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To the Point: An Interview with Sergey Kandakov

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What You'll Be Creating

It takes a lot of hard work to apply technique and skill in such a way that can have mass appeal while still remaining true to an artist's personal sensibilities. Sergey Kandakov, our interviewee, keeps his work fresh and on point, while maintaining his own voice within his designs. It's time to take a stroll behind the scenes with one of our own authors here at Tuts+.

Thanks so much for the interview. Let's start at the beginning: What got you into illustration and design?

Thank you for interviewing me. Well, it's my natural need to create something. I need to express myself. And design is a great and open way to get good income and to have fun. That's what I'm doing actually: I'm having fun. When I'm creating some illustrations I'm enjoying [what I'm doing]. I think it's most important and amazing part of the life: to enjoy your job.

Sergey and his wife. 

Who or what are your main sources of inspiration?

Well, I'm getting my inspiration from everyday life. Some ideas comes unexpectedly or from current work. You know, creating something and suddenly: "Oh, it'll be cool to create also this and that by the way!" And drop into the notes. Or watching new movie, or reading new book and: "Wow, nice idea! Maybe I have to create something about this!" Personal example is inspiring to me too. I was very impressed by the works of my friend Dmitry Fet in the start of my work. My first artworks were very similar to his vectors.

Did you study art or are you self taught? Has this impacted the style of tutorials you've done for Tuts+ in any way? 

I'm self taught. I'm addicted to art from my childhood. But it was only for fun until my mother advised me to go to a 3 month Multimedia Course. There I learned simple steps of using Corel Draw and Adobe Photoshop. Then I read some books about Adobe Illustrator, studied some tutorials, etc. I tried to study academic drawing to expand my skills, but it's too boring for me: All I'm explaining in tutorials is just my self experience. I'm glad to share it.

Check out Sergey's tutorial, Create a Tattoo Style, Grunge, Day of Dead Girl Poster in Illustrator.

You specialize in microstocks. For those who don't know much about that area of design and product, what is it? Why have you chosen to create a business out of it?

Microstocks are an amazing part of globalization and an awesome way to be helpful. On the one hand it's the easiest way to find design content for any business, and on the other hand, it's great way to create and provide design content people need. It's amazing! There are millions of images customers, designers or SEO specialists can find, buy, and use in their projects. And I'm the one who is creating and providing these images. There are no offices, no deadlines, no clients. Just trends, ideas and simple technical requirements. Best way to have fun and get income!

An example of one of the microstock app icon packaged Sergey has on his website OMG!vectors.

How do you keep your work fresh? It's clear that you understand current design trends, are there sources for knowing what's in demand?

Yeah, I'm getting newsletters from main microstocks. Also I subscribed to updates from websites such as Behance, FromUpNorth, etc. I'm always checking homepages and the tops of the marketplaces I work with. And again, everyday life gives information: broadcasting, gadgets, gossip.

Sergey's take on the very current long shadow trend with icon design.

What is your creative process like?

Well, sometimes I sketch using my Wacom tablet. Sometimes I use my old stuff to build something new. Sometimes I want to realize one idea and finally come to something completely different. Anyway, I'm always starting from a template file which contains all I need: colors, brushes, layers, etc. Usually, I'm trying to work clean, but sometimes there are too many elements on canvas I may need. 

An example of the workspace within Adobe Illustrator. Sergey's final artwork is contained within the artboard and components of his design are scattered throughout and saved within his working file.

I'm always duplicating layers to keep the progress. Also, I'm saving different named files to have a back-up. I can say that I'm an accurate person and I'm trying to keep my files in order. I can find the file I created in 2008 in few seconds [because they're organized].

The importance of naming files and folders displayed above. This allows any designer to come back to work weeks, months, and even years later and know exactly what each file contains.

What programs and tools do you use in creating your work? Anything you're especially fond of that you'd like to recommend to readers? 

I'm using Adobe Illustrator as main software to create my artworks. It's my holy grail. And of course I recommend it for everyone who wants to create vector graphics on a professional level. Also, I use Adobe Photoshop to edit some raster versions of my vectors. I use Adobe Bridge to attribute JPGs (creating EXIFs). I do some screenshots with Skitch. My main browser for work is Firefox. I also use Total Commander to manage my files.

What's your typical workday like? How about your work space? Can you give us an insight into how and where you work?

I'm working from home. My workplace contains a laptop connected to a monitor. Tablet, mouse, keyboard - nothing special. I'm currently living in Thailand, so I got Buddha under my screen. 

My typical work day begins at 8 AM. Yeah, I'm an early bird. Actually, I'm starting work right after my daughter goes in playschool. My creative potential is always powerful in the morning hours; don't know why. First, I check my email while I'm drinking coffee and give some feedback. Then, I start creative work with my microstocks projects (I've always got the list of ideas I lined before). Or doing some custom job. An important part of my creative process is music. I love drum'n'bass -- it's my second big passion after design. Sometimes I'm even dancing sitting in the chair. All together it gives good results. But I'm very focused on creative process. That's why I'm not using any messengers when I'm working. Nothing can distract me during these 5-6 hours. I'm totally absorbed in my work. And usually I'm finishing around 2-3 PM. [By then] I'm gradually losing my concentration. So then I'm going to the gym to have fun in another way.

Is your work typically focused on microstock, or do you freelance, do contract work, or are employed in-house as well? 

Yeah, I'm working custom sometimes as I said before. Just to have extra income and extra fun. Also it is a good alternative to microstocks. I love to change scenery sometimes. I have a couple of regular customers who giving me interesting projects periodically. Usually potential clients request some projects by email. They finding me though my profiles on microstocks. I'm not searching out customers.

What words of advice do you have for emerging illustrators or artists who wish to engage in design as you have?

Love what you do! The arts created with passion becomes the hits! Enjoy your work! And one more for those who want to create good content for microstocks: think as a customer! Buy something yourself. Only in this way you can know how to create really useful images. Always keep in mind this question: "How can the stuff I'm creating be applied in real design?" This is the way to access on microstocks.

Many thank to Sergey for taking the time to chat about his work. It's fantastically inspiring to see behind the curtain of a workhorse of a designer and to get a taste of the life of a working artist. You can check out his work in the following links:

Moreover, you can check out Sergey's tutorials here on tuts+ below.

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