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To the Point: Interview With Nataliya Dolotko

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Baby fox printBaby fox printBaby fox print

This is a bit of a special interview. Nataliya Dolotko is a Ukrainian artist currently living in Germany, creating microstock graphics and tutorials for us here at Tuts+. Read on to learn about what got her into design, her experiences as an artist working for Tuts+, Shutterstock and Fotolia, and where she plans to go with her designs.

Hi Nataliya! Thanks so much for taking the time to do this interview. Let's start with what got you into art.

I am so excited and happy to have this interview! Thanks so much for the invitation!

Well, I've always enjoyed drawing and was a shy child who drew quietly in her corner. Since school, my notebooks have been filled with doodles and drawings. When I finished at Lviv National University in Ukraine (actually I am a history teacher), I changed a few professions and couldn't stick with any of them. My family travels a lot and when we lived in the US, on the recommendation of my friend Tamara Patsay, I started to draw for microstocks. The last time my family lived in France and I was a teacher at a Ukrainian school in Paris, I decided to stop changing professions repeatedly and to be a professional artist.

Nataliya herselfNataliya herselfNataliya herself

Who or what are your main sources of inspiration?

There are a few artists who inspire me a lot: Beatrix Potter, Jill Barklem, Jean-Jacques Sempé, Brian Paterson, Teagan White, and many talented artists on microstock sites. I adore libraries, museums and art galleries, excursions to castles, children books, which I read with my daughter, vintage photos, and walking around the beautiful town of Munich with my family.

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Are you formally trained?

I have my masters degree in history. I thought about starting a second degree in art, but decided to learn what I wanted to know through online courses and tutorials. So, I’m totally self taught.

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What is your creative process like?

My drawings are my feelings. It's my natural need to use paper and pencil. I always have a sketchbook and markers or pencils in my handbag. I'll be drawing on the metro, when waiting for my daughter in her dance class, or during vacations on a beach. It’s something that flows from my heart. And once I draw it on paper, I never digitize it. I had feelings, I splashed them out on paper, and I feel satisfied. But if I’m close to my computer, I try to draw in Adobe Illustrator and make money from it.

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

I always use just Adobe Illustrator or a marker and paper; it is enough to start drawing something. For me, it is very important to have a good quality marker or pencil, a clean eraser, and a nice notebook. Many people use sketches at first and then transfer them to computer, doing a lot of steps before seeing their artwork.

I advocate the simplest way when you just open AI, create a new document, and that’s it. You have everything you need there. To organize my files I use File Explorer. Recently I started to use Moosti, an online time tracker, in order to be more organized. I also like Stabilo, Staedtler, and Faber-Castell pencils and markers.

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For how long have you worked professionally? Is your work as an artist your day job?

My work as an artist is my only job. I started to draw for microstocks in 2009 and for Tuts+ in 2013, which make up my income. I’m not trying to work on commission; I can’t work under the pressure.

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Nataliya's fox design was also the basis for a tutorial here on Tuts+.

What's your typical workday like? How about your work space?

I start my workday at 7:30 am. Every day I dedicate half an hour to improving my German, and then I answer emails, draw, upload images to microstocks, and write tutorials. When I draw, I lose my connection with reality, and sometimes it’s hard to interrupt myself and do exactly what I need according to my workday plan. At 2:30 pm I go out to pick up my daughter from school.

Hand drawn type poster designHand drawn type poster designHand drawn type poster design

As a creative person, it’s very important to be free when working without a boss or time frame where you need to create something from 8 to 5 pm. But still I need to be very organized to get something done.

Nataliyas work spaceNataliyas work spaceNataliyas work space
Nataliya's work space, featuring her tools and inspiration.

Currently you create micro stock for Shutterstock and write tutorials for Tuts+. How did you start working with these companies? 

I started to draw for Shutterstock and other microstocks in 2009, when I was at home with my baby. Now it’s the perfect job for me, because my family moves a lot around the world and I can work in any country where we may live. I draw for other stock sites too, such as Dreamstime, 123RF, Fotolia, Depositphotos, and iStock. I write tutorials for Tuts+, 123RF, and Medialoot. But my first love was Tuts+. 

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When creating concepts for tutorials, what do you look to for inspiration? Are you focused on hitting trends, taking direction from editors, or do you create things you want and write about them?

I just surf through the internet, often on Pinterest. You know that moment, when you're scrolling, looking, and then... boom! You have a great idea for the next tutorial! Also I read advices from editors, keep it in my mind, walking with it for while and... boom! I'll be making a card on Trello.

Little Princess stock art designLittle Princess stock art designLittle Princess stock art design

When creating content for micro stock, what sort of work do you think sells best for you? Do you create sets of designs with the intention of it being a high seller, or are you focused on creating work you love first with the idea that it's possible it'll sell?

Of course, I pay attention to what sells the best, which season or holiday, and get the newsletters from the microstocks. My main goal is to be recognizable and that’s why I focus mostly on what I love. The first priority is my personality in drawing.

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What are your goals as an artist?

My biggest goal is to have my own brand.

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What words of advice do you have for aspiring designers?

Balance and harmony in everything! To be free and to be self organized. To be workaholic but remember your family. If you are a graphic designer, you can't focus solely on income and draw soulless icons for money. But if you have the talent from God to create something beautiful, you can’t draw just for fun, because it's one of the commandments of God to develop your own talent. And practice, practice, practice!

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Many thanks to Nataliya for taking the time to share her artwork and experiences with us today. I rather love and agree with the idea that sometimes you just have to create because you can. It's a lovely sentiment and really shows with her designs.

For more of Nataliya's work, check out these links around the web:

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