Interview: Meet Illustrator Tania Yakunova


On the morning of February 24, Russia attacked Ukraine with airstrikes all over the country. Me and my family like many other Ukrainians were forced to leave our homes in Kyiv and became refugees. My life changes dramatically overnight. My days, my art, and my mind are filled with air raid sirens, news, and horrors of war now, it’s my new reality. Anyway, I’m trying to keep myself up working and hoping for a peaceful future.

Multi award winning illustrator and artist, Tania Yakunova found a rejuvinated love for illustration after a creative journey that lead to several changes in direction both career-wise and visually. “Over time I got bored of drawing still life and quit with little desire to proceed with my career as an artist. I went for social science degree instead. After receiving my bachelor’s degree I changed the direction again. Working as a copywriter in several advertising agencies was my next step. Being re-integrated into the creative field made me think about drawing again but under slightly different angle.” We spoke to Tania about her career and current life as an independent illustrator.

How do you structure your work day?

To be honest, I’m quite a disorganized person. Therefore I don’t have any particular patterns to follow day by day. I do have some daily routines, like morning coffee and walking my dog, but nothing more specific.

Being an independent illustrator for a long time changed the way I work. Each project needs a different approach and can come from San Francisco or Tokyo. It takes a lot of flexibility to be able to manage everything productively. This means different working hours for different clients. Sometimes there is a zoom call for every step, sometimes I’m free to express my creative vision. The only thing that is constant for me is to do every job to the best of my ability.

Tania Yakunova in So Young Issue 33

What is your favourite medium to work with?

It’s hard to pick one. As an artist, I’m constantly trying something new. Looking for different ways to express myself. Apart from being an illustrator (working almost exclusively in the digital domain), I’m also drawing using different materials and techniques. I’m also a ceramic enthusiast.

For now, if I need to pick something, I’d say it is ceramic and ink, there probably will be more work in these media in the future.

How do you keep yourself inspired?

It may sound a little odd, but most of the time I need to push myself to start the creative process. It is the hardest part for me. Inspiration kicks in later and can come from different sources.

It is not even conscious sometimes. I’ve always been a dreamer and this influenced my way of thinking and seeing the world around me.

What is the most important item in your studio/workspace?

There are two main tools I’m using: my laptop and Wacom tablet. They’re covering almost all my needs. Apart from that, daylight is really important for me.

Who are the designers and illustrators you admire most?

One person that stands apart for me is Rene Magritte. I don’t think it is right to call him an illustrator in the contemporary sense of this word. But he inspired me a lot in many different ways. I’m also very much inspired by avante gard art and design of the early 20 century.

Does music influence your work at all?

Yes, in a big way. I love to listen to music while I’m working. Not all the time, but often. Also, sometimes I use images from music and translate them into illustrations. Not long ago, I went to listen to Oscar Piazzolla’s music and did a lot of sketches during the concert.

Who’s your favourite new band/musician?

I’m a more old-school kind of person when it comes to music. So I don’t have a lot of favorite new artists. But I can say that the band Highwomen inspired me a lot.

Finally, what projects do you have coming up?

I’m working on the book series called This Is Music written by the amazing author Rekha S. Rajan for some time now. Two of them will be released in August 2022.

But most of the time now I’m drawing illustrations to reflect on the war going on in Ukraine, raise awareness about the situation around and in Ukraine and help to raise funds to support those who are in need right now.