In Conversation With Claudia Vlakancic
last updated 27 June 2023
Interview by Rachel Moffat
Claudia Vlakancic is a NY based illustrator and designer. She earned her BFA in Animation from the Savannah College of Art and Design. Inspired by old, animated fairytales and their concept work, Claudia began creating art at an early age. She finds inspiration in travel, history, and mid-century illustrations. She loves to work in a flat, textured, and colorful style but is always open to working in new styles. When not illustrating, you can find her watching a classic Hollywood movie, drawing in an art museum, or touring a historic house.
Claudia’s Agent Anna Zieger comments “Claudia is a wonderful and passionate artist with a very bright future ahead of her. Her style is unique and she has a wonderful eye for lighting and composition.”
How did you begin illustration?
I began drawing at the age of three. That was a large part of what I liked to do very early on. As I grew up, art still remained a very large part of who I was. Being such a big fan of Disney and their classic films, I found myself drawing the princesses and other characters fairly often. Fast forward to middle school and high school – all I did was draw in my note binder during class, and I carried a sketchbook around with me everywhere I went. I took all the high school art classes throughout that time, and then began searching for art colleges in 10th grade. Once I was accepted to SCAD, I was ecstatic. There I majored in 3D animation, which is obviously not what I’m doing now – haha! As much as I adore animation and 3D modeling, whenever I was free I always found myself drawing 97% of the time instead of animating, etc. That’s when I realized that illustration and visual development was most definitely the route I wanted to go down. Since I was constantly analyzing concept art, and looking at concept art books for different animated films, this route definitely seemed more fitting.
What are your key influences as an illustrator?
I have so many influences that it becomes hard to keep track sometimes. I’ve always been very inspired by 18th-century European paintings, one being the artist Jean-Honoré Fragonard. His work evokes a sense of whimsy, which falls in line with my adoration of fairy tales. I never escaped the fairy tale phase, and storytellers like Hans Christian Andersen remain a big inspiration to me. Ever since, I would say, late elementary school to early middle school, I have been analyzing early Disney animation concept work. Mostly for films like Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, and Snow White. The detailed and whimsical backgrounds really made me want to dive into an artistic career. I also can’t seem to escape my love for mid-century illustration. I always find myself going through an endless rabbit hole of those images on Pinterest.
To an up-and-coming artist, what’s one piece of advice you would give?
Never stop creating, and never stop working on your craft. I know a lot of people may say that, but it’s true. Always try to improve yourself. I constantly tell myself that I am capable of more, and that there is always something that can be improved upon. I’ve noticed that this mindset has allowed me to grow as an artist. Also, look away from the tablet/sketchbook sometimes. Trust me, it’s important. Everyone needs a little break from drawing every once in a while.
What’s your favorite part of the illustration process?
When I start to add color, definitely. As much as I love doing the rough sketch, color brings it to life. I have so much fun thinking of the color palettes I want to use, and thinking of the texture that I want to bring to them. I also love researching inspiration for each piece of work. I swear I probably have over 50 Pinterest boards based on different countries around the world, with pins on their clothing, landscape, culture, etc. I use a lot of those for travel pieces I do and architecture pieces. It really gets me excited about working on the illustration.
Where are you from and how does that affect your work?
I’m from Long Island, NY, but I am about 30 minutes outside of NYC by train. Being so close to NYC has allowed me to go to art museums whenever I’m free. I’m constantly at the Metropolitan Museum of Art seeking inspiration. One of the cool things about NYC is that every neighborhood has their own distinctive characteristics. Locations such as the Upper East Side and Soho continue to inspire my work because I love the architecture of the buildings in those areas. I’m obsessed with everything vintage and antique, so those places serve as a big inspiration to me and my work.
What would be your dream brief?
There are a few things I think. A big one would be to illustrate an important historical event, or a biography. It would be even cooler if it was a biography for somebody like Audrey Hepburn, or any other Hollywood actress of old. And of course, anything involving a classic story or fairy tale would be amazing.
To work with Claudia, get in contact here.