Interview with illustrator Andrea Popyordanova

Based in both Scotland and Bulgaria, Andrea Popyordanova is an illustrator who loves to tell stories in her work. She aims to communicate ideas, but also to improvise and just draw what is around her. Her creative style is experimental and explorative, working in a range of mediums, from drawing to collage, from printmaking to photography. She has created work for Pitchfork, Asymptote Magazine and Revue XXI, among other clients, and also created the art books ‘Leap Year’ and ‘Light Is Like Water.’ We caught up with Andrea to discuss what inspires her, her favourite medium and her current projects.

What made you want to create and become an artist?

When I was younger I was really into science, biology, and I loved looking at encyclopaedias and wanted to become a marine explorer. That’s when I started drawing as well; underwater was my favourite theme. I was reading about marine life, watching documentaries and looking through photos and books, and then reproducing them in my own images. Now I am recording my real environment: flea markets, cities, walks, beaches – anything. Drawing has remained my way to document and to visualise what I imagine or think about, better than any other medium.

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Where do you look for inspiration, and who or what inspires you?

One of my biggest inspirations are people; those around me, my friends, “my” strangers from the places I visit frequently or randomly met in the street. It’s their stories and characters that feed a lot into my way of making and spark ideas. It could be the stories of buildings or hills, anything could speak, and it depends what I am surrounded with. In terms of my influence from visual arts, I’ve always looked more at the work of photographers and filmmakers than illustrators. I love Lucien Hervé’s compositions, sharp diagonals, shadows, and concrete. In painting, I like things like good colour palettes, or humour. My favourite is probably Rousseau, with his Jungles in Paris. He never saw a real jungle, but is most famous with this series of paintings.

How would you describe your work and artistic style?

I would describe my work as quite intuitively drawn, but then with carefully placed elements, and a lot of symbols. I really try to convey everything I think about through my choices, quite subtly.

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From the series ‘Collage and play’.

You work in a range of art forms, from printmaking to illustration – do you have a favourite medium?

My favourite medium is actually drawing. I love reproducing the spirit of a place, or of a person, with lines and colour, without over complicating the image. I think these are often the strongest images I make – less is more. I’ve recently come to love overworking the image, by transforming it through printmaking or digital processes, but trying to keep that effortlessness of the quick hand-drawn marks.

What’s your creative process?

My process is like a domino – I push one of the elements, and it triggers the rest of them. I think of one really strong idea about the image at first, and after I start making, things become clearer.

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Images from the collaborative book with Mila Yaneva and Viktoriya Staykova, from CHARK collective, inspired by the events happening in a leap year.

What do you want to explore or convey in your art?

My work so far has been about things that deeply impress me. There are many words and sights I’ve noticed, read, or heard which I have wanted to record and show to others, as a way to be more open to what happens around us. Maybe because of reading a lot of magic realism, I’ve always wanted to convey little details about people’s behaviour, and the way things align in space and time so they form a picture, unique and only happening once. Good storytelling about reality can be fascinating and can inspire people to notice more.

Do you have a favourite piece you’ve created?

I have a favourite piece because it is based on a favourite moment. It was a walk in a park during the night, after a summer storm, when I came by a pond full of singing frogs. It was quite unusual.

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What are you currently working on?

At the moment I am doing a lot of work for friends, like logos, even though my imagery is far from being simple and conveying messages clearly. I find this is really good for me, as it makes me think a lot about communication and the right choices of color and symbols. It also makes me look at typography, and it develops skills that give me ideas for my illustrations and books. I am also working on some editorials, and I will be sharing this work soon. I love such briefs, because I learn about contemporary issues and think of how to best convey them, which is almost like me becoming a platform for sharing information; very responsible, and very creative.

What’s your advice for aspiring artists, illustrators and image-makers?

My advice is to initiate your own projects that you enjoy doing, because that’s the most important, to love what we are doing. Everything else gets sorted out on its own. I’d also say – keep on asking for work and getting involved with everyone possible, the more varied the better, that’s the way to get noticed! And that’s the way sometimes to get the most interesting projects – and the least expected.

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‘Iceland’, gouache drawing based on a journey to Iceland.

Do you have a dream project?

I’ve come to realise that the potential of illustration is huge – the last projects I’ve been involved with touched really different spheres of knowledge and culture. Luckily illustration is used everywhere, from posters to packaging to animation. I think what I’d love the most is to become involved with a motion project. I love animation, but I’ve never had time to properly work on one and focus on how it looks, instead of how it moves. I recently came upon a collaboration between a Bulgarian animation collective called Compote Collective, several illustrators and the same number of poets, who all together make motion work out of poetry. Such beautiful results, bringing poetry to a new level! I’d love to take part in something like that. I’d also love to create an illustrated educational book, a bit like those encyclopaedias I loved, but on a more contemporary theme.

View more of Andrea’s work at andreapopyordanova.com.