Artist Interview: Catching Up with Alena Tkach

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Alena Tkach is the creator of "Pinkerton: Little Big Adventure," a 20-card series on NeonMob that follows a lost cat on his journey through the woods to find his way back home. I got in touch with her to find out more about who she is and what she's up to.

Tell us a little bit about yourself. How old are you? Where do you live and what do you do for a living?

Hi :) I am 27 years old freelance illustrator. I live in Kharkiv, Ukraine. It is an educational and industrial center of my country. Most of the time I illustrate children's books, games, and apps. I also do animations and graphic design. I graduated from Kharkiv State Academy of Design and Arts. I also studied biology, but I like drawing more. I had a dream about becoming a children’s illustrator and that’s what I do now, so I am lucky and completely happy with my work. I love nature and animals. I'm crazy about traveling, taking pictures with a film camera, doing yoga. 

What inspired "Pinkerton?" Do you have cats of your own?

I love cats and I am sure that most of people love them too. I have a cat named Lisa who is so playful and a great thief of various small things. I also used to collect photos of uncommon animals hugging or carrying cats. I love nature, the woods, mountains, undiscovered and secret places, so that’s where my idea comes from. Pinkerton is a small cat, who is exploring the world and is surprised by most things. This feature of his and his big round eyes made my friend invent a special verb "to pinkertone," which he uses when somebody gawps.

I see a Miyazaki/Japanese-anime influence in your style. Would you say you were influenced by a certain aesthetic? How would you describe your style?

I work in  several digital styles, mostly to create kind and cute works of art. The style of the "Pinkerton" collection was an experimental one for me, an attempt to try something new. And it’s true that Japanese anime aesthetic has influenced my art as I like anime very much and I used to watch a lot of it, sometimes spending a whole day long watching a series up to the end. I like the way they feature characters, motion, emotions.

What was your process in creating this series for NeonMob? It looks like you hand drew the images and then colored them digitally?

Yes, that’s right. I like to combine techniques and to draw by hand every time I can, but I finalize in digital.

What other artists or creatives inspire you?

I love works of contemporary illustrators: Emilia Dziubak, Polina Tsareva, Lisk Feng, Chuck GroeninkOlivia Huynh, Karolis Strautniekas, Amélie Fléchais, and Oren Haskins. In some way they influence my style and feelings of actual art. 

What's it like being an artist in the Ukraine? Is there a big artist community where you live?

It’s not easy, mostly because the Ukrainian art market is small, so freelance commissions help a lot. I think that there is a pretty big artist community in Kharkiv because there are many places where artists study and later many of them stay here. So we have all kind of art represented here – sculpture, street art, paintings, photography, performances, installations, motion art, illustrations, design, and 3D graphics.

What are you working on right now that you're excited about?

I am illustrating two children’s books – a Ukrainian educational book for small kids and another book for American kids of different ages. I'm also creating an animated movie clip.

What are some of your favorite projects that you've worked on?

One of the most exciting projects was illustrating and designing the children’s book Computer Mouse is Bragging. This was my first big project, with 30 illustrations needed. Each page is dedicated to a different character and story as this book contains short fun poems. The book is coming out soon. Another great project was Behance Japan. I was asked to take part in a social project competition called "Cut out the Darkness," that was put on by Panasonic. I created illustration design for a lantern (a black and white image which would be lighted from the inside). These solar lanterns were given to people in Indonesia, as there still are villages without electricity there. I was lucky to win fourth place and a prize for best social contribution. But more important for me is to know that my lantern will light up someone’s house at the other end of the world. That’s an awesome feeling.

Interview edited for clarity by Sarah Han