The Q&A: Natalya Balnova

By Peggy Roalf   Wednesday September 6, 2017

Q: Originally from [where?] what are some of your favorite things about living and working in [your current locale]?

A:I grew up in St-Petersburg, Russia. My favorite things about living in New York are the dynamic pace of life and the variety of different cultures.

Q: Do you keep a sketchbook?

A: No, I don't keep a sketchbook, I just draw on loose sheets of paper. It gives me more freedom than a sketchbook. So I have piles of papers in my studio and they keep growing.

But I also have a lot of unused sketchbooks hanging around on my shelves with drawings on one or two pages and some sporadic notes on random subject matter.

A: What is the balance between art you create on paper [or other analog medium] versus in the computer?

A: I do sketches to come up with ideas, and draw images on paper. Then I bring the images to the computer if I need to do some compositional and color adjustments or if I need to prepare files for silkscreen printing. I always draw in black ink first. Roughly, I would say my process is 70% drawing on paper, 30% finish work in computer.

Q: What is the most important item in your studio?

A: Ink and paper, then my computer.

Q: How do you know when the art is finished?

A: I am guided either by my intuition or the deadline.

Q: What was your favorite book as a child?

A: I liked fairy tales and folk stories from various places around the world. They are very visual and enigmatic. The one that influenced me the most was Hans Christian Andersen with his sad and mysterious characters.

Q: What is the best book you’ve recently read?

A: Lynda Barry's What It Is. The experience of reading this book with its imagery was like cinematographic poetry or a visual dreamland. It was very engaging.

Q: If you had to choose one medium to work in for an entire year, eliminating all others, what medium would you choose?

A: Silkscreening.

Q: What elements of daily life exert the most influence on your work practice?

A: Morning walks, observation, daydreaming.

Q: What was the [Thunderbolt] painting or drawing or film or otherwise that most affected your approach to art?

A: It is hard to pick just one. My influences have changed over time. Sometimes I was drawn to complicated things, sometimes simpler ones. In the long run, all of my influences are like a big kaleidoscope of emotions and ideas which has built up my inner self. A couple of months ago, an exhibition I saw at the American Folk Art Museum on the outsider artist Carlo Zinelli had a strong influence on me. I felt as if I were going through an unfolding spontaneous diary of life experience. It was a mesmerizing, philosophical and spiritual visual universe.

Q: What was the strangest/most interesting assignment you've taken that has an important impact on your practice, and what changed through the process?

A: I think the strangest and most interesting assignments are the ones I generate for myself. It is important for me to self-generate projects because it keeps my creativity alive and keeps me motivated. I don't feel any restrictions or obligation in the content, so they are more honest on an emotional level.

Q: What would be your last supper?

A: A slice of cake. I like sweets, and I am really fighting hard not to be tempted by them.

Natalya Balnova is a New York based illustrator, designer and printmaker.She graduated from the MFA Illustration as Visual Essay program at the School of Visual Arts, received a BFA in Communication Arts from the Parsons School of Design , as well as a BFA in Communication Arts from the Academy of Industrial Art and Design (St Petersburg, Russia).

She has been recognized by American Illustration, The Society of Illustrators, Print Design Annual, Art Directors Club, 3x3 Magazine, Creative Quarterly, Art Book Wanted.

Her clients include: Blue Q / British Council / Chicago Review Press / Counterpoint Press / De la Martinière Jeunesse / Grupo Expansión / Harper Collins / Hyperakt / La Guarimba International Film Festival / Farrar, Straus and Giroux / The Boston Globe / The Chronicle of Higher Education / The New York Times / The Washington Post / The Wall Street Journal / Village Voice 


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