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Shining the #MemberSpotlight on the expressive childlike wonder of Desislava Georgieva

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Desislava Georgieva is an illustrator based in London who specialises in narrative and book illustration. While her work is generally traditional in terms of medium (ink, watercolour and acrylics) there is nothing conventional or safe about her work.

There’s something of a childlike wonder behind her illustrations, many of which draw inspiration from fairy and folk tales and legends from all over the world, as well as Victorian children's literature.

In her own words she “loves bringing stories to life and aims to always be creative and attention-grabbing” in all of her illustrative work, “keeping a consistent style, but doing something tailored to every unique project.

Currently working on expanding her skillset to the worlds of digital art and experimenting with different styles and techniques, we caught up with Desislava to shine the #MemberSpotlight on her expressive characters and dynamic compositions. 

How did you get into the industry?

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I pursued a BA degree in Illustration and then an MA degree in Children’s Illustration in the UK – during that time I did some freelance gigs which I am continuing to do now.

Where are you based now and who do you work for?

I am currently based in my home country, Bulgaria, but I work with people from all over the world on a freelance basis.

If you weren’t in your current industry, what would you be doing?

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I have had lots of different aspirations through the years: when I was younger, I wanted to become a medical examiner, then I got really into story editing, then really into movie commentary, then bookmaking. Who knows where I could be now if I had followed any of those as my passion!

Can you explain your creative process? What makes it unique?

My creative process is actually pretty random: I see something that inspires me, then forget about it, then see something else and remember that inspiration again and I start brainstorming. Sometimes it just turns out as a single illustration to get it out of the way, other times it becomes a story. 

How would you describe your style?

My style is semi-realistic, very expressive and full of details. I grew up with classically illustrated fairy tales and consumed a lot of Japanese manga and anime when I was younger – even though this is a weird mix of influences, I think that both of them are noticeable in my style today.

I do like to experiment with styles and media as well – from very simple lineart to realistic classical paintings, I want to try everything and then play with anything I enjoy and think looks good in my own style. 

Which individuals do you gain inspiration from? Do you have any heroes in the industry?

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I don’t have a lot of specific people that I look up to because I think that every artist out there has something in their art that could inspire someone, often in unexpected ways. I really like just looking at people’s work online and deciphering how they approach subject matters, colouring, character designs, etc. and how I can use something similar in my own work. As for illustrators that I like, I enjoy the work of PJ Lynch, Jim Kay, Teagan White and David Litchfield among others.

What tips would you give to aspiring creatives looking for work?

I think that the best advice would be to make as many connections as you can! You never know where the next opportunity will come from but it’s usually from (or through) people you have met at school, at gatherings or networking events.

What tips would you give to other professionals to get more clients?

I am still figuring that out myself but I think that the best thing is to do what you love!  (and promote yourself on social media as best you can, send samples of your work people/companies you’re interested in working with, have lots of luck…)

What kind of tools/kit/software could you not do without?

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I occasionally change my drawing media of choice, so if this question was asked a few years ago I would have said my White Nights watercolours or acrylic paint in general. However, I am currently working almost exclusively on Clip Studio Paint and Adobe Photoshop so at the moment, it’s those two.

What’s your secret to staying inspired and motivated?

I try to make most of my personal work connected to a real deadline, like a competition or even social media challenges. When I know that I need to finish this illustration/project by a certain date, it helps me stay motivated and finish it in time. This obviously doesn’t work all the time and I have tons of folders with unfinished things that are just waiting for me to get inspired and start them again.

What’s the work achievement you’re most proud of?

I was very proud for my book to have been chosen as one of the finalists in the Silent Book Contest 2021 in Bologna. Hopefully though, there will be more and more achievements to be proud of in my future.

What is the one thing that you would change about the industry?

I would like for the children’s book illustration industry to be more diverse, both in the social diversity and in the illustration style sense. I think a lot of publishers are basing their releases on design trends and working (mostly) with established artists.

There is nothing wrong with either of those but there are more and more talented young illustrators nowadays which are being rejected for projects because their style doesn’t fit with the publisher’s look, the current trending style or just in favour of an older artist.

Any websites, books or resources you would recommend?

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If anyone wants to get more familiar with the industry, I would recommend Martin Salisbury’s books on illustrating for children.

As for other helpful resources, https://croquis.cafe/ is wonderful for life drawing; the AOI has great (free and paid) advice and resources for illustrators; more than anything, just going to Instagram or Creativepool and looking around is tremendously helpful to see how other people are working.

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