Posted by: Kathy Temean | July 31, 2021

Illustrator Saturday – Mira Miroslavova


Mira Miroslavova grew up in the beautiful forests near the city of Sofia, Bulgaria and lived in Manchester, UK where she graduated with textile design and visual art.

Her love for illustration began at an early age and her style was influenced by a mixture of classic fairy tales, beautiful forests, old movies and animations. She likes to experiment and find new hobbies to inspire her and push her to create picture books, comics, covers, editorial and magazines illustration.

Process of “Snow White” for “The collected stories by the Brothers Grimm” Colibri Publishing, 2021

I always begin with a very, VERY simple sketch of my idea. My ideas always come like lightning, so I have to sketch them as they come, raw. Everything is in my head and this is purely for me to have a reminder of what came to my head. I never do any details because I know they might change in the process – usually for the better. I work on things purely compositional so I have an idea of what I am aiming at.

Here is the very first sketch I made of Snow White. I was up in our family country house and the idea came to me right away. The entire concept of the book was about “movement”, everything in the illustrations moves, flows, has a direction and at times comes out of the frame. This one was very vivid.Then I began drawing. I always make the “base” of the illustration with graphite pencils – this one is done with pencils from H3 do B2. I use really hard pencils, I probably should switch things up a bit but I am not done having fun with them for now!
This is one of my three tries at this illustration. I was so excited for it, I never liked how it turned out initially. It took me around 10 days to figure her out. And then she just arrived one morning, I knew exactly how I wanted her to look. Sometimes things take time and it is okay. There is no need to rush them.

When I scanned it, I worked on the contrast a bit and I cleared the imperfections. I also added some details on her clothing – the pattern. I worked with a grey pencil brush in Photoshop for everything – from cleaning and refining the scanned drawing to adding details. But when I looked at it, there was something that was bothering me and I was feeling unsure of it. So I decided to switch things up a bit.

I clone stamped the flowers in Photoshop and decided to finish the flowers digitally after I had coloured the entire drawing. I do that because I colour the drawing on a layer set to multiply and I wanted the flowers to be light yellow – which was impossible to achieve with the grey base of the drawing. At this point I was completely sure how I wanted this drawing to look at the end and I was just going.

Here is the drawing – coloured. This is the first colour version. I did not like the muddy look it had, it looked to messy but decided to refine the colours when I was finished with all the scribbles, details and refinements.

I still felt the same about the colours. It still looked like it needed some enhancement, it looked as if it lacked that final touch so I thought that I should push things up in a different direction. After that I went through the entire book to do the same colour correction to every illustration and I hope I made the right call.

And finally – the illustration was completed. It took me overall about 10 hours to draw her from start to finish. It takes a lot of time to scribble and scratch with the pencils. But once the colours are clear in my head – the rest is easy and its very intuitive.
I really hope you like it! And thank you for reading!

Interview with Mira Miroslavova

How long have you been illustrating?

I have been working in the field for over three years now, professionally, but I was obsessed with illustration long before that. I used to staple pieces of paper together, make up stories and illustrate them when I was 9 years old. It has always been a dream of mine, to work as an illustrator.

What and when was the first piece of art you created for money?

I did an album cover design when I was 16 for a local band. It was my first work done with inks as well. They broke up soon after though. I really hope my illustration was not the reason! 🙂

You bio says you studied Textiles and Visual Art at Manchester Academy. After graduating, did you do anything with textile design?

Sadly no, I never worked in that field but I’ve always enjoyed designing textiles. I learned a lot from my teachers there. At the end all that matters is having the right environment to cultivate your love for all the visual arts. And I thank them for doing just that.

Did you go to university to study art?

No, I am self taught in that sense. I have never studied drawing or illustration but it is something I plan on changing. I believe it’s never too late to learn something new and that we should strive to never stop learning.

Have you taken any children’s illustrating courses?

I have attended a lot of seminars and short courses about illustration, because I was very curious of the process and I wanted to be good at what I do. I plan on keeping that up.

What do you feel helped you develop your style?

I believe my parents, especially my mom, has a huge influence in what I do. She gave everything to make sure me and my brother had a good education. And insisted that we read a lot of books and studied hard. So if it wasn’t for her I would definitely not have the literature knowledge and the inspiration to chase my dreams. And the fairy-tales she read to us directly influenced my art style. It is very whimsical and I credit her for that.

What type of work did you do when you started your career?

I worked on magazine covers, book covers, music album covers. Everything I could get my hand onto but I believed that I have to hand pick my work. Even if that means that I will be left with no work at all sometimes. I wanted to make sure I invest my energy correctly so that when the big thing comes along – I would be ready. Of course that did not mean that I would stop drawing. I just drew whatever interested me and I tried to educate myself on my own.

Did you do any art exhibits to promote your work?

I have never done a solo art exhibition. I have participated in a couple group ones and I believe they were a good way to promote my work. I think every artist should do exhibitions. As illustrators, sharing our work is what gives it meaning and value.

When did you decide you wanted to illustrate children’s books?

I knew I wanted to become a children’s book illustrator when I was 17. I was always coming back and back to children’s books, they always excited me and inspired me when I worked.
And one day I just found out it was much easier for me to express myself, I recognized my own voice, when I worked on projects for kids. I used to illustrate books with my own writings and that is something I would love to get back to.

You illustrated a book titled, The Adventures of Lisko in the Forest by Boris Aprilov. Is this a middle grade book with art?

The books about the little fox Lisko are for kids of age around 3 do 8 or 9. Boris Aprilov speaks and appeals to many and is very cherished in Bulgaria, my home country.

How did you get the job to illustrate this book?

The publisher hired me a month before I began working on Lisko, after we had already worked on a project together. They hired me to work as a full time illustrator at the publishing agency, which is not very common to occur. It was a privilege to work on the Lisko series and the other wonderful books we created.You also illustrated Ahmed and the Oblivion Machines by Ray Bradbury. Since I can’t read the cover, language was used and who is the publisher?

Ahmed and the Oblivion Machines is published in Bulgarian by Raketa Publishing. That is the publishing agency that hired me and we worked alongside together for a year and a half.. And they contacted me to work on Ahmed, after they saw my previous book “Princess stories” (my first illustrated children’s book). I had a lot of freedom working on that book and I was very, very excited. It was just a couple of months after I worked on my first children’s book, and there I was with a second one. It meant a lot.

Was Switch On the Night by Ray Bradbury that you illustrated published by the same publisher?

Yes, it is. It is one of the five children’s books I did for them for my time with them. I did a lot of book covers as well and other materials they used to promote the publishing agency.

Did you just illustrate only the cover of Monkey’s Skin?

Monkey’s Skin is an adult novel by the same author that wrote Lisko. I worked on a couple of covers for books written my him.


How many books have you illustrated?

For the past three years since I have been working as a book lllustrator, I have done ten children’s books. I am always very self-critical of my work and I want to improve with each new book I work on.

What was the first book you illustrated?

“Princess stories and other extraordinary events” by Ribka Publishing – https://www.behance.net/gallery/66590781/Princess-stories-and-other-extraordinary-events
Feels like ages ago. And my style has changed for that time but I am glad I kept some of it intact.

How did you get that contract?

Ribka Publishing (which means Little fish Publishing:)) found me after an interview I have at a local indie art magazine. They were a young couple who had started their publishing agency two years prior to our project together. I was very inspired and motivated but also scared and nervous. I felt like a kid doing adult things. And sometimes I still do which is actually good for our work as children’s book illustrators.

How did you connect with Chad Beckerman at The Cat Agency?

I contacted the agency after a while of hoping and dreaming to work with them. I really wanted to be a part of the team, I admired their work. I knew Chad’s work long before and I was really excited when they replied to me reaching out to them and even more excited when they actually decided to proceed on and work with me. Probably one of the best moments I’ve had in my career.

Have you done any illustrating for children’s Magazines or any other magazines? If so, who?

I have never worked children’s magazines but I have done a lot of work for others. Most of them are Bulgarian but I have worked for a couple in the UK.

Do you have a studio in your house?

I used to have a studio close by my house but Covid made it hard to keep it so I had to move my studio at home. Which is great because my cat is there and he is my stress relief fur ball. I like having a place to go when I work and change up the environment but I can do that if I draw with friends or at coffee shops etc.

Have you ever tried illustrating a wordless picture book?

Never, but it is definitely on top of my to-do list!

Do you work full time as an illustrator?

I do, yes. I used to work as a teacher and I used to do a lot of visual art work, unrelated to illustrating. But illustration has always been my top priority and the thing that gave me meaning.
I come from a modest home so I know that one needs to work hard and to have financial stability, which means that sometimes you have to work things that are not exactly what you hoped for. But you should never lose sight of what is important to you and fight for that.
I do not mind working as a textile designer or a graphic designer but I will always put my illustrations first.

Is working with a self-published author to illustrate their book something you would consider?

Yes, definitely!

I know you will have many successes in your future, but what do you think is your biggest success so far?

Thank you, I really hope I do. I think my biggest success is becoming a part of the CAT team. Maybe that shares the first place with a book I illustrated and came out this year, 2021 – The fairytales by the Brothers Grimm. And mainly because it was my dream book. I grew up with them, I was so inspired by them. I dreamed as a kid, honestly I did, that one day I will illustrate that book. And it is the exact same translation done by Dimitar Stoevsky many, many years ago, here in Bulgaria. It felt like one of my childhood dreams came true.

What is your favorite medium to use?

I will always stand behind and support my pencils. I love working with my mechanical pencils on a really nice, smooth, heavy sheet of paper.

Has that changed over time?

It has always been that. I think it is a huge part of my style. Some things may change but I will try to keep that pencil look for now.

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

I work with a tablet only when I colour my drawings. It is easier to make changes and frankly it is immensely hard to colour graphite pencil drawings.

What materials and/or tools do you use to create your work?

I work with regular graphite pencils – from 3H to 5B. I use mechanical pencils for the details and to define shapes sometimes. My favourite paper to use is the Hahnemuhle paper but I also draw on Moleskine sketchbooks.
I scan my drawings on my Canon scanner and later on I colour my work with my Wacom Intuos 4 graphic tablet.

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

I had a hard time establishing a timeframe in which I work. I sometimes worked for 14 hours on and the next day for 7. Now I am trying to establish some ground rules. So I have decided that the 9 do 17 model works great for me. I need to relax, clear my head and to be ready to focus on the next day.

Do you take pictures or research a project before you start?

I always do an extensive research on my projects. I go to the library, look up things related to what I am working on, take pictures of things that could be useful, consult friends and family.

Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?

The internet is probably the best and worst thing for an artist. It gives you access to education, there are a lot of videos, blogs etc. that could help you gain knowledge and develop you as an artist. But it is also a source of self-doubt and makes you compare yourself to everything you see. It is something one needs to be careful about.
For me, it has been a huge asset. The power to connect with people all over the world and work together, it is amazing.

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

I would like to work on something extraordinary. That could be anything. And to never stop working on extraordinary things. A big dream!

What are you working on now?

I am working on two children’s books, but I can’t say much now. I will try to behave differently for both of them and do something new and out of my comfort zone (but still with pencils)!

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.

I would always recommend trying to experiment. I think that every hand has its own preferences and can establish a good correlation between the brain and the material. I have tried paper for inkers, watercolorists, painters and all of them have their charms. Never stop exploring! That will help you find your voice! Just don’t push too hard on the paper – its really hard to erase. That goes on for everything in life.

Any words of wisdom for new illustrators?

Lay the foundations first. Don’t try to skip steps in your education and don’t be hard on yourself.

Mira, thank you for joining us this week and taking the time to answer the interview questions and showing us your process. It really helps everyone to get to know you. You are a very talented illustrator, so please let us know about your future books and successes so I can share them with everyone. 

To see more of Mira’s work, you can visit her at:

Website: https://miramiroslavova.artstation.com/

Behance: https://www.behance.net/miramiroslavova

Agency: https://catagencyinc.com/mira-miroslavova

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/mira-miroslavova-523a01168/?originalSubdomain=bg

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Responses

  1. What lovely work! It is all beautiful, but I am particularly fond of the little red fox. Thanks for such a pretty post.

    Like

  2. It was so much fun looking at your work! Love the mice and the foxes. Fanciful fun! Best wishes!

    Like


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