In a world saturated with graphic design, a unique style can be essential. And there’s few illustrators as particularly vivid and colorful as Egypt-based artist, Daria Volyanskaya (aka Daria V.). Talking to her about her work often sounds more like a spiritual experience than a career path. And there may be something to that.
Daria started her arts education at 18 as an icon painter, traveling through Russia with a group of artists painting saints, holy faces and ornamentation on the walls of churches. While she eventually left to pursue other creative opportunities, her work continues to relay a sense of the divine through painterly brush strokes, floral ornamentation and rich color.
But as Daria’s story reveals, becoming a successful designer doesn’t always come easy. Through years of dedication and hard work, Daria has steadily built a client network perfectly suited for her. We spoke with Daria about her artistic journey, how she developed her creative process and her advice for other designers looking to find their unique voice.
Name: Daria Volyanskaya
99designs handle: Daria V.
Tell us a little about your creative background
My art journey started at the age of 18, when I unexpectedly discovered a great passion for drawing holy faces and ornaments. I wasn’t so interested in the painting act itself, but rather depicting different saints.
To be honest, I had never painted before and wasn’t very talented, but the spiritual world captivated me. That’s why I decided to go to church to study icon painting. Later I traveled around Russia with a group of artists, painting the walls of different churches.
But in the end, icon painting just didn’t bring in enough money, so I left to continue my spiritual journey elsewhere and to find my place in the art world.
What did you do after leaving icon painting?
I worked in different fields for several years—as a journalist, waitress, translator and tour guide until I met my husband and moved to Egypt.
We were living quite well. I was creating art for myself and working with my husband, who is also an artist. But in 2016 a terrorist attack occured in Sharm-el-Sheikh, where I live. Afterwards, the tourism stopped and we were left jobless. I tried to sell my art on stock sites, but the income didn’t quite satisfy my needs. And then, finally, I tried 99designs.
Tell us a little about your experience on 99designs
I still can’t believe how lucky I was to find 99designs; to be able to earn money from my art and become a bit successful. I gradually started earning more money than I’d ever earned at any other job—probably because I had never devoted so much passion and so many sleepless nights to my work.
I also met so many nice clients and still work with a lot of interesting and courageous entrepreneurs. I never imagined that, in just two years, I would connect with such great and diverse business people and help them with their products! I am very thankful for that.
Do you have any favorite clients?
I currently enjoy working with a German company called Pony Puffin. They are producing lovely scarves and other hair accessories for ladies. I was lucky enough to create illustrations and packaging designs for them and we are still working on their product line.
I also loved working for Mama J, a talented jazz singer, for whom I created a logo, merchandise items and business cards.
What do you love most about working professionally as an artist?
I don’t care that much about my career or fame. What is most important to me is being able to help others by using my skills and doing something that I love so much—creating colorful, vibrant worlds.
Everyone always says that you can’t make good money from art—except my husband, who encouraged me to believe in myself!
Why do you think you developed such a vibrant style?
That’s a hard question! I don’t really know how I developed my style… I just followed my sense of beauty and stayed true to my vision. I think the only way to develop your skills is to live and breathe them.
I would also say that I’m obsessed with colors; colors are like drugs to me. I am very sensitive to them in daily life, too. For example, I can’t stand black—I remove anything black from my house, as it immediately affects my mood.
I’m also crazy about plants. I created a workspace full of plants and mild colors, so when I sit in my comfy chair, I forget about the world and just work, work, work.
You’re so passionate about the work you’re doing now. Can you tell us a little about that?
Living your work is what makes you spend those sleepless nights forgetting about food, cleaning and anything else in the world. If you’re really interested in something, you don’t need any advice on how to develop your skills, you naturally tend to do the research and develop.
I would say that for an artist the most important thing is to be very disciplined. Learn how to fight off laziness and procrastination. It’s a crucial skill for a freelancer to be able to manage their schedule and withstand long hours of work.
What’s your illustration process like?
Let me share a recipe for how I create a colorful design:
- I always think about color placement. If I want the image to be vibrant, but not messy, I’ll combine blue, emerald green, pink and purple in one place and yellow, grass green, red and orange in another place.
- I use a significant amount of very dark colors (like deep blue, dark purple or black) and very bright colors (like lemon yellow or white) to create a good contrast. High contrast always creates additional interest to the eye.
- I think about how I can draw ordinary objects in a very colorful style without losing their realism. I do so by using cooler colors like blue for the shadows and brighter colors like yellow for the highlights.
It’s an ecstatic feeling when your soul is flying, when you almost can’t breathe, when you and the brush are one. Aren’t we all living for these kinds of feelings?
How do you make sure you’re always improving yourself and your skills?
I draw a lot. If I have a day off, I still draw. I have so many ideas that I might need several lifetimes to draw them all! I hope to be an artist in my next life, too.
My biggest dream is to instantly arise love, light and a feeling of infinity in the people who look at my art. I think that is the biggest skill one can have, and I believe it is developed by opening your heart, being kind to others and forgiving your enemies.
I can see that dream reflected in a lot of your work, which is both spiritual and bright. Are you influenced by the icon paintings you did in the past?
There was a positive side to working as an icon painter—it brought joy to my heart. It’s an ecstatic feeling when your soul is flying, when you almost can’t breathe, when you and the brush are one. Aren’t we all living for these kinds of feelings?
Entrepreneurs usually ask for designs that will sell their products—and church is far from that. I try to bring a part of my spirituality into this business by designing with love and care. I also believe that creating a positive experience for clients and bringing these emotions into their lives is one of the most spiritual things one can do.
Do you have advice for other designers looking to find their unique voice?
I actually have several pieces of advice:
1. Design in a style that makes you feel good. Don’t torture yourself illustrating or designing things you don’t like. It’s better to concentrate your attention and effort on a style that flows easily and makes you enjoy what you do. Art is like a song. You should sing it with joy in your heart!
2. Work work work! Work with passion and try to deliver the best you can.
3. If you are not confident enough yet, stop interacting with people who don’t believe in you or your art.
4. Stop yourself before you say or do anything aggressive. Aggression makes your soul numb and insensitive, which is so harmful for any human—especially an artist.
5. Become a raw foodist! It was the best thing I did for my health, concentration and ability to work a lot.
6. Be patient with work and with yourself. Buy a comfortable chair, stop complaining and do your thing!
7. Don’t be afraid of anything! Life loves you and gives you all the opportunities to be an artist and anything you want to be. Don’t be afraid to take that opportunity and work hard for it.