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Iga Oliwiak: Freelance Illustrator

Iga Oliwiak

Freelance 2D Artist

Freelance illustrator Iga Oliwiak talks about her love of nature and tribal cultures, how quitting her studio job to pursue freelancing was essential and why you should get out of your comfort zone…

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3dtotal

Tell us a little bit about yourself: Who are you, what do you do, and where are you located?

Iga

I am a digital and traditional painter/illustrator living in Berlin. Currently I am at a pretty life changing moment, as I decided to quit my full-time job at a studio and try a freelance career. I focus on digital illustration and characters but apart from that I love plein air painting, especially spontaneous gouache sketches - creating a ‘visual diary’ of the places I’ve visited. Recently I’m also very interested in researching various cultures, especially the tribes of Africa and Oceania.

3dtotal

Who are your favorite artists, traditional or digital, and can you explain why?

Iga

There are just so many artists I admire! From masters from the past like William-Adolphe Bouguereau, John Singer Sargent, J.C. Leyendecker to contemporary ones like Richard Schmid, Roberto Ferri or Jeremy Lipking. Digital illustration is a whole different topic, there are too many I can even think of, but I would definitely mention here Cynthia Sheppard, Karla Ortiz, Piotr Jabłoński and Sergey Kolesov. What they all have in common is a great ability to depict realism. I couldn't forget to mention here also Nathan Fowkes who was always my biggest inspiration for landscape sketches and I probably wouldn't even have started if it wasn't for him.

3dtotal

Much of your art is focused on tribal people, landscapes and nature; what is that inspires you about those subjects in particular?

Iga

Nature and landscapes were always a very dear subject to me; I don’t know the exact reason. Maybe it’s that I spent a lot of my childhood playing outside, in the garden or catching frogs by the lake, feeding ducks and cycling through the plains at the countryside. The tribal people on the other hand, are the subject that I got very interested pretty much recently. When I started researching it was like a whole new world is opening to me - something that I didn’t learn at school, people that I’ve never seen around me. So I became very fascinated and I just want to know more and more.

Swala with cattle

3dtotal

How do you get into the “creative zone?” Do you prefer a particular place or time of day?

Iga

There is no particular place or time for me to create stuff. I can be inspired either by the view; specific lighting or color situation for landscape sketch, but what is particularly effective for me is travelling and knowing that I probably won't go back to that same place very soon. I think time limitation was always very challenging factor. Working full time I didn't have very much time to create my personal work, so I tried to use as much free time as possible; for example, using my lunch break or staying in the studio after work.

3dtotal

Which piece of work are you most proud of? Why?

Iga

There is no particular work I would be proud of as I'm never fully satisfied with any and always hoping that what I will do next will be better. But I can say I'm definitely proud of my traditional landscapes sketchbooks/diaries and that I've been able to keep doing it consistently for almost five years now, having at least this one sketch from every trip or new place I visited.

3dtotal

What software, tools and techniques do you use, either for work or personal projects?

Iga

For traditional stuff I use mostly watercolor with gouache, occasionally using oil paint as well and I will probably be doing more of them now since I'll have more time at home. For digital works I think I have the most common setup digital artist can have so Photoshop on Wacom tablet.

3dtotal

Do you think that it’s important to get out of your creative comfort zone? If so, what do you do to achieve that?

Iga

I do think that, yes! It's also important to have one, in the first place. For a very long time my 'comfort zone' were studies of any kind, but I was very limited in creating my personal work. Now that I found my point of interest, I started to have way more fun doing my own stuff. I constantly try new ways and new ways to approach work; a comfort zone doesn’t only mean the topic but also technique and execution, so I can try completely new stuff without changing my main point of interest. Let’s say for now I wouldn’t touch sci-fi and industrial design, but I definitely see myself painting more animals and creatures!

3dtotal

If you had no limit on time or resources, what project would you most like to work on?

Iga

I think that would be pretty much the same as what I do in my free time now - so all the plein air painting, researching on cultures and African Fantasy stuff. But I would add way more travelling to that, so I can paint the whole word and see the cultures in real life. I probably couldn’t do only one project since I like the variety and might get bored if I do one thing for too long! That’s probably one of the reasons I quit studio job to try out various different stuff.

3dtotal

What can we expect to see from you next?

Iga

I have so many ideas! I will definitely focus on the African Fantasy project I've been working on already, but also planning to do more traditional stuff, not only plein air paintings and landscapes but try to transfer my character work into traditional media as well. Since I also love to share what I know, I would like to run a series of tutorials and tips, be that through on YouTube, Gumroad or Patreon, I will figure that out soon.

landscape sketches

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