“As any architecture student will say: I don’t know how to draw people!”
Speaking with Architecture student Diana on her warm environments
In today’s episode, we have someone who was my former university classmate. Diana is a Masters in Architecture student studying at Manchester School of Architecture. We go deep into art philosophies and perceptions whilst talking about Diana’s dissertation and generally having a discussion on the overlap between art, architecture and atmosphere. I think deep thinkers will like this episode. So sit back, get comfy and enjoy
Hi Diana! please introduce yourself
My name is Diana Ursuchianu. I’m from Romania but moved to the UK 5 years ago to do my Bachelors in Architecture. Now I’m doing my Masters in Manchester School of Architecture!
Diana and I know each other from our Bachelors where I remember I used to see her work and be in awe of how colourful and vibrant it was. I think this comes across in her digital illustrations so could you tell us about your work.
Tbh, my work used to be really colourful in 1st and 2nd yr of uni but it changed.
I’ve always been drawing since I was small. I used to experiment with a lot of techniques-pencils, ink, watercolour. It used to be really colourful but I kind of slowed down when I joined architecture school.
About a year and a half ago, I started using the iPad more often. I started to share and created the Instagram page that you know!
You mentioned your work ‘slowed down’ colourwise. Do you feel architecture limits your creative potential — do you think there's a way to strike a balance?
In terms of colour, maybe. But creatively no. This is generally speaking only about architecture school though!
1st and second year I had really colourful plans and drawings. Over time it’s just become more controlled. It can be limiting to some extent but it depends on how you look at it. After a while of looking at how things are done, this limitation can be used to your advantage to create a powerful image.
You can use only a few colours to make something amazing
It’s kind of like maturing?
Your digital art is very colourful with really warm vibes. What inspires and influences your digital art?
Because you have unlimited resources for colour, it's quite tempting!
With the colours I’m using, I'm trying to transmit an emotion or emphasize an environment I’m producing.
Warm colours create a cosier environment, and most of the time that’s what I want to capture, an intimate moment, and transmit that to my followers.
More often than not, the characters in your work are faceless women — is there a reason?
As any architecture student will say: I don’t know how to draw people!
I use the people to animate the space, not necessarily focus on them. I’m just trying to complement the environment.
Do you come up with space first or the character?
Firstly I think about what I want to communicate: most of the time it’s the environment. Then I explore a character in that space in order to emphasize it.
It’s interesting you say that. For me, the characters the first thing I’m drawn to in the composition. The background feels secondary.
Oh really! I mean, I kind of expect that because your eyes are instinctively drawn to the person first.
I think that’s also why I don't add expressions to the characters. I want people to think they're in that environment.
It’s kinda like fill in the blank, like leaving room for the viewer to interpret what expression the viewer has.
You also do traditional art too. How does this contribute to your digital practice?
It's quite a tricky question. In a way, I was so used to drawing on paper and feeling that texture. But my digital art skills are just an adaptation of what I drew on paper.
I follow the same process that I would normally. It’s kinda influenced by the analogue technique I use.
I used to use watercolour and coloured pencils. I think building up the colour on paper is reflected in the digital drawing.
It's similar but at the same time completely different. You have more control digitally with colours etc.
When you are starting a digital piece, what’s your workflow like?
Depends if it's personal or a commission. They’re quite similar though. Usually, I start with a feeling or environment I have in mind or inspiration. If it’s a commission then there’s a brief.
I either do some sketches for inspiration, or I look through pinterest. Sometimes the client says, Oh I really liked this drawing of yours so I’ll go with that style.
I feel like the sketch is one of the most important things I do. I try the colours then too even if it's not defined.
Once I decide on the composition, I draw on top of the sketch and try to define each element with colour, shading, texture, light and final touches at the end.
Do you do the sketches on paper or digitally?
I used to do it on paper but now I just use it on the ipad.
Do you think that's kind of limiting?
Hmm, good question. It can be limiting in a way to start on the ipad. On paper it’s more fluid and impulsive.
Where does the inspiration for your backgrounds come from?
Both my head and real life. I remember one background I did for Love week where I did 6 pieces. The one that said Love your heritage, I had a clear image of what I had in my mind, of drawing somewhere that’s inspired by my culture.
Other times, it just happens where I see a picture and I really like the setting so I use that as a base and interpret it in my own way.
Do you focus on perspective and architecture aspects?
I feel like I do, but not all the time. It depends on the drawing. It brings honesty, how that image looks like in real life. If the perspective isn't there, I would notice it!
I think it’s important to maintain but not be so exact. Sometimes I kind of change it to make it a bit better.
Do you put your emotions in your work?
Yes, 100%. It has to do with how I treat drawing. Growing up, I used to draw whenever I felt really happy or sad. I was constantly drawing. It is a way of expressing which is why I put a lot of emotion into it.
Let's go back to your Masters. You’re doing your thesis on the role of perception and the representation of atmosphere?
Not only the perception but mostly about the role of atmosphere.
I chose that topic because I was inspired by others people work and what I wanted to try and achieve. I feel this research will influence what I’m doing in digital.
Who do you go to for artistic inspiration?
There isn’t a certain go to artist. I looked at a lot of tutorials when I was starting. I was more interested in technique than composition. When I look for inspiration I analyse their technique.
I mostly just use Pinterest or sometimes it just happens with an image in my head! It’s kind of a combination.
With architecture, I really love Liebskind. I’ve analysed his drawings, they’re so freeing yet so rigid which is so interesting.
Another inspiration is my teacher from high school. She was the person who taught me how to draw! It’s nice to go back and see how she used to work.
There’s also a lot of pages I follow on IG that inspire me.
How do you use this inspiration?
Through the technique rather than the compositions. I look at their work and try to understand why they've done a certain detail and try and reinterpret that in my way and use that in my work.
I also watched a lot of YT tutorials by Gal Shir. He inspires me to construct the object with shade and lighting which added more depth to my illustrations.
Remember a time you were stuck in a creative rut
Take a bit of time off, or just start something new but without thinking of any kind of concept or anything. Just draw. You’ll get some inspiration from there.
Thanks, Diana for your time!
Thanks for inviting me, it was really nice talking to you.