It's always surprising to realise how much you can learn about a creative by just looking at their work.
When we look at Izabela Ciesinska's illustrations, we see warmth, passion, affection and love for art and family. We see an interest in discovering one's deepest and truest self. a wish that shines through Izzy's works in the interview below.
For this Member Spotlight, we've had the chance to speak with an incredibly motivated and self-conscious artist, who paints graciously with the heartwarming hand and delicacy of a child.
How did you get into the industry?
I loved drawing before I could walk, and I drew through much of my childhood. But it was during my studies at university that it became clear that art was what I wanted to do for life. Upon graduating, instead of making use of my degree (Criminal Forensics), I created a small portfolio and submitted it to publishers. I received my first response within a month to illustrate a chapter book for a small Canadian publisher. And I have not looked back since. Although I have had ups and downs in my career, I have been working steadily since that project, which is coming on to 13 years now.
Where are you based now and who do you work for?
I am based in Toronto, Canada, and I work freelance. My clients are mainly book authors and children publishers, but I create art for anyone who needs art for any kind of children's project.
If you weren’t in your current industry, what would you be doing?
If I were not an illustrator, I would be in some sort of service job. I would either be working with underprivileged children, or in animal rescue. There are animal sanctuaries in Thailand, Africa, and India that I would still like to work with some day.
Can you explain your creative process?
My creative process for client work and personal work differs. For client work it usually starts with me reading the manuscript or project brief. Then I like to get as much information about my client's vision as possible (after all, my job is to help them manifest their vision, not mine). Once I read their story and hear their ideas, the shape of the world and characters begins to take form, and I then allow myself to add my own ideas to it. I then go back and forth with the client exchanging ideas and visual references, and once we know what we want on paper, I begin sketching. Sometimes the sketches end up as concept art, other times they lead straight to final artwork.
For my personal projects my creative process starts either with an existing story which evolves into images and illustrations, or with particular songs and music which inspires the images that then go on to inspire a story. I find that as I get older and as I allow myself to stay more open, the creative process becomes more fluid and inspiration can come at any time from any place.
How has technology affected the way you work (if at all)?
Technology has changed the way I work completely. As a child and teen, I worked exclusively with traditional materials, mainly pencils and charcoal. My first book featured pencil drawings.
My second project, however, asked for digital drawings. I was completely new to Photoshop, and I illustrated that book with a mouse (which was torture). The following projects also required digital work, so I had no choice but to learn. I got myself a Bamboo tablet, watched Photoshop tutorials, and very quickly transitioned from traditional to digital entirely. Now I work exclusively digitally, and I prefer it much more. There are many basic useful tools, such as flipping the canvass, which allow an artist to see and fix their weaknesses more quickly than in traditional art. So technology has changed the way I work completely, and improved my skills as an artist.
What’s your secret to staying inspired and motivated?
This may vary from person to person, but at the moment my secret is to be fully invested in my personal journey. For me the personal journey is one of self improvement, not so much artistically, but overall as a conscious being. The discovery of the Self leads to the discovery of a greater world, within and beyond, which leads to infinite inspiration in all areas of life. Art no longer becomes a focus, which so many artists become obsessed and possessed by; art becomes an extension of something deeper and more meaningful. Perhaps it's the constant pursuit of depth and meaning that keeps the inspiration flowing, because the deeper one strives to go the more movement they experience. So strangely, the secret to my inspiration is outside of art almost entirely.
As for motivation, when one loves something, doing it for its own pleasure is motivation enough. I simply love to draw, and witnessing the process of an idea becoming form is all the motivation that I need.
How do you recharge away from the office?
Away from the office, I love to go for long walks either in the park or on streets with beautiful houses. I love good architecture, and in Toronto we have some beautifully designed homes. I also like to exercise, read, watch good movies, and once in a while have great conversations. All those things are very recharging for me.
What advice would you give to other aspiring creatives looking for work?
The advise I would give is to focus on the work. If the work is good, then the clients will come. Artists quite often get used to their own work, and it's hard to gauge whether it's still "good" or not. The reaction that I resort to is whether I get excited by my own artwork or not. If it still excites me, then that means that I am meeting my own standards.
But I would also advise to try to exceed one's own standards, and I strive to do this with every project. The lack of improvement is a motivation killer, I think. No matter how great the art, once it begins to plateau, it begins to feel stagnant. Perhaps the artist him/herself begins to lose the excitement over their own work. And I think the best way to keep that excitement going is to keep striving for improvement. So keep learning, stay up to date with great artists, see what they're doing and how, watch great tutorials, and try something new in every drawing. That will keep things exciting and moving forward.
What’s your one big hope for the future of the creative industries?
My one big hope for the creative industries is that they will prioritize soul over money, and elevation over entertainment. We all need to make money, but it would be nice to live in a world where art is not a means to money, but rather a means to itself, which in the process makes money. I don't know if it's even possible to create anything great for the purpose of it making money. Usually, something great was created either for the purpose of creating it in its best form, or for it servicing a greater means, like the evolution of humanity.
So my hope is that the large gatekeepers of art, mainly in in entertainment and advertising, will allow the artists to create more for artistic expression rather than business. I think we will see a rapid shift in consciousness when that is allowed to happen.