The strong mystic vibe of Marina Muun’s work quickly got my attention. More so, the imagination and composition expressed in her drawings and paintings demonstrates a high level of sensibility and craft, for I later realized that Marina (above) was in school. Here, she shares her driving fascination “to continuously expand her visual language”:
Can you please tell a little bit about yourself?
Where are you from?
I come from Bulgaria, and I’m currently in my final year on the BA Illustration course at the Arts University College at Bournemouth (AUCB).
What do you do for a living?
I’m in the process of figuring that out as I am still a student, but the best case scenario would be making a living by drawing, of course!
And what is your preferred job title: illustrator, artist?
I guess I stand somewhere in the middle, leaning more towards illustration. Maybe I’m just an illustrator, who happens to love painting! I think it’s important not to pigeon-hole yourself and keep an open mind.
What is your statement about being
My approach to my work is very intuitive. Sometimes I brainstorm a lot and think a lot until I am satisfied with my concept. Other times, I just draw things I am fascinated by. I don’t usually make very detailed sketches. I always try to leave a lot of room for change, so I don’t get bored with the artwork along the way. Sometimes I struggle with certain ideas for a long time, there is this feeling of uneasiness the whole way, but once I have figure it out, it’s priceless. Apart from that, I always doodle a lot of random things in my sketchbook when I’m on the go. I make sure I stay inspired. I read a lot. Stories are very inspiring to me. Words just have so much power to conjure different worlds and invoke mental imagery.
What tools and materials do you use to work
on your ideas and make them grow?
Unlike in my finished pieces, my work tends to be incredibly messy in my sketchbooks. I also scribble many notes. There is just as much writing as drawing in my books. I write down quotes and words that I hear, that have made an impression on me. I rarely look back at them, but I guess they are lodged in my brain somewhere. The key is to just draw loads, as much as possible. I bought a refillable brush pen recently, and I aim to use up the ink in it every day, then refill it for the next day … and it’s a lot, trust me. I don’t usually reach my target, but it’s something that keeps me going.
I move across all types of different media in my personal and preparatory work, although most of the stuff I make for print has been digitalized in some sort of way. Every medium has its charm and its drawbacks. I started out experimenting with all kinds of different media, but acrylics was the one that really resonated with me. I love the thick, vibrant, opaque colours one can achieve. I’m working a small storybook project at the moment, and I’ve been experimenting a lot with inks. I’m really excited about the outcome.
What does your workspace look like?
I’m quite lucky to be able to use the AUCB Facilities at the moment, as I have access to everything I could ever wish for, and I’m surrounded by friends and course mates all the time. It’s very motivating, and the atmospheres great. Especially when you need some honest feedback or someone to bounce ideas off of.
What characteristics help make your workspace work for you?
I think the perfect workspace would need to have a working area, and a chill-out area, a good amount of open floor space, lots of light, storage (to keep the clutter away), as well as a large table to work on and draw, and then another desk for a computer printer and digital work, etc.
You state that you find inspiration from “the natural, unnatural and supernatural and everything else that might be lying around,” what specific examples are you referring to?
I think everything around me factors into my work, be it not in a literal way. I like looking at a lot of science books, and natural history books. There is just so much beauty in nature to be explored. And although I don’t get to do it that often when I travel, my face is usually stuck to the window the whole time, because I’m looking at all the trees and the little bushes, houses we drive buy, and I think about their shapes, and their colour. I find that endlessly fascinating. It’s very exciting and calming at the same time. I also loved reading fiction as a child and still do. I just love all beautiful and mysterious things really.
Your visual compositions are otherwordly. I think of shamanism, tribes, forces of nature. How did you arrive in your attraction to these qualities? What particular influences continue to play into your work?
I guess it started with my fascination with the Kukeri (a Bulgarian folk tradition)—at a certain time of year, the men of the village would dress up in these crazy animalistic costumes made out of animal fur and feathers and colourful threads, and wear belts of massive brass bells, which can weigh up to 80 kgs (176 lbs) sometimes, and dance around town, making an awful lot of noise to scare away evil spirits and secure a good yield for the new year. When I was in Primary school, we had to make our own Kuker-masks out of colour paper and threads. I really enjoyed that. I always found that so odd, especially in our modern day culture. That got me interested in other indigenous tribe cultures and rituals.
How does time factor into your making of your work?
Time always flies when I’m working on something I like, especially if it’s a physical painting. It’s a labour of love. I need to keep that in check sometimes because before I know it, I’ve spent 6 hours straight without getting up at all and it’s 4 am, and the birds are chirping outside.
What is the most rewarding part of being an illustrator/artist?
I would say the most rewarding part, for me at least, is the actual making of the images. Solving the visual problems along the way, picking the colours, and just being really happy when it works out! I'm always a little bit sad when I finish a painting, because it’s the process I enjoy so much. It’s a little bit like reading a good book.
Was there a part of your work that was particularly trying
and how did you deal with it?
The most trying thing is to make the work interesting to me so that I am fully engaged with it all along the way. Otherwise it’s just the rendering left, and that can become a bit tedious. Also an artist is his own worst critic, so satisfying yourself is usually the most difficult thing.
Little friendsHow do you stay creative?
I set myself my own little projects. That is always a good way to stay creative. When I find that difficult or if you find that difficult, getting involved with other people’s projects participating in art competitions and zines is a good way to stay inspired.
Do you draw? Or keep a journal?
I usually have my sketchbook with me at all times. But I’m not very obsessive about drawing in it all the time, mostly when I’m on the go. When I’m at home, or in the studio, I draw on loose sheets of paper. Sometimes when I go for a week without drawing, I start feeling really uneasy, but generally I do keep busy all the time, whether that’s with digital work, painting, or good old pencil sketching.
Friends and foes, part one
What is your advice to people who aspire to be an illustrator/artist?
My advice is to work really really hard, be proactive, and not to be shy about sharing your work. Experiment—within reason. Always try to make good honest work. Draw a lot, try to develop a rich visual vocabulary. If you’re at university, make use of the resources, squeeze every last bit of the library, teachers, studio spaces, and workshops. Seek out opportunities. Don’t spend too much time on looking at other people’s work, as it’s quite easy to get lost and confused about what you want to do, focus on your practice.
You moved from a town by the sea in Bulgaria to living and working in Bournemouth, UK. What was the name
of the town in Bulgaria?
I was born in Varna. It’s at the Black Sea and Bulgaria’s second largest town. I guess you can call it a city.
Friends and foes, part two
How can people see your art and buy your work?
You can see my portfolio. And contact me via email. I also have an online shop selling prints.
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Images courtesy of Marina Muun.
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Read more from Design Feast Series of Interviews
with people who love making things.