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My interview with DecalGirl

{28 April 2012}

I have been interviewed by DecalGirl! You can read and comment it below or on Decalgirl's Facebook page.

How did you discover that you had talent as an artist?

Thanks for believing I have talent! :-) I tend to think otherwise, honestly speaking. I developed excellent skills pretending I have artistic talent and making other people believe it (pssst, don’t tell anyone!). There are so many people that draw so much better than me, it makes me sad sometimes! But there is positive side in it - I have plenty of room for improvement and professional growth.

Before I forgot to actually answer your question :-) Since I can remember, I have been drawing doodles in my school notebooks, like this:

However I did not want to become an artist at all. I was seriously going to become a rock musician (played guitar and piano, sang as well). And my higher education is.. international economics! I never spent a minute learning art, and I am not really sure it was good for me, but well, that’s how it happened.

Immediately after entering the university I realized economics is boring. So my brother (one of the first russian independent software developers) helped me learn Photoshop and kept me busy drawing graphics for software - icons, “skins”, etc.

It was definitely not as boring as economics :-) But as I spent more time discovering Photoshop, I did more and more pics just for fun. At first, they were really awful:

But I think I can safely say I learned a lot since that. Fast-forward to today - I make my living selling “accounts” on my website that give you access to my entire wallpaper collection (though it is actually more like a donation, you can get all wallpapers for free, just in fewer sizes). Never thought it would be possible!

How did you start working with DecalGirl?

Let me see… Our first email conversation with Amanda Peters started in November 2009. (Oh! I just found that Ryan from Decalgirl purchased Vladstudio account back in 2008! I appreciate it :-) She invited me to sell my artworks with Decalgirl, and we worked together to prepare the images for print.

However, I did not really have high hopes. I have been selling some merchandise with Zazzle.com for several years already, and my experience with them clearly shows that to make reasonable profits you have to spend a lot of energy promoting your stuff. And I am really bad at it - I love drawing things, but I really prefer them to sell themselves :-) I just kept Zazzle shop online because it was easy to do.

So I was amused, to say the least, when for a couple of times, my monthly revenue from Decalgirl sales surpassed my Vladstudio accounts sales! I do not know how you do it, but please do not stop :-)

Your work is so eclectic, and yet each piece has your mark on it. How would you define your style that is in each piece, no matter what the subject is?

Most artist, I guess, learn to draw first, and then get to know computers, more or less. I made my way to drawing “the wrong lane” - I started by working with highly “technical” graphics - icons, technical illustrations, website designs. I also worked as a web developer - so I can speak html, javascript, php, mysql, and even bash sometimes. As an example, I designed and developed my own website, www.vladstudio.com, myself entirely from scratch.

I guess my present style clearly shows the influence of icon design. I prefer clear lines and colors, I keep all shapes in separate Photoshop layers, most colors are separate from shapes, and effects, like shadows and textures, are separate too.

In fact, many of my wallpaper have a character that can be “extracted” and used as icon.

Also, I never liked drawing with actual brush and paints. My only “offline” tool is gel pen or pencil.

Another thing that defines my drawing style is the fact that I publish my pictures as wallpapers for computers and mobile phones. It has some limitations - wallpaper should be dark, not too busy, have some space for icons. I break these rules sometimes, of course.

You do a lot of work with wallpapers for electronic devices. How did you get into doing that?

Because I wanted to become popular and rich, of course :-) Seriously speaking, I never thought it would become the way to make a living.

At first, all I got was a humble homepage with a bunch of pictures. But it was clear that internet is full of interesting pictures, and all you can hope for is that people open your website and look at it. I wanted them to actually use my pictures, not just look and go elsewhere. So I published my first wallpapers, as an experiment. I hosted at my brother’s website, Softshape.com, and was called SoftshapeArt:

Awww, nostalgia! Can you smell year 2000 from this screenshot?

As time went by, I received more visits, moved to my current name - Vladstudio.com - and decided to try and sell subscriptions. My source of inspiration was Ryan Bliss from http://www.digitalblasphemy.com/ - and by the way he is too at DecalGirl! I thought, if he is the only person on Earth to make his living selling wallpaper, why would I not become the second!

The idea was not immediate success, however I am quite happy with how it turned out. From technical point of view, I made several serious changes in my collection couple of times. Most recently, I scaled my entire library of artworks up to 8000x5000 pixels (except very old ones - still working on them), so I am prepared for any future crazy monitors Apple and others will do :-) And with all different sizes and proportions, each Vladstudio wallpaper now includes more than 330 JPG files.

You lived through a very turbulent time in Russian history: the final years of the Soviet Union, all the way into the modern Russian Federation. Do you feel being a part of such historic events affect your art?

Not really - I was young when USSR fell apart, and I am still very far away from anything political.

However, despite all the problems around, I am happy to live in society not as closed as USSR was. And without Internet growth, what I do not would not be possible.

We noticed on your site that you are also a musician, and have worked on photography projects. (LOVE those Siberian houses, by the way!) Are there any new media in which you’re looking to try out your artistic skills?

Thanks :-) What you did not know is that I also played in local theater! (Where I met my wife by the way).

I always wanted to try myself in publishing a book, and I did so recently, with “Who Stole The Moon?”.

It was, well, educating :-) I learned a lot, and if my second book ever happens, it will be even better!

Another media that keeps me really busy - e-books. This is a crazy mix of programming, drawing, animation, sounds, songs, lyrics, games, and more more more. After more than a year of hard work with an excellent team - Windy Press, we recently released “Who Stole The Moon?” for iPad:

As for more photography, sculpting, painting on canvas - I’m afraid life’s too short to try everything :-) I can still see the long way to go in the direction I am now.

Finally, a non-art related question. Suppose your friends at DecalGirl decide to come to Eastern Siberia to visit you. What would you show us around the area?

First of all, you’re very welcome! Siberia is the kind of place that “would be nice to visit some day but it’s too far and cold”. Well it is actually far far away and it can be definitely cold! For example, this picture was taken yesterday (yes, 23 April!).

(photo by http://www.photosight.ru/photos/4603389/)

Oh by the way, did you know Steve Jobs has been to Siberia!? Google for “Steve Jobs Siberia” if you don’t believe me :-)

Seriously speaking, our main treasure is lake Baikal, just 60 km from here, the deepest in the world. It is what attracts most tourists, and for a reason.

(photos from http://500px.com/search?q=baikal)

Irkutsk itself is nice historic city, with (as you can guess) many wooden houses from 19th century.

So just let me know when you come, and I’ll arrange everything!

Thanks for interviewing!

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