I love to collect paper ephemera, records and beautiful objects from the early to mid 20th century, so car boot sales and thrifting are good reasons to leave my desk. There are some lovely second-hand/art shops and woodland walks near my studio, which are tempting detours when I’m on the way to the post office to send out orders from my online shop.
I’ve discovered that the iPad is great for generating colour palettes when going from black-and-white ink drawings to digital colour.
Do you follow a daily routine or leave things a little more loose? Can you describe a typical day?
I start the day with coffee, of course. When I first sit at my desk, I’ll check emails and pack up any orders from my Etsy or Big Cartel. The tablet comes in really handy when I’ve got a lot of stock to pack up and addresses to write. After those little bits of admin, I’ll usually warm up with a few sketches on paper, snap some photos on the iPad, and quickly add some colour or play with composition.
It’s useful to have an intermediate tool to develop drawings when i’m away from the studio – it gives me more freedom to play
Once I’ve warmed up and my brain is properly in gear, I’ll start setting up to work on a current project. This might entail scripting and layouts for a comic, inking on my light box or working on my computer to produce final designs. can grab a piece of reference material, or a painting I’ve done, for example, and create a simple colour palette based on that image, which I can then use on the computer for finishing the illustration.
Many creatives rely on hand held devices to stay connected on the move – can you tell us how the iPad has improved your work flow & productivity?
My drawings are meticulous and detailed, so the more space I have to work on them, the more illustrated fun I can fit into an image. I couldn’t sketch on my smartphone, but on the iPad I can open up a drawing app and quickly get a character drawn, coloured and emailed to a client or uploaded to Twitter/ Tumblr while I’m out and about. It re-engaged me with animation, too; something I love, but thought I’d never have time for again. There are really simple, fun apps to generate character turnarounds and looped GIFs that have been a new way for me to explore drawing.
I can open up a drawing app and quickly get a character drawn, coloured and emailed to a client whilst I’m out and about.
What role does social media play in your day to day practice?
My first social media presence was a blog, which was more of a drawing diary when it started, yet the views and comments I received from people were so encouraging that it helped keep my practice going early on. Now I keep a website, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Etsy and Facebook page which are integral to how I share and promote my work. Each channel attracts its own particular audience. I find there’s something quite amazing about posting a little bit of work-in-progress on instagram, or a quick question on twitter and getting interactions from people all around the world. When spending most days sitting alone drawing in a studio, that encouragement and support is so wonderful. It’s also great if I’m launching a new book, or shouting about a new collaboration with a client. People can stay up-to-date really easily, find out about new products or read a new interview.
Where, how and when are you most productive? How do you collect and record ideas, collate your inspirations and draw on these for each project?
As an illustrator who spends most days sitting alone drawing in a studio, encouragement and support [on social media] is wonderful.
I work intensively on a project once it’s in full swing, starting early in the morning, and often going back to the studio and staying up late to get some extra drawing or colouring done. Being connected online makes those long days feel less solitary, you can socialise and record your progress without ever leaving the drawing table (except to make tea and raid snacks). I keep a lot of reference material on bookshelves or taped up on my studio walls, but also on my phone and tablet. Tumblr and Instagram are great for browsing when I’m taking a quick break. I follow a lot of furniture makers, gardeners, photographers and ceramicists to get inspired by things outside of the illustration world.
Can you briefly talk us through the creative process behind the ‘Intrepid’ mini book project?
The ‘Intrepid’ zine was a spontaneous drawing project that sprung out of weeks working solely with clients. I turn to my sketchbooks to keep an experimental drawing practice ticking over during these busy periods, and this was a deluge. I spent an entire weekend drawing jungle foliage and moody ladies as a reaction to the restrictions of client work. It was through posting photos of these drawings online and the lovely response from people, that I decided to collect them into a book. I wanted to experiment further with narrative writing, so I added a short story that weaves through the marching jungle girls and published an edition of books in time to sell on my table at NoBrow’s ELCAF in the summer.
Draw all the time. Draw the same things in as many different ways as you can.
How long does it take for you to complete one of your more elaborate illustrations?
Sometimes I don’t even want to tally up the hours I’ve spent on an illustration, it can be so labour intensive. I can spend three to four days on a very detailed, large-format piece, or two days on simpler ones. My process rarely changes from initial sketches, to refined pencils, inking and digital colour, but the content often dictates the amount of time I spend physically drawing it. With comics I can spend weeks on a long story, that sprawls over twenty to thirty pages. Compared to that, sometimes spending a few days on an illustration feels speedy!
What advice can you give to designers who want to break into character design and comics?
Draw all the time. Draw the same things in as many different ways as you can. Challenging yourself to find out your particular way of drawing things is the exciting discovery of doing this as a career. A body of work that is visually distinct and uniquely yours is the greatest asset for designers and illustrators. So developing your own ways of drawing, and looking at varied reference material is so important.
Where do you see yourself in the next 3-5 years?
If I can maintain this self-sufficient, creatively independent and happy position I’m currently in, I couldn’t ask for anything more.
We’re excited to present My Tablet & Me – essential reading for illustrators and creatives looking for tips on how to improve their productivity! Follow us on twitter to hear about each editorial as they’re published, and keep track of the action with our hashtag #MyTabletandMe. Our mini-documentary to accompany the project is currently being filmed with Nottingham production company Dimension 2 and is set for early 2015 release.
Kristyna used the following tablet:
- iPad with Retina Display Wi-Fi 16GB White – £279 – available at Argos