It’s been seven years since we last heard from Kristina Tzekova, and in this time a lot has changed for the Belgium-based illustrator. In 2016, for instance, herself and partner Florian – who she co-founded the online bookstore prijts with – starting travelling across Europe with their publications, meeting a plethora of people along the way. Her work was also picked up by Joost Swarte who, after discovering Kristina, invited her to take part in two issues of Scratches magazine. “There was a buzz,” she tells It’s Nice That, “something nice going on for us at the time.”
In other news, she also gave birth to their son Milan, who turns four in December. This has, naturally, been the illustrator’s biggest change to date. In fact, when she started to illustrate her Kate Bush drawings in particular (when Milan was three months’ old), this was the last project she completed before halting her practice temporarily. “All my attention was on him,” she notes. “We were glued to each other for three and a half years.” After a period of homeschooling, Kristina landed a job at the non-profit Les ateliers du texts et de l’image, meaning that Milan went to school in September this year. “A big change for our family, as the job is full-time,” she adds. “But it’s so fantastic and I work with an incredible woman, Brigitte van den Bossche.” In this role, she’s surrounded by treasures; she manages and promotes the Michael Defourny Fund which has a collection of 80,000 books in its archive, that of which specialises in children’s and graphic literature.
In October 2019, Kristina had the urge to draw again. The result of which is the launch of her new book Short Stories, a compilation of sketches and works created after a brief hiatus. Serene and tranquil, the book plays on the tropes of your typical graphic novel – featuring pencil drawings, panelled narratives and gestural changes from the subjects to illustrate the slow and peaceful storylines. “All of the drawings in this book were made in a sketchbook,” she says, which was a purchase she made after feeling inspired to return to her craft. “It was not at all intended to be a publication, just to reconnect with my love for drawing – especially since Milan’s sleep and nights were more peaceful. I had the possibility to create my cocoon in the evening, in the silence; a moment just for me.”
In these works, and in her entire recent portfolio for that matter, you get a complete sense of what Kristina’s all about – both in terms of her illustrative style and the topics she’s interested in. Inspired by the fragility of life and the “impermanence of things”, her drawings are very much a contemplation of the smaller moments around her. “When I translate my observations, there is also the desire to bridge the eternal dimension of existence, what remains; to merge the being and the non-being part of the human experience.” This is why her illustrations evoke a sense of delicacy, where quietness excavates through the minor details of plants, waves and sun light. It’s like stepping into a hazy dream, where colour and soft, gentle movements reign supreme over speed and business. The image of a little girl and a “feathered friend” is a fine example of this, where a bird is nestled in the protagonists neck in a sweet and affectionate embrace.
Just like this image, Kristina’s subject matter is inspired by the large collection of imagery she collates from the internet, which is then reinterpreted after choosing the ones she resonates with the most. Working in the present, she adds: “I try not to focus on the object of the image, but on the underlying energetic information that I perceived about them. Then, little by little, correspondences between the images started to be created; short stories, like whispers, a heartwarming prayer. I didn’t want to press too hard on the pencil, to suggest a feeling of lightness or detachment. Like a lullaby, tinged with blue and barely audible. Everything passes… everything passes.”
After making her comeback, Kristina’s future is looking bright and inspired. In the coming months, she plans to keep taking her time, particularly when it comes to her illustrative works and process. She also hopes to start indenting herself more into the industry – which involves introducing herself to artists and their work, as well as “formulating my feelings out loud.” And lastly, she plans to create workshops with young people, and she’s also involved in the upcoming issue of Altcomics Magazine, a publication featuring short fiction, interviews, poetry, fashion photography and comics.
Kristina Tzekova: Kate Bush in Wuthering Heights (Copyright © Kristina Tzekova, 2017)
About the Author
Ayla was an editorial assistant back in June 2017 and has continued to work with us on a freelance basis. She has spent the last seven years as a journalist, and covers a range of topics including photography, art and graphic design. Feel free to contact Ayla with any stories or new creative projects.