in VISUAL ARTISTS
"I get restless very easy, so drawing the same thing for more than a week is a bit of a challenge for me."
Tell us a little about you and your work.
I'm Esra, and I work as a freelance illustrator, based out of Oslo, Norway. I mostly work with pencil, ink, and watercolor. I create feminine realistic portraiture.
Are you actively involved in the art community?
Oslo is pretty small. It's very much as "everyone knows everyone" kind of place. In Norway, I am represented by ByHands Illustration Agency, which provides a great sense of community in what might normally be a quite isolating job (I freelance from my home office, I don’t really have any colleagues). I feel like illustration and design scene drastically expanded during the past few years. I see a lot of new agencies and artists popping up everywhere, which is always inspiring.
Are most of your commissions based on your favorite subjects?
My favorite subject to draw is probably people. Faces, body parts, hair, and features. I often find that the gangly and odd subjects are more inspiring. I am very fortunate to have a lot of clients who book me for my personal style, so I am hired to do what I love to do.
Do you illustrate full-time? What are your other interests?
The illustration is my actual full-time job, and it's my only source of income. Of course, an illustration takes up a great deal of time. I am also very much into music, and when I am not drawing, I love to go to concerts and check out new bands. I also love traveling, seeing art shows or just hanging out with my friends. I recently picked up tattooing as well, and I love practicing it on assorted fruits (and friends).
What’s your medium of choice?
Pencil, ink, and watercolor are my absolute favorite ones, but I also really enjoy the possibilities that mixed media (like a collage or digital embellishing) offers and the juxtaposition of something handmade mixed with something digital.
Could you talk a bit about the process of launching your illustration career?
It has been a slow and steady road, I guess. It sounds corny, but I always knew that I wanted to work as an illustrator, therefore, all the choices I made professionally were directed towards my drawing career.
Gradually, I started getting more and more work after I’ve done a few big magazine jobs in 2007, so I finally got the courage to quit my day job at the skateboard shop to pursue illustration full-time. There were quite a few of sleepless nights when I was wondering what the hell am I doing by choosing this type of career. Haha. It wasn't an easy path, but it definitely worth it. It has been such an amazing experience so far, I honestly feel incredibly lucky that I get to do this job full-time.
What is your typical work process?
It really depends if I am working for a client or myself. If it is a commission, it is almost exclusively brief and a deadline is involved, which indicates my direction and timeframe. I begin with sketching and then move to draw. Then, I may start adding some ink or watercolor before I scan the result to photoshop and play around with editing and do final tweaks there. vIf it's a personal project, I normally start off by doodling something that inspired me such as a movie, a person, a photograph, a song, a movement… It could be anything really…The sketch usually kind off just takes its own life. Haha. Or I can play around with different techniques that I want to try out... most of this type of work, being left unfinished, or placed aside for a week or two till I pick it up again. I get restless very easy, so drawing the same thing for more than a week is a bit of a challenge for me;).
Does environment concern you? How does it affect your work?
It's something that concerns me in my daily life. It seeps into my work every once in a while. Admittedly, it didn't affect much of my work yet it affects my thoughts.
Do you have a background in the fashion industry?
I have two years of formal training from the Einar Graum School of Art, and a bachelor in Visual Communication from the Academy of The Arts here in Norway, but I have been drawing since I was a little kid. I am personally passionate about fashion, so when I draw personal projects, I naturally gravitate towards fashion. Luckily my clients love it, so I get to do it professionally as well.
Does Instagram benefit your art?
I love how easily you can share in-progress work. It gives your viewers a more personal look inside your life. I do a lot of progress-images, and I often find that those shots can be just as inspiring and exciting than the final product. It also gives hands-on opportunity to expose your own work and it’s a great way of discovering other talented artists.
Name your top three influences.
It is impossible to just pick three, but these are some of my all-time favorites: Lucian Freud, Raymond Pettibon, Jenny Saville, Egon Schiele.