London-based Romanian illustrator Irina Șelaru has spent the last few years developing a bold, colourful style that prioritises simplicity. And besides helping her creatively, this process has also taught her valuable insights about herself.
Irina, who holds an MA degree in Illustration and Book Arts from the Anglia Ruskin University of Cambridge, has honed her unmistakable style through an extensive learning process. Studying graphic arts introduced her to almost every visual art-related discipline, including graphic design, printmaking, photography, and fine art.
"I always thought that widening your knowledge and not focusing only on one thing gives you a better understanding of your industry and helps you decide what your passion is," she tells Creative Boom.
"Now I know that illustration is my main focus, but having some knowledge in other areas was the missing piece whenever I want to experiment with something new. For example, I am now working on integrating typography with my illustrations, and having previous knowledge in composition, graphic design, and calligraphy helped me accomplish this faster."
This variety of skills and approaches means that Irina's style is constantly growing. However, if anything remains constant throughout this development, it's that she retains a love for "simplicity, gorgeous bold colours, and finding the perfect composition to balance them."
As well as being useful creatively, this growth has also taught her a lot about her own identity. "I believe that finding my style was not only about what I was creating but more about discovering who I was," she explains.
"Up until recently, there was a gap between my personality and the drawings I was creating. It felt off, and I couldn't find out why. It took a lot of time, research, experiments and personal challenges, but I am so glad I was brave enough to allow myself to grow and be happy with who I am."
Irina's decision to explore a simplistic style emerged from the critical experiences she encountered in a more academic environment, where everything out of the norm was shot down. "And I believed the same for a while, which is fine. But at some point, I just wanted to do something different. I needed the freedom to create whatever I wanted, be confident about it, and develop a style I could truly identify with. Simplicity captivated me a while ago, but change takes time."
Dabbling with multiple disciplines helped elevate Irina's art, and it also doesn't hurt her prospects regarding commissions. "If you can't find an illustration project, you can search for something in graphic design, animation, or anything else you could be a good fit for. Another advantage would be that it makes your portfolio look more diverse, which might be appealing in some cases.
"For me, it becomes draining to always focus on one thing. If I take some time to do something else and come back in an hour or two, I can see everything more clearly."
So what does the future hold for Irina? In the medium term, she wants to work on more advertising commissions, get her work seen by a wider audience, and see it used on packaging, murals and clothing. "Along the way, I would love to improve my animation skills," she adds.
"It is an area I have always been passionate about but never had enough time to practice. I am the kind of person who always wants to learn and gets excited about doing something new."
In the long term, though, she would love to create a community of professional artists who can help creatives at the beginning of their careers. "It could happen online to cover international talents or face-to-face within a creative space that could offer studios to artists who might need them. It would all be about bringing together a bunch of awkwardly creative people.
"Other than that, I am thinking of creating either a YouTube channel or a Patreon account with informative, illustration-related content. I am putting together all the information to bring this to life."