Create and achieve success: a conversation with illustrator Sofia Kolovskaya

Create and achieve success: a conversation with illustrator Sofia Kolovskaya

Create and achieve success: a conversation with illustrator Sofia Kolovskaya


  • One day one sketch

  • On two continents

  • Carry knowledge and love

  • Projects and Collaborations

  • Sofia’s tips for anyone who wants to paint

Almost each of us keeps in our hearts the dream of a favorite business, which we would like to clothe into a profession. But what exactly needs to be done to achieve the desired goals? Where to go to study, how to practice, what is worth remembering? Hodeys spoke with St. Petersburg illustrator Sofia Kolovskaya about foreign education, experience gained and the most important points for any creator.

One day one sketch

Sofia started painting as a child. The girl recalls that her mother still has one of her first drawings – a colored horse, which the young artist drew at the age of four. At the same time, Sofia did not have the goal of being an illustrator; moreover, she did not have a secondary art education. According to the girl, she always drew, but she did not go to art school, but studied to become a graphic designer at St. Petersburg State University.

In 2014, after completing her bachelor’s degree, Sofia enters the master’s program at the same university and enrolls in summer drawing courses. “There, every two days a class was taught by a new teacher,” she recalls. – I asked everyone what you need to do to become an illustrator. And almost all of them said: “Well, you have to draw.” Then I decided that I would paint every day. I thought that drawing is a language, just a visual one, and the best way to learn any language is to learn it every day. But I knew that if I just promise myself to do it, I will quickly give up. Therefore, I created a public Vkontakte, where I invited my friends and publicly promised to paint every day. “

This is how the project “One day one sketch” appeared, which still exists today. The public page already has more than 30 thousand subscribers, and Sofia still draws every day for almost six years in a row.

On two continents

When Sofia was just starting to study, she had no idea that her “academic path” would drag on for almost 10 years. During this time, the girl managed to study at three universities on two continents. She graduated from St. Petersburg State University in the field of “Graphic design” (bachelor’s and master’s degrees), Aalto University in Helsinki (Visual communication design, direction Visual narrative), and also studied for six months on exchange at the Rhode Island School of Design in the United States. In addition, Sofia took the Pattern Lab additional education program, where she learned how to make patterns and learned a lot about textile design.

However, Sofia finds it difficult to single out any of the received formations as the “best”. “There is no education that would be unambiguously the best in everything,” says the illustrator. – Education in each country is very different. I see a lot of advantages in Russian: for example, extremely deep knowledge and a wide range of what is taught. I knew more about art history and understood more teacher references than any of my European classmates. European education made you look at familiar things in a new way: you can choose subjects for study, learn to debate competently and appreciate even those things that may not be very clear at first. American University showed me how important support is in what you do, and how true professionals work. All this was necessary in its own way and great. “

Carry knowledge and love

Sofia managed to visit both in the role of a student and in the role of a teacher (and both roles are still relevant for her). Until 2019, the girl periodically led small master classes, lectured and worked as a private teacher. And in 2019, the Controforma school invited her to become the author of the first offsite illustration course in Florence. Sofia wrote the program, developed the assignments and, to her pleasant amazement, everything worked like a clock, and the course was 100% successful. Since then, she has started to conduct intensives in illustration, both with the school and on her own.

“I recently decided on my first online product and did a daily drawing marathon,” says Sofia. – The next such marathon will be at the end of July. And on June 9, a new offline course was launched: we meet with students twice a week in the evenings, and on weekends we plan to work longer. ”

Sofia is sure that the fact that she studied a lot herself and watched those who teach helped her to shape her approach and style of teaching. Now the girl knows that she can bring knowledge and love to the masses, which she does in her courses.

“To be a good teacher, you need to be able to structure your knowledge, convey it in an understandable form, but the most important thing is to love students and what you do. My classes are primarily about love and acceptance: I praise everyone, teach them to see the good in my own and others’ works, try to inspire new achievements. My former students paint with might and main: someone entered the creative profession during this time, someone began to receive the first orders, someone just made drawing a regular practice. I often get feedback that my courses help people to believe in themselves and start drawing more, taking illustration seriously. And that’s what makes my life happier. “

Projects and Collaborations

During the years that Sofia has been working as an illustrator, she managed to make many independent projects and participate in collaborations with various companies. For example, in collaboration with the Subscription Editions bookstore, the girl made notebooks, postcards and magnets on the theme of St. Petersburg. The publishing house “Mann, Ivanov and Ferber” published the book “Alice in the Camp of Sciences”: according to the plot, three scientists – a biologist, a mathematician and a physicist – explain the quotations from “Alice in Wonderland” from the point of view of science, and Sofia illustrated it all. A couple of years ago, she created a very personal comic strip called Little Mountain, and recently the second edition of the Petersburg Alphabet guide, created by the illustrator, was released. If you enumerate further, then the conversation runs the risk of dragging out a lot: after all, Sofia worked with musicians, and with representatives of the film industry, and with small companies, and even with one St. Petersburg theater.

Collaboration with The Calvert Journal

Among her most beloved recent projects, Sofia singles out illustrations for the London online magazine The Calvert Journal (the girl illustrated an article about Russian places in Paris); a non-commercial, but important for her comic about how important it is to stay at home; as well as the eight-meter painting in the St. Petersburg space Sevkabel Port, which she made together with her friend Theo a year ago.

The painting in the Sevkabel Port space, which Sofia did together with her friend Theo

Sofia’s tips for anyone who wants to paint

  1. Try to look wider: look, read, learn as much as possible, be interested in the history of art, science, cinema, literature. All this will help you in illustration, because the wider your horizons, the richer your creativity. It may seem that, for example, fiction or cinema has nothing to do with drawing. But there are many metaphors hidden in books that can be embodied visually, and cinema uses a visual language that is close to illustration. In addition, you can draw very different things – it’s not for nothing that there are so many directions in illustration: from children’s to scientific. The more you know, the easier it will be for you to fulfill a variety of orders.
  2. Remember that you always criticize yourself more than others criticize you. Imagine that what you tell yourself about your work, you are telling your friend about his creation. Would you say to him: “You are mediocrity!”, “You will not succeed”? Unlikely. In the case of yourself, the same rule applies: do not allow yourself to communicate and treat yourself like that. We always criticize and scold ourselves 10 times more than those around us; we are much more likely to see negative aspects of our work, rather than good moments. That is why in my courses I praise students and also teach them to praise each other. Try to be kinder to yourself and scold yourself less.
  3. Don’t take what you do too seriously. At first, it is very difficult and can be tortured in pursuit of an ideal (which does not exist). I have a favorite comparison: drawing is like trying new food. You may not like what you have tasted, but you are unlikely to cry over a tasteless dish. So it is with what you do. Have you tried something and it didn’t work out? Rip / delete everything and start over. An illustration is a mix of your soul, brains, and skills. In order to develop the latter, you only need to practice. Try to paint regularly and have fun with it. You won’t even notice how you become a cool illustrator over time.
  4. Especially for Hodeys, Sofia compiled a personal top 5 favorite museums, where, in her opinion, you definitely need to go to see the work of artists, illustrators, sculptors and everyone, everyone, everyone:
  • Hermitage, St. Petersburg;
  • The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York;
  • Neues Museum, Berlin;
  • Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence;
  • Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.

Now you know where to go hunting for inspiration if you find yourself in one of the above corners of the planet. And perhaps the most important thing to add is don’t be afraid to create. There are many talents hidden in each of us; it’s time to wake them up!

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About Leona Smith 115 Articles
Hello! My name is Silke and this is my travel blog. I want to show you fascinating places off the beaten track, give you a gentle introduction to history and culture, and help you get around Berlin. After 13 years in Sydney and Andalusia, I now live in Berlin, Germany. I am a travel writer, translator and book author. Read more about me here.

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