feeder insider w/ Livia Coloji [en]
Bustling illustrator and fairy to little ones everywhere, Livia Coloji brings playfulness and joy to Timişoara with every brush stroke. Layer after layer, her drawings create miniature worlds and everlasting stories with infinite care and tenderness towards the simple and at the same time magical universe of childhood. Between contests, exhibitions and festivals, Livia Coloji carved out some time to sketch out the blueprint of a life among colors, canvases and friends.
Keywords: indigo, dwarves, superheroes, watermelon, paintbrush
My day begins with… a 30-minute road to the studio.
Summer nights… are way too hot.
If the world were in only 3 colors, they’d be… indigo, magenta and orange.
The book I’d love to illustrate is… about the wilderness, with endless dark forests.
I can’t help… giving advice.
My favorite T-shirt… stopped fitting me about a year ago.
I enjoy drawing the most… with a lot of colors.
I wish I had more… new brushes.
When two quarrel… the third makes peace!
3 artists I’d admit to the Madhouse (Balamuc)… Brecht Evens, ATAK and Sophie Lécuyer.
Violeta Năzare: Hello, Livia! I’m glad we’re able to have this conversation, especially at such a meaningful time for you: you’ve recently been shortlisted for the World Illustration Awards, hosted by The Association of Illustrators (AOI). How does it feel and what can you tell us about „Rosemary Blue”, the personal project that prompted the nomination?
Livia Coloji: Hey! I’m glad too, thank you very much! As for my being shortlisted for the WIA 2015, I’m still stunned. I rarely take part in contests and it’s the first time I’ve submitted a piece for the WIA, which I only did because I was interested in what 2 of the members of the jury thought about it. Now that I’ve made it to the next stage, I feel all the more happy and encouraged as i’m competing with a personal project and not a commercial one, done as part of a team. You cand find out more about „Rosemary Blue” on my website, where I also have a series of limited edition replicas of the two pieces up for sale.
V.N.: The Livia Coloji of today is a successful illustrator, whose drawings beautify packages, cards, children’s books, magazines and advertising projects, even being presented in exhibitions. How did your story as an illustrator begin? What inspires you to take to the brush?
L.C.: My story as an illustrator began in 2005 as a newly graduated college student working in Timişoara at a design studio, Idea Design & Print. At first, I most enjoyed the projects where I could do some drawing, but there weren’t many of the kind. Around that time, I stumbled upon a portal for illustrators. It still exists and it’s called illustrationmundo.com. Nowadays, I rarely remember it, but in 2005’s Romania it struck me as the ultimate source of information and that’s where I discovered that illustration can actually be a profession. I gleaned as much as I could, built a worthwhile portfolio and, as hard as it was starting out, from 2007 onwards I’ve always been busy.
I don’t know what to say about inspiration, I’m very skeptical about it. I suspect it doesn’t exist. If it actually does exist, then I have no idea where it comes from and where it goes.
V.N.: How would you describe your creative process? When do you prefer to work, which surfaces, what is your technique?
L.C.: I work at… Balamuc, usually on a longer schedule, which is about 10 hours instead of 8. It’s because I like it that way and it allows me to let go, not because I have to. That way I can afford more vacationing time in a year. I work on various surfaces, sometimes on digital media, other times on paper or canvas.
I use markers, acrylics, watercolors or colored ink, colored pencils and all of those together. However, I’m very exacting when it comes to the materials I use because the technical side, the craftsmanship, is very important to me.
V.N.: A large part of your works are illustrations for children’s books. What drew you towards this segment?
L.C.: I was obviously drawn to the vivid colors, the little dots and hearts and many other cute things. Jokes aside, the segment pertaining to children’s products is highly developed and rich in opportunities. In the ten years I’ve worked as an illustrator I barely scratched the surface and I know that the illustrations I make can (and probably will) have a much wider spectrum. When someone asks me what I do for a living, I always tell them I’m in a very serious business – that of drawing for kids!
On the surface it doesn’t seem serious at all, but my drawings, as well as other illustrators’, are the first step in a child’s education, and education and culture are big assets.
V.N.: Aside from the hours you devote to drawing, you spend your time hosting workshops for children and teaching illustration to high school or art school students. What are the themes you focus on and what do you think is lacking in the artistic education of today’s young generation?
L.C.: I don’t know if there is anything missing from youngsters’ artistic education and I don’t think it’s something one can draw general conclusions about. What I do know about is what I struggle to give through the workshops I hold – self confidence and a current theme that even I would enjoy working on. As for the rest, how we divide the workload per session, the methods we approach, the work technique, they’re all just details. I wanted to teach ever since I graduated, but that didn’t work out and in the end it was all for the best because in the meantime I developed other abilities. Now I’m a lot more prepared and I’m actually considering a course for young graduates interested in illustration.
V.N.: One word: Timişoara. What influence did the city have on your style? What do you regard as its pros and cons with respect to artists, compared to Bucharest?
L.C.: I don’t think it had a big influence on my style. The art school at Timişoara is famous for its experimental approach, but this isn’t characteristic of my work and it’s arguable whether or how it applies to illustration. Surely though, Timişoara did influence the person I am today. There’s a lot to go into on this topic about family, foreign colonists, school and teachers, about foreign exchange programs abroad in ‘90s’ Romania. In short, I’ve always had strong ties to the West and it taught me well. Would it have been the same if I hadn’t been born in Banat? I don’t think it would have for me. Speaking of pros and cons, they only exist with reference to a set of objectives, so it would be difficult for me to speak for the other artists. I believe we have the benefit of living in an age when we no longer have to meet the people we collaborate with. As a result, even if the majority of my Romanian customers are from Bucharest, the fact that I don’t live there doesn’t affect our relationship.
I also like Timişoara because it’s quiet enough for me to hear myself thinking, which might not be the same in Bucharest. Of course, when it comes to the cultural scene and exhibition spaces, Bucharest is clearly at an advantage.
V.N.: Your activity was never just about local collaborations, and your works have been on display in Romania as well as Germany, Italy, Switzerland. How does having an exhibition in Romania compare to having one abroad?
L.C.: I’d love to have more experience on the subject, but I don’t. I try to set aside more time for personal projects, but the truth is I can’t afford to do as many as I’d like. I rarely display my work and it usually happens in group exhibitions, without me being too involved in the process, so my experience on the matter is pretty vague and fragmentary. In time I’m sure I’ll reach a higher number of personal projects and exhibitions, but I guess we’ll only be able to talk about this in about 10 years.
V.N.: . Together with Ana Kun and Răzvan Cornici, your longtime friends, you founded Balamuc / loc de joaca ş-altele, the studio which serves as a creative hub and promotes illustration and childish playfulness. The Breakfast of Superheroes and the Kriptonite Workshop are just a few of its trademark events; what motivated you to initiate the project and where do you see it heading?
L.C.: All three of us were in dire need of a studio and since we’re a very lucky bunch we wound up in this workroom that took on a life and identity of its own. As it’s very spacious, we use it not only for our day-to-day work, but also to promote lowbrow art and illustration. This would spell out the general context, and from here on every projects has its own hallmark. With the Breakfast of Superheroes, last year’s exhibition, we aimed to bring to the city artists who are rarely present in Timişoara. This year we will be a part of the Timişoara Art Encounters biennale’s first edition and we’ll be hosting a radically different, but equally interesting exhibition. If all goes well, we’ll keep up the pace for the following years with one big event and another one, at most 2 smaller events every year. This way, we want to showcase our work, get closer to our public and demystify the great act of creation! 🙂
V.N.: What are you currently working on and what other projects do you have lined up?
L.C.: I’ve just completed a collective project where Balamuc worked side by side with Super Smooth Studio, in partnership with Marele Ecran and Pelicula Culturală. Specifically, we took on the visual identity of the Ceau Cinema! festival, including a series of products for the “cineshop”, meaning tote bags, t-shirts, stickers and posters, in limited and very limited edition. They turned out really nice and we were very glad to see how the public received them.
We hope that we’ll keep seeing the t-shirts and tote bags on the street over the following year, which we silk-screen printed with our film-and-Gottlob-watermelon lover drawings. In the meantime, we started working on another project, a children’s book embossed on the inside, with hidden scenes behind the imprints. Soon, I’ll be painting alongside Răzvan Cornici our first mural. It will take place during the urban culture festival Bohemian Square, in Braşov, between the 21st and 23rd of August. That’s about it short-term, but I have a much longer list stretching to the end of the year.
V.N.: For the past 11 years, feeder.ro has been the news agency for the alternative nation and has been featuring artists such as Aitch, Pisica Pătrată, Kitră, Irlo, Bast and Ghica Popa. What’s your relationship with feeder.ro?
L.C.: I’ve known it since it was just starting out and I found out a great deal from feeder.ro, even about people I personally know, so it has at least two great qualities – it’s consistent and observant.
Feeder Insider explores the universe surrounding music and visual arts through open conversations with local and international artists. Join us here on our weekly crossing of the border between human and technological. An editorial project co-financed by the Administration of the National Cultural Fund (AFCN).
Interviu şi traducere realizate de Violeta Năzare