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Interview with Meni Tzima (Yupyland)

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Read Time: 6 min

Enter the wonderful world of Yupyland and the mind of Meni Tzima. Learn all about this illustrator form Athens, Greece. Along side numerous hand worked projects, Meni is a talented vectorista. She creates numerous vector characters and illustrations bound for an array of end product destinations. Let's get to know Meni and the inspirational artwork she creates!

1. Hello Meni, please tell us a bit about yourself. Where are you from, what training do you have, and how did you get started in the field?

I was born in Larissa, Greece and studied graphic design at TEI of Athens. I was interested in the arts from a very young age and my design studies made things clear for me, becoming an illustrator was a natural step. After graduation I worked as a full time illustrator. Two years later, I decided to become a freelance illustrator and work on my own projects. I now live and work in Athens, together with my husband Nicko, and Ozi, our crazy orange cat.


2. What is it about vector graphics that draws you to use them as your artistic medium of choice? And do you have a healthy relationship with Illustrator's tool set?

Vector graphics are so easy to edit. This is the reason I prefer to use Illustrator as my tool of choice, especially for client projects. Another important reason I prefer to use vectors is because I like perfect lines and curves. Clean color and forms. Everything must be the way it is supposed to be and I like having full control over my work.


3. What do you think makes a great character? How do you infuse personality into your character designs? What makes your characters unique? How do you come up with your character design ideas?

Everything I do begins on paper. No computers, just me and my sketchbook. And some good metal music :) When I first start drawing a new character, I think about his/her story. A story is what makes a character and its unique personality. Even the corporate characters, they deserve a background story too!

I like thinking up funny stories about them when I begin designing them for client products, just for fun. When I am satisfied with the result on paper, I proceed working on the computer. Humor is also very important to my work, I try to make my characters fun looking. And finally, I try to avoid the boring stuff, unless it's intentionally :)


4. I noticed you tried your hand at painting a vinyl character. Do you plan on doing more of this type of work? Also, could you tell us about your Yupyland Sketchel project?

Yes! I love vinyl toys, especially the custom painted ones. When I have the time between client projects, I am working on more hand painted stuff. I do enjoy the process and I love working with my hands, away from computers. Personal projects keep me motivated and help me get better with my work. The sketchel was one of those fun projects, it was a design I made for Jeremyville, used on a sketchel bag.


5. What makes your illustrations work stand out as unique? What stylistic elements make up your look? What has helped influence your illustration style?

Drawing daily in my sketchbook has formed my illustration style. I'm not sure what could be those elements that make my work stand out as unique, but I hope it is! I always try to be myself, have fun with what I do and try to do my best.


6. I notice you participate in numerous exhibitions? Aside form being fun, is this a good chance to network and promote your work? How has participating in exhibitions helped your business?

Exhibitions are fun! They are a good reason to create new exciting work for personal pleasure and for more people to see your true voice! I love taking part in exhibitions, some really helped my business.


7. How long did it take you to get a foothold in the industry and establish some regular clients? Did you get experience working at agencies before going freelance?

As soon as I graduated from design school, I worked in Athens as a full time illustrator for a children's website. 2 years later, I decided to start working on my own projects and then, Nicko and I, started Dinnerr design studio. Since 2006, It has been and still is a challenge for us, but with great rewards! In our field, work is really what matters.


8. Could you tell us about Dinner Studio? Who's behind it and do you get a chance to collaborate with other artists or designers there? What types of work does this agency focus on?

At the moment, the people behind Dinnerr design studio are my best friend/husband Nicko and me. Dinnerr is our warm & cozy studio in Athens. We specialize in print, web design & illustration and we work on design projects for clients in Greece and abroad. Depending on the project, we often have the chance to work with other local designers, programmers, animators, etc. We never get the chance to feel lonely! And of course we are always looking for more nice people to work with, from any place in the world.


9. Could you walk us through the creation of the "Lifo illustration," and is this typical of your illustration workflow?

The "Lifo illustration" is one of my favorite illustrations. I was asked to create an illustration about my favorite book. I chose to work with Irvine Welsh's "Filth" simply because it's a great book and I like the main character. Since I had full creative freedom, the idea was abstract in my head and I wanted to see where it took me. I made a quick rough sketch on paper and scanned it to play freely on my computer. Then I started experimenting with it and made the final illustration. I wanted to make an impression about the book, not really showing any particular character or scene.


10. To what extent is color important in your work? How do you choose colors for your work? Is it intuitive, experimental, or do you have a refined process for picking colors? Are there certain color or tones you're drawn to?

Color are very important to my work! I love using color and experimenting with it. When I choose colors, I trust my instinct and spend time working on my colors, until I am fully satisfied with the result. I like them all!


11. What are your plans for the future? Any creative work coming up, or that you're currently working on, that you're excited about?

We are working on my new website at the moment, it has been so much time since a brand new fresh redesign! I'm really looking forward to it. I've also worked for some really cool apparel for Throttleman, collaborated in a fashion project with a local fashion studio and always keep working on my personal project, hoping sometime I'll be able to show it to the rest of the world.


Thanks for the interview Meni! Is there any advice that you'd like to give aspiring illustrators and designer who are working hard to grow professionally?

Keep working and improve, because work is what matters.


Meni (Yupyland) on the Web

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