Sketcho Minute with DIGITAL ARTIST + PHOTOGRAPHER Katerina Zagustina, Interview with Marcin Migdal for our Sketchozine: Vol2:SEXY THINGS Issue.
MM: Hi Katja, thank you for taking the time and chatting with me. First tell me a little about yourself.
KZ: Hi Marcin! I’m 24, located in Russia, a linguist by profession, but planning to make art and illustration a part of my life. I’ve a small daughter, so due to some problems with free time I only work as a freelance artist from time to time and make potentially commercial projects for myself at the moment.
MM: How did you get involved with art, as a child is it always what you wanted to do?
KZ: My father was an amateur photographer, so as a child I always liked to stay in the dim-lit bathroom looking at the ‘miracle’ of pictures emerging on paper. As far as I remember myself, I always liked drawing some strange characters, whose life and fate I created in my mind. Probably many years later I decided to combine the two ‘great loves’ of the childhood.
MM: Did you go to school to study art or photography? Would you say Russia has good arts programs?
KZ: I attended two art schools, but unfortunately didn’t finish any of them. I think I lost interest in studying further on as soon as still-life and nature became the main subject of painting, while I was mostly interested in people and all kind of live creatures. Frankly, I believe that, though art programs in Russia teach very technically good artists, their main disadvantage is ‘teaching to do it the way the teacher shows’. And it seems that individuality is thought of as something that has to be ‘improved to fit to the norms’.
MM: Growing up and even now, did your parents and friends support and encourage your path as an artist?
KZ: My mother is still very skeptical, you know (smiling). She’s always wanted to see me as a business-lady, I believe. But everyone has their own path and choice, and she now seems to understand it. Friends… they always encourage us, you would probably agree with it.
MM: What is your style as a photographer and as an illustrator and does one help you with the other?
KZ: You know, I’m not sure I can say I’m a photographer. I do have tens of thousands of photos on my PC, but the camera rather serves as a means to obtain something different, as I’m always dissatisfied with what it sees. So as an illustrator I try to modify reality according to the mood and feelings I have at the given moment. They say I’m rather dark, but it’s the concept and producing different feelings in viewers is what really important to me. As a ‘photographer’ I can take any pictures which will only be important to me, my family and other depicted people as memory.
MM: Your work is very “mesmerizing” dark and very conceptual, where do you come up with all these ideas?
KZ: Oh, it’s the ideas that find me, seriously. I mean I can’t say how it happens, it’s just that my mind can’t live without knowing there are more ideas to come. One thing I know is that it depends on things happening around me. When I do a commercial, talking to the person involved and finding out some things about their character and some facts about their life can change the original idea completely.
MM: Can you take me through a project and describe your workflow and process to me?
KZ: As I mentioned before, first it’s very important to ‘feel’ the atmosphere of the upcoming project. You have to act like a film director in some ways. It’s meaningless to try to come up to something if you don’t like, feel or even have the script, or at least some important part of it. Then, philosophy aside, you choose the best shots and start manipulating them the way you want.
MM: Modesty aside, why would you say you are so good?
KZ: My philosophy is, as long as you think you’re too good, you’re actually bad. With more experience you start seeing more and more things that can be improved in your work, style, etc. The “You-Can-Do-it-Better” thing is probably the key feature of actual development of any artist.
MM: What has been your most memorable or favourite image and why?
KZ: It’s always hard for me to name anything ‘most something’. At different times my most memorable/favourite images, films, books have been different. Sometimes it depends on what problems occupy your mind at the moment, sometimes you just “grow out of” something you loved so much earlier.
MM: What do you feel is the most vital element of an image?
KZ: It’s soul, however strange it may sound. First you admire any technically excellent, brightly coloured piece you see, but having watched some thousands of such, you start seeing more than that. You understand that sometimes you gaze at some ‘not-so-technically-perfect’ pictures mesmerized and can’t get them out of your mind, while the ‘beautifully-covered-sweets’ can be forgotten right after viewing them.
MM: On average, how long does it take for you to complete a piece?
KZ: It depends, from two days to two weeks. Some years ago I could complete any picture in one day, producing more and more and more of them. After my first exhibition I finally understood that, first, there were too few images I actually wanted to show people, and second, what looked OK on a web-size preview, wasn’t so good hanging big-sized on the wall. Now I ‘sacrify’ quantity, paying more attention to contents and details.
MM: What do you feel is the most challenging thing about a career as an artist?
KZ: To my mind, the main challenges are ‘I’m-a-great-world-famous-superstar-syndrome’ and ‘I-do-what-I-like’ vs. ‘I-do-whatever-they-pay-me-more-for’ ones. It can probably be said about any creative profession, anyway.
MM: ...and what is the best thing about being an artist?
KZ: You create, not destroy (that’s also part of my life philosophy). Pictures are our children, in a way. They are going to outlive us, and just like people, they will have their own life and fate.
MM: How do you market or promote yourself and your work, especially being in Russia?
KF: You know, there’s a joke that being in Russia (and especially living in small towns) it’s enough to show your portfolio in a group of a social network website. Jokes aside, it works like a snowball – someone ‘important’ notices you, then more people get to know your work and so on. Book and CD-covers, commissions, exhibitions, articles, features, one-friend-told-me’s – there are more ways to get further promotion.
MM: Your work features a lot of great models, can you suggest to our audience how to get them on a budget?
KF: Frankly, in most of my pictures the model is myself (I use tripod). It’s not that I don’t think there are great models or that nobody wants to pose. It’s just the fact that I’m always at hand, I always know what exactly I want to depict and what emotions to show, I wouldn’t mind any manipulations with my face, hair or body, both before shooting or as part of processing the image. But of course, I’m always glad to feature interesting models, who usually find me themselves on the Internet. That is, you just show your work, you get your clients. The one-friend-told-me method works as well. Thus models know what kind of pictures to expect from me and don’t wait for sweet glamorous portraits J .
MM: What advice do you have for somebody who wants to pursue a career as an artist or photographer?
KF: Follow your own path, don’t try to copy someone else to be loved by audience. Don’t be afraid of or frustrated by critique, just try to listen to what you believe can help you improve and don’t pay attention to ‘I don’t like your style’ remarks. Nobody’s loved by everyone, really.
MM: If you could meet any artist or photographer in the world, who would it be and what would you ask them?
KF: It’s a difficult question. I think it would be Natalie Shau, as about seven years ago it was this person who made me see photography as dough you can make different dishes of. I’m not sure what exactly I would ask, though, as you can read the answers to most common question in the interviews. It would be just interesting to talk, about everything.
MM: What is your greatest fear?
KF: To tell you the truth, I believe that any of our thought can come true if you think too much about them. So I prefer not to think about what my greatest fear is.
MM: What talent would you most like to have?
KF: Sometimes I dream to be able to write. That is, being a writer. You know, I mean there are such long stories I keep in my mind while making pictures, but it seems I’m better at showing, not writing.
MM: What are the top 3 websites that you visit most?
KF: After years of surfing through deviantart.com, photo.net, photosite.ru and the like I’m finally a bit overdosed with art and try to watch it less, just to have the ‘WOW’ feeling as often again. Honestly, at the moment the main windows in my browser are my mailbox, my account at vkontakte.ru (the Russian analogue of Facebook) and a couple of online flash-games, just to mix work with some fun (smile).
MM: Which 5 words would your friends describe you as?
KF: Introvert, melancholic, eccentric… That’s what I know for sure. I should probably make a poll to find out the rest two words :) .
MM: In history books, what do you want written about Katja?
KF: I believe history book writers wouldn’t ask our opinion about that. Well… I’d let them choose to write whatever they think is right.
MM: And the last question, if you had one wish…
KZ: I have everything to make me happy. All the rest is either a question of time or of insatiable ego J.
MM: Oh one more, if someone said ‘how can I be the next Katerina Zagustina?’ What would you say?
KZ: (Giggling) once I found a girl on the Web who gave my work out to be hers. Sure, it’s no big deal, such things often happen, but she also tried to imitate some of my pictures, making the same ones (I mean the idea, the pose, all the attributes, etc.) with her own face. She copied all the remarks I left on my site, the titles, she used the same everything. When I asked her why on Earth she did it, she replied that “she wanted to be somebody, while she was nobody”. And it’s wrong. We are who we are, there are no ‘somebodies and nobodies’, no ‘next somebodies’, etc. So I’d just say, ‘Hey, dude, just be yourself, it’s much cooler!’.
MM: Thank you Katja for telling us about you, hopefully this is one step closer to getting you exposure:)
KZ: Thank you Marcin, it was a pleasure talking to you.