Arina Shabanova is the Moscow-based illustrator and animator who’s created a world of jovial, geometric characters full of fun and energy. From idents for MTV International and Paramount Comedy to a series of animations relaunching a classic Converse shoe, Arina’s characters fluctuate between humans, animals and personified objects.
Having grown up drawing and with parents who supported her artistic hobbies, Arina went on to graduate with a Bachelors in illustration from British Higher School of Art and Design in 2015. Although she hadn’t previously considered animation as an option, she discovered the medium during a workshop during this time. “We had to create one-minute films,” she recalls, “it was such a pleasure to see my images move. It was also around this time that the first anthology of Late Night Work Club was released and I was just blown away.” From then on, Arina began to dig into the world of animation and its endless possibilities, learning techniques from project to project.
Arina’s work is held together by her distinctive approach to characterisation and movement. The cheerful and often humorous gestures of her various smiley-faced characters are inspired by a childhood of dance classes, as well as her older brother who is a professional dancer. “When I see a character, I always imagine how it’s going to move or what poses to take, my theory is that dance somehow influences my art.”
It was upon realising that she could personify anything and not only people that Arina’s work really began to develop. “I do lots of sketches accidentally in between conversations, it starts with different forms and then shapes into funny characters. Usually, it’s a very intuitive process, for example, it could be a collection of things I saw and liked that day,” she explains. Then, when a new project comes in all Arina has to do is visit her sketchbook and choose a character that suits it best.
In a recent project for MTV International, Arina was tasked with translating a particular colour and emotion for an ident. Based on her previous work, Arina was given the colour orange and the theme of energy. She decided to focus on her memories of family gatherings and the rush and turmoil that occurs before the guests arrive. The short film depicts a series of characters enacting out different roles – one cooks, another dances and another lays the table – who transition and morph into a continuous animation, without any cuts. With a soundtrack designed by Skillbard, the ident is equal parts nostalgic, funny and stylistic in its execution.
Although regularly undertaking commercial work, Arina also appreciates the importance of self-initiated projects. For example, her looping animation Dance Grooves which started as a two-second clip she created for AnimaTango which she later extended. “It felt like being on holiday,” she describes, “just doing something without purpose, having fun. I realised that work done just for yourself has more impact and it inspires experimentation.”
Whether she’s making a giraffe play the cello or giving a basketball hands and feet, Arina’s ability to conjure up characters and fill them with narrative and personality is playful animation at its best.
About the Author
Ruby joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in September 2017 after graduating from the Graphic Communication Design course at Central Saint Martins. In April 2018, she became a staff writer and in August 2019, she was made associate editor.