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Gizem Vural Illustration Essay

We wrote about Ithaca-based, Istanbul-born illustrator Gizem Vural back in August, when we found ourselves thoroughly impressed by her expressive, vibrantly coloured work for The New Yorker, Nautilius and The Boston Globe. Eight months later, we got back in touch to find out what Gizem did next.

“After the feature, I did work for several magazines and newspapers,” the illustrator tells us. “I also won gold medal in editorial illustration category at Society of Illustrators with my Cursive Handwriting piece for Nautilus magazine." Gizem’s loose and sketchy continues to lend itself to commissions and personal work across a diverse range of specific subjects including unconditional love, ADHD in kids, cursive handwriting in education, learning with AI robots, Trump’s wall, as well as less topic-focused illustrations for The Guardian and NY Times book reviews.

“Lately, I am interested in drawing one-page comics between editorial and personal work,” Gizem adds. More paired back than her commissioned work, the comics display the illustrator’s signature eye for colour and natural ease when mark-making.

Gizem’s colorful work has been unearthed (previously) by Racheal Anilyse, Pikaland’s resident contributor and lover of tea-stained illustrations. I was really enamored with her work, so I decided to bring her back for an interview! Read on to see what goes on in the life of the Istanbul-based illustrator in the making!

Name: Gizem Vural
Location: Istanbul, Turkey
Illustration media: Digital / Traditional

Tell us a little more about yourself!
This is Gizem, 22 years old, from Istanbul. I’ve been drawing since I was 3 (but professionally I’ve been drawing since 2!) I like to dream a lot and draw, and I love drinking latte at Starbucks or eat cinnamon rolls. I like playing with legos very much and also paint on walls. I like to surprise my friends with little illustrations or little packets. But most of all, I like to be alone in my room and create things. Mostly, I am alone, dreaming in my own world.

I’m trying to get a degree in graphic design as my fine arts university does not have an illustration department. I’m also interested in foreign languages a lot. I’ve learnt Japanese and am trying to get better and better at it. Now I’m studying German too.

Where do you live? What stands out about living where you are, and what is your daily schedule like?
I live in Istanbul and what stands out is noisy cars and bad traffic. I think cause of that I always have liked to play with cars since when I was a child. I like to draw them a lot and draw the famous traffic of Istanbul.

My daily schedule is waking up at 8 or 9 everyday, getting ready and go out to university. After classes I stop for a latte or I just go back to home. People here like to be outside but I am always excited to go back and create new things. On the weekends I like to spend time with my boyfriend or friends; I usually go to Bagdat Street or Bostanci Beach. If I want to see the sea and listen to the seagulls and watch the sky, I am at this beach.

How did you get your start in illustration?
In 2006, when I entered the Graphic Design department, I saw that everyone was carrying sketchbooks. To be honest, at that time I had never been interested in illustration. I didn’t know what it was. I saw some people with nice styles and drawings, calling them illustration. I figured out that I have been drawing long time stupid things, like near the book pages, or on some other stuff. I began drawing seriously later, searching for my own style. I love birds by the way, that’s the way I am using a black bird a lot. I am still keeping my first drawing which brought me here.

Could you tell us more about your thought process when you start a piece?
If there is a subject before I draw, I always think and dream about it. If I have enough thoughts on how to draw it, I do sketches and later I draw it when I’m ready. I’m usually sure of how I am going to paint if I draw it traditionally. Because sometimes I’m surprised at how it turns out. I sometimes never know what paint to use. But I like using soft colors. People always like my color choices.

What’s your favorite project so far?
Komsufirin project. It was the second semester project at my department. We were redesigning every packaging from the beginning. I drew so many illustrations, and also created an apron! I created a world called Komsufirin where you can eat many different breads, cakes and cookies. I love its bags; and everything I created for it. I am so sad it was just a project. I hope someone likes it and wants to use it for somewhere. (you can see it here)/468718)

Do you keep a journal/sketchbook, and would you mind if we had a sneak peek?
I always keep a sketchbook. I can’t pass a day without it. I carry it with me wherever I go and my favourite pens. You can check the videos I have created for people to see my sketchbooks from vimeo. ( here’s my sketchbook videos )

Would you care to share your studio space as well?
I use my room as my studio. I had things up on my wall in front of my desk but I pulled them down, I don’t get inspired or they don’t help me a lot when I need to draw or create. It is better to leave it blank and just think in blue. Blue is my favourite color!

What or who inspires you?
Many Asian artists inspire me. Singers, photographers, illustrators… I like their style so much. My favourites are Yoko Furusho, Lee Mei Jane, Nakaji Marie, Zhou Fan, Echi… Also my life, people, my dreams, nightmares help me a lot too.

What keeps you motivated?
My fans’ words. People who support me. : ]

Could you share with us your progression as an artist — compared to when you first started out, how has your style changed since then?
I was using less color when I first started illustrating. I was using more patterns which were hurting your eyes when you looked. Girl characters’ eyes changed a bit. I was drawing girls that were so thin, but now they are fatter. I looked at myself more after beginning illustrating. The more I find out about myself, the more creative things I can draw.

What’s your favourite tool?
Markers!!! Lately I am in love with markers and especially Letraset markers!

Are you a full-time artist?
No. As I am a student, I am just a part-time artist. I hope to be one after graduation.

Where do you see yourself within the next few years?
I will be sooo busy with illustrating, I hope. : ]

What message do you want to send out to people about your work?
I hope you can get what I am trying to give you. I know some of my work has their dark side too in happiness. But I am not always happy inside.

Tell us something random about yourself!
I need a cup of LATTE now!