One-on-one with Nataša Ilinčić

Boneshaker Press has the pleasure to introduce you to Nataša Ilinčić, an artist from Scotland contributing to the third volume of Encounters with the Imaginary. Find out more about Nataša on her website !

What’s your background?

I was born in a small Croatian coastal town, but grew up at the foot of the Italian Alps.
My fingertips have been dirtied with graphite ever since I was old enough to hold a pencil. But graphite wasn’t the only kind of dirt on my hands: as a kid I spent a lot of my time in the underbrush, searching for wild berries (and wilder legendary spirits), befriending ancient trees and exploring ruins covered in moss and ivy – elements that unsurprisingly crept into my work and are still present today.
A few years later I fell in love with watercolor and found myself possessed by its quicksilver motions; how its patterns moved about the paper as if of their own accord.
I studied Archaeology in Padua and Cultural Anthropology at the University of Venice, graduating with honors with a thesis on traditional female Balkan tattooing.
My academic studies sharpened my perception of the world, as well as the aesthetic and symbolic aspects present in my works. I would say they are a founding element of who I am as an artist, as they shape the way I look at the world, which is also true of my spirituality.
Following my studies, I moved to Scotland to pursue a career in art and illustration.

The Lady of the Lake.

What got you interested in the arts to begin with?

It started at such a young age that I can’t really say with any certainty. Growing up, libraries were my second home – I’ve always been around books, and getting lost in their illustrations was one of my favorite pastimes.
My family and close friends noticed my inclination, and I quickly found myself unwrapping new paper pads and color sets every year on my birthday. I had passion, I had some basic materials – the rest came naturally.

When did you decide to dedicate yourself to art?

There was never a ‘decision’ as such, it happened naturally, almost organically. I’ve painted since I was a little girl. Around the age of 20, I decided that my illustrations didn’t have to stay locked in a drawer, so I started posting them online. The intention was simply to share them with others, but not long later clients started contacting me. So I started working casually as an illustrator between archaeological digs.
After finishing my studies I decided to start illustrating full-time. I finally had the chance to invest all my time in improving my skills and doing what I love the most!

Do you remember the first piece of art you made that you were really proud of? The one that made you say “yes I am an artist!”

Probably my “Yoni” piece. It was the first piece that got a really enthusiastic response from people, and made me think “Hey, I might actually be good at this!”

Yoni – In Hindu philosophy, yoni is the origin of life.

Do you collect anything?

Apart from books and plants, I often collect things found on my walks in nature. It’s not asystematic collection, more of a casual picking of natural oddities and little treasures: feathers, hagstones, shells, leaves. You could say I’m a bit of a magpie.

Do you enjoy collaboration work? What qualities do you look for in collaborators?

I do! It can be a wonderful experience, full of unexpected surprises. An open mind, a sharp critical eye, and flexibility are elements that can contribute a lot to a smooth and productive collaboration.

Do you ever feel like giving up and doing something else? If so, why and how have you overcome that feeling?

Luckily, I don’t – but before starting to work as an illustrator full time that was a very recurrent feeling, my hands were always itching to create.

How do you measure your level of success/achievement?

I try not to. I prefer focusing on improving my skills on a day to day basis.

Forest girl

What themes/ideas do you pursue?

I like delving into folklore and history to find inspiration for my pieces, and I love exploring the relationship between us and the wilderness. Much of my work is informed by old European folktales and spiritualities that are close to nature.

What is your dream project? If there were no time/money restrictions what would you create?

I would be doing exactly what I’m doing now – working on A Compendium of Witches – but probably stressing less about its deadlines and funding!

What advice would you have given yourself ten years ago?

Like in many other fields of work, learning the practical aspects of illustration can be
confusing and intimidating. When you don’t have anyone to turn to for advice you end up learning from your (countless) mistakes, and that’s what I did. I would tell myself, ‘don’t waste time on work that’s not worth it’ or ‘don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself when dealing with clients that don’t respect you.’
When talking with budding illustrators now I try to share as many tips and information I can – the better informed we all are, the better it is for the whole community and industry.

The Fates

Name three artists you’d like to be compared to.

Aiming really high here: Alan Lee, Brian Froud, Arthur Rackham.

What is the most vital/indispensable tool in your studio?

My planner. I’m always juggling more than one project, and having a clear weekly schedule written down keeps me focused and highlights my priorities.

What are you working on right now? What are you currently obsessed with?

I’m currently working on my first big personal project, A Compendium of Witches. It’s an illustrated book featuring portraits and personal stories of 29 witches from across the world and in various carefully researched historical settings, ranging from the Paleolithic to the present.

Kadiatou – A Compendium of Witches

Would you eat the moon if it were made of spare ribs?

Trading moonlit nights for indigestion sounds tempting, but I’m afraid I’d have to pass.

Back the book on Kickstarter

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