“Abstract thinking does not necessarily make you an abstract artist. I see the world through math and concepts, I love the beauty of the abstract, but I try to communicate it through figurative shapes. Illustration offers me the ability to play around and make odd visual connections. wherever your mind dares to travel, your hand and pencil should follow.”
Of Atoms and Lines are black and white, mostly line-based artworks created by Jelena Ristic, an architect who decided to quit her job, move to London to study visual media and become a freelance illustrator.
Give us a bit of background on your career.
As far as I can think back I’ve loved drawing. As a child, my father made little drawings for me which I kept in a little folder. I remember thinking that this was the most precious thing in the world. However, I actually studied architecture and ended up working as a full-time architect for five years. I guess, in the end my childhood memories made me realise that I was headed the wrong way. I quit my job, moved to London and studied MA Illustration and Visual Media. After graduation, I came back to Austria and decided to go freelance right away because going back to a 9 to 5 job was just not an option for me anymore. This was two years ago and since then I have been very fortunate to work on different projects ranging from branding, logo or tattoo design, and animation to direct commissions for original artwork.
How would you describe your style? Has it changed over time?
Black and white, dreamy, abstract with a hint of reality and partly letter-based. I would say that my style has changed hugely over time. During my first few months in London I did more traditional illustration, in the sense that I focused on objects and realistic depiction. But this started to change gradually as my interests shifted towards more abstract topics and ideas.
Are there any particular themes you usually work with?
The idea of movement and flow is a very present and constant within my work process. Nature, science and contemporary dance are other fields that inform my work, not only visually but also on a theoretical level. I like to search for common grounds between different disciplines and try to connect them through illustration.
What is your creative process like when creating a new piece?
Usually I do some research and jump into sketching pretty quickly. Most of the time I already have a certain visual in my head but it takes a few rounds of drawing and going over it again and again until it feels right. I would say it is a creative process of 70% trying and 30% focused execution. Especially when working on abstract line compositions it is more about finding this certain harmony within the artwork. There’s this moment when you look at it and know “thats it.”
The creative process with typography tends to be more straightforward because I treat the line work more as decorative elements within the given shapes of the letters.
What other artists have inspired your work?
One of my biggest inspirations is Leonardo DaVinci. Not primarily for his art per se but for his curious mind for so many different disciplines and using art as a tool for exploration. Another inspiration is the works of Picasso because of his artistic evolution from realistic drawing to more abstract art.
Where else do you look for inspiration?
Music theory and music in general is another great inspiration for me. Sometimes when I feel stuck, I like to listen to musicians talk about their creative process. Other than that, I am constantly on the lookout for interesting details, compositions and structures, pretty much everywhere. It could be while walking through the city, watching a movie or on Pinterest/Instagram.
What are your favourite art / illustration books and why do you love them?
As for my favourite illustration book, I still like to refer to my childhood folder. Obviously not for its universal value but rather for the personal significance and for reminding me that I made the right change at a certain point in life.
What have been your favourite projects to work on?
Original artworks and tattoo designs because I get to draw and create a lot with my hands, away from the computer. One very sweet project from last year was for a girl from America who had commissioned me to create an original artwork for her parent´s wedding anniversary. That was really a highlight for me.
I also worked on a mural project as a student during my time in London. I really loved the labour intense character of it and hope to make time in the near future for more large scale projects.
How has social media played a role in your art / career?
Instagram has become my main source for getting commissions and collaborations. Honestly, I never imagined that this would be possible but I am very fortunate to get contacted by people and companies from all over the world. I think the image-based layout of Instagram can be a very powerful marketing tool, depending on how you use it. Just recently, I also launched my own online store thanks to demand for my artwork on Instagram.
What advice would you give yourself if you started all over again?
To worry/overthink less, and just keep doing. Having doubts is something everybody has I guess but it should not keep you from trying things out and taking a little risk now and then. Don’t they say “Doubt kills more dreams than failures ever will”?!