Marija Tiurina is a multidisciplinary artist with backgrounds in painting, illustration and digital art. Having studied Multimedia Design in London she went on to work as a video games concept artist and a children's books illustrator, while juggling a range of commissions and personal projects including illustrating for advertising, editorials and corporate clients.
“I hope every creative out there gets the best they can out of this messy monster of a metaverse we’ve created while remembering their values and the reason they started doing art in the first place.”
Tell us a bit about your background, where you’re from and where you currently work?
I was born in Lithuania right when the USSR fell apart. After school I applied for a place at a London-based university and left as soon as the graduation ceremony was over. I couldn’t wait to move over to buzzing London and start afresh.
Your illustrations touch on the themes of nature, folklore and fantasy, how would you best describe the work you make?
Nature, folklore and fantasy are pretty spot-on! I would say I lean towards detailed nature-driven surreal watercolours, although the spectrum of my work is much wider, and it would be hard for me to put a correct label on it. Multidisciplinary would be the easiest way to describe my field of creative activity.
As well as illustrations you make felt toys, embroidery, sculptures, and other products. What’s your process, do your ideas always begin as drawings?
It might seem as if I have unlimited creativity unleashing into the world, but reality is a little less exciting. I simply get bored keeping in a single lane and its variety that brings me joy. Sort of like travelling can be entertaining, refreshing and challenging while also making you appreciate what you have and enjoy coming back home.
How do you juggle being creative with making a living from your art?
I enjoy being productive, this way I can juggle personal work and commissions that pay my bills. After many years in the field, I learned to channel my creativity into a world of demand, so I can make a living while doing what I like the most: illustration. My personal struggle is that sometimes I forget how to simply enjoy the process without finding a way to monetise it or make it sellable.
I blame social media and modern pace of living in a capitalist environment, but mainly I blame myself for forgetting art should be a personal practice before anything else. I’m working on it though, and in comparison, to when I counted every penny and worried about paying rent, I’m now in a more flexible position and can finally start letting go of a feeling I need to please people with my art otherwise it won’t sell.
What advice would you give other creatives looking to sell their work commercially?
Look for a gap in the market and fill that gap better than others do! There is so much more competition now for creatives, the demand for visuals has grown but so has the number of people willing to design and illustrate for a fee. It’s hard to stand out but it’s the only way, while also focusing on popular trends and being present on social media. The pandemic has shifted the way people consume and even more companies have taken their services online - it’s a good place to be for those starting their journey towards a creative-for-hire utopia.
What materials do you use and is there an art material you’ve never used that you’d like to experiment with?
I’m very dedicated to watercolour and thankfully I’m far from being bored yet. Sadly, oils never worked for me, but I might experiment with water-based solids (like acrylics) a little more and possibly mix my own colours based on naturally sourced pigments. Rather than new materials I’d like to expand my horizons on the scale axis and work on bigger pieces, as well as create more digitally and play with animation and interactivity.
Who’s currently on your radar as a creative influence?
A big fan of the incredible work by Mr.Aryz who never stops evolving and inspiring me to do more (and better) murals. Same goes for Axel Void who seems to be too good for this world. I take great pleasure from Denis Sarazhin’s figurative oils and Aron Wiesenfeld’s eerie unsettling landscapes.
What’s your favourite work you’ve made?
I’d probably choose my botanical explorations, such as my study of wild fungus gathered in the woods of Lithuania or my large, detailed watercolours, which are always a journey that is full of excitement and challenges at the same time.
How do you juggle being creative with making a living from your art?
Every process sits on the same timeline for me: I start with an idea and a rough sketch, close my eyes and picture a final piece… is it good enough, do I like it? Then it’s a green light! I often go through several levels of adjusting my sketch on paper and digitally before I am satisfied (the perfectionist’s brain is hard to please), and once it’s ready I start patiently working on the final version, which often consists of many layers of construction and polishing for both traditional and digital pieces.
I try and document the process as well - it’s quite a big part of my online presence and helps me assess the amount of work that has really been done. The brain often wants to neglect the effort gone into making something and just focus on the outcome, that’s an easy way for anyone to feel they’re not doing enough - be careful and don’t forget to appreciate the work that’s gone into making a piece of art.
What’s the most exciting project you’ve worked on, or do you have any coming up?
I’m planning to create a couple of highly detailed puzzles, illustrate another personalised search and find adventure, work with more videos and restore some vintage paintings by giving them a makeover - so many ideas and so little time! Of course, I am trying hard to find potential walls for murals and some negotiations are on the go. Fingers crossed!
With sustainability at the forefront of people’s mind, do you have any studio hacks or items you repurpose?
Having grown up in the 90’s during a challenging time for the Eastern Bloc I learned to save everything I can when I can, so repurposing and recycling is still high on my list. Watercolours aren’t cheap but a bit of paint can go a long way, a great medium for anyone careful with their resources. My trick used to be going to the back of the art shops where they often keep odd sheets of paper and offcuts: oddly shaped and coloured paper sheets can inspire something completely unique.
What’s the best and worst thing about being an artist today?
The best thing is - anyone can have an audience. The worst thing is… anyone can have an audience!
Potential is pretty much limitless these days and anyone with internet access has a chance of finding exposure they might need, and community they might want to be a part of. But of course, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with all the content being produced every second out there and feel insignificant and not good enough. I hope every creative out there gets the best they can out of this messy monster of a metaverse we’ve created while remembering their values and the reason they started doing art in the first place.
Do you have one piece of advice for artists just starting out?
Don’t get discouraged by capitalism-driven trends and social media algorithms, keep true to yourself and let yourself grow and evolve at your own pace. The best you can is good enough, and perfection is a useless myth driving us insane. Individualism is the only thing that will still matter in the future when the world is filled to the brim with content, so take your time and nourish the seed unique to you.
What's currently on your playlist?
Anything by Surprise Chef, an Australian instrumental soul and jazz-funk band. Put on their album, place a freshly cut sheet of watercolour paper in front of you, make a cup of coffee and have the best hour of your week.
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