Illustrator Violeta Noy on girl power, working with others and personal exploration.
From Barcelona, Violeta Noy makes books, prints and websites. She studied Fine Art at Universitat de Barcelona and recently completed an Illustration MA at Falmouth University.
You’ve done a few projects for online publications — what do you enjoy the most when it comes to digital illustration?
Digital illustration projects are usually very fast, since they tend to have shorter deadlines. This is actually great as deadlines are really useful when you need new ideas or a general brain reboot. Fast-paced projects are also a good breather from longer, denser projects.
Subject-wise, I don’t think there’s a lot of difference. Most publications have a digital counterpart nowadays so everything ends up in the web at some point.
What does your illustrative process look like?
I haven’t been working as an illustrator for very long and my process is still changing. Up until a couple of weeks ago everything was purely digital, sketches and all. I recently bought a new sketchbook for rough little thumbnails, and it’s proven very useful. Now I come up with ideas on paper and afterwards start drawing on Photoshop: first line drawings, then colour thumbnails followed by finals. Colour thumbnails are the hardest, I make them quite detailed so by the time I start painting I’ve already done most of the work.
I don’t usually print things out but when I do I like taking extra care. Good paper is essential, as are good colours. Lately I’ve started working on small hand-printed editions. Hopefully I’ll be able to show them in a few months!
Tell us about Sophie’s Project
Sophie’s Project has been an ongoing collaborative project with Ellie Robinson-Carter for a couple of years now. We investigate links between dementia and language through illustration and narrative, making books and other paper-based works.
Sophie is a fictional character: she has dementia and the project places her at the centre of every piece.
Ellie and I usually see each other twice a year, so we cram all of our working hours in the few days we’re together. I always feel a bit drained by the time I’m done, but it’s so interesting! Ellie has a lovely brain — she always comes up with great stuff.
You frequently work collaboratively with Núria Pla. What advice do you have for those wanting to work together?
Núria has been a friend for a long time (we studied together) but I still remember how exciting it was when we started our first project. I think it was the very first time I really liked my work during the degree. Núria is also great, which makes everything so much easier!
If you want to work with someone you have to be a good listener. You also need to be able to call them out when they’re slacking, and be prepared for the same.
Timelines get complicated when you work with someone else. If the work is not quite right you need to know how to talk about it. I guess it’s the same with every other partnership: if you want it to work, you have to talk about things.
Your illustrations evoke a lot of girl power — with strong female figures dominating the illustration. What does this mean to you?
Thanks! I like stories about interesting women and I’m a bit tired of reading, watching and listening to guys being cool. I know they are, now I want to hear about women. I know it’s already starting to happen, but it’s always good to add work to the pile.
Projects like womenwhodraw.com are a great initiative to keep the ball rolling, and the website is really useful — some of my best clients came from there and the projects are always surprisingly tailored to my interests.
How do you make time for personal exploration and learning, when you have to balance it with client work?
I’ve actually found it really tricky. Illustration is very time consuming — you spend a lot of time doing minor stuff that takes longer than you would expect. By the time I’m done for the day I just want to lay back and watch Netflix with my girlfriend.
I’ve made a point of opening spaces for personal projects in my weekly schedule, but it’s harder to stick to those since they’re not actual deadlines.
Applying to projects, conferences and residencies with personal projects tends to work quite well since they create a time constraint. It also feels like they’re validating your project if they choose it, which is great because it usually takes a long time until you can show them off.
I love the illustrations you’ve done for children’s books! What are some of the challenges when it comes to illustrating for children?
I find illustrating for children the hardest. Ideally, I would want the work to be wild, fun and interesting, but it’s so easy to make twee images when illustrating for children. We grown-ups have a lot of opinions about what they like and I don’t think we’re right very often.
For example I remember liking very gruesome stuff when I was little (loved Attila and ancient Egyptians’ embalming process), but maybe that was just me.
Over the last few months I’ve been writing and illustrating a couple of picture book projects, and they’re slowly starting to take shape. Books are a good place to explore more complex ideas, but we’ll see how that turns out.
What is The Creative Series?
The Creative Series is a publication run by Femke that highlights the under-deserved creatives of our industry. If you’re interested in being featured or want to submit someone, please reach out to Femke on Twitter.
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About the interviewer
Hi I’m Femke — a designer, writer and podcaster who overlaps between a day job, freelancing and side projects. I love to help other creatives be the best version of themselves. I’d love to get to know you more, say hi on Twitter 👋