Sweet raven haired beauties and sylph-like figures stand against their surroundings in Yelena Bryksenkova's thoughtful illustrations, equally admiring the beauty of nature and the beauty of the man-made. Landscapes become pattern-filled as their textures rise to the surface, with each leaf and petal carefully drawn. Even an elephant's hide takes on extra pattern and form in her hands. A tidy serving of prints and decoration rendered in the finest detail are inspired by textiles, tiles and folk arts. This sea of intended and unintended repetition is tempered by thoughtful compositions with tattooed ladies, tea cakes and doilies, and the most seductive interiors - we want to own the rugs she illustrates, and the 'artwork' in her artwork.
LIFESTYLE ABOVE: Personal work
Judicious use of rich, sophisticated colors within neutral palettes bring the subjects into focus and tell the story, whether it's grounded in today, years long past, or the imagination. Each viewing reveals a detail previously unnoticed - a Beatles poster at the bedside, tiny terrariums, paper lanterns, and more than one toy elephant. A little bit folksy and a little bit whimsical, Yelena's illustrations leave you with a warm smile and a desire to see more.
WHIMSICAL TOP: Poster for Fogli Volanti (Italy); BOTTOM: Personal work
Yelena was born in St. Petersburg, Russia, but emigrated to the midwestern United States at the age of 8 and settled in Cleveland, Ohio. She earned her BFA in illustration in 2010 from the Maryland Institute College of Art after spending a semester studying overseas in Prague at the Academy of Applied and Decorative Arts. After a brief stint in New York City that she says "made her restless", she moved to New England, where she currently enjoys a calmer existence in New Haven, Connecticut. Life imitates art as they say, and Catherine Gaffney of art and design magazine, It's Nice That, notes that her characters "often appear to exist in states of meditation or relaxation."
EDITORIAL TOP FROM LEFT: Baltimore Bride; Bust Magazine; Baltimore Magazine BOTTOM: Illustrations for Lone Wolf Magazine
Yelena is inspired by the Neoclassical and Rococo art movements, as well as Indian miniature painting, textiles and folk art. She credits her time in Prague for her "appreciation for precious, friendly and quietly beautiful things." Yelena's toolbox includes a micron pen and Leningrad cake watercolors and Amy Ng at Pikaland says "she handles the medium so very well. Her tiny detailed brush-strokes and patterns add such a wonderful, textural quality to her work."
FAIRYTALE ABOVE: Illustrations for Fairytale Food for Random House UK
Yelena created a series of beautifully lush illustrations for the book Fairytale Food, released earlier this year by Random House UK. Written by Lucie Cash, the whimsical cookbook features recipes inspired by classic fairy-tales, such as 'Princess and the Pea Soup' and 'Hansel and Gretel's Gingerbread'. Other publishing work includes a series of covers for Dorothy Publishing Project and Dalkey Archive Press. Yelena's editorial clients include The New York Times, Baltimore Bride, Bust, and St. Louis magazine. She also recently illustrated a sweet short story called The Human Zoo for the UK children's magazine, Anorak.
CHILDREN ABOVE: The Human Zoo for Anorak Magazine (UK)
Yelena contributed artwork to Chronicle Books' recent The Where, the Why, and the How, by the talented Julia Rothman, Matt Lamothe and Jenny Volvovski. The book is a fascinating combination of scientific text and gorgeous artwork, pairing 75 artists with 75 scientific thinkers as they aim to solve some of science's biggest mysteries - from what came before the Big Bang to why pigeons bob their heads when they walk. Yelena's piece about the Peppered Moth, a scientific marvel that has changed color in response to London's industrial pollution, was so well-liked by the book's authors and publisher that it was chosen to be featured in the animated trailer for the book. See it here. Her illustrations have also been featured in a number of art and design magazines. Her portrait of Mata Hari and her illustrated guide to casting a love spell have appeared in recent issues of Toronto's Lone Wolf, a unique literary fashion magazine.
PUBLISHING FROM LEFT: Who Was Changed and Who Was Dead for Dorothy, A Publishing Project; The Review of Contemporary Fiction for Dalkey Archive Press; The Where, the Why, and the How for Chronicle Books
Yelena says girls are among her favorite things to draw and she partners this love with the inspiration she finds in textile prints to create the patterns she uses throughout her illustrations. Inspired by the Fall/Winter collections of Ada Zanditon and Orla Kiely, her work has appeared on New York fashion blog StyleLikeU and Amelia's Magazine online. Amelia's Magazine is a must-see website for upcoming independent and ethical fashion designers. Last year they released the limited-edition book Amelia's Compendium of Fashion Illustration, featuring Yelena's illustrations inspired by Yorkshire-based knitwear designer, Izzy Lane.
FASHION FROM LEFT: Illustration inspired by knitwear designer Izzy Lane for Amelia's Compendium of Fashion Illustration; Illustration inspired by Orla Kiely's Fall/Winter 2011 collection; Illustration inspired by knitwear designer Izzy Lane for Amelia's Compendium of Fashion Illustration
Yelena was commissioned to created Elephant Dreams, a 12x12 inch print on stretched canvas for the retailer Urban Outfitters. While the print is no longer available, there are plenty of others to choose from at her online store and through the innovative and affordable buysomedamnart.com. A variety of e-reader cases featuring Yelena's designs are available form M-Edge.
PRODUCT ABOVE: Elephant Dreams for Urban Outfitters
Yelena's painting, The Three Black Princesses, will be exhibited in The Enchanted Forest: Celebrating 200 Years of Grimm's Fairytales in London, November 29th through December 7th, 2012. Earlier this year, she collaborated with Amelia's Magazine to create an illustrated house for an exhibition called Up My Street at Coningsby Gallery in London. The piece was sold at silent auction, with proceeds going to Shelter, a UK-based charity aimed at helping the homeless. Recently, Yelena joined illustrators Leah Goren and Tuesday Bassen to form the tongue in cheek Sad Girls collective. They, along with a handful of "sad-ish and girli-sh" contributors, just released the first issue of the Sad Girls zine, with more issues planned for the future.
Click here for downloadable items - desktop wallpapers and a high-res printable letter sized promo.
Q&A with Yelena Bryksenkova
What are you reading/watching/listening to right now? I'm reading Haruki Murakami's 1Q84, Lemony Snicket's Who Could That Be At This Hour? and a new Russian edition of Tove Jansson's complete Moomin tales; finally watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer fifteen years after everyone else; listening to Beach House, Saint Privat, Mazzy Star and The Clientele.
What is your favorite part of living and working in New Haven? I've always wanted to live in New England, and I'm happy that I made the decision to leave NYC for a smaller town with a slower pace of life, while still remaining close enough to travel back frequently to meet with clients and friends. I think New Haven is a little gem with much to be discovered, but the city feels finite enough for me to be able to really know it one day.
What's one tip you have for other creative professionals? If your work is warm and inviting, the kind that makes people smile, it makes it that much more special if you present yourself accordingly when meeting other creative professionals.
What three words best describe your style? Detailed, nostalgic, quiet.
What is a typical work day like for you? My work day is fluid and unscheduled; I compose to-do lists and cross off tasks throughout the day, drinking cup after cup of tea all the while. In the morning I usually check and answer my email and package prints that I've sold through my Etsy shop, which I take to the post office shortly afterwards. I like to take a walk to clear my head before I sit down to work on sketches or paperwork, which take up the bulk of the afternoon. I start on final illustrations in the evening and often work until the small hours.
How has your work changed since you became an illustrator? Even though I work traditionally, I gradually learned to use some helpful Photoshop tools as the necessity arose - mostly to avoid certain tricky and potentially messy situations where there is a high risk of ruining the drawing with one wrong move. With every new challenge, I figure out my stylistic "notation" for subjects I wouldn't normally draw, as well as shorthand for certain things like foliage or large groups of people.
What's the best way to get over a creative block? I call my mom and bounce ideas off her! I almost always have a solution by the time we hang up.
You can only take three things to a deserted island. What do you take? My book of complete Moomin tales, a tin of loose tea and a lambswool blanket
What is your ideal studio like? It has large windows with lots of natural light and hardwood floors. There are separate surfaces for everything: light box, scanner, cutting board and mat. My desk chair is pretty and easy on my back. The view outside is a wild rose garden with a place to take tea breaks, and beyond - melancholy, windswept moors.
In an ideal world, you would have an infinite amount of... ? Patience
Best way to end a long day of work? Making snacks and watching girlie movies with my roommates.