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Zutto is a very talented illustrator and graphic designer from Moscow, Russia. Her illustrations are full of vibrant colors, fantasy characters and dreamy scenes. She says that her magic eyes can see the unusual in a usual things, which leads her to creative and nostalgic illustrations. So lets have some chat with her.

1. Hi Zutto, tell us a little about yourself, where do you come from? And, how were your growing up years like?

I was born in a small city in South Ural in Russia. My city is surrounded by mountains which are covered by beautiful pine and birch forests. If you look at this place on Google Earth, you can see lots of forests, dozens of lakes and small towns. I grew up climbing these mountains and walking in the forests, therefore I like nature.

I think it was my way to become an artist. I always liked to draw. Even when I was 2 years old, I used to draw everywhere I could reach. It was a real curse for my parents. So when I left school, I entered the university to study interior design. After graduating I worked for small design agencies for some time. Then I moved to Moscow. There I developed my skills, I also realized that I want to do only the things I really love. So I left the agency and became a freelancer. I've been engaging in freelance work since then.

2. What is the most interesting thing that you are working on at this moment?

Now I'm working on some projects simultaneously, and all of them are very interesting for me. Also there is one personal project, perhaps you saw the first part, it is called "A very long journey." It's about a trip of little girl through a big world both fascinating and frightening.

Recently I read two of Jeff Noon's books, namely "Virt" and "Pollen." Some ideas from these books are very consistent with some of my current ideas and I get a lot of inspiration from them. So maybe you will see the influence of these stories on my works soon.

3. Where and how did you learn all this design craft? Did you take any formal education or are you self-taught?

I don't have any special education for illustration. I'm self taught in this way, maybe it's good and maybe not :)

So I didn't take a job for my speciality and tried to do what I like - to make illustrations! I worked in different agencies and I learned graphic programs in a very fast way. Later when I became a freelancer, my best wish was to learn how to express my ideas better, so I worked a lot on my skills and style.

I think the best way to learn something is to work very very much in this way.

4. What tools and applications do you use to create your arts? Where do you usually work from and how does your workstation look like?

I'm using Photoshop and Illustrator and a large Wacom Intuos. Usually I work at home, I have a special room where is always dark and the music is playing almost always. It's a very good atmosphere for working the whole day.

5. You are a graduate in Interior Design, what made you switch paths to drawing and illustrations?

When I got my first PC and started to learn graphic software, I understood that illustration was the right way for me. But my parents wanted me to graduate university. I wanted to do what I really liked and what makes me happy. Well I realized that quite early. Also, my boyfriend gave me a lot of help. He is a man of taste and he always supports me.

6. What are the pros and cons of working as a freelancer for you? What do you do to promote your works, any specific marketing strategy? Do you think being part of the design community or social networking are beneficial in that regard?

As a freelancer, you can choose what you want to do, distribute your working time. I prefer to work at night, wake up in the evening and go to bed in the morning, sometimes I don't sleep. This schedule is not conformed for office work. The key point is personal freedom and the constant element of surprise. All that stimulates my imagination a lot.

I think this lifestyle is not suitable for everybody, you need to be very organized, motivated and responsible, especially when you have some projects that need to be made very quickly. I'm not sufficiently organized and I need to hold on myself. But this lifestyle is the best for me.

I don't have any special strategy to promote my work. I have a web site, I put my works on Flickr and Behance like everyone. There are no secrets in that. There are many designers who spend a lot of time in social networks promoting themselves, commenting others. I think it can give some response but it takes a lot of time. I don't like that way. Better I will make more illustrations.

I guess I'm a part of the design community anyway. It doesn't depends on my own accord. My works start their own life when they get into the web. It's my way of communication. Twitter or forums are not for me. Now I want to work a lot and catch as many ideas as I can while they appear in large quantities.

7. Describe your creative process. Do you first traditionally sketch and scan or start directly digitally? Do you always have a concept in mind or is it continuously evolving?

I have a moleskin which is constantly with me. I always draw some sketches in it when I have some ideas. Later, when I want to make a real project I scroll through my moleskin and always find what I need. Something that I can take as a base idea. I think this sketchbook is a magic thing!

When I'm working on a real project I make a big sketch. It helps me to see idea more clearly. But in a working process I can redo all several times, until the result satisfies me. So the base idea is mainly very abstract and in a working process it changes a lot. Mostly I draw in Illustrator and sometimes I may complete my work in Photoshop if needed.

8. Your illustrations are colorful, filled with fun fantasy characters; they seem to be telling a story. Is it the story that comes first or illustrations? Where do you get the ideas and inspiration for your illustrations?

I have a lot of information always in my head. Everything that I can imaging can be a source for inspiration. Sometimes a usual things such as boiling water can inspire me. Maybe I have a magic eye, which can see unusual in a usual things. Anyone who wants to see, will be sure to see.

You can allow your ideas to evolve, and they will grow and come to such in extent that your life will not be enough to realize all of them. I guess every creative individual has constantly blooming and dying universes in his mind, while his real life can be deprived of some events.

9. I see, you enjoy collaborating with other artists; tell us something about those projects. Does a collaboration helps to learn some new skills or technique?

Yes, it is very interesting experience which gives an unpredictable result. All my collaborations were made for fun. Every time it was like somebody gives me his characters and I tried to take them in that place where they feel themselves like at home. And you need to adapt there character in your style, you need to make that character look good in your environment. Of course, it helps to improve skills and to get new drawing techniques. It's like looking at yourself from the other side and to see something new.

10. Would you like to share with us your favorite Illustrator tool, tip or technique?

Hehe, that's a surprise question! Sure, I'm in love with gradients and gradient meshes. And that genial tool in Illustrator CS4 is easy to change gradient to transparent is great. Now this is an ideal program for my work.

11. What are the projects in your career so far that you are proud of?

I love all my works in varying degrees. All of them gave something special to me. It looks like I learn to draw again every time I start a new picture. It's a very interesting feeling.

12. Zutto, thanks for chatting with us on VECTORTUTS+. Any word of advice you would like to give to upcoming illustrators?

Thanks you too, I'm glad to talk with you. I advice to fully devote yourself to your job. From the other side, you have to get pleasure from your job, otherwise it loses its meaning. And you should work hard and always listen to yourself. There is no point in being just a reflection of somebody's opinion.

Zutto on Web:

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