Posted by: Kathy Temean | September 10, 2016

Illustrator Saturday – Iryna Bodnaruk

IrynaIryna Bodnaruk was born and raised in Ukraine. She completed her studies there in art college and then more training at a printmaking academy. She moved to Limassol, 6 years ago, where she is currently based.

Iryna has been working as a freelance illustrator for quite some time now. Most of her illustrations are for young children. Some of her clients include: Scholastic NY, Fisher Price, Cowley Robinson, Glottogon Books, Glowberry Books, Sequel Creative, Highlights for Kids.

Here’s Iryna discussing her process:

This illustration have been done for the Highlights Magazine.

The brief – “Scene of a busy indoor (polar bear) ice skating rink. There should be lots of polar bears are figure skating. The scene should be a small groups of polar bear kids together, as well as some of their parents and various other polar bear children.  Hidden Within the scene are 20 hockey sticks.”


I start every project with quick sketching of the random ideas. I prefer to use pencil and paper for my sketches.

Anything related that comes to mind is good at this stage. There should be no fear to come up with something silly. All the ideas will be filtered later. It is good to get on the paper as many ideas as possible and they can look as loose and messy as I like.

Few outfit and action ideas, scene details, random thoughts:


Next step – character development.


These studies were made using photos I have found in the internet and some wild life videos. Because originals don’t belong to me I do not use any of these sketches in my work.  I have done these only as a study for better understanding of how the animal looks and moves.  It helps me with the character design.

A while before I got this project I was entertaining myself with some ice-skaters posture studies in the local skating place. Now they come handy:


This is how some of the posture studies were used in the project:


Next stage is to select the best ideas from the bunch and get them organized in the balanced composition. My first sketches are usually very messy:


A bit more work on the characters and postures:


Final sketch which is going to be send to a customer is quite clean so editors can have an idea about what I am actually up to:


One of the ideas was to add thought bubbles. (It is always interesting what people (or bears) have in mind):


After the first revision we have made a few changes:

Fewer adult bears on the ice.

No batman and superman costume (franchise)

No thought bubbles (oh well)


Highlights of the hidden objects (20 hokey sticks) :

hockey sticks

Next step – color.

I was lucky to have plenty of time for this project so I had a chance to experiment with sketches, ideas and colors.

A few “I-am-not-too-happy-with” color tries:


Some rough ideas of main color combinations I would like to use:


I like to use Photoshop to establish the main colors in the beginning. When I am happy with my pallet I proceed with the details adjusting color slightly as I go.  I wanted to go for a quite flat and decorative look. Vector is perfect for this. I prefer to use Flash for the final illustrations as it is easy and has got all the tools I need. I think that by limiting yourself in options you can often come up with interesting result.


Final Art


How long have you been illustrating? 

I started to do children’s illustrations as a favor for my dad when I was about 16. I was very lucky. He and my mom used to work for a local crossword magazine and there was a children’s crossword on the last page. Illustration for this last page was my first work. It was a great opportunity to practice and to see my work published every month.

christmas presented at Bolgna

Where do you live?

Currently I live in Cyprus.

castle mountain

What was the first thing you painted where someone paid you for your work?

I think it was icons for computer software.


Did you go to school to study art?

Yes. I started with a hobby group as a kid and later entered a college of fine arts followed by the printing academy.


What did you study?

It was interior design.

Christmas snow

Do you feel College helped develop your style?

I think it helped me more in understanding academic painting rather than developing my style. I don’t like to think of my style as fully developed. There is always something new I would like to try in my illustrations.


Did art school help you get work when you graduated?

I would say it was more about skills rather than diploma. And it was mostly about the skills I learned aside from school.

Mr. and Mrs. Claus

Have you seen your work change since you left school?

Yes, I am happy to notice changes. There is still a lot to learn.


When did you decide you wanted to illustrate for children?

It was one of my childhood ambitions. As I was going through picture books as a child I often felt like I wanted to start a conversation with the artist, ask them something about an illustration or a character. Sometimes I tried to depict the same characters in my own manner.

snow house

How did you get the contract with Highlights Magazine?

That came through my agent.

at the lake

How did you get the contract to illustrate an activity book at Scholastic?

That came through my agent, too.

flying horse

How did Glottogon find you to the Animal Ballet Puzzle?

Again, through my agents at Good Illustration.

fox and hen

Have you ever illustrated a book? If so, tells us about the book. How did the publisher find you?

I am in progress of illustrating a few books at the moment. We have almost finished working on the first and second books of the Ella and Owen Series with the Little Bee Books. Also we are coming close to finishing a very interesting dreidel story book for the Kar-Ben Publishing. I can’t say too much before the publication date but both projects are very interesting to work on.

I got both projects through my agency.


What do you think is your biggest success?

I would say I am successful if I enjoy what I do as well as a result. Being paid well and working with a large reputable publisher is always pleasant but it can’t replace the joy from working on an interesting project.

If people I work with on the project understand my ideas, we think alike and supplement each other’s ideas- this is heaven.

king and queen

Have you ever tried to do a wordless picture book?

No, but it sounds very interesting. I would definitely try if I have a chance.


I see you are represented by Good Illustration. How did you connect with them and when was that?

I hate sending work applications. This detail was making freelance work difficult so I needed someone who would do it for me. About 7 years ago I sent emails to a few agencies and Good Illustration answered. They happened to be very pleasant people and I just didn’t feel like there was a need to look any further.

post office

Do you have any desire to write and illustrate you own book?

Oh yes! I have finally stopped saying “I have a lot of ideas for my personal project” and started to actually work on one. Although I still have more ideas than time to put it all together ).

barbaer shop

Do you illustrate full time or have a day job?

At the moment I am lucky enough to illustrate full time. But I used to have a day job before. My husband also helped me a lot during difficult periods.


Do you have a favorite mediums to use when illustrating?

Graphite pencil. A mechanical graphite pencil and a sketchbook with thin, almost trace paper – 50 – 60g. I really enjoy sketching.


Do you take research pictures before you start a project?

I do a lot of sketches during the research phase.

tree house

Do you use Photoshop with any of your work?

At the moment I only use Photoshop for the colour studies and final editing if needed.

play squireels

Do you have and use a graphic tablet?

Yes, Wacom Intous 5.


Do you have a studio in your house?

Yes, I mostly work from home so it is important to have a place for work here.


Is there anything in your studio you couldn’t live without?

My enormously large tea cup 🙂


Do you follow any type of routine to attain your career goals?

At the moment it’s just work, work and work. Frankly I am not too good at keeping to any routine.


Any exciting projects on the horizon?

Yes! Besides the series of books that will occupy me for a while there is a small project for the Oxford University Press starting mid September. We are also planning to develop a small mobile game raising environmental problems together with my friend.


Do you think the Internet has opened any doors for you?

Definitely. As a freelance illustrator working for international clients, I don’t know what I would do without the internet 🙂


What are your career goals?

Keep enjoying my work. Keep developing style. Work more on my personal projects. Try more technics. Do more collaborative projects…

I would also like to try working on the character design and visual development for games or animation at some point.


Are there any tips (materials, paper, etc.) you can share that work well for you? Technique tips?

It really depends on a style and technic each person uses. I came out with the few things that work for me but this is just personal preference.

For sketching it’s mechanical pencil 0.5 B (thin and light) and a very thin paper (50-60 g). Trace sketching paper helps me to make a quick copy if I need to make a few changes to the sketch but I prefer to save the original. If the quality of sketching paper is too good it gives me sort of a fear of the blank canvas. Also I feel like I am killing too many trees if I use 80g or thicker paper for sketching ).


If the final work should be done in marker or ink, I like to work over the original sketch. It makes post editing difficult if the pencil line is too heavy so it is good to choose better quality paper and keep pencil lines light for the final sketch. Tracing over usually kills the liveliness of the line, so it is also a good idea not just to copy the sketch precisely but to keep creative work going on during the marker/ink stage.

Software I like to use the most is a very old version of Flash (Macromedia Flash MX). It is very old, but it has got all the essentials I need and I find it very comfortable and fast on my old computer.


Any words of wisdom you can share with the illustrators who are trying to develop their career?

I think no matter how much experience you have got it is vital to keep working on the personal projects and trying something new in your work. Even if it is something very small.

It helps you to develop your style, keeps you thinking and through these works you can speak your own mind without the fear of being rejected by the customer.


Thank you Iryna for sharing your talent, process, journey, and expertise with us. Please make sure you keep in touch and share your future successes with us. To see more of Iryna’s work, you can visit her at website at:

If you have a minute, please leave a comment for Iryna. I am sure she’d love it and I enjoy reading them, too. Thanks!

Talk tomorrow,



  1. Love your illustrative style Iryna!


  2. Thank you for sharing your fun art, Iryna!


  3. Love your detail, but especially your use of light. I have developed characters, but know I need to work on scene development. Any tips?


  4. Great illustrations!
    – Amanda Sincavage


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