Vivianna Maria Staņislavska: My future plan is to be happy


August 30, 2016

Vivianna Maria Staņislavska: My future plan is to be happy

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Artist Vivianna Maria Staņislavska has just received the Jānis Baltvilks Prize in the Young Growth subcategory for her illustrations in Ieva Samauska's book “Skaļā klase" (The Noisy Class). This is her first attempt at illustrating a book that she feels very passionate about and admits that she is anticipating new projects. Ever since she was a child, Vivianna was always taken by art in comic books. Last year saw her first solo exhibition Sils/Zarkans (Rlue/Bed), and now she has realised another one of her dreams as an animator in her collaboration with the patroness of Latvian animation Roze Stiebra.

Tell us how you met the author of children's books Ieva Samauska?

The meeting was not a coincidence – we were introduced by the artist Elīna Brasliņa.

What was the collaboration like?                                       

I am thrilled! Fantastic experience. Both with the author and the publishers at  “Pētergailis”. I thoroughly enjoyed the fact that I was able to devote myself solely to creating the book. Reading Ieva's book I immediately saw the main characters return again and again. That is how the six noisy students of the Noisy Class came to be. Ieva was immensely easy to work with. I hope there will be other projects we can do together. I am glad that all of our ideas were heard out, and thanks to this freedom the book turned out exactly how we imagined it. Of course, now, leafing through it after a half a year has passed, I notice things that will need particular attention in future projects.

What were your school years like? Was it as amusing as in the book?

(Laughs) Those were probably, up to this point, the strangest years. There were sad moments that ended in me changing schools. The other school had lots of craziness, mishaps, disorder and fun going on. We had a fantastic teacher, and joy was neverending with her. All the margins of my notebooks were full of little comics and other jokes, and I am happy that teachers rarely disapproved of it. When I was drawing the illustrations for the book, I had a strong sentimentality overtake me, especially when remembering the utter joy of waking up and realising – holidays are here.

What were you reading as a teenager?

I read a lot of Richard Bach, fairy-tales of various writers. But what I read more than anything and re-read hundreds of times was comic books, and I watched loads of animation films. I always had a dream of creating animations. And encyclopaedias – if an opportunity arose to get to know something about birds, I always took it. I often went through my father's library – he had many books on design, I loved those too.

Architect Uldis Lukaševics called your technique of book illustrations “a very brave method”. Tell us more about the technique you chose, please, and what is so brave about it?

In a couple of words – the line was put on paper with ink and quill, later processed in Adobe Illustrator, and there every spread was finished. I picked only two pantones that create a third tone in overprint. The result can be slightly unpredictable since the application cannot precisely detect what the third tone will be. Such a chaotic style of illustration is probably not the most typical one for a first book, but in a sense I did what I saw was suitable for The Noisy Class. Racket, mess, and colours of a lined exercise book (blue and red) is what I had associations with when I read it. I am happy to hear that this book has created the necessary impression. Thank you!

Page from a book "The Noisy Class".

As far as I know, you created the layout and other things regarding the book design yourself, too. You have gained these additional skills during your five months of studying in Krakow, Poland. Does that mean that creating books is a priority for you as an artist at the moment?

I learned a lot both here, in the Art Academy of Latvia, from my parents, and in Krakow. I am a big fan of illustration, I want to do more of it, but, by the same token, I don't want to stay with doing just one thing. I want to grow in other lines as well, for instance, now I am one of the animators for Roze Stiebra's latest film. It is basically a dream come true!

Last year you opened your first solo exhibition Rlue/Bed, all done in linocut . For the illustrations of the book you have also mainly used these two colours. Is/was that a kind of a “blue/red” period for you?

(Laughs) Well, was and maybe still is a bit. I wonder what the next one will be, maybe bright pink? I am pleasantly surprised that someone noticed it!

You have been called a feminist. If you can talk about female poetry, or women's prose, is it possible to talk about a specific illustration technique characteristic of women?

I find this question complicated since I have never closely studied how women's illustrations differ from those done by men. I rather look for the most interesting, professionally executed, most original works. When I browse through my bookshelf (many of my books are bought abroad), authors of illustrations could be divided equally according to gender, so I cannot really judge whether I like male or female artists more. You might think that one or the other would have more gentle or subtle illustrations, maybe the main characters represent the artist's own gender associatively, but – I don't think that is the case. Everyone draws what they want, how they want, and each author's moods are radically different. It's all linsey-wolsey with raisins and chocolate icing.

Part from Vivianna's diploma.

What do you think of current Latvian children's literature, and particularly – their artists and illustrations?

There is still room for improvement, and it is going on. We have plenty of great illustrators, great authors and brilliant books. But there is always a wish for more, and I believe it can happen. Of course, you can always say that the grass is greener on the other side, but one must take into consideration the small (truly small!) Latvian market. Many things simply cannot be done because they will never pay off. But it does not mean we have to have worse books, on the contrary – we have an opportunity to put out fewer books, but have higher quality. Latvian artists do what they can, considering the means available here. I am a newbie in this trade still, there is a lot to learn, but I see that what is happening is for the best. I enjoy what the small publishing houses are offering, and with every year book shops have more and better books of local authors.

Picture from a childrens poetry book "Bikibuks".

You also draw comics and have had your work published in the Latvian art comic magazine “Kuš!” Why do you think this widely popular genre is lagging in Latvia?

Comic art encompasses so many genres, therefore it is impossible to create something that speaks to the masses. Everyone is into something else. In Poland I met many people who knew the “Kuš!” magazine. And they have as many people living in a single city as we have in our entire country... It just doesn't make a profit in Latvia. We have a lot of brilliant comic artists, “Kuš!” team is incredibly superb, and a great deal gets published in other zines and magazines abroad. I'm sure there will be more in time.

Using school terminology, I'll ask – what is your “homework”, what are your nearest future plans?

My nearest plan is “to have lunch”. And then do things that interest me the most, and compel me. To learn new things, new techniques, grow in a couple of fields. To experiment some more. Travel. There is so much I want to do, places I want to go and things I want to see, that to sum it all up I would say – “to be happy”.