The first time I saw Yelena’s work it felt intimately familiar, like the stuff you remember seeing in your head as a kid reading fairytales, or as a teenager reading Bulgakov. The connection to Russian folk tales is not surprising given Yelena’s early childhood in St. Petersburg. “I visit Russia often” she says, “it’s a place that will always be a beautiful, painful, and complex part of who I am, but I believe that if we stayed I would never have discovered, let alone explored, my potential as an artist and even as a person.” Her work is dreamy, nostalgic and completely fantasy inducing (and my new cure for writer’s block). We decided to give you a peek at her journey as an artist, and it looks like we caught her at the brink of a great adventure and next big step in her career.
Lone Wolf: What shaped your style?
Yelena B: I credit Ivan Bilibin, Leon Bakst, Gustav Klimt, and J.W. Waterhouse as my biggest influences. But my aesthetic is also shaped by the books I read, the music I listen to, the places I have traveled or dream of traveling to. I’m dedicated to “collecting” beautiful places and ideas that come out in my drawings eventually. It is also important to me that I work almost completely by hand. As frustrating as they may be sometimes, I suppose the imperfections that result characterize my style as well.
LW: We couldn’t agree more. In a world riddled with auto-tune, auto-correct and auto-friendships, something hand-made and, well, imperfect has an irresistible charm. How did you decide to be an illustrator?
YB: When I came to art school to study graphic design (a completely arbitrary and unfounded choice of major), I found out about illustration, pursued it without a doubt, and never strayed from that decision. I was lucky in the sense that I found what made sense for me early on and without much meandering.
LW: So what’s next?
YB: I just had my last day at my part-time job; in three days I’m moving to New York, where I will attempt to illustrate full-time, at least for a while. I feel now more than ever that I really want to do this, and to do it well.
Be sure to check out the rest of Yelena’s beautiful work on her website: www.yelenabryksenkova.com