Aleksandra Bokova's quirky digital illustrations challenge ideas of femininity and insecurity
It's been a busy year for Rotterdam-based artist Aleksandra Bokova. Following the release of her latest short animation, The Caterpillar Girl, she's been working with new clients and developing meaningful personal projects.
The reason for her rising star is easy to see. Aleksandra's beautiful digital art still is infused with an inherent quirkiness that makes it instantly engaging. In the wake of The Caterpillar Girl, which was released in February, she's been working on an array of projects for studio Yukiko and Refinery29.
This helped to kickstart her freelance career, but Aleksandra isn't one to rest on their laurels. She works on personal projects in her spare time, including this series of illustrations which "challenge the idea of femininity and insecurity."
If you're already familiar with Aleksandra's work, these images will feel like a logical evolution of her artistic approach. Female characters are always at the core of her illustrations, especially those who are "frozen" in a moment of doing something funny or ridiculous. In the case of these images, that includes begging someone to call them or revealing that they have a broken heart.
What saves these images from becoming too depressing, though, is Aleksandra's larger-than-life art style. These are not ordinary women or girls you'll run into in everyday life, after all. "They are quirky, and their bodies are exaggerated," she tells Creative Boom. "They usually exist in environments that are a bit ugly, like a market, a diner, a swimming pool, or a messy room."
While considered everyday, these environments are packed with meaning for Aleksandra. "I like to process those environments and objects through a magical and nostalgic lens. Sometimes I like to play with additional short text or phrases that give a comical effect to the situations I am illustrating."
And even though she likes to have fun with her characters, Aleksandra is never cruel to them. "I like my characters to be empowering and free, even though they are seemingly underprivileged and go to the market to buy their groceries. They seem uninvolved and a bit emotionally suppressed."
Primarily working with digital sculpting tools, Aleksandra has started branching out and working with VR. It's a curious approach considering her influences are based in the real world. "I find my inspiration in observing people around me, in tiny pieces of random thoughts that I have throughout the day, or in my memories," she reveals.
Beneath all this apparent whimsy and quirkiness, though, is a more harrowing background. "Growing up, I lived in Belarus under a misogynistic dictatorship," Aleksandra explains.
"When I later moved to the Netherlands, I struggled with being a relatively poor immigrant and found the process of making empowering and free characters to be both a rejuvenating and inspiring tool for recovering from past traumatic experiences.
"I want to keep sharing characters who manage to find confidence and pleasure in their environments while celebrating their different styles and bodies."
And with the promise of another short animation film in the works, perhaps this isn't the last we've seen of these quirky, exaggerated characters as they attempt to navigate the ugly world around them.