Chat with the Artist – Varya Yakovleva

“Three things are important to me;

1. To feel and accept myself, I mean both in general and in specific meaning: the motor skills of my hand and the peculiarities of thinking. To develop your best sides, not to fight with your weaknesses.

2. To practice analysis. To analyze the works of masters of art, contemporaries and the most difficult think is to analyze our own work.

3. Allowing yourself to make mistakes. Because only in mistakes lies individuality and the opportunity to find something new.”

Oneluv (Trailer) – Animation, short film by Varya Yakovleva

Hello Varya! How did you become an artist? 

I was 18 years old when I started drawing. Before that I was hitchhiking around Russia, trying to understand why we follow the rules of society such as school, college, institute, family, career from childhood. but in one of the cities I met students from an art college, they opened up the world of visual art for me, even though I hadn’t drawn at all before. So, I started a new life.

What inspires and excites you most?

My feelings, those are what make me draw. I think my feelings would tear me apart if I wouldn’t draw. I am also inspired by good artists, nude models, the public demand for me as an artist. I like to sketch ordinary life, but I also react to events that are happening, now it’s war, before that I worked a lot with the theme of abuse and domestic violence. 

Do you have any daily working routine?

I am terrible at routines, actually.  Last year i have big problems with insomnia. I get up very late and it takes me another hour or two to regain consciousness. And then I go to work in my studio. I can stay very long before 2 am or I go out with friends in the evening. I don’t like to follow a strict routine. I don’t like to force myself to work. Since I like to do art most of all in my life, I don’t have to fight with myself, I just try to feel myself and live my life.

Now I’m making animatik for my new animated film, during breaks I draw scetches, the life that surrounds me, the people, the landscapes.

“Аnna, cat and mause” Kısa film- Varya Yavovleva

You are drawing without using digital; using paints, brushes, tracing paper and all sorts of other materials. What are the benefits of traditional drawing for you?

I’m just better at drawing analog than digital. I like accidental, I like to work with textures, the resistance of paper to pencil is important to me. When I tried drawing on a tablet it was so boring, my drawings were boring, they were in very different shapes.

Illustration’s future is seen as “motion drawing”. How do you approach your projects?

I’m so happy to be able to make my own movies. I love everything about the process. Coming up with a story, being immersed in a new reality, being able to speak not only with image but also with sound and editing and movement, interacting with the crew… 

Can you tell us about your short movie creation processes? Approximately how long does it take to finish your project? 

It used to take me about 9 months for a 10 minute movie. Now I live in France and it’s a bit different to find finances here, so my current project is getting very slowly. Well, first you get an idea, it can be based on anything, a memory, a documentary, a dream, a feeling, a novel or a subject etc. Then, we write a script. We look for an art image, we draw a storyboard. We collect animatik in which already laid the editing of the movie, and only then begins production; animations, backgrounds, effects, music and sounds.

Can you tell us about your ongoing exhibition “Anatomical Atlas of Pain”?

“Anatomical Atlas of Pain” is a research on the effects of war. I researched the body’s reaction to the stress of war. Respondents are emigrants and refugees from Ukraine and Russia, in different countries of the world. I have tried to cover the spectrum of representatives of different groups: an artist from Kyiv, a mother of a political prisoner from St. Petersburg, an openly gay man from Russia who now lives in Berlin, a volunteer answering endless calls for help. They described various symptoms of body manifestations of repressed emotions such as pain, fear and anger. The cut-out silhouettes of the figures contorted in pain show the destroyed buildings in Ukraine. I tried to capture the artistic image of how we are influenced by government and religious propaganda, fear, and what remains of everyday life.

Part of your profession is teaching. What can we find in your ateliers? 

I taught graphics for many years and I can say that I grew during that time with my students. It was more like a laboratory where we experimented a lot together. We practiced what i call «scetch-animation». This practice inbetween of scetching and animating. More for artistic exploration in motion. Now I started to teach directing, but it has become more difficult to give classes, maybe because of the difficulties of life, the emigration because of the war, it affected both me and the students. So it’s hard for me to talk about directing classes. 

It was a pleasure to chat with youThank you very much!

Who is Varya Yakovleva?

Artist from Russia, now in exil, based in France. A member of of the agency of L’atelier des artistes en exil.

Participant and an award-winner at International festivals of animated and feature films and illustration.

Director of animation films films: “Anna, Cat and Mouse” 2019, “Life is a Bitch” 2021, “Oneluv” 2022 In total, the films have been selected for more than 200 festivals. Has 23 international awards, including Grand Prix at several festivals and Oscar qualification. Had 7 personal exhibitions and participant of more than 50 collective exhibitions in France, Belgium, Italy, Czech Republic, Croatia, Argentina, Russia,  including  Exposition internationale d’illustration pour enfants – Les images de la fantaisie Italie 2022. Cité Miroir, Liège Belgique 2022. D’ici et d’ailleurs aux La Maison des Auteurs FESTIVAL INTERNATIONAL DE LA BANDE DESSINÉE Angouleme France 2023.  «Linguaggio Esopico» SLAVIKA Festival of slavic cultures, Turin, Italie 2023. «Women against war: the martyresses of Russia», France Paris 2023. «In-migration» personal exhibition Cyprus, Paphos 2023. « Anatomical Atlas of pain» personal exhibition, Tampere, Finland.