Victoria Semykina is a Russian freelance fine artist and illustrator, who lives in Bologna in the North of Italy for the last eight years. She loves this town with it’s extremely vivid and inspiring place full of exhibitions and festival of any kind. What she love most is experimenting with different techniques - making illustrated books, paintings and paper installations. Victoria often use collage, printmaking and acrilyc painting, although she usually work in digital for editorial illustration. For her personal projects she enjoy making paper and wooden installations, using all sorts of vintage garbage.

What empowers you and gives you energy in your work? Where do you find inspiration?

Oh, inspiration is everywhere – I love traveling a lot, see people, architecture, rare medieval frescoes, exhibitions of contemporary art, local spontaneous markets, recent or very old movies… I guess It’s very important not to limit yourself in the field of illustration and to look around  with eyes wide open.




Do you have time for personal projects?

It’s hard to believe, but I spend about 80% of my time on personal projects and only about 20% for commissioned illustations. When I started working as an illustrator, it was the opposite. I remember that at some point I felt so burnt out that I decided to decline the most of my orders and dedicate my time for the personal projects. Honestly, I’m dreaming to work on my books and personal projects only in the future.

What is the last thing you're working on?

Now I’m working on an illustrated book about Francois Truffaut – a French film director who made absolutely genious films. I have to admit that it’s the most difficult illustrated book I’ve ever made. It should be exiting for kids and involving for their parents, apparently film lovers. However, I’m not afraid of challenging progects!


What type of traveller are you?

For me the best way to travel is to rent a flat for a month or two and to dive deeply in a local life. I really enjoy to study local traditions, food, art…everything! Fortunatelly, my work permit me to stay as long as I want while travelling. For example, I’m now in the South of Italy in Puglia. I’ve just been to Matera and Ostuni - absolutely amasing ancient towns. I’d love to come back next year to stay there for a couple of weeks and to draw much more then I did this time. By the way, the food in this region is just the best I’ve ever tried in Italy!




The things that you always carry with you on a trip?

I never go out without a sketchbook. In a trip I usually take 2-3 sketchbooks with me and a lot of pencils, brushpens, pastels. It’s fun to look through your old sketchbooks and to remember all the details of your past trip. Sometimes you can recall even sounds or smells of the travel you made 10 years ago – it’s incredible...


What are your tricks to catch the spirit of one place and of the people living in it in your illustrations?

I guess I’m trying to imagine that I was living in that place for a long time and now I just come back to see my friends. I also try to find as many pictures as possible to dive completely in the atmosphere of this place.




Which are the places you love to come back to?

I really love to come back to Moscow, especially in winter. You won’t believe, but I miss the snow a lot, as we rarely have snowing wether here in Italy. I used to celebrate Xmas with a huge christmas tree and see falling snow outside the window.


What do you usually carry in the basket of your bike?

The content of my basket is always surprising for me and my bike. It can be anything from huge blooming cactus found at the dump or an old suitecase full of treasuries searched out in a fleamarket.




Which one is your most unusual discovery?

I discovered recently that if you wake up and go out at 6am, you can see Venice completely out of tourists! At 5am is event better. I try to use this tip in my trips, although it’s very difficult for me to wake up so early.


What is sea for you? Can you describe your first memory form the sea?

I was born in Russia, Moscow - a very nice city with extremely long and cold winters. We used to say that we have 3 months of summer, and all the rest is winter.

The first time my parents took me to the sea I was about five, and I was simply shocked – I had never seen the sea before! I remember the blazing sun and golden sand, the jellyfish and the salty taste of the water -It was like a dream. I remember that I found a big shell and I brought it to Moscow. When it was very cold outside I put it to my ear and listened to the sea and imagined floating ships.

When I studied painting, I was always looking back to the theme of the sea and very far towns where people lived close to the sea and had never seen snow.

That's how my passion for the sea was born – every time I draw the sea or ships – it's like I go back to my childhood.



Which are the books of your childhood and the illustrations from them you still remember and probably would never forget?

It’s pretty fun that the favorite books from my childhood were actually professionally made books. Not just cute and funny, but very well drawn books. This proves that kids understand art much better then their parents expect from them.

I absolutely adore Lev Tokmakov  - his best books were published in the 60s – 80s in the USSR. I think that he’s probably my favorite Russian illustrator from this period. I was hipnotized by his magic personages and his unique stile.



Where do you dream your boat of imagination would take you to?

There is a secret place where I like to go time to time, while I’m dreaming. It’s an old abandoned library full of strange illustrated books. I often take some books with me, hoping they won’t disappeare when I wake up. But they always do. So, the only way to add these books to my bookshelf is to draw them by myself.


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