Posted by: Kathy Temean | March 10, 2018

Illustrator Saturday – Olga Skomorokhova

Despite the Nordic name Olga Skomorokhova is associated with she was born and grew up in Russia. Olga specializes in magazine and book illustrations and other commissioned and personal projects. As a child, Olga found immense pleasure in painting and drawing. This activity soon transformed into interest in graphic design while illustration was just a passionate hobby. Only a few years ago she has become a full time freelance illustrator based in Moscow. Olga is inspired by travelling and people around, thus, you can see a lot of botanical, architectural and animalistic topics in her art. She experiments with many different techniques, and utilizes various materials to achieve the desired effect. Being a self-taught artist gives Olga the freedom and proficiency to express herself, her work has evolved through her own personal experience.

This is Olga’s process of creating an illustration for Harper’s Bazaar Mexico, April ’17.

The task was as follows: ‘Every month, in our last page, we recreate Diana Vreeland’s iconic section “Why don’t you…” in which she would give unexpected and sometimes eccentric suggestions about the art of living in style. We complete our version with an illustration of Diana Vreeland, created by a different and amazing artist every month’

First I made a short research of who Diana was, tried to understand her character, way of living, philosophy. Moodboard of her photos helped me to understand how she looked like and the typical features of her.

Then I wanted to add some idea and an interesting twist to the illustration. Red colour, iconic figure, true feminine features, her favourite pillows — all that reminded me of a playing card, the Queen of hearts. Moreover, D is an initial for Dame in German, and V looks like a heart.

Composition is easily based on that idea. Smoke is the repeating element that makes the whole layout consistent. Sketches are sent to the publisher for review.

Then there is colouring. This is the most creative stage as you might change your mind a lot of times trying to work on a well balanced piece. First I put basic colours to determine a colour scheme, then I added texture and made a composition of small floral elements around figures.

This is the final result which they accepted without any revisions.

Interview with Olga Skomorokhova

How long have you been illustrating?

One day I decided to change my life. I quit my job as a web designer and fully devoted myself to illustrating. It happened 4 years ago, in June.

What and when was the first painting or illustration that you did where someone paid you for your artwork?

I remember that day very clearly, I was in the office working on a new layout for some religious organisation when I received an email from a Dutch guy. He found my contact details on the website I had launched just a few weeks before that. The task was to make three illustrations for their new website. Amazing. Maybe just then I made up my mind towards my future career.

Did you go to school to study art? If so, where, when, and what did you study?

I am a self-taught artist. However I am studying art and media graphics at the Estonian Academy of Arts right now.

Did the school present any opportunity to delve into children’s illustrating?

I can’t say that I do have any useful acquaintances right now but I think it’s possible as long as I am surrounded by artists and people who are constantly searching for them.

How did you find illustrating work? Did the school help?

Social media is the answer. It is a very powerful tool today. All my clients and an illsutration agency found me via Dribbble, Behance, instagram, my website, etc. You just need to work hard, update your portfolio and there is a good chance you’ll succeed.
I made an illustration for my mother in law to hang in the kitchen and published it on Behance. It is still my most appreciated project there 🙂

Do you feel art school influenced your illustrating style?

I think I am experiencing it right now. A lot of tasks mean that you have to imitate, reproduce, study, copy famous artists’ works which undoubtedly help youngsters create their own style and choose a preferable technique and media. Classic painting and drawing makes my work easier now and slightly influences stylistics, dynamics and even topics of my artworks which is a great advantage for me I believe.

What type of job did you do right after you graduated?

The first Master’s degree I got had nothing to do with art, thus, I had to work in other fields — as a waitress, manager at the printing house, translator, receptionist, web designer. Now I think of that as of a very important and memorable experience which helped me to learn a lot of new things, form my own opinion and view point towards my life and life in general. I managed to see beauty in simple everyday things while sketching has always been my passionate hobby and creative escape.

When did you decide you wanted to illustrate for children?

I think it was not exactly me but my style and personal characteristics that determined my future work.

Have you illustrated a picture book or book dummy?


Are you a full time freelance illustrator?

Yes. I’ve been an illustrator at the TV channel in Russia for more than one year now but at the same time I work on commissions.

How did you find representation with the Good Illustration?

Kate from the Good Illustration contacted me. Apparently they found my portfolio on Behance. I am very glad it happened as I received so many interesting inquiries with their help.

Have you done any book covers?

Yes, but these were the covers of the books that I fully illustrated.

Do you have any desire to write and illustrate your own children’s book?

I believe this is a dream situation for any illustrator 🙂 I have even started my own book but have no idea when it is to be finished. Recently I do not have spare time at all.

Would you illustrate a book for an author who wants to self-publish?

I had this kind of collaboration some time ago. I illustrated several spreads but then the whole process stopped due to the author whose budget was not enough to print the book or something, I do not remember now. But I liked it and would definitely repeat the experience given a chance.

Have you worked with educational publishers? Which ones?

I have worked with the Houghton Mifflin Harcourt publisher (USA) and Dar al Fikr al Lubnani (Lebanon).

Have you done any illustrating for children’s magazines? Which ones?

No, I haven’t had such an experience.

Have you ever thought about illustrating a wordless picture book?

Yes, I think this is a very nice idea and a great challenge for any artist.

What do you think is your biggest success?

I am very thankful that I have work at the moment, this is already a success.
I hope something I would be really proud of is only ahead.

What is your favorite medium to use?

Most of my artworks are digital. But recently I draw with coloured pencils a lot.

Has that changed over time?

I don’t think so. I have always preferred pencils to colours, drawing to painting.

Do you have a studio set up in your home?

Yes, one room is fully mine where I spend most of the time. There I have books, an easel, colours, paper samples, brushes, yarn and other stuff for any creative work that might find you any day any time.

Do you try to spend a specific amount of time working on your craft?

My husband always grumbles at me when I work at nights trying to do a favour to a customer who want their task to be done ‘yesterday’. I try to have a normal schedule though like if I worked in the office, I do not answer any emails on weekend for example. This knowledge came to me with time — you need to relax and have rest to be productive. If I draw for myself I do not count time at all though.

Do you take pictures or do any type of research before you start a project?

Sure. I do not like to look at others’ work though like many artists do or suggest doing. I think it can be stuck in your mind and it would be difficult to forget that idea and get rid of it in your own art. But photos or any other relatable pictures help a lot. Sometimes I just do not know how some objects look like 🙂 I draw animals quite often but always fail to remember how a tiger’s face looks 🙂

Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?

Definitely. I am not sure I could ever get commissioned work without internet.

Do you use Photoshop or Painter with your illustrations?


Do you own or have you used a Graphic Drawing Tablet when illustrating?

I have a Wacom Intuos pen tablet.

Do you have any career dreams that you like to fulfill?

My desire is to illustrate the New Yorker cover.

What are you working on now?

I have several projects at once: an educational book, patterns and illustrations for a huge stationary shop in St. Pete, a short animated ad, journal covers for New York design agency, TV channel tasks and a lot of homework at the Academy 🙂

Do you have any material type tips you can share with us? Example: Paint or paper that you love – the best place to buy – a new product that you’ve tried – A how to tip, etc.

– ‘Brilliant colours’ STAEDTLER — these colour pencils are truly wonderful, I love them
– I would recommend if you are searching for any tutorials.
– Kyle T. Webster brushes.
– Behance portfolio even if you do not have much artworks yet.

Any words of wisdom on how to become a successful writer or illustrator?

I would change Lenin’s quote a bit and say: Practice, practice, and practice.

Thank you Olga for sharing your talent, process, and expertise with us. Make sure you share you future successes with us. To see more of Olga’s work, you can visit her at her website:

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

Talk tomorrow,



  1. Lovely work, Olga! Thank you for sharing.


  2. Olga, I’m in LOVE with your work!!! Your style is inCREDibly appealing, and the images of the animals reading the books really cracked me up. Of course, being a Harry Potter fan, the “Harry Otter” one REALLY made me smile 😀 Thanks so much for sharing! And Kathy, I don’t know where you found Olga, but THANKS! 😀


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