Interviews

An Interview with Irene Neyman

We talk to Irene Neyman about making a career course correction, going beyond what is expected, and staying true to yourself

Creative Storm

Irene Neyman is a self-taught freelance illustrator and graphic designer who creates vibrant designs that establish a connection between brands and their audience. Working diverse range of media, including editorial, apps, websites, brands, and publications, as well as character design, Neyman consistently brings a touch of joy to every project she works on

In our interview with Neyman, she discussed her career and her experiences as an illustrator and graphic designer.

Illustrators’ Lounge: Tell us about yourself. How did you get into illustration?

Irene Neyman: It all began when I was 5 (the earliest memory I have). I was always passionate about drawing, but never considered it as a career path. I drew for fun and found inspiration from other artists. My friends and family admired my drawings, but nobody ever suggested it as a potential job. Years later, one day, I realised I wanted to change everything, and find what I loved. My husband was incredibly supportive and encouraged me to pursue illustration, so I took a leap of faith and quit my job (which wasn’t an easy decision), found online courses, and dedicated myself to learning everything there is to know about illustration. Since I couldn’t attend an art university, I taught myself through self-study. I started from scratch, not knowing how to find clients, take orders, set prices, or organise my files. But, I trusted my instincts and navigated through the unknown, with the help of my good organisational skills and by learning from my mistakes. Before I knew it, I was making progress and improving my skills. The emotion I felt when I successfully finalised my first order was unforgettable and I realised what I really want to do — making illustration my lifelong career.

Moving
Moving

IL: You are originally from Ukraine. Has your background influenced the work, and how has that shifted since moving to Canada? 

IN: Actually, when I started working as an illustrator (while being in Ukraine), I immediately focused on the foreign market, so it’s hard for me to say whether my background influenced this in any way. But having moved to Canada, I believe that the new environment and cultural influences can bring about new ideas, perspectives, and styles. A new culture can definitely be inspiring.

IL: What unexpected challenges have you faced as a freelancer?

IN: One of the biggest challenges I have faced as a freelancer is balancing creativity with the business side of things. Working solo and having everything depend on me is already a challenge, but managing finances, paperwork, and attracting new clients, while trying to stay focused on illustration, can sometimes be overwhelming. Sometimes there may also be complex projects or clients that need to be approached in the right way. These are all unexpected challenges that I, as a freelancer, have to deal with every day. But a long time ago, I developed the habit of treating such difficulties as a game. I need to do something to get something. Why not a game? I like this approach because it helps me relax and I no longer feel so pressured by the problem. It’s like checkpoints in a game — by overcoming obstacles, I get closer to the final prize. And of course, the freedom and flexibility that comes with freelancing on inspiring projects make it all worth it.

Love Your Pet Day
Love Your Pet Day

IL: What tactics have worked for getting your name out there?

IN: Of course I still have a lot to achieve, but what has helped me so far is to be active. I have not stopped developing my portfolios and social networks all these years, I have tried to make myself better and show it in my illustrations. I also think that my approach to work played a big role – I take every project seriously and professionally, organising the whole process in a way that makes it easy and pleasant for the client to work with me. I do more than what is expected of me – I think this has a positive impact on the impression and recommendations I receive.

IL: Your illustrations strike a great balance between adhering to a structure and still feeling organic. What are your considerations when composing a drawing?

IN: I usually follow my own “checklist” when working on an illustration. The first and most important item on the list is always the message and its overall mood that I want to convey with the illustration. The second step is paying attention to the composition itself, making sure the elements are arranged in a good way. I also always devote a lot of time to the details, as I enjoy it and believe it enhances the overall look of the illustration and keeps it dynamic.

City Crowd
City Crowd

IL: Can you tell us a little bit about your creative process – from initial concept to the tools you use?

IN: Almost always, the process of creating an illustration begins with researching the topic or subject matter. While there are instances where the idea of what to draw is clear and flows into the work, most often this requires research, references, and composition sketches. The next step is selecting the colour palette. I try different options to find the one best suited for the illustration. I prefer a variety in colours and don’t often use the same palette for personal projects. The final drawing is the most enjoyable stage for me as I have already made all necessary decisions and usually have a good idea of the details and elements of style to use. However, there is always room for creativity and surprises :). The choice of tool depends on the task, but I usually use Procreate, Adobe Photoshop, or Adobe Illustrator.

IL: Are you working on any personal projects?

IN: I am currently working on a small personal project about pets. I love personal projects because they have no specific boundaries. I can do whatever I want and how I want. This is very inspiring! I also really enjoy working on projects in collaboration with other illustrators or animators, as it expands opportunities and ideas and provides a great addition to my portfolio.

Vegetables
Disco Bird
Disco Bird

IL: What advice would you give to others looking to make a living from art?

IN: I would advise to stay true to yourself above all else. Finding your style, seeking clients, determining pricing, and choosing a specialisation can be overwhelming, but these are all temporary challenges. With a little perseverance, you’ll find that you’ll naturally determine everything for yourself over time. Give yourself some time. Also, don’t be afraid to make mistakes or try new things. Embrace the learning process and always keep your passion for art at the forefront. If things aren’t working out for you, always remind yourself that the most important thing is having the desire and being yourself. Everything will fall into place if you truly do what you love.

Darkness
Darkness

IL: Finally, one of our goals here is to widen people’s pool of inspiration – who are the artists/illustrators that inspire you?
IN: I am constantly in awe of the incredible talent of Renaud Lavency, Clémence Thune, and Sarah Beth Morgan. My latest discovery, Kezia Gabriella, has also captured my heart with her amazing work. These artists truly inspire me!

You can find more of Irene Neyman’s work on Instagram, Behance, and Dribbble. You can also check out her portfolio at ireneneyman.com.

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