In her own words, writer, illustrator, armchair philosopher and the creator of Lena and The Monsters answers just 3 simple questions, but in doing so exposes just how wonderfully original she truly is. Discover her illustrated fable Of Monsters and Socks.
Please tell me a little (whatever you are willing to divulge) about where you live, what you do and how you came to be there (born, moved, etc).
I was born and raised in Moscow, where I happily lived, studied and worked till I met my future Spanish husband. We had an extremely intense long-distance romance which resulted in me moving to Spain and becoming an immigrant. I would compare my immigration experience, especially its first part, with being mildly and politely bullied: you are like a Fortune cookie – everyone wants to know what’s inside, but once the message is read, your “ruins” are scattered all over the plate and everyone forgets about your existence. Which may sound like a real tragedy for an extrovert, but for a purebred introvert like me it was like carte blanche to stop trying to fit in and keep on doing what I do the best: imagine my own worlds and placidly dwell in them!
What is your typical day like?
OMG, I’ve always wanted to talk about my dope daily routine, which would definitely include waking up at 4, meditating while unconsciously writing down my insights and epiphanies in my perfect Bullet Journal, drinking my super healthy celery smoothie and starting my very productive day which would consist of perfectly planned and wonderfully executed steps that eventually would lead me to reaching my Big Hairy Audacious Goals…
I swear I would trade my sense of smell for being able to live a life full of days like this! Because this is what my typical day really looks like: I wake up at 6:30 (I tried to talk my brain into waking up at 5 a.m. and it worked for some time, but then my brain rebelled and now I’m searching for new astute hacks to get us (me and my brain, that is) back into the Glorious Army of Early Risers), get my first coffee, open my Google Calendar and type down three “challenges” I am going to meet during the next 90 minutes; these “challenges” are strictly numeric (read 15 pages, sketch a girl with a harp, walk 1 mile in my kitchen) because this is the only way I can “awaken” my brain’s competitive spirit – otherwise, the only thing he (by the way, as I once mentioned in one of my stories, “my brain is a he, his name is Mac, since he is quite a Machiavellian chap”) would suggest me doing would be watching Gilmore Girls (all the 153 episodes and the 2016 “revival”), listening to Neil Gaiman books, dancing to my the 80s songs and devouring rescue pups videos on YouTube!
So, when all three challenges are met and erased from Google Calendar (I just love this feeling of a “clean slate”, so, instead of crossing out the stuff I’ve done, I erase it), I reward myself with another cup of coffee with a tortita de aceite (Google it and believe me: it tastes much better than it looks!) Gosh, I totally forgot to mention that before and after meeting all those challenges, I walk my pups, feed them, play with them, cuddle with them and talk to them (they are bilingual, we “speak” in Spanish about routine stuff and we speak in Russian when things get a bit more emotional).
At noon, I repeat the whole Google Calendar stuff one more time, and when another three challenges are successfully “erased”, it’s time to have lunch with my husband and head to University, where I’m studying for my Master’s degree in language teaching. I don’t drive, so walking six kilometers to University and back is one of my favorite things during the day, since it’s the best moment for reinventing my past, the art I’ve mastered like a pro for the past couple of years: basically, it’s some kind of weird self-therapy when you take your past and rewrite it drastically. So, every time I get home after such self-therapy sessions, I’m basically a brand new person with a brand new past. Then, I walk my pups, have my vespertine cup of coffee with a rye bread toast and some cherry jam and finish my day by watching some sci-fi movie or series with my husband.
Ah, and if you’ve got the impression that I don’t do any fancy self-care stuff, you are wrong: before going to bed, I apply quite a generous layer of olive oil to my face (that’s what Sophia Loren does!)
How did you develop your uniquely whimsical and yet adult illustration and story-telling style?
First of all, thank you so much for these words, I really-really appreciate them.
So, at the tender age of six, I got fascinated by sci-fi graphic novels, and I even wrote (and drew) one, but one particularly cruel art teacher banned me from everything related to art for the next couple of centuries.
A couple of centuries later, one autumn morning, a friend of mine gave me a ticket for the Cannes Lions Winners Showreel. When I left the movie theatre, rivers of waterproof mascara falling down my cheeks, I knew exactly what I wanted to dedicate my life to: make people cry. And laugh. But mostly cry. It felt like pure magic: just a bunch of words, some images, some music – and my heart was bleeding, while I was sobbing like a schoolgirl at a George Michael concert after realizing that he will never marry her but she will always love him anyway. Those microfilms made me feel extremely human, vulnerable and powerful at the same time, and I knew I wanted to make people feel all this stuff as well. After some research, it turned out that the person I wanted to become was called “creative director”. Soon I found out that for a mere mortal, becoming a creative director in an advertising agency in Moscow was exactly like marrying George Michael: almost impossible. Postponing my dreams is another art I mastered perfectly, so I just kept on living my normal life, with that dream brewing and sometimes boiling in the background of my mind.
Another century passed, and I discovered The Oatmeal. That was it. Almost every story of his made me sob, just like those ads. With just a bunch of words and images, he burst into my limbic system and put it on fire. I can try and do something similar, I told myself. And so I did: I started doodling and scribbling all those stories I finally freed from the background of my mind, and it felt so right! So I’ve decided that I vitally need to leave my mark on the history of sequential storytelling (oh my, I love all these grandiloquent pompous statements!) and now my Big Hairy Audacious Goal is to write’n’draw my first horror graphic novel that has lots of dogs, monsters and ghosts (mostly named after my fav 90s designers, Gianfranco, Yohji and Jean Paul) that will definitely make people cry! As I am the ultimate late bloomer, I guess it will be published just for my 90th birthday.
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